Alan Zendell, April 22, 2022
Whether you favor the Judeo-Christian concept of God, the Quran’s vision of Allah, the philosophy of Gautama Buddha, or nothing of the kind, consider that there’s clearly a lot more to our universe than can be grasped by human intelligence or perceptions. Whether we got here by divine creation or a Big Bang, the reality of the forces that govern our universe are unknown to us.
Imagine for a moment that we humans are neither unique nor alone in this universe. Scientific evidence suggests that there may be millions of star systems that contain planets capable of supporting intelligent life, and that much of it may have been around far longer than we have. There may be countless beings among the stars who are far smarter and wiser than us. That idea has been the basis of a common science fiction trope – that somewhere out there in the void is a council of alien judges watching and evaluating us.
Billions of humans believe that their deity of choice sees and hears everything they do and metes out rewards and punishments. The concept of sin versus virtue is so deeply rooted in their psyches, it dominates their thoughts and actions. We can debate whether that’s a rational belief system some other time, but for right now, I ask if it is any less rational to believe we are being judged as a species by beings so far advanced in thought and technology as to be nearly godlike themselves.
In The Day the Earth Stood Still, the alien Klaatu comes to deliver a message to the people of Earth, telling them they have been found deficient in the eyes of those whose responsibility is to maintain peace and tranquility in the universe. His message to the nations of Earth, in the midst of the Cold War, is change your ways or you will be destroyed. As billions of us believe we are judged by our chosen God, I prefer to imagine how we would behave if we believed humanity as a whole were being judged with its future existence in the balance.
Imagine how some inter-galactic tribunal of wise old, very powerful aliens might view us today. Conventional wisdom tells us daily that the forces of autocracy (darkness) are attempting to snuff out democracy (light) all over the world. We have evidence this very weekend that one of the world’s longest-lived democracies may be on the verge of electing a right-wing president who favors autocratic government. Incumbent president Emmanuel Macron will face off tomorrow against Marinne Le Pen, a devotee of Vladimir Putin, in a runoff election to determine who will lead France. At a time when Russia has determined it must change the balance of power in Europe and the world, Macron has been one of the loudest voices of reason, one of NATO’s most prominent statesmen, and a staunch ally of the United States.
Macron casts his bid for re-election in the same light as what Democrats will face against the Donald Trump-dominated Republican party, both this year and in 2024, when Trump is expected to try to regain the White House. The only thing restraining Russia in its war of annihilation against the people of Ukraine has been NATO’s solidarity. Should Le Pen, who is currently trailing Macron in French polls pull off an upset, that unity could be shattered. What happens then, if nuclear-armed Putin continues to attempt to reconstruct the Soviet Union and undermine the western alliance? What happens if our own political landscape continues to be dominated by lies and misinformation, enabling Trump and his rabid supporters to undermine the Biden administration’s attempt to steer a strong course in defense of democracy?
What if our right to exist as a species were actually at stake right now, if instead of a worldwide tribunal attempting to make a largely symbolic case that Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine is a war of genocide and destruction, in effect a two-month long war crime against humanity, we were actually being judged by beings capable of enforcing their will on us? What if the very real threat of nuclear holocaust were to increase every day as a result of actions taken by leaders who have lost sight of morality and common decency, and there was a day of reckoning in our near future?
I like to imagine that as our leaders contemplate their next moves, as those of us who can do so exercise our rights to choose who will govern us and how we want them to behave in office, that we act as if we will be held accountable in some universal court empowered to evaluate right and wrong. Failing that, how can we expect our grandchildren to thrive, even to survive the next round of conflict as freedom and decency fight for their survival?