War of the Worlds

by Jake Block

“We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” — T.S. Eliot

I was talking with a friend one evening about the “close approach” of Mars recently, and he remarked that he’d always liked looking at Mars in the night sky with his Celestron telescope, and that as a kid, he remembered the original 1953 movie War of the Worlds, staring Gene Barry and Ann Robinson, with the fantastic Martian war machines rising from the crater, spewing death rays, impervious to our most devastating weapons, inside their protective bubbles. The Martians themselves were weird little creatures with their “trinary” eyes and suction cup fingers.

As we talked, I thought about T.S. Eliot’s quote about exploration, and remembering what we have since come to know about Mars and the possibilities of life on that cold and barren planet, it occurred to me that maybe… just maybe… if we ever did go to war with Mars, we might actually be going to war with the descendants of our own species. Fantastic as the idea might seem, we need only look to our own planet to see that it’s not only possible, but probable, given our nature as borne out in human history.

Consider. Mankind has spread across the planet since its earliest beginnings, possibly in the equatorial regions of what would one day be called “Africa.” Along the way, tribal units began to settle in various areas along the path of migration, perhaps finding the hunting sufficient to sustain them, or perhaps because they were too weak to travel further. Others of the original group moved on and settled further along their journey, small groups at a time. Meanwhile our original group began to breed and grow larger, necessitating further colonizations within their area, finding new resources and new opportunities for hunting and gathering and, later, the growing and harvesting of crops for sustenance and trade. Still later, a portion of those groups began to form militias to protect the individual towns against other groups. And eventually, the individual cities became co-ops and then regions, and finally a nation, with trading and agriculture and an army to protect it all.

So it was with the others who had continued their exploration until they to developed along the same lines, and built their own cultural identity. Then came trade amongst these emergent nations, and, so long as the bargains were equitable, harmony reigned.

Eventually, one side or the other developed “greed.” And they wanted more than their fair share from any bargain, and eventually decided that bargaining itself was a waste of time, so they sent their army to take what they wanted. Crops, treasure, slaves… all could be taken at the cost of blood, and the nation most determined took the spoils of war. Once independent nations became vassal states under control of the victorious. Laws were passed to control the conquered, and they served under threat of violence and death. So it went on, age upon age, eon upon eon, until today, where stand almost 200 countries, armed to the teeth, more or less at odds with one another. And even though they spring from the same seed, thousands of years of separate acculturation makes them think and react differently, and assume that they each have “right” on their side.

So now, here we are, on the cusp of change from planetary culture to becoming interplanetary in scope. And Mars is first in sight as our most likely and most accessible off-earth colony. To be sure, our sons and daughters will rely on their earthly origins to survive and to obtain everything they will need to develop any kind of self sufficiency, but given time, skill and a great deal of luck, Mars will eventually be peopled by those who will at last, view themselves not as “Earthers,” but as Martians, having never seen their ancestral home. They’ll form their own government(s) and laws to protect their property, rights and culture. They’ll look to their flag and honor their own sovereignty.

They will develop agriculture, and they will mine the wealth of their planet for raw materials for growth and trade. There will undoubtedly be trade, much as there was between Europe and the “new world,” and expected allegiances between the “home planet” and the new Mars colony. One can predict, without much effort or fear of failure, that the new Martians will eventually come to resent any element of control that those on Earth might demand, and reject demands to comply, or taxation from control some 34 million miles distant.

Then will come a time when the the old will issue a challenge to the new. Comply or face consequences. Honor your origins or be brought under control. Tariff wars will begin to strain relationships, and diplomacy will fail. Eventually, as it always happens, one of the upstart Martians will say “NO” to demand and claim independence from the Earth and its control. Mars for Martians. The demand to disarm, met by the words of Spartans… “Molon Labe” — “come and take them.”

And we all know where things go from there.

To quote the immortal Pogo (old American comic strip), “We have met the enemy, and he is US.”

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