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I’m with Don Henley: they’re not here

June 4, 2021

In one of my favourite Don Henley songs, They’re Not Here, They’re Not Coming, Henley captures the yearning of every UFOlogist for the aliens to make themselves known:

From the Arizona desert
To the Salisbury Plain
Lights on the horizon
Patterns on the grain
Anxious eyes turned upward
Clutching souvenirs
Carrying our highest hopes and our darkest fears

But now a whole bunch of well-qualified people, including military pilots who have witnessed their impossible aerobatics, are saying that they are indeed here. Not only that, but worse, they’re a threat to US national security. The last five words are enough to cause every cold warrior, prepper, paranoid backwoodsman and Pentagon general to sit up and take notice.

I write this because that paragon of truth and wisdom, the US Government, is about to pronounce on the likelihood that we are not alone. I’m not holding my breath.

The question is: if they’re not the product of infernal Chinese or Russian ingenuity, or of interlopers from a parallel universe, to whom do these flying objects that can hurtle at 16 times the speed of sound, disappear in and out of water and turn on a sixpence belong? And why do they tease American pilots by running in and out of restricted airspace?

Until they announce themselves, we’re unlikely to know. But you would have thought that if they were planning to wipe us out, colonise or enslave us, they would have done so by now. Unless, that is, the mothership is lurking behind the moon, ready to make its appearance by darkening the skies over Los Angeles.

Most likely they’re robots rather than squidgy, malodourous organisms from some planet light years away. After all, who would want to live in one of those things, unless they have the properties of a Tardis? If they do turn out to be robots, perhaps they’re the alien equivalent of drones, though which the owners can watch us go about our lives from the comfort of their alien homes. Assuming, of course that they can get over the time lag of several million years that it would take the video feed to reach them. But perhaps they’ve sorted time travel.

If the aliens do show themselves in the guise of friendly tourists, no doubt the Americans, always eager to exploit a commercial opportunity, will entrust the job of showing them around to Disney. Though how they’d get paid is anybody’s guess.

But here’s a thought. If they are here, they won’t care about human rights, because they’re not human, just as we don’t pay attention to ant rights because we’re not ants. They won’t care about Brexit, Vladimir Putin or the plight of the Uyghurs. A few Palestinians dying as bombs demolish their homes will be no more significant to them than accidentally stepping on a beetle is to us. They might be mildly interested to see how we as a species deal with existential threats such as climate change. But as individuals we are surely irrelevant.

Perhaps more engaging for them would be to look at a world that looks similar to the one their ancestors once occupied, before they evolved from the six-legged flying insects they once were into the squidgy brain-blobs they subsequently became.

Perhaps they envy us the freedom with which we dance, play football, copulate and kill each other, and wish they could still do those things. Or perhaps not, because they can do all those things without leaving their brain-blobs.

Perhaps they’ve always been with us, dropping by every so often from their parallel universe to check us out. Or could they be our descendants, looking back through time, like archaeologists, at what once was?

Who knows? Who cares? Whoever or whatever our alien visitors might be, those earnest people in the Pentagon worrying about national security are engaged in a pointless exercise. The squidgies won’t be wiped out by a virus, nor will their motherships be brought crashing down by our puny nukes. They will do what they choose without reference to us. They’re our terra incognita, our “here there be dragons”, a reminder that there will always be things beyond our comprehension, and that each discovery we make brings forth a hundred unanswered questions.

Until things turn out otherwise, I’ll leave the last words to Don Henley:

They’re not here, they’re not coming
Not in a million years
Turn your weary eyes back homeward
Stop your trembling, dry your tears
You may see the heavens flashing
You may hear the cosmos humming
But I promise you, my brother
They’re not here, they’re not coming

They’re not here, they’re not coming
Not in a million years
‘Til we put away our hatred
And lay aside our fears
You may see the heavens flashing
You may hear the cosmos humming
But I promise you, my brother
They’re not here, they’re not coming

Song by Don Henley and Stan Lynch, from the album Inside Job

You might think I’m a tad cynical, but I’m with Henley, even if he’s subsequently changed his mind.

From → Film, Music, Social

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