Tuesday, November 8, 2011

My Issues with Ancient Aliens *

Long-time blog readers will most likely know that my stepfather is a Peruvian immigrant. He came over to go to school, made use of student exchange programs, and worked two jobs to help put himself through college. If there is something I feel is lacking in myself, which is on the other hand exemplified in my Stepfather's life, it's a hearty work ethic.

During that time, especially in his initial years in the United States, he spent time living in Other Folk's Homes as part of the exchange program. When I was a teenager, we'd occasionally discuss those years and how they affected him. One of the things he became irritated with, initially, was the proto-typical American ignorance towards other cultures. He would often get asked if the people in his city (and it should be noted that he was middle class by Peruvian standards) had rite of passage rituals, or wore headdresses, or did other “native” things. So he'd make sure to fuck with them: he'd tell them stories about how he'd had to slay eagles, and that he didn't want to return to Peru because he'd have to marry a woman he didn't love.
From "All His Engines."
It was all, you must understand, a set of completely fabricated stories. None of them were true in the slightest; he came from a well educated family, and had come to America because the education system was better here than in his country of birth.

Listening to the theories about who “really” created the Nazca lines makes me start frothing at the mouth. To hear intelligent individuals start claiming that “primitive people” (presumably with headdresses and the ability to Hunt Eagles by Night) could not make the lines is only so much bunk. We can be fairly sure of who made the Nazca lines (e.g. indigenous people in Peru), and what they were used for. Why? Because the folks that still live in the Peruvian hills still use them the same way. To this day, if you visit during the right period, you can see sacred processions across the Nazca lines.

Aliens did not make those lines. People did. If alien entities presided over the process? They probably weren't very physical. And people probablysaw them using drugs or trance techniques. The same way that they continue to do, to this day. Even if it means that they might very well be in physical danger for the mere act of doing so.
In the same way, people love to toss out the actual knowledge and techniques of various cultures to help pave the way for crackpot theories that are fucking useless. Who built the Pyramids? The Egyptians. How? We don't fucking know. But we know they built them, because they fucking told us that they did. Who built the Tenochtitlan temple structure? The Mexica did. Not only that, but first they terra-formed a swamp region so that they could build the structures. And then they proceeded to stomp every culture around them, systematically, until the arrival of Cortez. And even then, in most cases the Spanish didn't actually defeat the cultures that they encountered. They instead convinced locals who hated the Empire around them to help, and thus basically triggered a series of civil wars on the soil of the Americas. Both the conquest of the Mexica and the conquest of the Incan Empires involved the Spanish rallying to their side the tribes and cultures who had been conquered by both Empires.

That they made up silly stories about conquering Empires with only 16 men, or being thought of as Gods was just, you understand, the icing on the cake.

The cultures, the Empires, that were first encountered have long been treated as “primitive”; but actually, they have a tendency to display a way of living, in touch with the land around them, that the West has largely forgotten. That they accomplished feats of achievement and prowess that stand to this day should not, by any means, be reduced down to a simple theory: “aliens did it.”

Because, actually, aliens did not do it. Human labor, and often slave labor at that, achieved the monuments that have been left standing since ancient times.

Now – did those cultures possibly get visited by gods, spirits, or forces that we don't understand? That's distinctly possible. It's also possibly that they imparted specific bodies of knowledge to them. But the method of action, the ways in which these states were achieved and contacts made? They haven't been “lost.” They still exist around us, to this day. If they're on the brink of dying out and more information actually being lost? All the more reason to contend that it isn't the aliens that we should be worrying about.

It's the people. The culture. The history.


snaegl said...

Wow. I'm fairly new to your blog and you just managed to combine one of my favorite rants with one of my favorite comics. Well done.

Harold Roth said...

Aliens built the pyramids too. Brown people who don't speak English could not possibly have created something so sophisticated. It is racism pure and simple. Because did you ever notice? Aliens are never brown.

I did see a neat documentary about the pyramids years ago, where they showed a local guy cutting rocks with a cord, simply holding it taut and rubbing it against the rock, which is not very hard. It did take a while, but it made very smooth cuts. They surmised this is how the rocks for the pyramids were cut. Not anything alien about it, just simple human ingenuity.

For you, it's aliens and the Nazca lines. For me, it's Lemuria or Egypt as the origin of Kabbalah. Because a bunch of ragtag, garlic-chomping, gesticulating Jews could never have created anything so sophisticated.

Jack Faust said...

@Harold: Yeah. I wanted to avoid saying the word racism, so that those confronted by information they probably don't want to hear, will not immediately be tripped into a defensive stance and leave angered comments about my lack of faith in Ancient Alien Astronauts.

I did not know about the use of ropes to smooth the rock. I imagine similar processes have been used the world over, along with other basic technological feats (plus manpower) are what were used to achieve the great monuments that we have left to us, today.

What irritates me is that people forget the way history plays out and continues to play out around us. I'm sure it has to do with people walling off "The Other" (in this case anyone with brown skin), though.

As for Astral Atlantis and Lemuria: they appear, to me, to be the astral equivalent of Hotel California. Although it didn't happen to the Jungians for whatever reason.

Brian J. said...

I've often argued that the 'ancient aliens' theorists are essentially identical to religious literalists, only they've traded an interceding God for more materialistic explanations. Both grossly underestimate and undervalue human potential.

Rufus Opus said...

What do you think about the idea that "alien" and "spirit" encounters are the same thing interpreted differently by different people in different cultures with different levels of technology and preferred explanatory theories?

Rufus Opus said...

Oh, and I agree totally about the "ancient aliens" thing. It does boil down to racism, pure and simple.

Rose Weaver said...

*applause* Finally, some common sense on this issue. Very well stated!

Harold Roth said...

Jack, maybe you've heard the story (from the Talmud) about how King Solomon used magic to have a worm (Shamir) to build the Temple. I believe the cord system of cutting the rocks for the pyramids is that worm. And it does seem like magic that a cord could cut a rock.

k - nkyinkyin.dreamwidth.org said...


I've had it up to here with the "what these natives need is an ALIEN!" perspective of history. It's racist, insulting to our ancestors, and a slap in the face to the ingenuity of the human race in general.

As far as alien visitations being today's version of spirit and fairy visitations of the past for some folks, yeah, that's pretty much what i've always thought, myself.

Lance Michael Foster said...

Excellent. I'm an anthropologist/archaeologist and yours is the first magician's blog I've run across who has their head on straight about this stuff :-)