In an age in which life, itself, has become a perilous threat to our well-being; in which the normally neurotic among us demand collective security against every conceivable uncertainty generated by either man or nature, we are slowly becoming aware of what may prove to be the greatest peril ever to face the planet. It is not "global warming," which is a piddling threat when compared with this more menacing one.
The threat of which I write is one that has recently been brought to our attention by astronomers and physicists. They tell us that our galaxy — the Milky Way — is on a collision course with another galaxy — Andromeda. In a scant three billion years, these two galaxies will likely merge to form a super-galaxy that has already been named: Milkomeda. (I wonder if intelligent observers in Andromeda might object to taking second-billing in this name. Perhaps they would opt for "Andromeway" in the unlikelihood of their having the same names that we employ for these galaxies.)
In any event, three billion years does give us a reasonable amount of time to "do something" about this impending danger. Government-funded research grants can be awarded to academicians to help plan the systems and technologies necessary to the collective effort that will be required. The politically-driven — long accustomed to both generating and exploiting widespread fear to the end of securing power over the lives of their neighbors — will see in the upcoming "galaxy crash" (how’s that for a catchy label?) as yet another opportunity to terrify their fellow humans with the unpredictable and inconstant nature of existence. Consistent with their claims to omniscience in all matters, these "people-pushers" will again promise to "find out what went wrong and fix it, so that it doesn’t happen again!"
In case any of you are not aware of the gargantuan nature of the task of "doing something" about this threat, imagine a swirling galaxy the size of the room in which you are sitting. Then imagine a pin-point located in the outer reaches of that galaxy: that point is our solar system. Keeping in mind that Earth is one of the smaller planets in this solar system and, well, you can begin to grasp the scope of the task before us. St. Al and his gaggle of self-styled "environmentalists" have their priorities askew. To focus upon global warming in the face of this greater threat is akin to regarding the devastation of a worldwide nuclear war of lesser import than the curse of infected hangnails!
How do we confront this great peril? To begin with, we must demonize the approaching galaxy; to treat it as an invading enemy, in much the same way we have learned to regard immigrants. We humans are not only willing, but eager, to participate in collective campaigns, but only if they are undertaken against some "evil" force to be thought of as an "enemy." Most of us love wars, and are prepared to mobilize against anyone or anything that discommodes us. Our "wars" on "poverty," "drugs," "discrimination," "cancer," "violence" (an interesting contradiction), "obesity," "child abuse," "global warming" — indeed, a war against anything but war itself — reflect a propensity to regard life itself as an enemy to be ferreted out and warred against. The unregulated forces of the cosmos can be seen as another example of what can happen when nature is left to its own devices, free of political controls.
This is not the time to invoke the thinking of Einstein, and regard the movements of Andromeda and Milky Way as "relative" to one another. If our political leaders are to effectively deal with this situation, Andromeda must be seen as attacking "us." "We" will then be seen — by "us" — as "victims" engaged in "galaxy defense."
Creating such a mindset is the purpose of the mainstream media. CNN and the other cable "news" channels can begin providing reports on the impending "crash"; Lou Dobbs can offer his daily commentaries on the problems that arise from allowing outsiders to cross our borders. The gang at Faux News will remind us of the dangers of unregulated travel, as well as the consequences of failing to build restraining fences. Public opinion polls will be utilized to test whether the prolonged conditioning in the unquestioned premises of the campaign has been sufficient to convince Boobus of the nature of the threat such that he/she will insist that the government do what it had planned to do all along.
This struggle will demand the greatest sacrifices of us all. No amount of money or authority siphoned off by our political leaders can be thought of as too great. This is not some isolated Star Wars threat, in which we must defend ourselves against a giant "Death Star": we are menaced by an entire galaxy, intent on "taking over" the whole damned universe! Its plans have already been set in motion; its forces approach in silence, as your beautiful children sleep peacefully in their beds!
I have no doubt as to the willingness or the capacities of corporate enterprises to mobilize on behalf of this enormous defensive effort. Wars have taught us how eager so much of the business community is to participate in "partnerships" with the state when both are able to profit nicely from the arrangement. World Wars I and II, the Cold War, and now the War on Terror — along with its wholly-owned subsidiary the Iraq War — not only confirm Randolph Bourne’s observation that "war is the health of the state," but extends its beneficent effects to the corporate world.
Universities — ever on the prowl for government research grants that can segue into opportunities for corporations to cash in on developing and manufacturing technologies — can help provide the scientific base for the upcoming galaxy war. Astronomers will advise us that there are billions of galaxies in the universe, each prepared to continue the onslaught undertaken by Andromeda.
Given the spiraled nature of our galaxy, scientists may propose that we do something to reverse its direction — a position that the galaxy-hawk "hard-liners" may oppose as a "cut-and-run" strategy. But assuming the re-orbiting faction prevails, academia and the technocrats may soon be offering blueprints for reversing the orbits of the planets in our solar system. While we remain but a fly-speck in our vast galactic setting, we must begin somewhere. After all, if we humans can put men on the moon, reversing the orbits of the likes of Jupiter, Saturn, and Neptune involve nothing more than a commitment of will.
Putting the galaxy in reverse gear will require a change in our thinking. Political leaders can remind us to "ask not what your galaxy can do for you, but what you can do for your galaxy." T-shirts and bumper-stickers will abound with such messages as "The Milky Way: Love It or Leave It!" If the Milky Way spirals in a clockwise manner, we must begin to think in counter-clockwise terms. Clocks, themselves, will need to be redesigned to run in the opposite direction to which we are accustomed. We must learn to walk and drive backwards; to write — as some among us do — from right to left; and to awaken at night, work through evening and daylight hours, and go to sleep in the morning hours. Those among us who resist such reversing policies will be labeled "Andromedan terrorists" or "spies" or "traitors."
Contrary to the assumptions in our current AlGorithmic thinking, we may find ourselves having to produce even more highly-sophisticated technologies that will generate even greater quantities of carbon dioxide. The people-pushers — having admonished us to sacrifice our interests in the name of saving the planet — may now find themselves having to sacrifice their ideological interests in the name of saving the galaxy!
The enemy will soon be upon us. A few billion years may sound like an eternity to you, but this is not the time for dilatory foot-dragging. If Andromeda can get away with this sneak attack upon us, think of all the other galaxies — to be identified, perhaps, as the "axies of evil"? — that might be preparing their attacks. If we don’t stop them now, we’ll have to stop them later.
The time to act is now! Do it for the children!
Butler Shaffer [send him e-mail] teaches at the Southwestern University School of Law. He is the author of Calculated Chaos: Institutional Threats to Peace and Human Survival.