Please Let Me Have the Lazy Option
Week 7 Blog Prompt: Reflecting on our readings about aliens: What gift would you give an alien? Explain why. Keep in mind that any gift would have to assume what it is like to be an alien, what its body and comportment are like and that it will be difficult to communicate with this being. Optionally you might comment on whether it is wise to give an alien a gift and the chances that they do (not) come in peace.
Are gifts upon first encounter a requirement? In some human cultures, a welcome gift is required, but the type of gift varies greatly. When I went to Germany in 1996 and stayed in people’s homes, the expected tradition was that everyone would have a welcoming glass of alcohol, something I cannot stand (either taste or metabolism), so I was forced to fake that initial drink at each and every homestay for ten days so as not to offend my hosts. (I went with my college German professor, so I was coached on these expectations.) In many American households, it is considered polite that upon a first formal visit for dinner or a party at an owner’s new home that guests bring a hostess gift of wine or other small trinket of memorialization, depending upon the occasion and the hosts’ preferences. The Huffington Post has an interesting collection of welcoming gifts from other countries.
Today, though, I am rarely aware of when a new neighbor moves in, and they move in and out so quickly that by the time I find time to say hello, they’ve already gone. It seems that we all hide from each other. Thus, I gave up welcoming new neighbors. It seems, too, that other neighbors, if we can be called that, have also given up the tradition of at least saying hello.
So, would an alien species require a gift? I have no idea. I am in favor of simply forgetting about a gift as I am apt to get it completely wrong. If I can’t get the concept right with my own human neighbors, how am I to get it right with aliens? I am of the view offered in Baum, et al. that we are so boring that “nearby ETI simply have no desire to communicate with us” or that they take such “a different physical form than Earth life” that we don’t recognize there are aliens around us (15). That makes me incredibly selfish as it requires no additional work from me, but I don’t know that I could handle any additional work at this point. That would be the most favorable (though most dull) outcome for me. Should we recognize an alien species, then I am sure that my teaching and graduate school work would come to a halt, and perhaps the aliens would then be giving me a the gift of not writing or grading any more papers for awhile as we’d be too caught up in what to do (and hoping no one screwed up contact). There’s also the possibility that contact would result in my having to learn survival skills if the aliens were harmful to humans or Earth ecosystems (Baum, et al. 19).
Perhaps gift giving isn’t even the most important question. Perhaps gestures are. The Internet has a number of articles on this (Baskas and The Huffington Post article). If we risk greatly insulting our earthly neighbors, then we should be particularly careful with our comportment if we do meet with aliens. For all we know, the mere act of wearing (or not wearing) clothes will be offensive (see “Cost of Living” and “Shoulders-Up Nudity”).
Lwaxana Troi at her wedding.
I’m still all in favor of not meeting aliens and not giving them gifts. There are simply too many variables for me to get this right.
Baum, Seth, Jacob D. Haq-Misra, and Sawn D. Domagal-Goldman. “Would Contact with Extraterrestrials Benefit or Harm Humanity? A Scenario Analysis.” Acta Astronautica 68.11/12 (2011): 2114-2129. Web. 21 April 2016. Provided by professor.
Baskas, Harriet. “Throwing Shoes and Blowing Noses.” NBCNews.com, 29 Dec. 2008. Web. j26 Apr. 2016. <http://www.nbcnews.com/id/28339497/ns/travel-travel_tips/t/throwing-shoes-blowing-noses/>.
“Cost of Living (Star Trek: The Next Generation).” Wikipedia, 2 Dec. 2015. Web. 26 Apr. 2016 <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cost_of_Living_(Star_Trek:_The_Next_Generation)>.
“How to Welcome Your Neighbors, According to the World.” The Huffington Post, 12 Aug. 2015. Web. 26 Apr. 2016.
Kruschewsky, Gabriela. “19 Simple Gestures That Might Be Highly Misunderstood Abroad.” 15 Oct. 2013. Web. 26 Apr. 2016. <http://www.buzzfeed.com/gabrielakruschewsky/simple-gestures-that-might-be-highly-misunderstood-abroad#.xbyWZkal>.
“Shoulders-Up Nudity: Live Action Television - Star Trek: The Next Generation.” TVtropes n.d. Web. 26 Apr. 2016. <http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ShouldersupNudity>.