Becoming Intelligent

Just as the G8 leaders posed for a commemorative photograph, the aliens appeared. Seven of them, fur-covered conical mounds with a dozen tentacles, each with an assortment of metallic devices.

Amid the gasps and exclamations, three of the aliens waved metal tubes, freezing the leaders’ bodyguards in mid-motion. A fourth alien waved a tentacle high above the top of his body mass and then squeezed tightly on a mass of spheres and octahedrons.

“Hello, cephalopoidal quadrupeds! We mean you absolutely no pain, infection, contusions, hematomas, dermal abrasions, or other forms of physical harm. We hope that our arrival will not result in mental anguish, angst, worry, or other forms of emotional damage, but we cannot guarantee your reaction. We hope for the best. We would like to know which one of you is pre-eminent, that we might discuss the fate of your world with that person as a negotiator with unlimited authority.”

Three of the leaders nodded intently at the perfect English issuing forth from the squeezed device made up of spheres and octahedrons. One frowned substantially while four others shrugged at what they knew, deep down, to be inevitable. The American president looked around at the others, expectantly.

“Not so fast!” The Russian premier wasn’t going to let the American claim to have authority to speak for everyone on earth, particularly his proud nation. The French president nodded, not out of agreement with the Russian, but out of opposition to American hegemony.

The alien with the odd vocalizing contraption waved his tentacle again and squeezed the device.

“We don’t care for delays. We came here with the understanding that one of you was pre-eminent among all the leadership of this planet, and we intend to negotiate the fate of your world with that person. If your race is, as yet, disunited in purpose, then there will be no discussion. Your world will be destroyed, without question.”

The American president stepped forward, exercising that famous Yankee initiative. “I will speak for everyone.” He glared at the Russian and the Frenchman. They held their criticisms for later. Everyone feared a sudden vaporization or some horrid, lurid fate at the hands… tentacles?… of these visitors from space.

The alien with the speaking device waved the tentacle held up high and squeezed to speak.

“Thank you for arriving at a consensus with adequate speed. It gives us hope that you will not destroy yourselves in a cataclysm brought on by the usage of the misapplications of science that you have devised. Failure to attain a unity of purpose in races we have encountered has always led to their destruction at their own hands. Your agreement gives us hope. Should any of you display behavioral signs of disagreement with our discussions here, we shall end them immediately and leave you to destroy yourselves.”

The Frenchman and the Russian forced smiles. The other leaders followed suit.

The American held up his right hand, mimicking the gesture of the speaking alien. “What negotiations do you have for us?”

“It is not necessary for you to hold your appendage in such an uncomfortable posture. Please desist, as physical pain will impair those of your race’s ability to analyze information clearly. In fact, we insist that you be seated comfortably as we discuss these matters.”

“Well, then, we can adjourn to the conference room. The chairs and other arrangements are quite comfortable there.”

The American motioned towards the conference room, but the aliens did not move. “Please, honored guests, won’t you join us there?”

“We will. Once you are there and comfortable, we will transfer our location to correspond to yours.”

The American walked on to the conference room, followed by the others. The Italian prime minister almost started to talk, but the Canadian prime minister made a hushing motion. Would the aliens interpret any discussion as dissent? A great deal was riding on how everyone behaved in this negotiation.

Once the American seated himself, the aliens appeared in the room, all seven of them. The alien in the middle kept his tentacle over his body and started his speaking device. “Here are our negotiations. While we have severe doubts about your race being intelligent, there are indications that you might be intelligent. Therefore, we are prepared to offer you a chance to qualify for membership in the universe of intelligent races. It will be a simple set of questions, coupled with our own local observations. If we judge that you meet sufficient criteria, we will make arrangements for you to join with us in full fellowship. If not, we will abandon you to your imminent destruction.”

None of the humans present felt comfortable with the alien’s constant references to imminent destruction. How could they presume to know so well the fate of their species? Didn’t they know about the free will that every human possessed, the ability to make choices and to learn?

“First question: if one of your kind lacks essential resources necessary for survival, what is your general response?”

“Well, we help that person. In times of disaster, we provide emergency relief to the stricken-”

“What if there is no disaster? What if this is an individual case of one of your kind lacking essential resources?”

“Well, we still help that person.” The American felt an upwelling of pride. “We have many charities and government agencies that will act as a safety net for those who are in need.”

“Do you provide unlimited access to necessary liquids, solids, and gases?”

That was a bit of a brainteaser for the American. “Um, yes, we always have unlimited access to gases. Well, some people accidentally drown or suffocate in landslides, but those are, sadly, sudden happenings that we can’t always prevent. Um, ah, for liquids and solids, those would be food and water. And, ah, yes, we do provide unlimited quantities of those.”

“What about aid for physical and mental defects?”

“All of our hospitals provide free emergency care for the indigent, yes.”

“What about chronic defects of a non-emergency nature?”

“Well, we simply don’t have enough to go around for everyone. We have to draw the line somewhere. It’s regrettable, but we do.”

The French president had to speak. “In France, we provide free health care to all, including chronic cases.”

The aliens didn’t vanish. They didn’t talk for a while, either.

After an interval, the alien spoke again. “Are those of your race in France different from those of your race in other lands?”

The American furrowed his brow. “Well, yes and no.”

“That is impossible. If yes, then not no. If no, then not yes.”

“What I mean is that although they speak a different language and have a different culture, they are, essentially, the same as any other human.”

“So the French will provide assistance for mental and physical defects for the entire population of your race?”

The American smiled diplomatically. “Well, no, because, you see-”

“So there are people of your race that will not receive essential resources to attend to both emergency and chronic physical and mental defects?”

“Sadly, yes.”

The aliens never moved, apart from the one in the middle waving that one tentacle gently over his body mass and squeezing the device made up of spheres and octahedrons. The humans found this quite unnerving.

Equally unnerving was the dramatic pauses they seemed to be capable of.

The American tried to keep the conversation going. “May I explain why that is the case?”

“No. We feel that if you were intelligent in this regard that there would be no need for an explanation. I will ask a follow-up question. You have sufficient resources on your planet to provide for the basic necessities of a population well in excess of the current collection of races here, inclusive of your race, exclusive of none. What activities do you divert your resources towards that results in the deprivation of basic necessities for those of your race as well as others?”

This seemed to be a judgment on the whole of humanity. Although the American wanted to lie his way out of this, he felt that these aliens would be able to gather information that would reveal his dishonesty. Shameful and painful as it may be, he went with the truth. “We divert resources to build weapons.”

Silence. Then, an alien question. “Why do you build your weapons?”

Actually, that was a good question. The American had to think about that. “We build weapons because other nations build weapons.”

“Is this because you have not attained unity?”

“Please don’t leave us! We don’t want to destroy ourselves! Can you help us? Please?”

The other leaders joined the American in imploring the aliens to stay, to give them help. The aliens did not vanish. They were silent for a while.

And then, that tentacle made its gentle wave. “We have determined that while you remain completely capable of destroying yourselves, such destruction is not yet capable of being instantaneous. We detect no immediate danger in the locality, so we are not at risk of our own immediate demise. We are moved with compassion regarding your plight, and will provide you with the help which you desire, provided you are willing to accept it.”

“Thank you very much.”

“We have observed many races in disunited conditions and have identified factors that contribute to their disunity. We will share them with you and hope that you will make the necessary changes in your condition so that you will attain unity.”

“We await your teaching and wisdom, esteemed guests.”

“The first thing we wish to address is the matter of resource allocation. In addition to diverting resources for the creation of weapons, do you also award resources to members of your race or other races disproportionate to their needs?”

“Well, we allow entrepreneurs to collect profits on their enterprises. That keeps our economies going.”

“This needs to end. By legitimizing the excessive allocation of resources to one group while denying them to another, conflicts will arise.”

The American felt uncomfortable with that. “I can’t order my people to just hand over their wealth like that.”

“No. You cannot. At no point do I recommend these changes be forcibly implemented. Forcible implementations always result in conflicts.”

“Well, if I don’t force them, then some will keep their gains. It’s their choice.”

“Then you will be destroyed. Voluntary retention of excess resources will result in conflicts. This needs to be communicated to all members of your race. If any refuse to release excess resources for the benefit of those that lack necessary resources, you will have conflicts that will result in your complete destruction as well as the destruction of all other races on this planet.”

This time, it was the humans’ turn to be silent.

“I have another question. Do any of your race exploit other members of your race?”

“Yes.”

“This needs to end. Exploitation is, in and of itself, a situation of extreme conflict. This will result in complete destruction of your race and all other races on this planet.”

“Well, we’d like to do all that, but we’re only human. We make mistakes.”

“Making mistakes is not a factor in contributing to complete destruction in and of itself. Making mistakes with regards to misapplications of science in the context of extreme disunity and conflict will contribute to complete destruction. We do not know of any race that does not make mistakes, but only those races that cease to misapply the sciences and find unity while removing sources of conflict are those that have met one of the requirements for acceptance as an intelligent race.”

“We would love to find unity and end war, but there are nations that refuse to cooperate with us. We have to keep our weapons ready to keep them from depriving us of our freedoms.”

“Does the portion of your race under your leadership maintain misapplications of science at the ready to deter portions of your race under the leadership of others present here?”

The Russian said, “Yes.”

“Then you have a larger problem than the one you describe. If the leaders of this gathering had full trust with each other, then you would not need to consider the use of misapplications of science towards each other. Then, with the free application of properly applied resources, the dissenting factions of your race would be won over through your sincere compassion and would strive towards unity.”

The human leaders looked at each other with a sense of guilt.

The tentacle waved. “I have another question. Do you adulterate the liquid, solid, and gaseous resources of the planet in such a way as to render them for unsuitable for optimal usage by members of current or future generations of your race?”

The American had to think about that one. Pollution? Is that what the alien meant? “Uh, yes.”

“That needs to end. Such a condition creates conflicts between those that adulterate and the victims of that adulteration, both living and yet unborn. Do you place a high value on the lives of members of your race? Do you consider lives to be sacred?”

No hesitation. “Yes. I hold that even the unborn are sacred, and should be protected!”

“Such a statement is incompatible with your management of resources. Your adulterations of liquid, solid, and gaseous resources of the planet will cause those yet unborn to be burdened with physical and mental defects, as well as hardships brought on by a lack of access to resources necessary for adequate existence. This generates conflict and disunity, contributing towards the destruction of your race and the entire planet. Your words are commendable, but they do not yet correlate positively to your actions. This discontinuity produces conflicts that will increase the speed at which your race will approach complete destruction… We have seen the best progress made by races that disavow a discontinuity between words and actions and I strongly recommend you do the same.”

The American resented being called a hypocrite. In the silence that followed the alien’s statement, though, he began to lose is resentment and gained a measure of contrition for his hypocrisy. If life was sacred, the implications of that idea extended into areas he had not previously considered. He began to feel a burden on his heart, roughly the size of the world.

“I have a statement to make. Do not lose hope. You still have time, although it is quite limited. You are not in the condition my race is in. You see before you the entirety of my race.”

All the humans were astonished.

“We were fortunate to escape the destruction of our planet because we had left it in the hope of finding a better way to live on a new planet. Members of our race engaged in highly exploitative misallocations of resources and employed misapplications of science in the context of conflicts, in the incorrect belief that unity would arise from destruction.”

“Then… how… how did you not all perish?”

“We had unity with each other. Another race made contact with us as survivors of our race’s self-annihilation. They made the contact in the hope that we would have matured beyond the capacity to engage in conflict. We had successfully done so. We now visit other planets to see if they are intelligent. If not, we assess them for their capacity to become intelligent. If a capacity exists, no matter how brief a time it may have, we provide instructions on what must be done to avoid the destruction our own race visited upon itself. While many have failed to attain intelligence, there are occasional races that do make the necessary changes in order to save themselves from complete destruction.”

“How did you get here? Why here? Why now?”

“We arrived by means of motion you will not understand until your race attains intelligence. We arrived here because of the fact that a number of races have the ability to engage in communication with each other. Using an analysis of their communications, we can engage in similar communications with them. No other race on your planet thus far has displayed an ability to attain true intelligence. Yours is the last one we contacted due to its extensive ability to manage the resources of the planet in a coordinated fashion. Only your race is aware of the concept of a planet. Given the constraints of time, we could not conduct our contact at an earlier time. Your time has come, however. Not much time will remain for your race, so our ability to communicate with you is limited to the present intercourse. Following our departure, we will not return unless your race has attained intelligence and, therefore, your world is a safe place to maintain an existence.”

The American took it all in. “What you’re saying is a lot like what Jesus taught.”

“What are you making a reference to? There are many of your race with that name or similar derivations thereof.”

“Jesus Christ, from our Bible. Buddha and Moses taught similar ideas.”

“Have you received these instructions from other races?”

“From our own race, really.”

“This is good news. Your race has begun to display members that have intelligence. You must make them your leaders, to assist you in helping others to properly allocate resources and to avoid conflicts. You must do this with the utmost priority.”

“But… if we give someone ultimate power, that power tends to corrupt the person holding the power. We can’t guarantee whoever we put in charge won’t, uh, misallocate resources or exploit others.”

“A truly intelligent person will not be corrupted. You also are admitting that you, yourself, are a corrupt person.”

The American hung his head. He thought of everything he did in order to be elected president. “Yes.”

“Then we need to stop our discussion with you.”

“Will you discuss with someone more intelligent than me? Will you please keep giving us a chance?”

The aliens were all silent. The middle one’s tentacle no longer remained aloft.

The American almost gave up. But he remembered the admonition to not lose hope. There was still time.

He made a request to find a wise person, an intelligent person… a compassionate, principled person… find that person, whoever he or she may be, as soon as possible.

He thought of two people that he knew well and then called the more compassionate of the two. He told that person to do the same if he felt that he knew someone more compassionate than he or she. And so the contacts spread, from person to person, each seeking one that they knew to be more compassionate than they.

Your phone has just now started to ring: who would be calling you? Who would you call, in turn?

Or are you intelligent enough yourself?

If not, what do you need to do to be more intelligent?

Because, you see, even if you’re not yet intelligent enough to take that call, you need to make yourself more intelligent, or we’re all doomed to destruction.

This story has many more chapters: you have to be the hero of the chapter that’s all about you. I may be an author, but there’s only so much I can write. The rest of your chapter is up to you.

Keep in mind that properly satisfying fiction requires that you meet your conflicts head-on and allow them to transform you for the better. You have to change and be a better person, or your chapter is going to be a disappointing sob story about a train wreck life. As the author, I don’t want any of that in my story. I want the endings to all be upbeat and inspirational. So get to it!

The phone is ringing. What are you going to do about it?

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