Category Archives: Letter From Planet Earth

Letter From Planet Earth: Foreword

Jamie wrote this column series for Woroni in the second half of 2012.

Each piece was written a day or so before publication because, unlike previous article series, the topics were time sensitive. I don’t like that kind of thing because I  prefer doing things which might conceivably have some value later on. I also have a general, but lighthearted disdain for op-ed pieces and don’t want to contribute to the cacophony. — Jamie.

The planet Gliese 667 Cc is real and was described shortly before the column was planned. The name “Gzorgax” was chosen for its unpronounceability  and generally suited the trope of zeds and exes in alien names.

Connoisseurs will notice a reference in the epistemology piece to Muhammad and his pederastic tendencies. In light of the controversy surrounding later lampooning of the prophet, it’s of some interest to note that there was not a single complaint; of course they may simply indicate the lack of readers.

Note the articles should be read top down, the original release dates of the articles have all been reversed so they appear in the correct order. 

Letter From Planet Earth: Republican Primaries

Hey Gzorgax,

Sorry, it’s been ages since my last letter and I hope all is well with you in the Gliese 667 system. These days everyone in my country seems to be really interested in the election happening in Earth’s dominant nation, America. It’s the election before the main election for the US presidency; this secondary election is called the presidential primary election. It’s to see who will battle Barack Obama for symbolic leadership of the executive and actual leadership of the UN.

The contestants are pretty interesting and the guy who’ll probably win has the name Mitt Romney: neither of which are normally names on planet Earth. He’s this dude who’s in a race to look more conservative than all of his rivals. This is an interesting challenge because he’s up against a guy called Newt Gingrich (newt isn’t a name either, it’s a kind of animal with similar physiology to your people) who postures as being the most family-values oriented, anti-elite of the bunch, although he did marry his former high school teacher, suggest an open marriage while divorcing a later wife, has a PhD and is a member of the elite.

There’s another guy called Rick Santorum. Rick is short for Richard, even though Richard is normally shortened to Dick, but I guess that might have been an embarrassing name so he probably thought he was dodging a bullet there. It’s moot anyway as “santorum” has become a byword for a substance that can result from anal sex (kind of like if you stuck your spawning rod in one of your mates’ obverse cloacae). Also, in one memorable incident he took his dead foetus home and had his living offspring play with it.

There’s also Ron Paul, but I think he might be from your planet so maybe you know him already.

This might sound like a strange collection of people to be running for a conservative party nomination and it looks like Romney will win. The thing he’s got going for him is that although he doesn’t play with foetuses, have a PhD, or have a name which, googled, mainly yields results detailing mixtures of sexual lubricant and human faecal matter, he does belong to a fundamentalist religion. I’ve told you about Christianity, well basically Romney’s a Mormon, which is a special kind of Christian that believes the basic tenets of mainstream Christianity are not sufficiently bizarre to test adherents’ faith and so supplements them with stories about magic underwear and the Garden of Eden being in Missouri. The Mormons are at core a group of hard working and self sufficient people who marched into the desert and somehow made a life for themselves in harsh conditions, thriving to the extent that they refused federal aid during the Great Depression. This combination of impressive conscientiousness and astonishing gullibility makes a Mormon the obvious leader of the modern conservative movement.

Anyway, let me know how things are on your planet.

As always, yours earthily,

Jamie.

Letter From Planet Earth: Gay Marriage

Dear Gzorgax,

I should really write more often. How is your planet going? What’s it like having three suns? Is Gzorgax a common name in Gliese 667 or were you teased growing up? Anyway, as you may know, people are getting pretty steamed up about this whole gay marriage thing here on Earth’s sunniest, funniest nation, Australia.

About two thirds of Australians now support equal marriage rights for same sex couples, although apparently it’s still highly traumatic for most parents who discover they have gay children. I guess people use most of their everyday emotional largesse on complete strangers and reserve their special inhumanity for those they love.

The argument against gay marriage is pretty unimpeachable: allowing marriage between a man and a man or a woman and a woman would change the definition of marriage. If there’s one thing this culture is enthusiastic about finding awful, it’s words that change meaning over time — like culture, enthusiastic, awful and all other words. The queer thing is that people are quite gay about changing the meaning of most words about human relationships, just not marriage. Random.

So the thing that has people, especially religious people, so mad is that you can’t just come along and legally change the definition of marriage. Well not again anyway, not since it was last changed by religious people. Judaism and Islam changed what marriage meant from a perfectly good institution used to allow females to be traded as commodities within and between tribes, to some crap about one man and several woman under God’s love — which, depending on your mood, sounds either saccharine, or kinky; while I’m on it saccharin should mean a sugar substitute and kinky should mean it has bends in it. Then Christians came along and ruined some of the fun and said it had to be one man, one woman, under one god. In fact Christians seem obsessed with the idea of only having one of each thing at a time — it’s like they’re playing relationship sudoku.

Meanwhile our Labor government will allow its members to take a conscience vote on the issue later this year. A conscience vote is when members of the House are given special dispensation to vote on an issue according to what they believe is right and virtuous. You can see why this is an unusual event. Ordinarily our elected representatives who are paid to serve the populous are strongly discouraged to acknowledge, or possess, a conscience.

Personally I’m actually hoping for a tightening of the definition of marriage even further, so that it allows me to marry myself. Maybe Christians will see that as a natural extension of their views and let me do it.

Yours earthily,

Jamie.

This article originally appeared in Woroni in 2012.

Letter From Planet Earth: Kony 2012

Dear Gzorgax,

Down here on Earth we’re tired of this damn Stop Kony 2012 thing. I don’t know if you have Internet fads like this on the planet Gliese 667 Cc, but people here are fed up with this flash-in-the-pan, emotionally manipulative, awareness campaign about Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army. If there’s one thing we hate it’s lame-arse memes; and no meme is lamer than one about something as lame as children’s faces being mutilated and their parents being killed in front of their eyes. Lame.

Basically this activist dude called Jason Russell made a video about a deranged Ugandan warlord called Joseph Kony. The video has excellent production values and is both distributed via social media and about social media — the medium is the message, which is a popular 20th century cliche. Unfortunately the script of the film is riddled with cliches even more banal and the narrative of the film works mainly as an exposition of the self-indulgent director’s relationship with his cute, but precocious five year old son. Anyway, even you have Facebook now, so I’ll post the link on your wall.

The film’s message is so simple that even said precocious five year old with the annoying face can understand it. Still, you’re probably wondering precisely why people are so affronted by a successful effort to alert the Western population to the existence of a man who induces sexual slavery and possibly even cannibalism. Well, all I can say in this missive is that, luckily, the West has learnt from repeatedly being sucked-in by simplistic narratives from despots. After only a few hundred million resultant deaths in the last few millennia, we’ve now arrived at a stage where most of us are deeply sceptical about claims to truth. Ironically, this same incredulity means we are unlikely to let something like a humanitarian attempt to help Ugandans with their own problems with megalomaniacs go past without it being thoroughly critiqued by jaded commentators.

It doesn’t help Russell’s cause that he has a bit of the true-believer, glazed-eye look about him. But he is also a man who has successfully created a viral video, in an age when people do little else other than try to make viral videos. Most of these videos fall away and we are left with those that have been un-naturally selected by the webosphere for their excellent cats and superb auto-tune. To have cut through this morass and have people learn, however facilely, about a psychopath tyrant, is impressive — but annoying for fans of Shit People Say.

It’s worth noting, however, that Russell once said in an interview that: “If Oprah, Steven Spielberg and Bono had a baby, I would be that baby.” There are many horribly inhumane things that can be done to children and Joseph Kony has explored many of them. But even a man accused of such crimes as enslavement, pillaging, rape and inducing cannibalism has not yet been accused of the base act of inflicting both Bono and Oprah on the same child.

So you’ll see that the 27 minute Youtube video is lacking in that doesn’t account for Ugandans’ agency, the problems with the Ugandan military, or of the ethics of intervening in another culture’s problems. Which brings us to the overwhelming question, Gzorgax: would it have been better for Ugandans that this video hadn’t gone viral? You know the answer to that and you’re 22 light years away.

Yours earthily,

Jamie.

This article originally appeared in Woroni in 2012.

Letter From Planet Earth: Nuclear Weapons

Hey Gzorgax,

Apologies that this is an email; I didn’t have time to write a snail-mail letter this week. But at least I can include some links below to some hilarious shit on YouTube. Also, I’ve CCd in your mate Klangvar who I know wanted those links to the “pinata accident” vids. They’re pretty awesome. XD

Anyway you probs want to know how that Kony thing panned out in the end. Um, quick summary: dude who started it flipped and went all Lady Godiva on our arses; started messing with his own junk on the street in broad daylight; movement now discredited; people back to not thinking about tortured Africans.

I’d give you more but I’ve been pretty stressed this week, thinking about even bigger problems. That North Korea country I’ve mentioned before (the one with the constitution written by George Orwell) has long range missiles ready to point at Australia and may soon have more nuclear capabilities too. FML.

This will only add to the set of nations that have weapons capable of destroying whole cities. Moreover, at least two of those nations have automated systems which mean as soon as a missile is launched against them they will initiate a massive counter strike; this cascade effect of nuclear missile launches would precipitate a short lived war and a resultant clouding of the atmosphere that would destroy civilisation and most of the biosphere. It probably sounds like I’ve gone all preachy and that I should let others deal with it, but just hold off until I tell you our method of prevention.

There isn’t one. The fact of mutually assured destruction is what is supposed to stop mutually assured destruction. Proponents of MAD as a deterrent actually point out that no missiles have ever been launched, deliberately or even accidentally. It’s superb rhetoric because there really hasn’t been a single instance of a nuclear holocaust since the advent of MAD, or before.

But then again, right up until the instant of the atomic bomb being dropped on Hiroshima, there hadn’t been a single case of dropping nuclear bombs before. The entire course of human history had been the story of not-dropping bombs on Hiroshima. In fact, prior to 1945 every single person on Earth had been constantly not dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima. And even including Nagasaki, if we take averages over time, we have been dropping atomic bombs so infrequently in the last few thousand years that it rounds down to zero. 😉

And now, as we approach the Earth’s 4.5 billionth anniversary of not having nuclear wars, judging MAD solely in terms of whether it has prevented nuclear annihilation happening or not, it has an effectiveness rate of 100%… Which will drop quite a lot, in fact right down to 0%, if a single missile is ever launched. That’s the problem with using only past events to make predictions of the future.

As you can imagine for a problem of this magnitude, it is widely ignored. Frankly, as a trope, the Earth is bored by the hackneyed idea of nuclear winter; we’re much more interested in vampires, tapas and microblogging, all of which are massive on your planet too so there must be something in them.

Anyway dude, chat soon. Oh, and keep sending me those links to “Shit Gliese 667 People Say” — total lolocaust.

Jamie.

This article originally appeared in Woroni in 2012.

Letter From Planet Earth: Mummy Wars

Dear Gzorgax

I want to tell you about the mummy wars: a debate over what women should do when human couples produce offspring. Historically, in such cases the young infant has been taken care of by the female, while the male has continued working full-time. More recently women have entered the workforce more fully and have become as interested in their careers as men always have been. Understandably, they’ve struggled to reconcile this choice between work and motherhood.

Men have cleverly solved this problem for eons by feigning  — or actually — being useless in the home, so that even when liberal parents have that discussion about who will bow out of the workforce to raise the kid, it’s still normally the female who does — either that or the parents pay a less wealthy female to do it for them.

So why don’t men just muck in and raise the kids half the time? Well dear friend, on top of the history of female oppression and the devaluing of work on the domestic front there’s also good old biology. Biology is the Earth name for life sciences, a discipline which we use to inform our knowledge of all living things, except humans. Well, we use it whenever we need pharmaceuticals, but we ignore it in studying human interactions. It’s considered politically incorrect in many circles to claim that, on average, there are biologically determined behavioural differences between men and women. Because women obviously deserve equal rights, one way to assert those rights is to say women are equal to men, because they are actually the same and any perceived differences are a result of cultural forces shaped by patriarchy.

How could this possibly be true? Consider that there are obviously biologically determined differences between individuals. Now you could still say that despite this, the two groups, men and women are the same, but only if for every woman there is one and only one equivalent man, so that the two groups act like two sets with corresponding elements, much like a mathematical function. It’s an interesting idea, but it also relies on one of these man–woman pairs being born and in turn dying in perfect unison, to maintain the exact global equipoise of men and women as identical groups.

So I love the idea of battling the mummy wars by having men become stay at home dads — I think men should do it half the time. But is it likely to happen? I don’t know Gzorgax, I’m just a male and though I never claimed to be average, statistically speaking I have a brain that’s better at interpreting systems rather than human emotions, I have ten times as much testosterone as a woman and I get paid more money for doing the same work too. Why is it so hard to convince chaps like me to raise kids? Hopefully, now that gay people are increasingly allowed to have kids, they’ll simply outbreed us heteros and solve the whole problem.

Yours earthily,

Jamie.

This article originally appeared in Woroni in 2012.

Letter From Planet Earth: Epistemology

Dear Gzorgax

So the other day I saw an interview with a very kindly, warm-hearted woman who claimed to have survived inoperable cancer by praying to Mary Mackillop: a long dead Earthling organism whose remains are now presumably so decomposed that barely a fragment of what was previously her living self remains and therefore one of the least qualified people to do anything to affect another person’s biological health.

You might be wondering what help or counselling we are offering this clearly harmless, but delusional or stupid lady who believes in such, as it were, rot. None. In fact, the interviewer didn’t question her extraordinary claim at all. You might further wonder why the remainder of the news program and the remainder of the news week weren’t devoted to this extraordinary discovery of several magical processes which invalidate most of the claims about the universe on which you and I base our actions every day.

Well, Gzorgax, on our planet we have an interesting relationship to knowledge about the world, which I’ll try and outline as simply as I can. When knowledge is very well established, through experiment, data collection, peer-review, etc., like the claim that the Earth is getting warmer owing to post-industrial age human activity, we approach with incredulity. In fact in such cases of near unanimity of opinion among the very people who have learnt the most about the topic, we make sure to give equal credence to dissenting, ill-informed voices, in some bizarre obeisance to favouring even pathological scepticism. Which is fine I guess.

But we relax a little bit when talking about something where there is some written, historical record of events, intermingled with obvious confabulation. Take, say, Islam, which is a system of belief founded by a middle ages warlord who shagged a nine year old girl and who claimed to speak regularly to a god no one else could hear or was even allowed to claim to be able to hear, lest they be slaughtered by armies of that selfsame child-statutory-rapist. In such cases we challenge adherents only when they go too far and actually put their beliefs into practice by killing non-believers.

The least amount of scepticism is reserved for those who profess to believe in stories of creation which aren’t even written down and based on historical record, but are instead oral traditions of indigenous peoples. In such cases, because of a mix of condescension, respect and guilt for wrecked cultures, we generally don’t judge these claims at all, despite their obvious status as sub-standard fairy tales rather than coherent ontologies.

You might be worried that our civilisation is on the verge of collapse because we employ this reverse burden of proof for claims based on an inverse relationship to how much evidence the claimant can furnish. But luckily we have a failsafe called “hypocrisy” which means that people don’t actually believe any of this fluff and live their lives as if we live in a causal universe based on scientific laws and not mumbojumbo. So even while they’re praying, they still see their doctors and take their medicine.

Yours earthily,

Jamie.

This article originally appeared in Woroni in 2012.

Letter From Planet Earth: Eugenics

Dear Gzorgax,

It’s time I came clean: I’ve been allowing my university’s newspaper to publish my side of our correspondence over the last few months. Surprisingly, despite the publication of these epistles and despite the fact I’ve now included, among other hot potatoes, a description of the Prophet Muhammad as a “child rapist”, I’ve not received a single complaint or been rewarded with a single fatwa. So understandably old friend I feel I have carte blanche to say what people on Earth really think, even if it’s impolitic. So I’ll move straight on to eugenics.

A study by some quack doctors this month is circulating and it has the unsettling finding that when you control for socioeconomic background, children of heterosexual parents do better than children of homosexual parents. We’ll overlook the questionable methodological rigour of the study and grant it its findings. This presents us with a very uncomfortable truth which, even if we don’t like it, we must face up to, though it conflicts with our ideas of freedom. Maintaining a clear minded, realist position we must admit the obvious policy implication: we shouldn’t let poor people have children.

You see, the differences between the gay and straight parents were pretty small, but when you compare parents and don’t control for socioeconomic background the findings are fucking stark. I mean, I’m not usually all about stopping certain people from having kids, but if we’re considering effectively neutering gay parents on the grounds of parental skill, then let’s call a spade a spayed and start by sterilising poor people, criminals, scientologists, weirdos and reality TV contestants.

We tiptoe around this issue of eugenics, kind of because Nazis and Communists took it into some dark territory in the ‘30s and ‘40s. Now it’s considered gauche, to say the least, to suggest eugenic policies, unless of course you’re trying to stop gay people living normal lives. Funnily enough, one could construe any effort at changing the reproductive habits of different kinds of people as a eugenic policy. The baby bonus, abortions, contraception, welfare payments for single parents, no-fault divorce — all these things have changed people’s reproductive choices. Are they not then part of an inadvertent eugenic, or more polemically still, dysgenic policy agenda?

When you get educated people talking, Gzorgax, really talking I mean, often late at night after much wine has passed, you can find that people who would blanch at talk of Hitler’s and Stalin’s attempts to remove unwanted elements from society, will have their own severe views about runts in the litter. Probe into any social ill, like our more dire public schools, the third generation unemployed, repeat offenders, the problems with public housing, or Summernats and you’ll find people are wont to conclude, only half jokingly, that we “shouldn’t let them breed” or, more boldly, “that we should just drown them at birth”. And indeed who can argue that slaughtering the babies of criminals won’t reduce crime? We’re a nation of eugenicists Gzorgax and we don’t even know it.

Yours earthily,

Jamie.

This article originally appeared in Woroni in 2012.