The other day at work I was thinking about the world’s newfound fascination with the planet Mars, and the notion of moving human life there. My mind spiralled into a daydream about what a conversation would look like between a human and an alien from Mars.
As I imagined this conversation – a human approaching a Martian asking if we could snuggle up with them on Mars because we had broken Earth – I coiled into myself. How awkward, how embarrassing, it would to explain how we treat one another, how we ruined our own planet, and how it led to us being refugees of the solar system.
When looking at humanity from a removed, existential perspective, I think it’s pretty clear (to me) that we are living an objectively, deeply flawed existence.
Here is a little snippet of how I imagine this conversation would go:
Paula: Hi Martian, my name is Paula. I’m a human from planet Earth. I know this is a big request, but would you mind if my species moves to Mars and co-exists with you? Unfortunately Earth is sort of imploding right now…
Martian: Hi Paula. I’m so sorry to hear that – what happened to your planet?
Paula: Oh ya know, just your average natural disasters becoming more and more frequent, diminishing animal species, severe droughts, extreme temperatures and rising ocean levels. Natural things.
Martian: Oh my gosh, when did all this start happening?
Paula: Decades ago. Scientists told us there was a troubling trend. I mean, the natural disasters are just that, natural, we can’t be blamed for them. Sure, we dug up every mineral we thought was of value even though we knew our methods were unhealthy for the planet. And sure we continued to use the most irresponsible source of fuel long after we knew about its dire consequences… And I supposed we prioritized acquiring our currency over saving our planet.
Martian: That didn’t work out so well. Seems like you had your priorities skewed…
Paula: I know, I know. But we’d be great neighbours, I promise!
Martian: Well you seem nice Paula, but I’m not sure how compatible martians and humans are. Why don’t you tell me a little more about humans and how they operate?
Paula: Of course. Humans are wonderful! We have inquisitive minds, great ingenuity and are very diverse. But ya, I guess there are a couple things you should know about us.
We divide people into two groups based on their genitalia. If you have the dangly one, you are assumed to be rational, a good leader, strong. If you have the handy dandy compact one, you are labelled overly emotional and weak, and your worth is determined by your physical appearance. In short, those with the compact genitalia are seen as lesser.
Based on genitalia, we can also predict which jobs one will excel. If you have the dangly one, we believe you understand numbers better. If you have the compact one, you are deemed to have a more nurturing and caring disposition, so are better suited for childcare.
Martian: Earthlings can tell someone is going to be good at a certain task by their genitalia? Impressive! That is an intuition we Martians don’t have.
Paula: Well, we don’t know, know. Not for sure. Not a 100% guarantee. But we can just tell…
Martian: *lookin at me like I’m crazy*
Paula: Speaking of the two groups – we assign everyone a group at birth. If you say that you actually aren’t in group A because you know in your heart of hearts you’re in group B, you will face severe oppression because we are really into this idea that your identity match the group to which you were assigned at birth. We also really, really care about which bathroom you use (which we also separate by genitalia).
Martian: *looking around him to see if other Martians are hearing this shit*
Paula: Our species also comes in different shades. Much the same as the genitalia hierarchy, there is also a hierarchy based on the different colours of our skin. Our scientists have told us there is nothing genetically different between the different shades, but many humans insist that those with darker pigmentation are lesser. We attribute certain characteristics to different shades: smarter, lazier, smellier, more honest, more violent, etc. Again, there is no science to support this, but our institutions reflect these beliefs, so it’s just part of our lives.
Martian: Listen, I just don’t think your kind would fit in here. On Mars, we don’t have arbitrary identifiers to create hierarchies and to divide our population. Not to mention the fact that you broke your last planet… you are a bit of a liability.
Paula: You’re right. Some humans are definitely a liability. They impede our ability to create strong, healthy communities. But we have a solution to that! We build structures that house the all the bad people in cages. It’s getting pretty big… in one part of Earth called “the US” that has only 4.4% of Earth’s population, its people in cages make up 22% of Earth’s caged population!
Martian: So are all these humans are horrible beings that committed horrible and violent crimes like murder?
Paula: Yes! Horrible, horrible people! We lock 'em away! Though, it’s interesting to note that while darker shade people make up only 12.7% of that part of Earth’s population, they are 38% of the caged people. But don’t worry about that... we humans don’t!
If we want to get technical, a good number of the humans we put in cages haven’t actually done anything really bad. More often than not, they’ve been locked up for stealing something because they have no money, being placed in prison because they have a mental illness, or using a substance we’ve deemed illegal in only certain places.
Martian: Oh, so you deal with poverty and illness by putting your people in cages?
Paula: Well ya… but they are in those cages so they MUST have done something bad.
Martian: So how many of these cage buildings do you have?
Paula: More than I can count! We are really tough on crime. We just lock em up! Our caged population keeps growing and growing. Some say it’s growing because these cage houses are in fact a business that bring a lot of our currency to some companies, but that’s just part of life – everyone wants more currency.
Martian: *slowly moon walking away from me*
Paula: But ya, to answer your questions, if we were to come to Mars we would definitely have to build like one giant super cage building to house all these humans.
Martian: Paula, your ways on Earth are not welcome here on Mars. You humans judge one another based on superficial differences that are not based on science. You lock humans up rather than help them. You place people in restrictive societal boxes and operate within a very punitive system. Not to mention the fact that you have abused your planet so badly that it’s beyond repair! I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to find yourselves another planet.
Paula: WAIT! WE HAVE DONUTS!