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                                      Chapter 6.  We are Not Alone                                                                        (use the down arrow ↓ on your keyboard to scroll downward)

 

The noise of the beams was starting to drive us crazy, both the alien and me.  

     BEAM!     BEAM!     BEAM!     BEAM!     BEAM!     BEAM!     BEAM!                                                          

     I looked around frantically to see what was causing that infernal noise.  Where in the world was it coming from?  And from whose world - the alien’s or mine?  ↓

     BEAM!     BEAM!     BEAM!     BEAM!     BEAM!     BEAM!     BEAM!     

      Finally, I found what was making that noise.  It was my alarm clock, set to go off in the mid-afternoon hours.  I had forgotten I set it there.  I shut it off, and now was getting used to the silence.  It reminded me of how my eyes had to get used to the beams of light when the alien first arrived.   ↓

     “Wow.  That is a relief!  Thank you very much,” he said, removing his hexadecimal hand-like appendages from his cylindrical audial receptors that served apparently as his ears.   

     “Sorry about that,” I replied.  I wasn’t alone in my suffering the noise.  I had to remember that.   

     “I see you decimal humans still need duo-decimal alarm clocks to wake you up with beeps or beams in order to remind you to do things,” he remarked, observing our dependence on time pieces and pre-set alarms.  Unlike the political elite, clocks aren’t two-faced.  Neither is Father Time, who comes to call and recall when it’s your time.  ↓

     As a technically superior being of the hexadecimal genre, this particular alien may not have needed such a prisoner’s device.  He may have come equipped with an internal clock.  In any case, I still couldn’t figure out how that alarm clock didn’t wake me up, if this indeed was a dream of my own creation. 

     I asked myself, could this have been reality?  NAAH!  Who would believe it?  The news media certainly wouldn’t.  After all, this story sounds even more far-fetched than a “man bites dog” headline.  It seems even more bizarre than a “man replaces machine” headline.  Any respectable newspaper named “Star” or “Globe” or “Der Welt” or “Daily Planet” would scoff at the idea of reporting on such a spectacular tale, even if it were written by a spectacled mild-mannered reporter with the help of an extraterrestrial alter-ego superman from Krypton.   ↓

    Closer to home, none of our newspapers named “Times” would find this story fit to print.  That’s understandable.  No magazine of the fourth estate named for the fourth dimension would consider it valid.  And I would understand why a theoretical journal named “Space-Times” would consider my story “too far out there” to be considered the truth.  Even if our universe turned out to be infinite and unbounded there would probably no space to print it, much less time for any sane person give it serious consideration.  ↓

    I am hoping that you are different from some of the wise-owl journalists out there who all too often resort to give a report on some celebrity from the pages of their gossip-style book of Who’s Who.  

    I noticed the alien had picked up my alarm clock in amazement as if he never had seen one before.  After an awkward silence, I felt a need to respond to the alien’s observation concerning our dependence on primitive time pieces.  “It seems that we humans do have a dependence on time-machines such as alarm clocks.”  I answered somewhat apologetically, referring to human beings’ inability to judge time in some internal clock system this alien’s race may have been equipped with in some evolutionary process we couldn’t begin to understand.   

    Clocks!  Such mundane objects.  Einstein may have understood their importance, explaining features of moving reference frames to further develop his special and general theories of relativity.  But like the rest of us, theoretical physicists probably don’t have the capacity to know the time of day without the assistance of such a trivial time-machine, whatever reference frame-of-mind we are in.   

     Anyway, I was making an effort to get back to what we were discussing prior to the advent of the beams noise.  Then I remembered.  He had been saying, just before the beams noise started, that our problem was one of “deployment” rather than “employment”.   This made sense, and I was pleased that we were able to come to an understanding.   Perhaps it was our shared suffering of the beams that brought us closer to a bizarre type of some unified field theory which eluded Einstein.  ↓

     “As I was saying, really - your people should realise,” the regal alien said with his r-regally r-r-rolling Stonehenge pronunciation, “that people need to be utilised by society, and society needs to utilise them.  It is similar to what you were probably taught in your MBA studies about the cyclic nature of households and firms.”

     I remembered that theoretical notion.  It was interesting that alien social scientists were also familiar with it.  I guess we really were not alone.

     Then he added, perhaps for the sake of clarity, “Does that make sense?”

     “Yes, it does,” I confirmed.  I was very pleased to discover that We the People are not alone, that we are indeed “E Pluribus Unum”.  That is, we are one of many amongst all the life out there, of all the star-stuff whence our molecules were formed.

     It was through that same reassuring epiphany that I came to the realization that I was not alone; that I was not just a “Who” who was living on a dust-speck trying to get more than just trying to get Horton to hear me and the other who’s whose wise voices needed to be heard.  When and how does one hear a Who?  By shouting loud enough: “We are here, we are here, we are here, we are HERE!”

     I now felt that I was not isolated in my frustration and futility which at times seemed to be driving me crazy.  Apparently others like me have responded immediately to a great many job announcements with a very qualified customized resume, only to have been ignored or rejected at every turn. 

     As a consequence to my situation these days, I had been feeling rather paranoid trying to explain this to friends and family, as if either I or they were strangers from another planet, another plane of existence where physical laws are different.  “Just go out and get a job,” they would say.    

     Up until now I was feeling like a social outcast, a freak of sorts.  But meeting this interstellar stranger put things into perspective.  It also provided me with more than just some insight into the nature of feeling worthless, and like all human beings searching for extraterrestrial intelligence, I now began to contemplate the nature of being alone in the universe.  Now for the first time I drew connections between that personal isolation from unemployment and the one we humans fear collectively as a species and may need to face for many years of our existence:  We may very well be alone.  Our privacy is one of private deprivation of company.  And it’s not by choice.  We may have no alternative but to accept our collective solitude in the universe. 

     Before having met this interstellar traveler, I had been a “rational” skeptic concerning the notion that creatures from outer-space have visited the Earth.  Despite all the science fiction stories I had grown up with, including the intriguing stories about flying saucers over our landscape and the media attention given to Area 51, UFO sightings and the supposed extraterrestrial visits to Roswell, New Mexico, I wasn’t convinced.  Instead, I would argue against the possibility of such alien visits.  In doing so, I had generally employed the same rational arguments to convince myself that we were never visited by extraterrestrial intelligent beings, even if they had actually existed. 

     Many people have claimed evidence to our having been visited by extraterrestrials.  I have usually attributed these stories to human imagination and creativity, that same ingenuity which is being frustrated by a society with real long-term unemployment issues.  But despite the claims to having been visited by intelligent aliens from other planets, I was a disbeliever.  My reasoning for having been such a skeptic was supported with two rational arguments: Psychological and Statistical.  After spending hours customizing résumés, looking for jobs, and submitting resumes, I sometimes had a little extra time to contemplate my convictions.

     My psychological argument that we are alone is a consequence of understanding the human experience and that species’ own ability to apply inductive reasoning.  The premise is based on the observation that we human beings are familiar with our family or with simply “others of our kind” in society.  Whether they are our parents, our siblings, our relatives, our friends, our enemies, our classmates, our neighbors, or the tax-collector – we have become used to having someone else out there.    

     They are the familiar “others”, those human, earthly day-to-day acquaintances whom we encounter and with whom we expect to associate.  When we interact with them they are something of close encounters of the second-person kind.  And when we talk about them behind their backs like I am now, they become close encounters of the third person-kind.  But we know they are there.  We remember them and realize that we will be meeting new “others” in the future.  We are not alone.

     This argument emphasizes the notion that we simply have grown so accustomed to not being alone in our earthly existence that we can’t conceive of such a lonely possibility as it relates to down-to-earthy existence.  Even if we were left alone to fend for ourselves as infants, we most likely would not survive to live the next day. As infants we are fully dependent on the familiar “others”.  In the final analysis, it isn’t a question whether or not we are alone.  Rather, it is a question of whether we have the acquired ability to actually perceive ourselves as human beings being alone in our immediate surroundings, and more generally, in the universe at large.

     On the other hand, my statistical argument makes use of the Drake equation and the Fermi paradox with some additional restrictions.  This argument considers a few extra fractions that limit the probability of finding intelligent life out there.  In this analysis, it is argued that we should be limiting our considerations to only those creatures who are like us in intelligence at our very brief and fleeting stage of human intelligent existence.  If this thinking power is considered like a spectrum of intelligence potential, the alien beings would have to be within a range of intelligence sufficient for communication. 

    Too far below this level of intelligence, and they would not have been able to produce a technology that would enable them to visit us.  Too far above, they would be bored with us and deem us uninteresting.  In such a case if they wanted to study us, they would remain inconspicuous.  We would then have no proof that they had ever visited us.  Drake, Fermi, and Hart worked on this statistical idea, but with no proof whatsoever.  Fermi asked in this regard, “Where is everybody”?

     Now I had the answer.  I may have been the first one.  And now my alien friend had proved me wrong.  We were not alone.  And in a different but similar sense, neither was I in my being unemployed e pluribus unum, nor in my place in the universe.  Now I was grateful to him for not only distracting me from my own financial woes, but also for making me feel more normal and less of a paranoid freak. 

     The alien now seemed eager to continue his investigation, able to perceive the moment when I had finished my internal soliloquy.  I wasn’t sure if he could read minds or not; he did not give any particular hints of exceptional telepathic abilities.  Otherwise he wouldn’t be asking me so many questions about myself and my fellow human beings. 

     Before the alien proved to me that my species was not alone, I felt we had an excuse for our insanity.  Solitary confinement has been known to cause people to go insane.  Now human beings didn’t have that excuse anymore.  Not only could we claim that we were under-age, but we could never again be able to plead not-guilty by reason of temporary insanity.   Gone was the innocence; lost was the bustan; the pardess; the paradise.  A Childhood’s end.  

     He then picked up the conversation where we had left off before:  “So, I understand that there are many people out there trying to find work, responding to advertisements in newspapers, internet, and bulletin boards, but to no avail.  You obviously are not the only one in this situation.”

    At this point I was beginning to feel uncomfortable at his focus and emphasis on my long-term unemployment situation.  So I interceded:  “I really don’t feel like talking about this, if it’s all right with you”.    His inquisition reminded me of urban legends about alien abductions in which extraterrestrials tended to probe and poke the abducted in order to get to some scientific truth. 

    “Why do not you want to open up about your situation?” he asked, again with the syntactical error which I had earlier decided not to correct.  He did speak English well and seemed to have had a thorough understanding of our vocabulary and vernacular.  I could appreciate that.  For I may not know the meaning of some words, but I’m always in there pidgin’.

     I found the alien’s interrogative formation particularly problematic.  It was rather quaint and amusing, and I was interested in taking advantage of the time.  So I decided again not to address the alien’s erroneous syntactical issues.  Or as the alien might have said, I decided ‘to not correct’ his problematic grammar.

    “It’s just that this poking and prodding is so painful”, I responded, in the spirit of an earthly lab-rat objecting to being the object of other beings’ scientific research objectives.

    “But did not you say you would help me get to the truth?” he rebounded in protest.  He was right.  Earlier, I did agree to help him get to the whys of the woes of humanity. It was a commitment and promise made in good faith and trust.  I felt obligated to keep it.

     So, I felt I had to qualify my resistance to his line of questioning, though at this point it may have been futile: “It’s just that there are so many other issues facing humanity today.  After all, the news media rarely report on the wasted talent of human resources.  They would rather report on the royal family, celebrity scandals, and politicians’ defamations of character.  Things that distract the public from the real things that are going on in the human condition.”

     I regretted having told these inconvenient truths to the alien, but was under oath – so to speak.  I felt like I was being cross-examined on the witness stand, obligated to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  More accurately, it was my honest opinion based on my own observations of the evidence, circumstantial, incriminating or otherwise. 

    As of late the cable media have stepped up efforts to increase viewer audience by provoking their latent anger, and foment hatred whether it is racial in nature or political.  They are focusing on arousal of primitive human anxieties that seem to be a xenophobic fear of the “others” even if those others are fellow human-beings and not alien beings from a distant planet.  Instead of focusing on peoples’ intelligence and creativity, they tend to divert attention from true social problems and their causes in society, the real ones that need to be exposed.

    “Or, maybe long-term unemployment is not that key an issue and is not the root of our problems.  Otherwise the media would mention the crumbling of professionalism in this day and age, as well as its cause.”

    The alien thought for a moment, then responded to my observation, asking with his typical syntactical form:  “Why does not anyone protest this ignorance? Why does this diversion go on without anyone drawing attention to what we hear you humans refer to as a ‘shell game’?” 

    The alien was stating the obvious with the same rhetorical questions many of us humans had.  Unfortunately, they seemed like straight lines in curved space.  But I was ready with this answer:  “Some the media outlets, especially cable, have their own agenda:  To keep you humans watching and to get more sponsorship money from corporations or political parties.  In a deeper sense, they get viewers mad at another cable channel and foment anger against an opposing party in order to increase campaign contributions which are used to pay for electioneering efforts such as mud-slinging advertisements.  And who gets paid for these campaign ads?  Some of the very cable networks themselves!”

    At this exclamation I saw the alien recoil somewhat.  He was taken aback, and was sorry I shouted. On this subject I get emotional.  It’s just that the cable media’s hidden agenda was obvious to many of us humans who had not yet been exposed for a long enough time to the dumbing-down phenomenon. But what was particularly disturbing and hidden from public view was the plight of our society resulting from professional and academic individuals who cannot find jobs with living wages.  Only dying ones. 

    While some of the cable news media keep their agenda hidden, they seem to keep the peoples’ agenda hidden as well. That hidden agenda is simple:  Jobs, income, livable wages. 

    Unfortunately, there never seems to be time for viewers’ intellectual brainstorming; but plenty of time for brainwashing through campaign ads paid for with contributions of money that has been washed and laundered, squeezed out in a rise cycle.  After the money is carefully cleaned and pressed by the same printing- presses that disseminate the news, it then goes right to the banks of the affluently flowing rivers.

     “I am sorry for shouting.  Please forgive me,” I said in a genuinely reconciliatory tone.  I wanted to keep interstellar relations positive.  Who knows when we would be needing them? 

     “That is quite understandable, human.  Your frustrations are understandable.  Some of the media appear to be helping to speed up the deteriorating situation and are facilitating the very debilitation of minds on your planet”, he remarked. 

      In some ways the alien reminded me of a drinking buddy I once had, named Emmett Odom, whom I used to call “EO”, and later just “Yo”.  Emmett had this thing about politicians in general, that they belonged in a class by themselves.  He argued that Hitler was more a politician than an anti-Semite, using the Jews as a springboard together with Communism and the Versailles Treaty to further his own political ambition.  It was his protégé Himmler who was the true anti-Semite.   Hitler was the political force that opened the gates of Hell, enabling acts of evil from his entourage while scaring the people with their fear of communism and Jew-hatred.  While keeping the cauldron hot with hellish fire-decrees, Hitler was an adept politician, able to distract the people.  They were unable to see through the façade of his political aspirations.  According to Emmett, anti-Semitism was Hitler’s means to a tragic end in which the little people got screwed , as is usually the conclusion of all wars.

 

    Emmett’s cynicism was unique.   His disdain against politicians made my distaste seem relatively sweet.  He wasn’t crazy, just very angry.  He once told me he believed they all politicians everywhere were of the same cut, and that each one will do and say anything to get elected and shore up political power; they would sign any deal with the Devil, use cover-up strategies to stay in power, and pocket any “unused” campaign money for themselves.  Odom was an equal-opportunity angry man.  I remember how he would curse ALL politicians everywhere, men and women from all countries, races, religions calling them “those goddamned political parasites”.

     I don’t know what became of Emmett Odom.  Last I heard he was kicked out of organization after organization, and was kicked out of some New Mexico jail in Sierra County for his own brand of truth saying which must have sounded to them more like soothsaying.  He’s probably wandering the streets, sprouting off his brand of political truths, not thinking about the consequences of free speech.  He might be in hot water waiting to be sprung from some other jail.  Poor Emmett.  A holding cell was never a good cell.  He always said that the lies always win and the truth will out.  But why should truth keep him behind bars while the lies set criminals free?   I felt sorry for poor Emmett.  Truth be told, I once wrote him this incarceration anniversary wish:  “Though yo may, though yo might, speak by day, opine by night.  You’ll pay for your say, and fight for your right.  You’ll stay behind bars, and won’t see light or stars.  Wish you may, wish you might, no ray of beams, no hope in sight.  So, Yo, shut up by daybreak, and maybe you’ll go free by nightfall.”  

     In the meantime, he alien peered at me with a curious enigmatic expression.  I then felt a need to add somewhat sarcastically:  “Perhaps the problem of our brain-atrophy is related to taxes being too high and unfair, or that many rich and famous are in rehab, or maybe it’s just the weather.  Anything to dummy the waters.”  After having listened to myself I realized how dumb I sounded.    

     Maybe we were experiencing a general numbing down of numbers of brain cells.  It was scary to think that this dumbing down that can take us down a path to social decay.  At times it seemed like we didn’t want to be raising a generation of pilots, but rather just a fleet of drones.    

     His own agenda having been pursued to his satisfaction, the alien summarized:  “It so happens that we on Zatox have also found that the root of social collapse is often a result of the dumbing-down of society.  And you, human, are proving this to be the case on your very own planet Earth.”

     I felt dumbfounded.  I guess he discovered my dumbness as soon as I began speaking. What was interesting was that the dumbing-down phenomenon on Earth was so apparent that it could be perceived light years away.  I wondered if he wasn’t seeing events as they were in the past since it takes years for beams of light to travel light years.

   Though I was the one on the witness stand, I felt I needed to say something.  I was my own defense attorney and had a fool for a client.  After an awkward silence, all I could muster up to say to the alien was a feeble “What do you mean?”

    “Simply put, human”, he continued his thesis, “By not engaging yourselves in creativity at the workplace where you utilize the best hours of your waking day, you will eventually waste away over time as your minds atrophy and your imaginations fail to find solutions.  To paraphrase a Zatoccian expression, you end up ‘falling from the sky’.”

    An interesting expression, “falling from the sky”.  After years of sending rockets into space, landing on the moon, building and sending space shuttles to manned space stations and the sending of the Hubble telescope to search the heavens, we seemed to have reached a standstill.  No more dreams of visiting the stars.  Like the Nephilim from the Book of Genesis, we were giants who fell from gracious heavens. Doomed to be damned and dumbed downward, a debilitating descent for our descendants.

    The alien noticed my reflection and it seemed to be cause for a momentary pause.  He then continued:  “On Zatox we have recognized the dumbing-down phenomenon and have found that it relates to the human cerebral cortex not being challenged sufficiently.”

    Although I was a dumbed-down human with diluted human intelligence, it wasn’t hard for me to connect the dots he had so meticulously presented. The resulting disastrous constellation was ominously clear.  The dumbing down was taking us head over heels in a stellar tumble.  Neither time nor tale of Achilles’ heel can heal such wounds, even when the hero is held heels-over-head in the Styx.

   He then continued:  “Understanding long-term unemployment is important for your scientists because it explains the decay of our human intellectual potential.  We see the buildup of this phenomenon over the long-term as being detrimental-illness.  For every day that your Earth travels around the sun with wasted labor is a tremendous opportunity cost to your society.  Your labor force times the distance you could have gone equals kinetic energy of productive work that could otherwise have gotten done.  A cross product of lost fortunes your future generations will have to bear.”

   Unfortunately, I understood what he was saying.  We didn’t agree all the time, but now we were on the same page.  It seemed obvious to me that economic problems occur when talented and motivated people are not utilized.  Not just me.  There are many others out there who could have helped the Healthcare.Com website project.   The most arrogant thing about the rollout is that we appeared to accept failure too easy.  It shouldn’t have been an option, but it was. Instead of hiring those who could do the job right the first time, we would rather accept that failure.  The resulting mess comes as a result of too much political placement and not enough qualification quests for qualified people.

   “Sadly,” he continued, “the dumbing-down phenomenon is extensive because it lets experience and lessons learned in life and in academia go to waste.  It is the reason why so many of you humans even ask if getting an advanced university degree is worthwhile, if so many academicians are out of work.  This includes recent graduates with great potential for creativity as well as experienced professionals educated with life-lessons to their credit.  Our scientists on Zatox have noticed this recent development, and it has been the source of great interest for us.  We are truly fascinated at your dumbing-down phenomenon.  It is more than extensive.  It is expensive. It makes the earth much more vulnerable to the invasion about which you are concerned.”

     Invasion?!!  Once again, that “I” word we all dreaded so much. 

     The alien then saw I was in a sudden state of panic at that word.  Maybe I was turning blue, myself.  “Please do not worry about that, I have already told you.  I understand your concerns as did Pericles about this suspicion.  And the Athenian Historian Thucydides, too, who quoted Pericles as saying ‘We throw open our city to the world, and never by alien acts exclude foreigners from any opportunity of learning or observing, although the eyes of an enemy may occasionally profit by our liberality.’  Such a about opening up a federal open market committee like a federal reserve was a concern echoed by the prophet Isaiah in your Bible, who warned the Judean king Hezekiah not to show the friendly Babylonian king Baladan the riches and treasures of the royal palace.  The prophet was right: The Babylonians used the open market welcoming committee to plunder Jerusalem some years later, profiting from this very liberality that Pericles of Athens claimed centuries later.  That is why I understand your suspicion at my intensions.”   

     Hezekiah’s Judean state was like one of our “Show Me” states with all the wealth at the borders.  The Federal Open Market Committee and the “Fed” in general all seem to like Missouri; they set up two banks on either side of the state, an east bank at the gateway of St. Louis where settlers would pass on their way towards the west, and a west bank in Kansas City, a place where everything was up-to-date.  The settlers knew they hadn’t gone as ‘fur’ as they can go, and went further to go manifest their destiny towards the glittering gold all the way to the other shining sea.  It was that same shimmering type of gold from the east that a friendly babbling king from Babylon would have coveted. 

     Before gold was first discovered out west, many people thought anything west of St. Louis to be outlandish, something equivalent of the Australian outback.  The news of gold rushed wayward people westward past an imaginary arch of triumph.   Many a young man was urged by Horace Greely to go west and seek wealth there to the west of the gateway arch long before it was built.  If I had been one of those brave lads, I would have thanked the federal river banks of Missouri rather than weep on the banks of the rivers of Babylon.

     I had to remind myself that the alien had assured me he was not on a reconnaissance mission as a prelude to invasion. Just because he had the characteristic of turning red as frequently as a traffic light didn’t mean he would stop being simply a casually observing scientist motivated simply by curiosity and interstellar understanding.  His frequent redness didn’t mean he was a communist and wasn’t an indication of his having bellicose veins like a mythical warrior having been spawned from the stomping grounds of the red Martian soil.  Maybe he was sunburned by the ultraviolet beams of the spectrum of light in realizing an enlightened truth.  In any case, I trusted him on his intent and that of his apparently superior race.  He had succeeded in building up that trust in the course of his investigative approach.  Our own journalists should be so trustworthy.

    It then occurred to me that some of our cable news networks are perhaps run – or at least overrun - by aliens from some world who are looking to weaken our society as a prelude to invasion.

    “I understand why the news media would prefer to not report on your economic woes and the dumbing-down effect long-term unemployment has on your minds”, he interjected in a most timely fashion, relatively speaking.  “I also understand why the media would ignore such reporting and keep the people ignorant.  What we are having trouble understanding, human, is why your people do not express your objections to the lack-of-regard to the true internal destructive forces threatening your creative development and the long term unemployment as well as the subsequent poverty that ensues.”  

    “Some of us did, and still do.  The problem was that the anger was absorbed and distracted by the Occupy movement which was picked up and distorted by the news media.  Nobody was paying attention to those millions who wanted to work and were capable but who had no recourse in finding suitable employment.”

     The whole talk about media reporting was frustrating.  If one wanted to get information, both the cable and network reporting seemed totally inadequate.  I always prefer the programs to show more data and less faces.  I want more reliable unemployment numbers and less “figures” of the French sense.  There’s definitely a need for more numeric figures and less faces.  We need honesty and less figures of speech spoken by talking heads.  The only faces I would like to see are those of the politicians, in order to spot tells of potential lies.  Observing facial expression during the tell-tales provides a good study in recognizing poker faces.    

     “We noticed this Occupy movement on Zatox.  So if the media ignore the real situation, do not you have a politically democratic republic that allows you to vote for a candidate of your choice – someone who can effect positive change to your system to enable people who want to work to support themselves financially?”

     “Yes, we do.”  The Occupy movement had been big, and taxed the resources of the taxpayer.  Many claimed that it was a movement of parasites looking for a free ride.  They see these lazy individuals as spoiled and useless leeches who enjoy the attention and make a lot of noise, but don’t want to work.  Many voters still think the Occupy movement is still alive and very well, in its purest and most potently expensive form:  In Washington DC. 

     I saw the alien deliberate some more, ready to pose a question he thought would be not only sensitive but rather intrusive, too.  He was right:  “And for whom did you vote?”   When the alien asked this I became convinced that he could not read minds.  Unless, that is, if he was testing my own honesty.

     I was embarrassed to tell him that I didn’t vote because I couldn’t decide which of the candidates was better for our society.  I could have voted for the Pubby candidate or the Cratty candidate, but I felt disenfranchised anyway as someone with no income and thus no taxation concerns.  Like millions of other professionals out of work, I didn’t know for whom to vote because I felt I didn’t belong to today’s society that didn’t seem to want me to work.  Though I felt somewhat guilty in my lost name of action, in the end I couldn’t vote.  I wouldn’t have called myself a conscientious objector, because I strongly believed in the privilege and civic duty to vote - early and often.  But since I wasn’t paying taxes, I didn’t feel qualified. I felt I was off the grid together with millions of others.  E pluribus Unum.   

    Perhaps I shouldn’t have been a silent voice.  I was silent but not salient as no one noticed my silence, anyway.  These days tne candidates seem to be all the same – just a placard with a name.  The public has no idea what’s really going on in the candidates’ minds.  Though their deeds don’t go without a trace, all that the candidates show to the masses of voters is just a poster with an enlarged face to match the ego.  

     My lack of choice wasn’t found in a lack of voice.  After all, when the votes are counted, the voters are ignored again.  The will of the people becomes irrelevant.  After the vote is cast the dye fades away.

     I know it’s not just me. Many of us feel our democracy has devolved into some sort of dictatorship of ignorance.  True, this dictatorship is not one of intimidation.  Big Brother stopped watching us long ago.  Now he seems to be ignoring us altogether.  Our system has been transformed to one of rational political science into political silence, ignoring the many people who have fallen off the grid, the many who have lost their homes due to unemployment and an overstock of p-money at the expense of v-money. 

     This is a very dangerous situation.  Too many disinterested voters are becoming uninterested.  Their expectations of quality government and leadership are lowered in a resulting dictatorship which becomes less understanding of well-minded earnest people.  Consequently, voter participation has been on the decline in recent years, and it’s scary to think that so many people have simply given up going to the polls.  It’s not that there are more conscientious objectors to the system; it’s just that less people care about selecting candidates they don’t trust anyway.   The majority of voters seem to have given up.  Either they feel disenfranchised or inconsequential.  They just don’t seem to care anymore, and this seems to be a byproduct of the erosion of trust in our institutions. 

     The drop in voter participation shows that government’s trust by the people goes hand in hand with the peoples’ trust in the government.  The people want government to care about their quality of life without intruding on it.  In this way, care and trust go hand in hand.  But, as voter turnout at the polls continues to decline and fall, we are becoming a dictatorship of ignorance.  Our democracy is becoming as endangered as an ice shelf at our poles.  Both the penguins of the south and the bears of the north can bear witness to the ground losing its integrity.   It is the poles that are telling the story, rather than the polls.

     “I’d rather not say,” was my response to the alien’s query about whether I voted in the last election, preferring to plead the fifth. I didn’t want to be incriminated. I was a bad citizen. Still, everything I said was the whole truth and nothing but the truth, even though I felt I was being badgered on the witness stand.

    I really felt bad about not having voted.  Maybe next time I will vote.  I’ll choose the candidate who receives the smaller amount of money in campaign contributions.  That’s dirty money anyway, used to throw dirt at the opposing candidate.  Excessive donations are a sure sign of lack of confidence in the receiving candidate’s ability to perform the necessary duties as an elected official.

    “But if the media ignore the situation, and divert viewers’ attention to their own plight at least you can elect people who can change all this. It may be all about Change.”

    I wasn’t sure how to answer that. True, voting is a right and in fact a privilege. As I believed I was not alone, I had decided on Election Day to let the “others” decide. I felt that none of the candidates would be making a difference anyway and neither party seemed better than the other in these crucial matters of national security.  And let’s face it.  When it comes to the dumbing down of society, this could very well be a matter of national security that is ignored through purposeful ignorance.

     In recent years the media treat election campaigns like a sporting competition.  Just like a tennis match needs at least two rackets, an election needs at least two candidates.  Rackets and elections have many similarities.  Pubbies and Cratties are like Gump’s peas and carrots, like the Gemini twins Pollux and Castor.  They are like strange bedfellows joined at the hip, though they perhaps should be joined by handcuffs on the way to some penitentiary, which is where many politicians end up anyway.  Yes, tennis and politics are indeed hardball, like a talking head with two earrings:  Racketeering and Electioneering.  It’s hard to tell the twins apart.

    Particularly when it came to the sensitive subject of money.  So many millions of dollars flying over the peoples’ heads but so little ever coming to them.  Sometimes it all seemed like a schoolyard game of “keep-away”, with the little-guy in the middle.  The keepers would throw the money back and forth, and they appeared at times to be the twin electioneer Cratties and Pubbies with their exclusively respective parties, and at times it seemed more like the racketeer unions vs. corporations.  Still at times it was the big-wig politicians vs. the hairy Wall Street bankers.  In each of these not-very-sporting events, everyone is a winner except the monkey in the middle.  Hey, hey, we’re the monkeys; we are in dire need of small moneys.  For us, it ain’t “hay”.  It’s the “k” that seems to get in the way.  

     It is this type of frustration that many kids with two parents would learn to maneuver.  It’s another kind of keep-away game just as frustrating as the schoolyard version.  When the child needed something like money, he would ask his dad, who would respond: “Go ask your Mom” and when you do ask her, she would say:  “Go ask your Dad”.  This sort of “he said she said” seems typical today of the pubbies and cratties, who need their own p-money for their own respective wild parties, while the childlike citizen is looking for money to just pay the rent and feed the children

    After another awkward pause, the alien finally broke the silence: “I suppose the creative decay is a recurring incidence in your human population”, he speculated. “Your high cost of education with no recompense through value added work among college graduates is another indication of this.”

    “I suppose that’s right” I responded. “I never thought much about it, but I guess I am not alone in this creative quagmire of academic anemia. There are many human beings out there just like me, just as you have proven to me that we humans are not alone in the galaxy.”  

     The alien looked at me once again as if his next comment was going to detonate a nuclear charge.  So he walked carefully on my mind’s mine field.  Somewhat delicately, even for an alien of his genre, he asked hesitatingly: “Maybe… your current society just does not need talented people who can help it function and move forward, meeting the challenge to eliminate hunger and disease in your world.  Is that possible?” he asked rather hesitatingly, while yearning for the truth.  He seemed to appreciate me with a renewed respect for my experience and education.

     “That’s plausible.  Maybe the talented among us are just not needed in this stage of the human existence.  But how is it possible that so much experience and creative potential are allowed to go to waste?”

     That rhetorical question made him think – and think hard.  It appeared that once again I had succeeded in stumping the alien analyst.  He seemed confused as if given a set of complex equations and found himself unable to solve some them for perhaps the first time in his life.  Although I was concerned that my hexadecimally poignant friend could have a relapse, I was somewhat pleased that I was beginning to learn what his facial expressions meant.  At times it seemed like it was I who was the analytical scientist.  I should put that on my resume, but I never saw a requirement for a job announcement which required experience as an analyst of alien beings – not yet, anyway.

     He was truly curious and wanted things to make sense. So I added rather somberly:  “As humans like to speak of aliens such as yourself, it can definitely be said about the professional unemployed that: We are not alone.”

     Then he lowered his head in thought, trying to figure out something complex, like string field theory in a Bach concerto.  While he was lost in thought seeming to be floating in air on a G string, I tried to appreciate the vantage point from the interrogator’s side.

     At this point the interstellar investigator excused himself and sat down in the other room.  I was not sure what he was doing there, whether he was accessing his own memory banks or trying to communicate with his colleagues on his planet. 

     I realized that his planet had to be at least a few light years away, and unless he had some capability to communicate messages with the speed he apparently traveled to get to Earth, it would take a rather long time to establish communication with his home planet.  It was unclear to me how he would be able to travel such vast distances but not be able to communicate across the same distances.  Did he use a wormhole? 

     It seems strange how travel and communications work so differently.  We humans can communicate instantaneously with someone who lives on the other side of the world, but it takes hours to travel the same distance in order to visit that that other person “on the other side”.

     I guess we live in a universe that is often characterized as closed and where every piece of matter has an impact on every other piece like a butterfly effect, and where this interconnectivity seems to generate loop cycles of thought. 

     In this way I identified with my visitor.  We both seemed to be a misfits on this planet; each of us a square peg caught up in black hole, a square root of an irrational number trying hard to find precise definitions by fitting into an imaginary wormhole extended across the universe through which beams of light traverse the space-time continuum. 

     All was still quiet in the other room.  I didn’t want to disturb the interstellar interloper’s mental process.  I would probably be of better value trying to supplant a negative square root of one of our trees into a mythical crop-circle, or more realistically, into a growing number of round sinkholes here on Earth.  Since the trees are smarter than we humans, as this alien’s race estimated, it would be difficult to find a tree that would agree to such an ill-fated transplant.

     The alien had made some excellent points, but I have to admit he did talk strangely, even for a stranger.  He never used contractions like “won’t” and “didn’t”, and avoided ending his sentences with a preposition. This was weird.  I’m sure Oliver Hardy wouldn’t have been so funny if he had said to his buddy Stan Laurel, “Here is another fine mess into which you have gotten me.” 

     It would be just as awkward as if the Family Guy TV show opening theme song were to go to the vernacular we were so used to and ceased to obey that prudish preposition rule with the strictest adherence, forcing them to use the word “which” in order to be square, straight-laced goody two-shoes.  If they were to loosen up a bit, and if Stewie would start to talk a bit less like Hannibal Lecter, Lois and the family would celebrate the liberalization of their otherwise conservative prissy grammar, singing less like prudes and sounding more like normal people:  

  • It seems this year, that all we fear
  • Are prepositions ending every sentence we hear -
  • No rhythms or rhymes we’ve all gotten used to
  • And have relied on, at times.
  • Lucky there’s this alien guy -
  • Something of a freak show, a friendly alter ego –
  • Who (only) wants to know what makes us
  • Laugh and cry
  • He’s - an – a-lien - spyyy.

     Just at that moment I heard my interstellar spy-suspect stir in the other room and it seemed like he was getting ready to come back.  Perhaps he succeeded at fitting his square root into a round wormhole-in-one.  A few of our golfers have succeeded in doing this because they cheat – the golf ball is spherical. 

     I heard more movement in the other room, and I needed to wrap up the time I was using with my silently silly soliloquy before space warped me in a finite but bounded loop around the universe. 

     For even if one could succeed at fitting a cubic Borg-like space ship into a round worm hole, there would always be two root solutions – perhaps two universes, one positive and one negative, depending on which side of the mirror an observer such as Alice was looking through, unlike visual palindrome for the Arabic spelling of Libya, which could be read the same both ways on each side of the looking glass. 

    Although I didn’t agree with his politics, I had been impressed by the alien’s line of questioning. It seemed to me that he was curious about us, but that the respect may not have been mutual.  Nevertheless, I respected his ingenuity, and wished that our brainy people on respectable think tanks could be as lucid in their thinking, using what mettle they had rather than the heavy metal armor of a Sherman, Panzer, or T72.  Over hill and dale, through bush, through briar, through blood, through fire - it seems that the people on these think tanks are affected by the political action committees that fund them.  All too often their objectivity is compromised, and consequently they deteriorate into something little more than poisoned Ivy League attendees, assuming they did indeed attend classes as their résumés profess or pretend.

     I then began to wonder if the alien wasn’t alerting his government about the human weakness in a reconnaissance report as a prelude to a war of the worlds.  His race may have known which of the two square roots to choose as a solution (positive or negative).  For us humans this is a challenge, particularly if you are deciding whether the proverbial glass of water is half empty or half full.  The ambiguity reminded me of the Hebrew word “shalom”, which can mean ‘hello’ or ‘goodbye’  The meaning of that word depends on whether you are coming or going, and it can also mean ‘peace’, which happens to be mirrored by the Russian word ‘mir’.  This word, in turn, is not only the opposite of ‘war’, but happens to be also the Russian word for ‘world’.  This war of the words loops us back to War of the Worlds, and that infamous “I” word again.  In my own mind’s “I”, I had traveled the ultimate loop:  The universe really seemed bounded. 

     A clicking noise began to emanate from the other room.  Perhaps the alien was making clicking sounds of progress from the other room, communicating his findings to his operators and dispatchers.  Anyway, I myself felt like I had just emerged from a worm hole of realization.  I seemed to have emerged as someone else.  Perhaps I was on the other side of a looking glass.  Maybe this was the “mir” effect, something like a “mirror” phenomenon.  We need to peer into the mirrors every now and then, even if only to remind us we are not alone.  Otherwise, in our psychotic minds we would retain that perception we were still as youthful as a teenager, like the picture of Dorian Gray.

     Mirrors are more than windows to our vanity.  In our own earthly peace of mind, they serve to illustrate best popping in and out from a two-dimensional planar world to a third dimensional one of reflective depth.  As two- dimensional planes they are nothing but flat boards coated with silver or other metals, further treated in a special commercial process that allows for optimal reflection qualities at face value.  A two-dimensional observer unable to look past the surface of the mirror would see nothing but a silvery plane.  Such a view of the self is much like learning the plot in a Sophocles or Shakespearian play without gaining insight into the deeper significance and message underneath the surface.

     Add the dimension of imagination and the mirror now reflects a three dimensional realm that cannot be entered by us.  Instead we put great faith and trust in its capacity to reflect so that we can see ourselves, albeit in symmetrically opposite images that are twice the distance from reality to the surface.  When we ask “do I really look like that?” we could say there is a problem with the lighting or with the quality of the mirror ourselves.  Perhaps we would explain it away by saying that the light is being somehow bent, and thus blame the distorted reflection on the flection of illuminated reality.

    But the eyes on the other side are really nothing more than mere reflections.  A break in the mirror, which many people believe can cause seven years bad luck, will not bring about the of a soul from an unviable canister, such as an expiring body has been known to do when ceases to provide a vehicle for a life.  There is no more death in this case than there is in a virtual murder from a video game when a character is killed. 

    The alien’s imagination was the hallmark of his wisdom.  I hope I was not a mere figment of his own imagination. I wanted to continue existing, I think. Therefore I am interested in learning more about his species even if the alien decided I knew too much and needed to employ the SIN device I mentioned earlier.

    A word to the wise:  Imagination.  That’s what images are all about.  Beyond a mirror’s surface we see only a vain graven image that many of us idolize, but any real beauty that is there is not skin deep, even when the images appear to present reality beyond the surface.  Mirrors have a unique sine-qua-non quality that enable us to see our noses, our ears, our chin, and other parts we could never ever see without them.  For before Cinderella could find a fella, she had to go from gritty to pretty, from being someone of pity to a rather witty beauty.

    A word to the whys:  Imagination.  Would the whys to our woes be any clearer in a mirrored existence where our reflection itself were the one perceiving and receiving stimuli?  What would it think of its own vain reflection?  Would the reality be any better?  Mirrors can be just as deceiving to our image as it is to us as we peer to the other side to our alter ego.  From our side the reflection doesn’t have a soul or mind, no sound or thinking capacity.   No noisy booms; only blinding beams.  Seeing is believing, but can also be deceiving.  The best eye witness for this is best illustrated in the lustre of our own reflections, both when we ponder life and when we view our own mirror image.  That image lives in the realm where the rule seems to be:  For every reaction there is an equal and opposite reaction, even if these aren’t simultaneous due to the infinitesimal time for light to bounce back and forth, or perhaps forth and back.  It’s hard to tell.

     I heard the alien stir as if he were getting his things together.  I was ready to bid adieu to my own reflection, which was by now – as it was always – looking back at me with both trust and suspicion, always keeping eye-contact and never looking away, watching my expressions carefully.   When I stare at my symmetric opposite, I must remember I am looking into my own very recent past, for it takes time for the light to travel back to me.  As I was about to turn my back on my image to devote my attention to the alien’s upcoming questions, I noticed that my reflection was still scrutinizing me, never blinking, keeping close eye contact as always.  Perhaps he didn’t trust me and didn’t want to turn away from me - not even for an instant.  I now understood why it’s bad luck to play poker with your back to a mirror. 

     OKAY!!!  FINALLY!!!   After such an extended break in the interaction, the alien came back to the room, somewhat recharged with fresh ammunition from his momentary repose.  He was like a beaming ray of hopeful sunshine itself, determined to continue the quest he began even if it took forever.

     “WELCOME BACK!!!”  I exclaimed, while immediately noticing that he seemed more determined than ever to work out the human puzzle.  His tentacles were busy swinging back and forth like double basset-hound tails, and I hoped he wasn’t having a nervous breakdown.  I also hoped the oscillations wouldn’t knock over a lamp, as I needed the light and couldn’t afford to buy a new one. 

     “You said earlier” he began, “that those less fortunate among you must learn to scrounge for themselves in garbage cans for leftovers.  What happens to them and to the other underemployed people who are not compensated monetarily?  Do they just die of starvation?  How do they buy their food?  Where do they get money to survive?”

     I started to answer him in terms of “they” but then switched over to first person plural.  “We don’t.  We go broke.”

     This made no sense to my guest, who appeared somewhat irritated at what probably appeared to him as attenuated capitulation.  “And you are willing to go broke?”

     “Of course not.  Personally, I would be happy even if I earned just forty thousand dollars a year, which is only one-third of what I once earned.  It would definitely help me out of the emergency financial situation I am in.  But despite all my efforts at looking for employment, I haven’t been able to find anything that would bring me even that much.  It’s the same situation with a great many other people.”

     “And your government is fine with that?  Is it all right with them that someone with your talents just wastes away?” he asked in a most sincere manner.

     “It would seem so,” I answered, with a feeling of déjà vu.  “Or, perhaps they are simply satisfied in avoiding the problem by labeling it incorrectly.” I was beginning to get a little vexed at his interrogation style.  At times I felt I was being badgered on the witness stand. 

     “How do you label a problem incorrectly?” he asked, his arms folded several times.  “How does that relate to your economic woes?”

     I was ready with an answer.  “For example, one of the things that politicians and reporters are always mentioning is the issue of ‘job creation’.  Everyone seems to want there to be ‘job creation’.  But how do you count a ‘created’ job?  By having an announcement on a web-site?  By having a job posting on a bulletin board?  The expression of ‘job creation’ is one of the biggest illusions that anyone has ever come up with.  Is it a ploy to convince the public that just because a job announcement has been posted, a job has been created?  Could it be possible that an organization advertises for an open position and then decide not to fill it? How do you know that there really is such a job, or that it could simply ‘go away’ without anyone being hired at all?”

     “So what you are saying is, the term ‘job creation’ is erroneous?”  He started to turn to an olive-green color.  I didn’t know what mood that color indicated.  Maybe he was in line to get some tax credit since he was going green.  His entire constitution had gone green together with all the amended appendages.

     “That’s right. Actually, I would say it’s misleading.”  I was able to answer him very quickly because I had the opportunity to think about the term ‘job creation’ frequently.  It seemed to me a meaningless expression, a political term of no consequence on someone’s agenda.  But as such, it was labeled all too often as an objective and was quoted by our politicians and media analysts.

     The alien’s follow-up came fast:  “In listening to your media broadcasts I have heard the term ‘job creation’ many times. You are the first human I have ever heard challenge that term.”

    His investigation had now taken on an analytical but contemplative tone.  This was an interesting turn, and I was pleased that I was able to enlighten my visitor on a very important subject. “Some people on my planet used to say that if you repeat a lie many times, people will start to believe it.  I think that the same thing holds for a misleading term, which if you repeat enough times gains some credibility even though it is erroneous.  Over time, the public will start to accept the term and even quote it.”

     The alien appeared to understand.  “We on Zatox noticed that about your people and how they are influenced by propaganda.  I remember reading about the comment relating to repeating a lie.  It was a number of your history books, particularly when referencing some of the more shameful chapters of your past.”

     After some reflective thought that mirrored my vantage point, I realized what he was saying.  “That’s true,” I said.  “Another example of that is the lie everyone seems to be hearing repeatedly about global warming, even in the Aleutians and Alaska.  From Al Gore to Al Jazeera, all the media seem to talk about it always, and many people are accepting it as a ‘fate’ accompli.”

     The alien then turned to a ripe plum color that resulted perhaps in my having picked his brain to excess.  I suppose I could be accused of poking and prodding as if I myself were the alien.  He had by now appeared altogether confounded by my example of global warming as a publicly disseminated lie.

    “The question is not whether there is global warming,” he then interceded.  “THERE IS.   Just because Chicago or New York or London or Moscow may have had a series of cold winters, does not mean there is no warming on a global scale.  Climate change relates not to a country, but to the entire globe which includes those countries.  The Earth is much larger than your arrogant nations, human.  Proof of global warming can be seen in the irrefutable rise of the oceans.  You will see the results of this when your coastal plains become inundated with water.  The questions you should be asking are:  What component of that warming can be attributed to human industrial activity?  And with all the talk about global warming, what can actually be DONE about it?” 

    That was a nice paraphrase on Mark Twain’s famous quote about the weather.  While I was still thinking about it, the alien I noticed he was pondering his next statement.  After some more consideration he then said something that turned the tables, leaving me bewildered this time: 

    “Another particularly notable example of the media repeating a lie about jobs is the one that insists that the government does not create jobs – only private businesses do.  This lie is very disturbing and should interest you very much.”

     I found it intrigued that he shifted the subject away from global warming to jobs and government’s role in creating them.  He had now turned to a scarlet red hue that resembled his true socialist colors.  I remember growing up how red symbolized the manifesto of socialism.  Funny how this color, typically placed on the left side of the color spectrum of visible light just to the right of infra-red electromagnetic radiation now was a symbol of a conservative state.  A red state in the U.S. today is a conservative one. 

     Anyway, I wondered why he switched color.  Was it something I said? 

     “Very interesting, human.  You just gave a classic example of a repeated lie with reference to jobs.  But please do tell:  Do you really believe that the government does not create jobs?”

     “Of course, it doesn’t.  As I said, only private businesses create jobs.”

     The alien appeared perplexed, and in need of some guidance like the misguided people of Landru on Star Trek after Kirk destroyed their computer.  “I have heard many of your politicians say that government does not create jobs.  But do you really believe it?” he asked earnestly.

     “Yes, I do,” I said, feeling like I had been changing colors, too.  If I had looked in a mirror I probably would have seen red myself.  “Otherwise there would be someone to refute the claim.  In the absence of such a counter-statement, the claim must stand as a fact.  In legal terms, the prosecution has made its claim and the defense could not refute any evidence.  It must be true:  The government does not create jobs.”

   “Many of the jobs created by your private businesses are in fact generated from government contracts.  So would not you say that even if the government does not create jobs, it ultimately stimulates the economy by paying the contracting company and infusing money into the system, thereby indirectly creating jobs?”

    I had understood his argument, but was still not convinced that the government could create jobs.  Once again I was a “skeptical disbeliever”.  I knew about government contract work, particularly how the various agencies tend to accept bids that are the least expensive and all too often provide shoddy results.  As an IT professional, I had been aware about how the government would accept bids that were the cheapest, without inspecting the potential quality of the work before it begins.  The healthcare website is only one example.  I had become convinced that this was the cause for so many problems with management information system, or the MIS-management at the government level regarding information management.   At least this was consistent with the characteristic mis-information provided by the politicians as well as the particular medium platform that provides a microphone and forum for disseminating that misdirected misinformation. 

     So I ended the awkward silence by reaffirming my conviction:  “You see, the government does not really create jobs, except for personnel of the media organizations that provide for the propaganda their respective political parties wish to disseminate to the public.  Other than that, I am convinced that the government does not in fact create jobs.”

     After some extensive thought, during which the alien’s color changed to a curious clandestine color, he countered:  “But what about the engineering and science-based jobs generated by your space program?  What about the moon landings and that laudable organization we on Zatox have come to respect which you call NASA?  What about all the spy satellites your government sent up into outer space? What about the cold war and all those hot ones?  And does not your National Institutes of Health hire scientists as the need arises? What about energy research?  Education applications?  Transportation safety and highways?  Law enforcement?  National Parks?  Border control?  National Security?  Conservation of your way of life?  These are just a few examples, but you dig deeper below the surface of your planet you will find other examples of people who had dedicated their lives to provide for the common defense and promote the general welfare by preserving, protecting, and defending the blessings of liberty you enjoy today?”

     The alien was now getting on my nerves.  Like a politician talking at length about why a government could and should shut down, he wouldn’t shut up.  But now I was admittedly befuddled.  All this fuddling and muddling about government meddling was confusing me about concepts which I had accepted and had already gotten used to.  I had felt comfortable with the notion that governments do not create jobs, because everyone on one side of the political spectrum seemed to be saying it and no one on the other side was refuting it.  If for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, as Newton so eloquently purported, then where was the reaction to this assertion?  Was my unchallenged acceptance of the notion in fact that Newtonian reaction?

     My dissonant cognition aside, I was annoyed at the alien’s assertion.  But though I resented the alien imposing his own type of extraterrestrial creature comfort, I respected his opinion even though I had achieved a comfort level in my own beliefs.  I felt he was wrong in his claim that governments create jobs, but did agree with him about the notion that if you repeat a lie enough times people will start believing it – particularly if there is no refutation or over-the-counter-argument.  I suppose that one person’s truth is another’s propaganda.      

     In reconciling our differences, I decided to start with our agreed-upon convictions.  “I agree with your assertion that the repetition of a lie leads to its acceptance.  I think that the same thing holds for a misleading term. If you repeat a misleading term enough times, and give it some credibility even though it is erroneous, the public will start to accept the term and even quote it.  The example that comes to my mind every day is the term commonly known as the ‘unemployment rate’, a percentage which doesn’t take into account underemployment, or people who are working a part time job.” I was speaking from experience.

     I admired the alien’s persistency as he continued to dig for reality: “Is that why the 10% number isn’t measured as being higher, say, at 30%?” he asked.  Not waiting for an answer to a seemingly rhetorical question, he continued his queries: “And if ‘job creation’ and ‘unemployment rate’ are erroneous indicators, what sort of meaningful measurement would you propose instead?  How would you be able to indicate the extent of the joblessness situation?”

     Again, I had the answer ready:  “Rather than counting jobs, and instead of counting the number of people who don’t hold a full-time job, I think we should be looking at hiring to capacity.  This would be something that would monitor the number of people back to work on a full-time basis, say forty hours per week.  If someone is hired only part time, to work say for twenty hours a week, then the job should be considered a half-job and not a full one. The measurement could go down to even the quarter – job level of only a quarter of a job, which would be ten hours a week.  And if the job goes away, then that would be an addition of a negative job which would cancel out, or nullify, a hiring.”

     The alien was highly focused on my detailed analysis.  He moved some weird appendage under his nose that I didn’t notice earlier.  Perhaps this, together with his current auburn color meant that he was in some analytical mode.  He appeared to be contemplating my analysis, and then surmised with his digitally accented English:  “It appears that the nominal datum of 10% is low because it does not take account the idle hours spent by those who are not being utilised to the extent of their abilities.”

     I admired his perception and his quick grasp of complicated explanations which seemed to have multiple double entendres.  He was obviously a being of superior intelligence with an ability of su-perception that was quite impressive, particularly when trying to see through the hu-manipulation of the data. 

     Perhaps I should have gone into other more reliable standards of measurement such as the labor participation rate.  It may be that the unemployment rate has become as obsolete as the GDP whose reliability is less indicative than a proposed Genuine Progress Indicator.

    Obviously the alien needed to be updated as to the current tendencies for large corporations and government agencies to outsource their key processes to cheap labor overseas.  He may not understand how that has affected the labor market back home.  These days large organizations appear to resemble terrorist organizations like al-Qaida that prefer to outsource smaller contractors like Hamas to the heavy digging.  And they seem to behave like Iran when it hires Hezbollah to do its much of its dirty work.      

     Though this alien traveler had probably been to many places, I had the feeling that all the flyer mileage he logged couldn’t have prepared him for the human experience with which we regular people live and try to survive day-by-day.  He apparently perceived the misconceptions about the truth, in particular how these relate to job creation and openings.  He seemed to be earnestly trying to comprehend the reality I was presenting, or at least to gain some insight into a particularly wasteful aspect of humanity.  The concept of ‘unemployment’ as a measurable and reliable datum seemed to elude him.  

     It was altogether refreshing to watch someone impartial from the outside, uninfluenced by human prejudice, experiencing the same cognitive dissonance many of us humans are forced to undergo all the time. 

     I then continued, “Also, there is a very large group out there, about forty percent of the unemployed, who have given up looking for work, because they feel that, after so many attempts at finding earnest employment, they feel that there is no hope to find employment.  The government helps to support those such as myself with entitlement programs such as temporary unemployment insurance, food stamps, and welfare programs.  It is criticized by many people, mostly those who are fortunate enough to have some sort of income from their work…”

     I then paused because it seemed to me that the alien realized that I was feeling not only ashamed but also a bit harassed, and then lowered the intensity of his interrogation.  He obviously didn’t want me to feel uncomfortable, as that would probably not be the appropriate way to treat a host such as myself.  So he lowered his intensity and softened his voice while keeping his serious demeanor.  He then continued my comment, altering it to an interrogative “…even if these disenfranchised people could be deployed in the task of saving the earth or adding some other value to society, perhaps saving it from such a horror as a plague, famine, or other natural disaster?”

     I appreciated his change in tone.  If he were indeed part of a reconnaissance mission as prelude to an invasion force of aliens with a history of malicious hooliganism, at least he was able to sympathize with my predicament and those of my unemployed counterparts.  He hadn’t demonstrated any monstrous demonic behavior in the least.

     “I guess so.  The waste of talent doesn’t seem to move our leaders.”  I then added a generalized disclaimer, saying “Let me remind you that this is the case for a great many talented people.  These are professionals with strong skills and academic training and highly educated, some with a documented record of success, are highly educated and motivated, and have a very strong work ethic. They are clever, highly analytical, and exceedingly energetic.  In a way I am proud to be a part of this group, even while it is being detached from society and treated like outcasts, like pariahs. We’re not asking for hand-outs.  We just want to earn and to contribute.  We want an equitable exchange: money for contributing towards added social value.” 

     Once again the alien looked baffled. Though I was used to being dumbfounded, he may not have been used to feeling confounded.  “Your situation is most disconcerting.  There must be money, somewhere.  The government generates the legal tender, and it therefore should have the responsibility to get people working for money.  There must be a way to pay these people in exchange for the work they can do.”

     I too was now having trouble making sense of the paradox.  If the government prints the money, and collects it back on income taxes too, doesn’t it have a responsibility to get people to work?  All I could say, somewhat penitent, was, “I really don’t know if there is any way to get things moving. The government says it has no money.”

     The investigating interloper seemed dissatisfied at my answers and was evidently losing patience with my flimsy answers.  “But the government creates the money.  It regulates the money supply.  Where does the money start?  What is its origin?”

     This seemed like a fair question.  After all, if money drives our economy and our willingness to work and add value and improve our lives, we need to know where it actually comes from.  Although I knew that the US treasury prints dollars and that the Federal Reserve regulates monetary policy, the whole process of creating value, selling T-Bills as debt, and regulating the money supply to the central banking system – everything seemed so hard to explain.

     I now realized how unprepared I had been, to comprehend the reality of which I myself am a part.  And to think it took an alien from another celestial realm to do that. 

     Then it occurred to me that so few people know the truth about how the money creation process works.  I also was aware that various expert sources explain the process of creation of money differently.  There is no little agreement and finding reliable sources that actually agree on the facts is hard to find.  I didn’t want to teach the alien things about money creation in our system, because of its inherent complexities.   

     I then decided to put the idea I had earlier to use.  Maybe it would help him connect the dots more logically. The problem is, the truth out there wasn’t always readily obvious, and even if we were able to connect the dots, we would find that something or someone wasn’t being straight.  Maybe I am too critical, but I don’t think I would be too out of line if I said that from my vantage point, our political environment seems more crooked than ever.

 I pointed my befuddled buddy in the right direction and let him get his research that way.  I directed him to an adjacent room where I kept my old desktop computer (I couldn’t afford to buy a new one, anyway) and suggested he search some web sites.  I asked him to do his own research, because I felt myself a little less than adequately qualified to explain the complicated intricacies of how money is created from nothing. 

     I was pleased, although not at all surprised, that he was able to work independently to figure out how this genre of rocket science really worked.  Apparently he was an inter-galaxial geek who knew his way around cyberspace in addition to outer space.    

    As he began his own online research, searching for intelligent life on our planet I started to wonder:  Could he have been a spy on a reconnaissance mission sent by his race to scout out our planet?  Whose avatar was he, anyway?

    I heard clicking and ticking going on in the next room and decided not to disturb the alien’s quest for knowledge.  I hoped that in his trek through the cyberspace-time continuum he wasn’t becoming intoxicated as many of us earthlings of the human type had become.  But for us, the internet was more than just a forum those who want to “lookup and hookup.”  It was a source of information; an oracle of Delphi in whom we trust.  At least we did until the healthcare website was presented to the American public.  The resulting collapse of the faith and trust in government technology had been altogether dramatic.  I kept asking, whom can you trust these days?  Those who promise to effect change from outside the loop, or those who adversely affect that promised change from the inside? 

    He was hard at work, clicking and ticking away.  I didn’t want to interrupt his train of thought.  Hopefully, when he was finished and the internet beams were turned off, his mind would have a speedy recovery upon his eventual return from cyberspace to sober-space, once the details of reality set in.  He would, of course, have to get readjusted to the beams of light in much the same way I had to when he first arrived.

    While he was busy working, I couldn’t help thinking about how our dependence on our computers had become such an addiction. If we have nothing to do we take a tablet, and if one is available we find a laptop.  The addiction becomes startling when one realizes the opposite of “lap-top” is “pot-pal”. Not to be confused with a brutal Cambodian dictator, the pot-pal seems to be adept at using and abusing the user. 

    Now the clicking and ticking had stopped, and all was silent in the other room.  I wondered what happened.  It couldn’t have been information overload – he seemed too intelligent for that.  There was some other kind of comprehension misfire.  I was curious to find out what it was, but waited for the alien to regain his tenuous composure.

    I admired his efforts and determination to get to the truth out there.  He was fearless it its pursuit as an adventurous  interplanetary internet explorer should be when pioneering brave new worlds in this land of the free and home of the brave.  My only hope was that the information he was getting from our websites was accurate.  He may not have been aware of the internet’s powerful potential to influence thought.  As with cable news programs, the internet was fraught with inaccuracies and misinformation that was all too often distorted, contorted, and inaccurately reported.  

    Until the advent of television, ABC was just the first three letters of the alphabet, NBC was the National Biscuit Company whose Oreo cookie didn’t resemble any friendly Fox morning news show, with a blond Barbie surrounded by two men in dark suits. 

    The silence from the other room continued, and I wondered why the pause.  I was going to go in and check the situation, to see if he had encountered another feedback loop from which he couldn’t escape.  Although I was getting anxious about his situation, I decided to wait a little longer.  

    I wondered whether our websites would provide accurate information, but past experiences on this matter worried me.  The information out there in cyberspace could be as absurd as a comic strip, as cracked as a cosmic string, and as expansive as a deceptively woven cosmic web.  The internet often proved to be even more delusive.  To paraphrase Sir Walter Scott:  “Oh, what a tangled internet we weave when websites practice to deceive.” 

    Still no indications of life in the other room.  Not a creature was stirring.  Not even a mouse or a keyboard.   Finally the beams of silence had become too deafening for me, and the lack of activity was becoming as noisy as a government shutdown.  

     So I entered the room and to my surprise….the alien was GONE!

     “AAAAAAAAAUGH!!!”   

    WHERE DID HE GO?!!!  There was no door from the room, and the window was still locked – something which could only have been done from the inside.

     I looked all over……but couldn’t see any signs of life.  Did he transport himself off the planet??!!!!

     “WHERE ARE YOU?!”  I yelled, then again somewhat louder, “WHERE ARE YOU!!!”

     No answer.  Maybe he got tired and went home.  All I knew is that he was out of sight, and perhaps out of his mind as a result his attempt to understand the crazed human condition.

     Had this all been a dream?  Dreams are true while they last, and do we not live in dreams?  Whose dream was this, anyway? 

     Was this close encounter fabricated out of boredom by an undernourished and uncultivated human wannabe?

     It all seemed so real.  Did he simply beam himself out of here?  Would those beams return him back?

     I had to believe the alien would be back.  Like a faithful canine, I decided to wait……………… 

     Minutes passed.  Still no signs.  No crop circles.  It didn’t make sense.  WHERE DID HE GO?!!!

 

     And closer to home, where do I go from here?!!!

 

               c c c c c c

 

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