Aliens are real, but we live in hyper-reality
The Mexican Government showed us pictures of 1000-year-old aliens and nobody cared. Nobody ran through the streets in a panic, nobody rioted, and nobody prepared for war because nobody cared.
Nobody cared about the aliens because we’ve seen them before. We’ve already seen the inside of their spaceships and shot them with sniper rifles in video games. We cycled through the sky with one in the basket of our BMX, and then we escaped the authorities to help the little fellow get home. We’ve watched them nuke the Empire State Building and in return, we hacked the computers of their mothership. We saw them place electrodes in our heads, we were entertained by seeing them skinned alive by Feds in hazmat suits.
That was all decades ago. Decades before that, Orson Wells terrified radio listeners by depicting them invading the earth. It’s all an old hackneyed plot that we’ve seen too many times, and now nobody cares about the aliens.
Another reason nobody cares about the aliens is that nobody believes there are aliens. We’ve seen that story too. We’ve seen series about the Government faking aliens, and we’ve seen series about the Government hiding aliens. We were bored with black-goo plots and human/alien hybrids before the millennium, and we watched every conceivable story arc and documentary featuring pyramids and downed UFOs locked in Arctic ice fields.
We are more familiar with those curiously expressionless and somewhat childlike visages as we are with the features of the goblin shark or platypus. The aliens are not actually alien, they’ve been an embedded part of our cultural psyche for at least a century and nobody now cares that they pop up on our screen interfaces once again like Charles Manson, Optimus Prime, or Kylie Minogue.
Aliens are entertainment, they were always entertainment. They were always us — a space-fetus reflecting back to ourselves our own anxieties and existential dreads. They were the Russians during the Cold War, the manifestation of cosmic consciousness when we dreamed of the stars and the unifying hand of God when we entered Globalization. Always part psy-op part accurate reflection.
After the millennium, we stopped dreaming or believing because we consumed images instead. Jumbo jets penetrated skyscrapers, which crumpled, withered, and collapsed like paper cups. Naturally, the Government did that too, and suddenly Area 51 seemed quaint and distant, and merely in black and white — it was imagery and narrative from a different time. We were locked in our homes and our families were forcibly vaccinated. That didn’t make sense either, and we still don’t know why so many people are dying. But there’s no time to worry about that now because the planet is dying, and we’re killing it. We are the alien plague upon this rock orbiting the sun, and now the sun is going to immunize the planet with its cleansing heat. At least it will try to do so before the nuclear war arrives.
Public intellectuals once lamented that the chances are an advanced alien civilization would destroy itself upon acquiring the technology needed to reach us. Goldilocks had many zones and some of the inhabitants of those zones would come and see us. The assumption is, tragically, that squid creatures from Aarii 7 might possess the same metaphysical wanderlust as European Man. Alas, even European Man is hardly European Man now, a mere four decades after such thought was en vogue. Aliens may be real, but they’re not hyper-real, they never voted for Trump and they didn’t pick a side in the culture wars.
UFOs and aliens offer us cheap weed in an age of readily available crack cocaine, they’re Baywatch trying to compete with PornHub. The synapses and nerve endings the aliens once stimulated are merely dead tendrils of an exhausted psyche that doesn’t dream of the stars but consumes in the gutter. It once was said that in space nobody can hear you scream, we now know that in space nobody can hear you meme.
The threshold for any would-be space-faring civilization to cross is not that they may destroy themselves before they reach escape velocity, but that they don’t over-stimulate themselves into terminal boredom. The universe became boring, as boring as the rusting cans of Pepsi on the side of Mount Everest and the Whitney Houston CDs on the floor of the Marianas Trench.
The only thing that doesn’t bore us to death is ourselves. Nothing terrifies us more or haunts our dreams like other humans, evil humans, scheming humans, and sick humans. More unknowable, inscrutable, and darker than anything that does or possibly can exist in the cosmos. We’ve stared deep into those eyes that resemble black puddles on that expressionless face, we have gazed long enough to know the truth, as horrible as that might be.
We have seen the face of the alien, and he is us.