170: When Different Cultures Meet

It is thought that whenever a lower culture meets a higher culture, the lower culture will begin to disintegrate as it gives up its old values and way of doing things for the values of the higher culture and its new technologies. For many this is a bad thing, especially when it comes to alien contact.

In the early 1950’s, the CIA went to the Brookings Institute and asked them to consider the ramifications if humans were to come in contact with extraterrestrials. A prestigious panel that included famed anthropologist Margret Mead was formed to consider the question. Their final report forecasted cultural disaster following any exchanges with a more advanced civilization, and sited the examples of Montezuma of the Aztecs and the American Indian to prove their point.

It has long been held that when Cortez and his men landed in the new world, Montezuma thought him to be their ancient god, Quetzalcoatl, long prophesized to return and welcomed him with open arms. It was a fatal mistake, which resulted in his murder and the ultimate destruction of the Aztec civilization. And of course we all know how well the natives fared after Columbus “discovered” America.

Should lesser cultures be preserved intact like some museum piece, existing in isolation along side older and more advanced cultures? Or, do cultures naturally evolve by meeting other cultures and exchanging ideas? That appears to have been the way they developed here on Earth. As ancient civilizations expanded their original borders, they would bump into other established civilizations and either go to war, or trade their goods along with their cultural values and ideas.

I videotaped a documentary on TV back in the ‘80s called “First Contact.” It was about three brothers from Australia, who hiked deep into the interior of New Guinea in the early 1930s looking for gold. The documentary used film footage and photographs of the expedition shot by the brothers themselves. They took ninety “civilized” natives with them as carriers, and after they scaled what had thought before to be an impenetrable mountain range, they discovered several valleys nestled in between the mountains. These valleys were home to several million people who had never seen anyone beyond the mountains. The individual tribes they met kept within their boundaries, except when they went to war with a neighbor, and none knew of the world beyond their protected valleys. The brothers weren’t scientists, so they weren’t concerned about cultural contamination. They even took a young boy from one of the tribes on an airplane ride back to a city on the coast and then returned him to his family five days later, after showing him all sorts of modern wonders.

At the end of the documentary, the producers went back to the tribe as it now exists and showed them the completed film.   Many of the elders of the tribe were children when the first white men came to their valley and recognized themselves in the video, including the boy who flew in the airplane. It was an emotional experience for all. Some cried, others laughed in embarrassment to see themselves as they were long ago, naked, unabashed and naive about the modern world that existed around them. On one hand, the tribe had lost its old standards and values, but on the other it had gained knowledge of a larger universe. Isn’t the gaining of new knowledge supposed to be a good thing?

Are we to morn the loss of a culture as we do the loss of a species? I would hope not. A culture serves its people and shouldn’t be confused with the people themselves. It is fitting and proper that it evolves to meet the changing needs of its citizenry. People will readily discard what no longer works to accept new, more productive ways of doing things. It’s ludicrous to find nobility in an era when we beat our clothing on the rocks, when now we clean them in stainless steel washing machines. If you had asked those New Guinea natives if they would like to return to their old ways and leave the modern world behind, I’m sure that they would have responded in the negative. Who wants to go back to “beating their clothes on the rocks?”

NOTE: A prestigious three-day international conference was held in Washington, DC, in May of 1996, on the subject of Earth’s proper response, if and when it’s publicly revealed that we’re being visited by alien cultures. The “When Cosmic Cultures Meet” conference featured presentations by scientists, academics, governmental leaders, research professionals, military officers, journalists and religious spokespersons. Those who attended were in agreement of the need to prepare for extraterrestrial contact.

National security specialist, John L. Petersen of the Arlington Institute, compared the current shift in society and dramatic breakthroughs in energy sources and new technologies to the shift from the Middle Ages to the Enlightenment. Esteemed researcher and journalist, Michael Hesemann, speculated that ET contact could spark a second Copernican Revolution.1

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1 Nexus Magazine, Volume 3, #3 (April-May 1996)

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