Reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Talking to Strangers in view of the reality of an alien visitation on Earth
First, an excerpt of a message from those who watch over the evolution of our planet to pose the fundamental questions that must be asked if we have to acknowledge
- our known science cannot explain the phenomena in our skies
- the extraterrestrial hypothesis can no longer be minimized
Can you deal with the reality of intelligent life from beyond your world without romance, without hopeful expectation, without greed? Can you deal with this objectively and honestly? Can you say to the visitors, “All right, if you are here, then you must reveal yourselves and your intentions, and we will determine if you have a right to be here or not!”
As the Allies describe in their Briefings, humanity should not let any foreign race upon its soil without permission from the population. Obviously, under current circumstances, this permission was never asked for and never granted. That is why it is an Intervention and not a visitation. Visitors are welcomed in. They have asked permission to visit. They are here on a visit, with the permission of those being visited. But an Intervention does not have this permission. It is forced upon you. Some people may say, “Perhaps the visitors did ask for permission, and it was denied by the governments of the world.” Well, even if this were the case, the visitors should be on their way and not be here. Even if the governments of the world made a mistake in not welcoming the visitation, if it was not welcomed, then the visitors should not be here—unless they came to conquer and to intervene for this purpose.
Why else would they be here and getting so involved in human affairs, taking such great interest in human physiology, psychology and religion? Do you think they are lacking these things and that is why they are visiting? Do you think they are going to steal the books out of your library? They could get all this information simply by being observers and collecting all of your data and information and transmissions and so forth. They would not need to be here interfering in human affairs to learn about you. Some people think, “Well, they need our reproductive abilities. Or they need our spirituality. Or they need our emotions. Or they need our religion.” This is all foolishness. This is turning a blind eye to the obvious.
Why do nations intervene with one another? Think about this. It is no different in the Greater Community. The obvious is being missed. People want to think of it in other ways because it is easier to deal with. For goodness sakes, yes! Some people say, “Oh, they are here because they need our help! They need our blood supplies. Or they need our religion and we will help them and we will feel so good about ourselves and they will be so grateful.”
Some people think, “Well, they are here to bring us new technology and help us end pollution.” Do you think people and governments would use this new technology in such a way? Nations in the world would step upon each other to have this new technology for superiority and strength because nations are competing with each other.
Some people say, “Well, they are here because they want to study us.” Why would they want to study you? They could study you by receiving your transmissions, which are being projected out into space. Your information is very accessible. It does not require them to be here to study you. And why would they want to study you anyway? Why would so much time and effort be spent in studying human beings? Do you think this is a science project? Do you think this is a cultural exploration? Do people think that humanity is so fascinating, so marvelous and so remarkable that other races would spend this kind of time studying you?
The only reason that races are studied is for economic or political advantage in the Greater Community. And these races are studied without their permission. Would you want someone to say, “We would like to study you. Would you be our laboratory experiment for the rest of your life? We will try not to harm you.” Would you agree to that? Especially if you found out that you were being used in order for your investigators to take advantage of everything you are and everything you have? Many people think, “Well, the visitors are here to help us,” but really they are here to help themselves. And people are making it very easy for them to do this. (from Understanding the Intervention)The Allies of Humanity Book Two, Third Commentary: Understanding the Intervention
When disclosure is deception
Moving beyond debate about the reality of something unknown in the skies, to admit the simple and obvious, is to be able to say we do not know:
- What are they doing here?
- Why do they not disclose their intention?
Based on his study of encounters gone wrong between humans, Malcolm Gladwell would ask, why do we presume they would be telling us the truth if they did disclose an intention? How will we learn to recognize deception?
This excerpt from his Talking with Strangers casts a new spin on the old story that the Spanish conquistadors were regarded as gods or saviors. Gladwell uses this one and others to say translation problems are to be expected. Errors can be extremely costly.
Cortés was taken to one of Montezuma’s palaces—a place that Aguilar described later as having “innumerable rooms inside, antechambers, splendid halls, mattresses of large cloaks, pillows of leather and tree fibre, good eiderdowns, and admirable white fur robes.” After dinner, Montezuma rejoined Cortés and his men and gave a speech. Immediately, the confusion began.
The way the Spanish interpreted Montezuma’s remarks, the Aztec king was making an astonishing concession: he believed Cortés to be a god, the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy that said an exiled deity would one day return from the east. And he was, as a result, surrendering to Cortés. You can imagine Cortés’s reaction: this magnificent city was now effectively his.
But is that really what Montezuma meant? Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, had a reverential mode. A royal figure such as Montezuma would speak in a kind of code, according to a cultural tradition in which the powerful projected their status through an elaborate false humility. The word in Nahuatl for a noble, the historian Matthew Restall points out, is all but identical to the word for child. When a ruler such as Montezuma spoke of himself as small and weak, in other words, he was actually subtly drawing attention to the fact that he was esteemed and powerful.
“The impossibility of adequately translating such language is obvious,” Restall writes: The speaker was often obliged to say the opposite of what was really meant. True meaning was embedded in the use of reverential language. Stripped of these nuances in translation, and distorted through the use of multiple interpreters…not only was it unlikely that a speech such as Montezuma’s would be accurately understood, but it was probable that its meaning would be turned upside down. In that case, Montezuma’s speech was not his surrender; it was his acceptance of a Spanish surrender.
You probably remember from high-school history how the encounter between Cortés and Montezuma ended. Montezuma was taken hostage by Cortés, then murdered. The two sides went to war. As many as twenty million Aztecs perished, either directly at the hands of the Spanish or indirectly from the diseases they had brought with them. Tenochtitlán was destroyed. Cortés’s foray into Mexico ushered in the era of catastrophic colonial expansion. And it also introduced a new and distinctly modern pattern of social interaction. Today we are now thrown into contact all the time with people whose assumptions, perspectives, and backgrounds are different from our own. The modern world is not two brothers feuding for control of the Ottoman Empire. It is Cortés and Montezuma struggling to understand each other through multiple layers of translators. Talking to Strangers is about why we are so bad at that act of translation.Talking to Strangers
Understanding based on assumptions
Now, after we take this insight into the interchange between cultures to understand it wasn’t so simple as “they thought they were gods,” do we see ourselves at the same risk of presumption on meeting the visitors to our sovereign realm? Gladwell’s Talking to Strangers contains many more occasions of disasters from miscommunication or the failure to attend to warning signs. In another section, he refers to the “default to truth,” the human tendency to believe what people tell us, especially when meeting face to face. We believe in our ability to assess the other’s intentions based on their demeanor. Even when alarm should be sounded, we revert to what we think we know.
How to be worldly wise in the wide universe
We are in no position to say to the visitors, “All right, if you are here, then you must reveal yourselves and your intentions, and we will determine if you have a right to be here or not!”
The first thing to do in an unequal encounter is to assess the strengths and weaknesses in our position. Gladwell is calling us to awareness of one weakness, the tendency to explain away a real threat.
In Blink, he describes a deeper intelligence than the thinking mind. So the next step when we see how the mind can get carried away is to learn how to access the mind that knows. Overcoming our tendencies will take practice and wise guidance. We can only prepare, even while our emergence as a young and ignorant race engaging in a competitive and unknown environment is upon us. The Allies of Humanity send us the overview we need to equip ourselves, if we are willing and if we are wise enough to see that we must learn to distinguish friend from foe in the universe.
- Take the Steps to Knowledge to learn to know the difference between what you think and what you know.
- Study the text Preparing for the Greater Community by Marshall Vian Summers.
- Read Malcolm Gladwell’s Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About the People We Dont Know here as a pdf.
- Listen to Malcolm Gladwell read Talking to Strangers with actual audio clips from each case study.