A Postmodern Fortean Analysis of Consumerism, Cargo-cult Belief, and Ufology
for Jack Sarfatti
Published in UFO Magazine, Vol. 23, No.3, April 2008
“We are not realists. We are not idealists. We are intermediatists that nothing is real, but that nothing is unreal: that all phenomena are approximations one way or the other between realness and unrealness. So.that our whole quasi-existence is an intermediate stage between positiveness and negativeness or realness and unrealness. Like purgatory, I think.”
Charles Fort, Wild Talents
“All Belief systems are Products. There are no Believers now—only Customers.”
Augustus Codex: The Meme Manual
The Saucers That Did Not Crash
If there have been UFO crashes, then it is reasonable to assume that there have been successful landings. If such vehicles contained intelligent live biological entities existing in some kind of active social order, then human culture has been contaminated by ideas and actions not formed by human consciousness. Given this situation, we have no means of knowing how far this penetration has been effective.
Therefore we do not know what games may have been played by aliens and are still being played. We have to assume also that alien cultural Level A will be in complex interaction with quite separate alien cultural Levels B, C, D, and so on. We have also to assume that each one of such levels will be in turn relatively time-shifted in overall development.
Given such circumstances, any kind of meaningful cognition will be a formidable problem. Confusions regarding image, symbol, and metaphor alone will be profound as regards different types of psychosocial formulation within different species apart in space-time and cultural development.
Given such a theatre of multiple interactions, it is surprising that a dwindling number of Ufologists, for example, strive with might and main to demonstrate that the Pentagon bureaucracy created the MJ-12 papers. This is the equivalent to South Pacific cargo-cult tribes in 1920s believing that Christ had a thriving “cargo” business in Sydney, Australia. The universal use of the present tense in all cosmological discussions is a similar distortion, rendering the meaning meaningless; also, events which according to Relativity happened in long ago are described almost universally as happening in real time (whatever that means), in turn. Other distortions of the same ilk include certain UFO communities talking about existing full relationships with alien intergalactic communities as if they were describing a session at the UN. Other authors are on first-name terms with aliens and yet others claim to know the names given to the once-alive aliens in Area 51.
Now if we accept that there may be the tiniest shred of truth about such ideas, then in the light of what has been said previously about cultural contamination, such things as the MJ-12 papers (and the claims of Colonel Corso) could indeed be a pattern of inscrutable alien game-play instead of hot air from the Pentagon.
It is absolutely no use believing in alien existence on one hand and not believing in alien plans and activity on the other.
The best argument for the claims of Colonel Corso is that we ourselves have done to others what aliens may be doing to us. Because of technical and economic limitations we ourselves gave to Third World countries the hand-cranked $100 computer, as good a piece of downtown “cargo” as any.
Colonel Corso created a powerful modern techno-myth, as did George Adamski and the major contactees of the 1950s. Just like Lee Harvey Oswald, such people are now of permanent remembrance in Western culture. On this level, arguments based on simple fact versus fiction differentiation mean very little. For better or for worse, as narratives and scripts and personalities, George Adamski and the contactees, just like some movie stars, have entered the unconscious: see my biography of Adamski, Looking for Orthon. Scientific propaganda has of course managed to identify “myth” with “lies” whereas mythological thinking is the most powerful and most ancient means of communicating with the collective unconscious.
Contrary to what some people believe, strong permanent myths are not that easy to create. Simple lies and downright frauds (such as SERPO) are more than plentiful in Ufology, but they do not stick. A myth is an expression of something created deep in the collective unconscious, long before any performance-script is ready for enactment.
Clocks and Confusions
To assume that any of our suggested alien Levels will be respectable images of what we consider to be the best of ourselves is the height of bourgeois scientific confidence. Contact will be no mean event. It is not likely that aliens will appear with a row of pens in their top pockets offering us the plain facts of the situation, “plain” facts being a metaphor derived from early Protestant work-ethic cultures of a most earthy kind.
Neither will aliens come exuding Astral Light from their navels, or in the form of a good smooth UFO Scout such as Carl Sagan (the John de Lorean of Old Ufology) appear, all ready for a prime-time interview in which he will explain everything beyond the sun, moon, and stars. If we should see such things coming from the open hatch of a landed saucer, we should run for our lives before such deceptions bite our head off.
As well as play, which is universal through the animal kingdom, we can expect waste, crime, inefficiency, and all the ranges of frustrated ambition that define the human species. Films and science fiction, generally speaking, do not show the alien in anything like such a sophisticated focus. He, she, or “it” is a B-feature monster or nothing at all, with very few exceptions such as The Man Who Fell to Earth, in which the alien is at least viewed with some pathos and psychological complexity.
Concerning “contact,” multiple deceptions will be the order of the day. The “control panels” seen by both George Adamski and Betty and Barney Hill had slider potentiometers, large manual switches, and analogue displays! It has hardly been noticed by researchers that such crude devices were somewhat out of date at the time of the abduction incidents. That these instrumental displays were analogue shows alone that such a perceptible time-differential in technical display is the key to all abduction incidents. The so-called “technology” witnessed by abductees is mostly pure boondocks-schlock, some even in the manner of pre-war Flash Gordon films. If our own digital electronics were to wipe out such ancient instrumentation, goodness only knows what changes any alien culture has effected. Certainly they will not be using analogue high impedance voltmeter displays!
In this respect, mechanical categories of true or false do not apply. Like MJ-12, instrumentation is pure cultural theatre. The chance is that some intelligent active process is guessing, playing games with rough approximations. In turn, the abduction scenarios are deceptions. Such could well have been tricks set up by aliens playing guessing games and not guessing correctly. In this respect, MJ-12 could be a rather naff Matrix joke with which to set a thousand hares a-chasing for pure amusement. Science is ill equipped to deal with humour, entertainment, and such cultural deceptions.
Evolution is a dangerous and troublesome process with endless mistakes and blind alleys. There will be areas into which aliens have not ventured, areas in which they have failed, if only because any biomechanical framework lives and dies by risky and experimental systems analysis. This may involve tricking system A into thinking it is system B in order to penetrate system C in order to rob its identity. This means that a living process can control and change an evolving agenda in the manner of phishing. Both the “alien” transistor and MJ-12 may fall into this category as stage-set signals for manoeuvres beyond our mental horizons.
Frequently, we ourselves use both our science and technology for entertainment and guessing-games. In this area we ourselves become exhausted, careless, forgetful, and very often bored and angry. Our media and advertising programmes control us in this way. There is no reason to think that aliens will avoid this mental consumerism. Even honest mistakes (never mind cheating and criminal activity) cause much confusion. Attempts to cover up misbehaviour and crime make the situation even more complex with respect to what aliens may be “doing” to us, and what in turn we may be doing to them, if only boring them stiff in turn.
We have also to consider what is the alien equivalent to our own experience of the rapid obsolescence of technology. Military, media, and domestic sectors are now somewhat reflective of one another’s technological requirements. There is already much confusion as regards the definition of a weapon. In the techgnosis frame, a “weapon” may vary from a tank to a TV programme. The whole mass-suggestion complex of consumerism and advertising could indeed be considered as weaponry in the sense that changed minds are far more useful than battlefield corpses. As distinct from a corpse, the changed mind can make more films, images, narratives, and scripted adventures in the manner of a metaphysical hatchery. As such a programme-absorbing meme-breeder, a human being, is far more useful alive than dead.
Mistakes, Morons, and Mars
Whether tying a shoelace or causing intercontinental war, life is always going wrong. This chronic instability is a cause of life-saving humour to the human race, without which human beings would be mere ticks on a biological clock. Humour can make every single one of us look absolutely ridiculous. We are chastened in order to be re-birthed. There is absolutely no need to think that alien culture will be (or is) any different. They may slip on banana-skins and be as comically outrageous as are human beings. To lay therefore a straight line on aliens is as dangerous as assuming they are all equally intelligent and all po-faced. The thought that aliens might not be completely intent on giving us spiritual enlightenment (or even know what such a thing is) will come as a relief to some earthlings but not to others.
That any alien indeed might be even more ridiculous than ourselves is a thought accepted by almost nobody at all, especially those dour Commissars of Old Ufology with rows of pens in their top pockets who talk about “reality” as it were a set of production statistics from Walter Ulbricht’s rusty-industrial East Germany.
In this sense, the films Morons from Outer Space, the TV series Alf, Alien from LA, Mars Attacks, and Gremlins are probably better at expressing what contact may mean than Old Ufologists stuck with the fact-versus-fiction battles within their old mechanical-industrial selves. Daft-as-a-brush events of course are not “allowed” within the bourgeois-scientific spectrum. Since the universe (and hence God) could not possibly be silly, sensible footwear is the order of the day for the ultra-conservative Victorian Station Masters of a Ufological yesteryear.
In that the characters of these cartoon films are already in our heads and impossible to remove, the aliens are here already. The aliens are a process. Their images in our heads are already networking and there is nothing we can do about it. At the moment they are neither fact nor fiction, but liminal. We know they are coming. We are expecting them. Like Plato’s cave-shadows, their “reality” is a moveable feast along a scale of psychosocial allowances, ranging between the limits of absolute fact and absolute fiction. We had better get used to such highly unstable media forms. They are becoming the quasi-material base of our burgeoning Entertainment State, where Britney Spears and Paris Hilton are far more important than the coke-oven statistics of yore.
Jung’s words in Dreams Memories, Reflections come to mind as regards media: “The symbol becomes intercalated into the cycle of corporeal changes.”
In Old Ufology, however, media does not appear to have arrived. The result is that for the most part, Roswell is usually investigated as some kind of traffic accident.
The Alien Is Fuzzy
The UFO experience confronts us with absurdity. As an increasingly common experience, it is a holistic flux of culture, society, media, and yes, (God forbid!) our Entertainment State. In this respect, Old Ufology must be deconstructed from bottom to top. It must transfer from boiler-house analyses to a new Age where transcendental experience is seen to consist of holistic components. In these elements, all information is media, and both language and culture are advertising systems. In such systems, objective “solidity” is the most perfect prime-time performance of all.
All of these reference frames are essentially elaborate fuzzy play systems. Alien contact will entail meeting a multiple display of such systems.
Scientists, who are absolutely hopeless when faced with humour, absurdity, or raw human experience, do not understand that in this respect, the idea of “truth” in terms of hard-wired practicality will be almost meaningless as regards alien mentality. The system-noise of trash, waste, and fantasies is functional in such essentially anarchic multi-media systems. However, Mind conceived as a terrible mess and not as a set of grocer’s rules is not a politically correct view. Isolated from a holistic context, the UFO experience is meaningless. However, that trading world (from which almost all practical scientists come) wants what it has bought and paid for: a stable order of things.
Very few good Protestant scientists would enjoy finding themselves “investigating” the ass-end of a declining Howdy Doody Show.
If we consider such a noisy holistic view in terms of a cargo-cult model, then we shall not only get any human / alien interface in a better perspective, we will get our first idea of how such an interface with alien intelligence might function.
Me Dream Time Cargo Now.
The very first ships to enter the Pacific were soon full of dead men. Quite lost, becalmed, torn apart by storms, wasted by disease, the crews of such primitive wooden ships stood no chance against the savage moods of the seemingly limitless Pacific. Their bones, planking, spars, and shredded sails washed up on countless beaches, met the wondering gaze of natives whose tribal life had been static for thousands of years.
This is a good model of what we now call “contact” between communities whose cultures were thousands of years apart. The curiosity, the misunderstanding, the lack of a framework of interpretation, all contributed to the fear of what, to natives, were perplexing abstractions. These are typical reactions within what we ourselves now call the UFO experience.
There are now catalogues of thousands of such UFO experiences in the last fifty years and all of them exhibit the same kind of native reactions in a modern context.
Thus the first experience of what we now call “contact” between human communities on very different time scales of culture and technology was one of almost complete fragmentation. It is unlikely that natives saw any kind of significance regarding what curiosities may have been noticed and picked up from the shore. A few may have wondered about a curiously shaped iron fragment, a piece of hand-turned and slotted wood, or a shredded piece of woven rope, just as we wonder about Dr. Roger Leir’s alleged “alien” implants. According to Corso, this is the way in which we came across transistors. They were detritus from the Roswell wreckage. By analogy this is a very strong argument.
Those natives who first saw live men as distinct from dead, were in for a surprise. The ships that entered the South Pacific were exclusively pirate vessels crewed by criminals fleeing from Western navies for every reason under the sun. They could not enter ports, they had no supply lines, they were forever on the run, and used desperate and murderous methods to survive.
The first reaction of natives at seeing such desperados (both white and black) pulling ashore in long boats was violence, mainly sponsored by panic and fear. The crews, racked by scurvy, dysentery, and starvation, were desperate for water, vegetables, and fruit.
According to Shelvoke, the crews soon worked out a scheme to ensure safe landing. They fashioned fantastic masks and clothing, got into boats fully armed, and screaming and howling like banshees, they made for shore. Such men were anything but holy beings come to offer the natives the glory of their Western culture and the holiness of their heart’s affections. We can imagine a mad cook, a psychopathic Bosun, a half-dead Coxswain, a murdering Mate, and a few young palsied Matelots with scrofula, fleas, and sore bottoms.
The alien equivalent to such a menagerie defies imagination!
Terrified at seeing such things, entire villages fled into the bush, to create fantastic stories of magical beings with incredible devices voyaging in wondrously rigged ships. Thus were created legends of the space ships of demons, “space” not being so much in the sky as being represented by the limitless and quite impenetrable horizon.
Gift-offerings of food and fresh water were left for the gods, and natives took good note that these were eagerly consumed before the holy ones sailed away into the far horizon, with not a few captured slaves (men, women, and children) aboard. There were also a considerable number of dead bodies left behind, bodies of both the pirates and those natives who had ventured too close to the “aliens.”
Such men and ships were not to return for centuries, leaving natives with mysteries beyond all conception.
That the gods in their highly sophisticated ships appeared to be somewhat desperate, ragged, quite lost, and even frightened, was also baffling to natives. That some were also sick and ill and obviously limited in many other respects, illustrated the differences between time, image, and technological achievement. The same questions are asked today: if the aliens could do one thing so well, why not another? Such mysteries were profound. Nothing made sense.
Thus primitive people, quite naked under the sun, without the wheel, tools, writing, and with a very crude language, experienced therefore the full dimension of UFO mythology in terms of culture-shock: abductions, fantastic appearances, disreputable and often murderous behaviour, and a technology which appeared to be quite magical on one hand and quite useless on another. In the native mind such experiences were impossible to grasp and define in terms of any kind of unified field.
Fractals in Collision
Before the modern phase of continuous contact daily experience had been pretty unchanged. Scores (perhaps hundreds) of years had passed by between visitations to the natives. The event of “contact” became therefore like a newspaper under heavy rain: bits of stories disintegrated rapidly, the interrelation of the textual fabric becoming increasingly disorganised, the gaps in stories filled by guesses, dreaming, and imagination.
Continuous sustained contact (between the two World Wars) was yet another experience. It destroyed all native ideas of time as conceived: time became a dramatic continuum full of spectacular events, staged within what appeared to be an endless sequence of profound stimulations and excitements beyond all compass. This was an experience of many Matrix fractals in collision, rather like the absurd elements within the modern UFO experience.
After the First World War, the first iron-hulled steamships arrived in the South Pacific. Lit from stem to stern by electric light, making a great noise and pouring white steam from huge funnels, this must have been a tremendous experience for natives and was equivalent to seeing a sudden change in the technology of the gods, whose traditional sailing ships of course were very different to the steamers.
In return for work unloading ships, natives were given knives, axes, nails, and cloth in addition to new food plants. These “gifts from the gods” became “cargo,” if only because the crews of ships were heard to use this word many times. It was quickly noticed that whilst the visitors got unlimited cargo, the natives got very little, and that in return for back-breaking physical labour,
Since natives had no idea of any kind of resources spectrum, cargo appeared to come in great quantities from nowhere. It was therefore magical.
Reinforcing the idea of magic were stills and shaky frames from cameras. For the first time the natives saw themselves at work and play. Immediately, the interpretation was that they were seeing themselves in other dimensions of existence. This was a belief which whites found surprisingly difficult to deny or explain! The repeatable runs of film-frames also caused much philosophical speculation as regards time, space, and technology. As we shall see in the case of canned food, the natives had not experienced any kind of exactly repeatable sequence of any kind, in either nature or life.
In addition they heard the crackle of radios and early recorded sound on portable wind-up gramophones.
Media Interpreting Media
We have only to extrapolate the Corso and Adamski stories alone into this framework of multiple confusions to see how the whole mess was soon lit up with awe and religious fervour. The projected cargo “fantasies” of the natives piled misinterpretations upon misconceptions and became integrated into “holy” tribal ancestral architecture rather like the Christian Orders of Angels.
That the cargo-gods had a similar tribal architecture themselves was a nice consideration heavily masked by the alien-gods’ material “success.” In this respect, this situation is not described adequately by the simple equations of fact transforming into fantasy. The cargo culture might indeed be in the grip of untold fantasies, but then so were the young Western sailors of the time in terms of the mass media they had begun to absorb: films, advertising, radio shows, and burgeoning consumerism.
This two-state transfer makes for a very interesting alchemical analogy. In this situation, we have junk systems transforming into other junk systems. This unique mental traffic replaces all thought of the fact versus fiction axis of the old analogue world.
The idea of a “religion” founded on junk in the mental gut is a frightening concept to many people of religious convictions in the West. Could our own so-called “enlightenment” have been inspired by alien detritus, some of which might have given a few last bleeps before fading away to the last Reject Store in the sky? Could this kind of mutual image-absorption be an historical process still active?
Rehearsals of Rehearsals
We can build yet another level of complexity into our model.
In the 1950s, many of the sons and daughters of the servicemen of World War Two got involved in the New Age movement. This meant that they were as interested in aboriginal native perception of things as cargo cult societies were interested in our own mysterious thought-processes.
This New Age generation rejected their own culture based in the main on those products of scientific rationalism, which conversely, were so magical to the cargo cults.
There was (and still is) an intriguing symmetry here. Natives were anxious to leave their junk behind, the New Agers were anxious to pick it up, gaze at it in wonder, searching for spiritual inspiration.
Two eyes gazing at their own junk in wonder, two seeing eyes as it were trying to perceive the secrets of the other’s cargo! The lost spirituality became for New Agers their own cargo!
How many such seeing eyes of this type exist beyond the natives, humanity, and possible aliens is a good question. As our own Western society is now limitless media-play of little worth, does our own junk in turn fascinate some alien?
In this sense, Old Ufology based on simple mechanical differentiation of fact from fiction is useless in the face of such interactive metaphysical and cultural complexity.
Is You Receiving Me?
During the fast and furious island-hopping campaign against the Japanese in World War Two, American land, sea, and air units used many islands in the South Pacific as temporary bases, as did the Japanese. Often these frenzied activities offered only briefest of encounters with very primitive native populations, who could do nothing but gaze on in wonder as a carrier task force emerged from the dawn, and tank landing craft hit the beach with scores of aircraft screaming overhead. The savage fight for Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands was a typical battle.
The U.S. forces moved on quickly, preparing themselves for the great battles of Okinawa, Taiwan, and Iwo-Jima. Many islands were abandoned, the supplies and men taken off quickly in ships and transport aircraft, never to return. Vast amounts of material were left behind, the harassed US forces not having the time or inclination to clean up all kinds of waste and rubbish, from workshop, accommodation, and canteen litter. Left to rust were faulty equipment that was not worth repairing, parts of crashed and damaged aircraft, and base junk including abandoned food, fuel, and clothing stocks.
Most of these obscure island tribes were forgotten after 1945. An exhausted world was preoccupied with building an entirely new future.
Interest in the culture of these islands revived when in the late 1960s interesting reports from missionaries and a new generation of young anthropologists began to arrive from the West. What they found in many cases was quite astonishing. Many tribes had fashioned whole and complete new religions based on their very brief experience of “contact” with the US military. They had built churches of old aircraft-parts that they regarded as holy relics left by the “gods.” On the altars of such churches were broken radio and radar sets that they hoped would burst into life some day because of their prayers.
Flanking items of rusty military equipment were tins of old U.S. rations, sausages, fruit, and soup, etc. On festive occasions a few of these cans were opened and the contents placed upon tongues, rather like Catholic wafers.
The Coming of the Product
The inhabitants were very much impressed by the military rations they were given in return for manual labour.
For the military, the type of food content was usually printed directly onto the cans, together with the date. But early on in the War, such was the demand that pre-war canned stock with coloured labels had to be issued. Such labels soon rotted off the rusting piles of emptied cans. Natives kept these stained and torn visions of an inconceivable paradise as glimpses into other dimensions. Hence these images of a life lost even to the manufacturers entered the native unconscious as an eternal present. Seen also through the estranged perspectives of deterioration were cars and aircraft, buildings, bridges, and clothing of a time pre-dating the Second World War. The often-garish graphics showed a pre-war America, which in some cases, not even the young American troops could recall.
Thus was formed a kind of participation mystique between the natives and the characters and fragments of cartoon-lives seen on the cans. That this homely cartoon life had already disappeared from mainstream US culture was hardly explainable to natives.
The almost identical physical proportions of such cans also aroused great curiosity amongst the natives. This was the first native encounter with what we can define as a product range as distinct from a singular thing. Great numbers of identical things was a new concept to them. Each unit of previous experience had character, a face, and a unique self indeed. Each individual leaf on a tree had a certain character, as had indeed every grain of sand on the shore. Yet, paradoxically, though each of these tins might be identical on the outside, they had certain ranges of differences when opened. The link between uniform faceless precision and sets of different limitless variety was a strange enigma. Seen in terms of cultural time-differentials the content of the cans represented sustenance and pleasure, the very essence of the subtle magic of cargo whose long-vanished product chain was organised by a transactional mystique just as incomprehensible to most young Westerners of the time as it was to natives.
As far as Ufology is concerned cultural misinterpretation and the necessary confusions therein should therefore be modelled in preference to simple mechanical facts versus fictions. Not many historians make models of cultural confusions: the chauvinist / racist assumption is that only the “primitives” are confused. Those of a “scientific” disposition, in particular, think of certainties, discoveries, forward progress in time; almost no scientists or historians conceive of media, consumerism, and science (indeed) in the West as operational mythologies very similar to cargo-cult thinking.
The Film Crews Arrive
Consider: a cargo-cult believer wakes up one morning in 2008 to see a film company on a beach shooting a dogfight between a F-51 Mustang fighter and a F-47 Thunderbolt. Such aircraft would inevitably be re-builds, fashioned from many parts of wrecked World War 2 aircraft, plus modern parts built from original blueprints. These classic planes would be on hire either from private owners, or from the equally private Confederate Air Force of the United States.
Now let us suppose this combat represents a fight between a Japanese Zero and a Douglas Avenger—simply because now there are very few “actual” Zeros or Avengers in flying condition. Already, without metaphysics or theology, the situation as described is becoming symbolically rather complicated for an observer who has not yet invented the wheel, never mind agriculture or primitive navigation.
Already our simple situation is becoming symbolically rather complex. Here are imitations within imitations fighting yet other imitations. The four aircraft mentioned are subliminal filmstrips within the Western imagination. We cannot rid ourselves of such flying machines and their background any more than we can rid ourselves of James Bond or Charlie Chaplin. The chances are that each newborn child is going to have these aircraft in the head. Amongst countless other almost magical configurations, kits will be sold, models made, dreams will be dreamed indeed of battles long ago.
As well as being finite things, such machines are major historical elements. They trail social psychology, science, and technology, as well as vales of tears and grief regarding the living and the dead. These shapes and sounds are therefore direct routes back to the almost-past of Western technological culture. Our holistic life threads right back through these aircraft and these mighty struggles to the Industrial Revolution via the development of engines, carburettors, propellers, rudders, and undercarriages. Can we be objective with tears in our eyes before the vast hosts of the dead?
However, how would our native conceive of such socio-historical-technological scaling, with all its complex history and its many dimensions? How could we explain that though the aircraft mentioned are now static in one form of time, in another form of time they represent ever-evolving adventures in the head? Further possible confusions abound as the Fractals of perception open. Suppose our islander knows of a long-forgotten B-29 buried deep in the bush, and suppose the film-company carpenters built parts of a fuselage of a mock B-29 for this supposed war film before his very eyes, indeed?
Mentally, his mind would be like a smashed telephone exchange. What would he make of our concepts of fact and fiction, and the infinite scaling of Sartre’s “being and nothingness” in between?
Supposing one of our mock-mock aeroplanes were to develop engine trouble and crash to the ground, killing the pilot whose ancestors might well have happened to have flown the original planes in the original situation?
What measurement of time is possible, here? What time, what clocks and what measuring rods?
Mustang and Thunderbolt
Next, let us imagine that as part of our film a great naval task force appears offshore to land Marines. Let us suppose that blanks of varying dramatic power are fired and the dead fall to the beach, only to get up again and head for the refreshment tent!
What a pickle our native philosopher would be in! He would hear radios, he would see women, he would smell fuel, and he would see many men as black indeed as himself. However, he would not know that the whole dimension was a stage set. He would not know that what he was seeing was part of a system organised to produce and supply a series of artificial images without which almost all battery-fed human beings in the West would suffer withdrawal symptoms.
Supposing now a UFO flies overhead (as has happened). The film crew are now in the position of our native, who won’t be bothered much, because in all likelihood he will equate the UFO with the Mustang and the Thunderbolt just as the dead pilot “actually” shot down by the mock-Zero.
The double trick is that the film crew themselves do not understand such paths in any case, due to internal differences of class, education, and intelligence.
If we build further into our model a theory of fallibilities and mistakes, then we have a reasonable degree of sophistication emerging as regards a model of alien / human interaction. Supposing our observed UFO (above) is from alien Level A. There are of course going to be alien Level B, etc. When the mistakes of Level A are compounded with the mistakes of alien Level B and summed to infinity with succeeding levels, consciousness and culture become something rather like the manifold life on an old garden wall.
Now, supposing one of the film aircraft “actually” crashed near where the film shooting is taking place. Supposing the pilot is killed, but his observer is alive though injured. The body of the pilot and his injured observer on a stretcher are both put momentarily alongside plastic models of “dead” (and apparently severely injured) Marines on stretchers. What would our native think of crude fact and fiction separations, then, with large and small robots everywhere moving between the living, the mock-dead, and almost-dead? Supposing an enterprising film director decided to film the entire confused scene, complete with the still-blazing wreckage of the mock aircraft? How would our curious native deal with these levels of pseudo-illusions which turn fact into fiction and vice versa? Alone, he would also have to deal with the idea of “accurate” falsehoods manoeuvring between different sets of commercial trickery whose “authenticity” has to be “real” in order to generate that abstraction called paper money.
Let us imagine that our native sees himself imagining and wondering and questioning on the many flat-screen monitors within the film unit, and the situation becomes completely liminal.
Like ourselves indeed, our native islander (bless him, again), is surrounded by varying levels of pantomime. Like ourselves, he will not know where the hoaxes start and the associated advertisements finish.
When we meet extraterrestrial aliens, we will be in exactly the same position.
Perhaps for both the alien, the islander, and ourselves, experience is a matter of having to work and organise that wonder-management system called explanations. Explanations help us to get some sleep at night. In the morning they are gone. Many cases have occurred in which islanders have asked Western folk to explain things. When this is attempted they are suspicious, and think they are being lied to, and surely we do not blame them!
One thing is certain: we have to discard many of our late Victorian ideas rooted in inputs, outputs, and information that travels in straight, hard-wired lines such as trains, or wires strung between poles. Consciousness is pure theatre without end. This is what “holistic” means. This kind of thinking is suitable to an age of media where every single stage of perception is rooted (some say contaminated) in wall-to wall performances for which there is no possible OFF switch. We ourselves (and the alien) live in a mythological continuum just as much as do our “primitive” islanders.
Eventually of course, our film crew, like the old gods, will sail away never to return. They will leave a layer of detritus lying over that left by the American forces over sixty-four years ago.
Only the advertisements on the labels of the discarded tins will be laughing. The happy smiling Betty Grable style housewives of 1938 with steaming apple pies in their innocent hands will have been replaced by svelte, Matrix-style women who appear to be offering us a lot more than cans of preserved strawberries.
That we in turn might be worshipping a preserved version of someone else’s sugar-plum fairy is a sobering thought indeed. However, perhaps back in the thatched huts, the tribal seer is laughing his head off. Perhaps he knows, like Shakespeare’s Prospero, that the world of the imagination is the only world that counts.
Western society has its own cargo dreamtime called intellectual consumerism. This is that pantomime of facts and fictions and many things in-between struggling upwards to get to that media Valhalla called Prime Time.
If any aliens are reading this, I think they will understand. As Media Stars, they too are struggling toward the same objective.