Alan Chartock | I, Publius: Once we figure out we're not alone, we'd better have a plan

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GREAT BARRINGTON — Of course, there are other forms of life out there besides us. Are you kidding? Just how egotistical must we be to think that we are all alone in the cosmos?

Take a look out at the night sky and read the literature as we discover constellation upon constellation. You'd think we could admit to ourselves that we have no idea where it all begins and where it stops? And yet there are those who have the egotistical impudence to suggest that it's just us. Oh, come on.

In 2004, a couple of American fighter pilots saw something unusual and a record was made but kept secret. It was, one said, "not from the Earth." The video was recently made public, and we now discover that the Pentagon had been studying extraterrestrial phenomena through a now-discontinued program that ex-majority leader Harry Reid had insisted upon.

Of course, since our governmental approach has been to conduct these kinds of studies and programs in secret, we have no real idea what research has been done and what data have been collected. So, we enter into a formulaic denial that there is nothing else out there. Very specific evidence is ignored, and it is tough to understand why that is.

Does the government fear that the sharing of information will cause panic and that the body politic really can't be trusted with whatever information we have gathered? No one wants to be thought of as a conspiracy kook. It's much easier to suggest that the people who report sightings are nothing more than publicity-seeking lunatics. In fact, that might be true, but then again, maybe not.

All of this has been explored in one film after another, and people are excited by the idea that there are civilizations out there that are far more advanced than ours. Many of us love the idea that films like "The Day That Earth Stood Still" are quite real — that other beings have the capability of studying our planet and, unlike us, recognize that the way we are doing things could result in the mutual destruction of our world.

Recently, there were printed reports that the North Korean maniacal dictator Kim Jung Un stated that he had the nuclear button on his desk, and the president of the United States countered, boasting that his nuclear button was bigger. What could possibly go wrong?

So, why have there been so many sightings over the years? Could they really have been extraterrestrial flyby's? And if they are out there, why don't they show themselves? We are sending our own probes through space to see what's out there. What would we do if we found other civilizations? Would we do to them what we did to the Native American populations? Would we rape and pillage? If other civilizations are so much greater than we are, why haven't they conquered us? Maybe they are aware of the dangers of such actions.

I often think of the way cancer cells can metastasize through the body, wreaking havoc as they destroy one organ after another. There is always the possibility that extraterrestrial civilizations or even we ourselves are just like that. We hop to the moon and soon to Mars and then to goodness knows where.

It might well turn out that our insistence on spending the money on these secret programs that could go to health care and education might lead to the eradication of all that has happened up to now on Earth.

We really do have to think this through. If we are spending the money, why are we doing it? There has to be transparency. Without that, there can be no democracy. Of course, we are not alone, and once we figure that out, we had better have a plan.

Alan Chartock, a Great Barrington resident, is president and CEO of WAMC Northeast Public Radio and a professor emeritus of communications at SUNY-Albany. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of The Berkshire Eagle.

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