First Contact

Fourth-eight years from today, in the Star Trek universe, humanity will make contact with an alien race: the Vulcans.

I believe that there is certainly life on other planets. There may be as many as 70 sextillion stars in the universe. That’s 70,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. It is a number completely beyond human comprehension.

To me it seems impossible that we are the only life in the universe. We might be alone in this galaxy, though that still seems unlikely, but surely not the universe.

Whether we will ever encounter this life is a different question entirely. It might be possible to travel between distant stars, I’m a writer not a physicists so I’m not going to speculate on the technology, but for humans that is way beyond our current capabilities.

In the Star Trek universe encountering alien life brings about a new era of peace for humanity. The knowledge of alien life makes our own problems seem petty and Earth becomes a paradise. I’m more inclined to believe that real first contact is more likely to produce panic.

I do believe that world peace could be achievable. All it takes is for us not to pass on our prejudices to the next generation. This is easier said than done.

I won’t pretend to be all high and mighty. I have had bad thoughts every so often. I wonder where they came from because there is no obvious place. If they remain thoughts, rather than transforming to words or actions, then there is less of an issue. We’ve all heard stories of children of different backgrounds interacting happily – no such thing as a racist baby. Then as adolescents and adults things change. We no longer see Joe Blogs as a friend. He is now: black, gay, Jewish, Muslim, disabled, poor, or any other ‘other’ that we can think of.

I can think of only one example of outside influence of prejudice from my own life: Politics. I remember being in conversation with someone in high school and making a comment about a political party.

‘A bunch of mindless jerks who’ll be the first up against the wall when the revolution comes.’*

Well I wasn’t that witty but that was probably the sense of it. Then I realised that I had no bases for thinking that. I was repeating the ideas of my parents. Later I became aware of politics and found myself agreeing with the assessment. I also met, in my politics class, the local MP for that party. All I remember now was that he was really oily.

Distrusting a political party is one thing but it should never be applied to a whole group of people. The more extreme someone is in their views the louder they are. There are terrorist attacks in the name of God – they make the news. The millions of people who practice their religion, and attend a temple every week, don’t make the news because there is no story.

I’ve found the same basic issue working in retail. If you server a customer quickly and effectively nothing happens. That’s what customers expect. If you go above and beyond the shop might get a thank you letter. If you screw up then you’ll certainly receive a complaint. Bad news also travels faster. If doesn’t make a good story telling your friends about good customer service – bad customer service can be quite the anecdote. Therefore it is more likely that you’ll see bad reviews than good ones. All this gives us a lopsided view of reality.

So when the news talks about terrorism it makes it look like there is tremendous evil in the world. It creates the feeling that a particular group is evil. This generates more hate. It doesn’t mention the millions of people who manage to get through their day without killing anyone.

The fact of the matter is most people are good. I think we will achieve world peace one day. It is simply a matter of respecting others. We may not believe the same as someone else. We may believe that the God Obplexsemkoplop doesn’t exist and is in fact just an old deflated beach ball. However if that belief is helping people to be better, if saying the mantra of the beach ball helps them through tough times, then why is it an issue? It is harming nobody. Of course the followers of Obplexsemkoplop must also respect your right not to worship too.

We will achieve world peace if we accept that diversity is fantastic.

To paraphrase Dave Allen: ‘May your God, or no God, go with you.’

* quote taken from The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

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