During a 1987 speech before the United Nations, Ronald Reagan spoke positively about the unifying effect that an alien invasion would have on humankind around the world.
“In our obsession with antagonisms of the moment, we often forget how much unites all the members of humanity,” Reagan said. “Perhaps we need some outside, universal threat to make us recognize this common bond. I occasionally think how quickly our differences worldwide would vanish if we were facing an alien threat from outside this world.”
The “antagonisms of the moment” in Reagan’s case were the tail end of a cold war standoff with the USSR that had held humanity hostage to the threat of nuclear annihilation since the Soviets detonated their first atomic bomb in 1949. Prior to that the antagonisms of the moment were the two world wars, and prior to that were countless conflicts between nations, kingdoms, civilizations and tribes stretching back past the horizon of recorded history.
Antagonisms have continued on from moment to moment to the present day, with a new multi-front cold war which could turn hot at any time already bringing the threat of nuclear armageddon back to the forefront after a brief intermission. Which is absolutely ridiculous, because, for the first time in history, humanity does have a common universal threat which should be bringing us together.
That threat comes to us not from outside ourselves as in Reagan’s hypothetical alien invasion scenario, but from within. For the first time in history humanity is being forcefully confronted with its own self-destructiveness, because we are driving ourselves to our own extinction.
Humanity has been at its own throat throughout all of known history, with violence, war and tyranny remaining a behavioral constant around the world for as far back as our records can show us. As soon as we became the new apex predator on the scene we ceased having to worry about being killed by hungry carnivores and instead worried primarily about being killed by other humans. Other humans who wanted our things. Other humans who wanted our land. Other humans who served a different ruler than us. Other humans who worshipped a different god than us. Other humans who espoused a different political ideology than us.
And while all that was going on, nature was just quietly doing its own thing in the background, unnoticed and unappreciated. Our biosphere had always been there, functioning in more or less the same way for as long as we could remember, so we mostly just took it for granted and focused our attention on the far more urgent task of killing and enslaving and oppressing and exploiting each other throughout the ages.
And now, suddenly, nature won’t let us ignore it anymore. Our biosphere is showing numerous and diverse signs of rapid deterioration and destabilization as a direct result of the competition-based models that have been driving human behavior in recent centuries, and if we don’t come together as a species to drastically change the way we’re collectively functioning on this planet we’re going to lose the only home we have.
We’re coming upon a point where humanity is going to have to unite to defend its home planet, not from extraterrestrial invaders, but from its own self-destructive impulses. We simply cannot keep harming and competing against each other any longer, not because it sucks but because it has become unsustainable. We’re being forced into a situation where we must transcend our self-destructive patterning and move into a new way of operating on this planet, or go extinct. We will annihilate ourselves by environmental destruction or nuclear war if we don’t drastically transform our behavioral patterns very soon.
In this sense we are being existentially confronted as a species by forces deep within ourselves. Deeply unconscious forces. Ancient forces. Forces which have been whipping around within us in some form since before our evolutionary ancestors first walked upright. For the first time in history we are approaching a point where we’ll be required to turn and face those forces consciously, head-on, as you would an enemy who threatens your very life. Because that’s exactly what they are.
Our common foe is any aspect of our species that is pointed at death, destruction, domination and exploitation instead of health and harmony. Some humans and some human institutions embody those forces much more severely than others, but they exist within us all. If we’re to rise to the occasion and drastically change our collective behavior, we’re going to have to uproot it all. Only then can we become a truly conscious species and proceed to the next stage in our adventure in this world.
Every species eventually hits a point where it must adapt to changing situations or go extinct. We’re arriving at ours currently. I don’t know exactly what it will look like if and when that adaptation occurs, but I think we can probably assume it would look like a rapid increase in awareness of the forces which drive our behavior, both individually and collectively.
Like an addict who has hit rock bottom, we’re going to be pressed hard to look at what makes us do the things we do. On an individual level that will come down to the psychological constructs and inner habits interwoven with the ego, which can be dispelled with rigorous inner examination. On a collective level it will come down to the systems, institutions and people who are keeping humanity locked in its self-destructive patterns, which can be dispelled through revolution of all varieties.
That seems to be what we’re headed toward as humanity begins to turn and face its collective enemy: either a massive explosion of consciousness, or a horrific self-inflicted extinction. But what we are definitely not headed toward is a future in which nuclear-armed powers continue ramping up aggressions against each other while ignoring the health of the biosphere we all rely on for survival. One way or the other, those days are coming to an end.
It’s no longer about nation versus nation, ruler versus ruler, group versus group, person versus person. It’s about humankind versus extinction. It’s a fight that can only have one winner, and it’s a fight we can only win together.
Caitlin Johnstone, an independent journalist based in Melbourne, Australia. Her website is here and you can follow her on Twitter @caitoz or caityjohnstone.medium.com. You can read more about her project HERE.