Monday, November 30, 2015

WAR OF THE WORLDS, REVISITED


WAR OF THE WORLDS, REVISITED

(Fictionalizing a piece of fiction might seem a futile enterprise. But if you want to try, why not start out with a classic?  Then you can accuse your critics of bashing a masterpiece!)  ram            

You probably know the story.  Written by British Author H.G. Wells in 1897, it is a classic science fiction piece.  On Halloween in 1937, American Orson Welles Mercury Theater presented it on radio.  The airing was so realistic, hundreds of people thought it real, and there was considerable panic.

The story is of a Martian invasion of Earth.  With superior weapon technology and intellectual development, it seemed that the Martians would indeed take over the planet.  In the end, though, the entire invading Martian force was felled because of their inability to resist the ordinary microbes in our air.  They did not possess the human’s immunity, and thus the Martian’s perished.  We were saved by the bacteria floating in our atmosphere.  Humans one, Martian’s nothing….or so the story goes.  Today, though, I’d like to present the story from the perspective of the Martians.

“Our planet was inhabited long before the origins of life on Earth.  Our civilization was a million years old when yours was just emerging from the ocean depths.  But because of the proximity of your planet to ours, we felt it prudent to observe your activities.  Or, to put it your way, ‘keep tabs on you,’

“And so we watched.  Watched as your species gradually evolved from a sea based to a land based one.  Up to that point it was closely mirroring our own Martian History.

“As soon as some of your predecessors began to walk upright on two legs, you quickly (in geological terms) began to use your front appendages to create rudimentary tools…again…a very familiar history to ours.

“But then your species took what we felt was a very dangerous and negative turn.  You began to have conflicts.  Not conflicts based only on competing species, but amongst your own human family.  At first we had trouble understanding this.  But we did recognize it as an alarming turn in your evolution. Martians do not fight among themselves.  We consider our race as family.  We knew that as you developed more scientific and technological prowess, given your propensity towards conflict, that sooner or later it might become necessary and prudent for us to intervene…especially as your material progress was more and more subverting any desire to live free of conflict.  So we waited…hoping that sooner or later you would understand that your bountiful planet was big enough for all, unless humankind chose to use it as a test of strength.  It seemed that ‘possessing’ was your race’s substitution for ‘sharing.’

“The concept of ‘ownership’ is foreign to Martians.  But as Humans invented artificial boundaries, ‘countries’ I think you call them, it became more and more apparent that once you began reaching out to explore other worlds, there would likely be human competition to establish ownership of those worlds.  And the most likely to be first on your list would be our own beloved planet of Mars.

“In what retrospectively turned out to be a naïve way of thinking, we felt that if your world were to perceive a common, non human threat, perhaps you might realize the absolute folly of separating yourselves from each other.  Your race had already conquered all those species who were able to intimidate you.  Bigger and stronger animals were no longer a threat.  Wild wolves were bred to be friendly pets…crocodilians rarely attacked on land.  With the exception of other humans, all other species were, for the most part, contained and represented no threat to you.

“And your weapons were getting more and more lethal.  From our exploratory vehicles we could see the huge explosions.  We marveled at the efficiency with which you had learned to vanquish just about everything…animals, cities, mountains, oceans, forests, and most alarmingly, OTHER HUMANS.  And as you raised your eyes to the heavens, we knew you were not too far from attempting to export your destructive culture to other worlds.

“We had to act.

“It would be, of course, a suicide mission for those of us who volunteered.  We were well aware that we could not survive in the bacterial flora and fauna of the Earth’s Atmosphere.  But there was a greater fear for both your civilization and ours if we did nothing.  Maybe…just maybe, we thought, as humankind thought of us as a common threat, the people of Earth would band together into the family they could be, and recognize that they needed to act for the common welfare of their own species, or to become relegated to the history of a dead planet.

“Not that we ever really wanted to conquer Earth, or take ownership of it.  Nor did we want to become masters over the human race.  No.  Our goal was really to unite humankind against a perceived common enemy.  It was, of course, a long shot given the cantankerous and warlike history of the peoples of  Earth.  Our plan was, to use an earthly expression, to ‘scare the living hell out of them.’  There was precious little time for us to accomplish our mission.  Once landing on the planet our bodies would have at most two or three days before your infectious atmosphere would do us in.  The volunteers bade their farewells and headed towards Earth.

“The next few days panicked all parts of Earth.  We did, in fact, ‘scare the living hell’ out of you.  The almost instantaneous cooperation between nations was indeed impressive.  Different peoples, different languages and conflicting ideologies were suddenly acting in unison.  Every device invented to kill other human beings was being consolidated against the Martian ‘Invaders.’  They were only marginally effective, and throughout the few days of the ‘war’ we always were cognizant of the fact that we would ultimately be defeated…not by man made weapons, but by the primordial dust lingering from the planet’s genesis.  But the peoples of the Earth felt they had defeated a malicious barbaric alien civilization…by acting in concert with each other.  And we were quite content to have them think those thoughts.

“Back on Mars, those who had watched, smiled.  Of course the loss of our brave volunteer travelers would be mourned.  Regrettable as that was, we believed it had been worth it.  We had saved Earth’s Civilizations, and ultimately, perhaps our own.  We Martians had shown Earth’s peoples that by cooperating within their societies, they could accomplish wondrous things…and that internal conflicts were unproductive.  Simple cooperation had prevailed over superior forces.  They had learned that disputes over territory and resources were sheer folly!  They resolved that from that day of victory onward, Earth would be one world united and inseperable…always acting for the good of all.  Both Mars AND Earth won the war of the worlds.

“On Earth, harmony was resolute and eternal. 

“It lasted for about a week.”

Bob Meyerson


July 2015