Friday, March 25, 2011

Master or Mentor

What is it about us humans where we boil down the alien existence, purpose, or motivation to two things, Master or Mentor? For some reason these guys travel all these gazillions of miles to either control and hold power over us or guide us into a higher plane.

Don't get me wrong, when the subject of aliens come up my little conspiratorial mind always freaks out because I think they'll be coming in with their ray guns blazing in one hand and a "Human Pickling Jar" in the other. I have to scold myself and then vent about the box we have put ourselves in.

Because by assuming they will be either the Master or the Mentor, we are assuming they are in some way superior. Why do we so often and readily put ourselves in the inferior, victim role? Is there a lack of confidence in ourselves, our society, and our human race which is so overwhelming? Is the reaction of distrust so deeply seeded in our neuro make up?

...Well, what if these aliens are just average Joes and Janes? They could be another race just trying to understand and grow, both individually and as a civilization. Who knows, we could end up being the ones who are more advanced, break out of the Earth's hold, and venture out to explore...

Ah, there is a thought. Is our natural inclination of aliens coming in as Master or Mentor really an imposing of our very nature? Is it because if we were the firsts out of the gate we would take the superior role with anything or race we found out there?

It has some validity through history. Wars, distrust, and the need to "win" (whatever that constitutes) is prevalent in us. Of course, that doesn't mean we as a people are confident. I often find that those with the drive to always win, react in war, and be suspicious are those with the most self doubt. They assume the others are thinking they're inferior and have to prove themselves as superior.

I don't know the answer, and in actuality have only scratched the surface of the discussion here. What are your thoughts on this?


  1. Excellent article. I'm in complete agreement with your thoughts. Do continue.

    I did write one story dealing with alien life. We went to it (colonization) and immediately upon discovery, ate the critter. Hopefully, it wasn't an intelligent being.

  2. I also agree with your thinking. We have, after all, only one example of one set of people contacting "alien" beings - our own. Even when our ancestors set out with no objective than to find a place where they could live in peace (thinking about the Pilgrims here), eventually everything turned into an "us versus them" scenario. "They" eventually saw us as invaders, and "we" saw them as obstacles to be cleared out of our path to destiny.

  3. You always pose such thought provoking ideas, A. It is odd that it seems we always think of aliens as masters or mentors. Maybe it is because if an alien race did reach us, we feel they are so much more advanced then us. But I like the idea of plain Janes and Joes among us!

  4. @ Marva - Sounds like an interesting story...and I hope it wasn't too intelligent either! It also brings up a great question of what exactly is the criteria or profile of an intelligence and equality. Will it be physical similarity, dress, society many ways to take your concept. My mind is reeling right now!

    @ Piblair - So true! What makes us think our actions would be any different from planet to planet if it was such a driving method continent to continent. Have we truly learned our lesson or is it just that we ran out of places to "take over" and dominate. I have an uncomfortable feeling it's the latter.

    @ Kaye - Hey, what a super nice compliment! ((HUGS)) Though, all the Brigader have such great posts and discussions, it drives the creativity sooo much. I can see that the feat of reaching us would naturally bring the assumption of them being more advanced. It would be pretty awesome. Are we advanced enough to factor in the timeline of their solar system's eveolutionary timeline to ours? Maybe their solar system started several thousand years before ours? Of course, then us humans would want to compare their year 2011 to ours and side who was further along. I'll have to think about that and what it would mean for us.

    I'd love for your all's further thoughts on this. If you want, email me at and I'll post it on the blog as a series discussion.

  5. You're completely right. I never thought of that. But I agree we see them as more advanced because even the Johns and Janes have mastered space travel (or at least their higher democracy has). I think that, with that out of the way, we're equals.
    Remember Starwars - everyone could travel all around the Universe, so aliens weren't masters or mentors anymore (well, except Yoda) and were just normal people.

  6. I'm working on a story right now where an alien race made first contact with humans (a few hundred years from now) and sponsored us into the galactic community. So they are definitely in the Mentor role.

    The small twist I added to counteract a pervasive stereotype I see all the time in SF is that humans quickly became highly regarded in the galaxy for their peacelovin' ways. No "putting the human race on trial" nonsense.

    The aliens who introduced humans to the galaxy are rather smug about the whole thing.

  7. @ Stephanie - Oh, good point. That is true. And it was done in a effective way. Maybe it depends on how far in the future we build the story too...hmmm something to think about.

    @ Sara, that sounds like an interesting story. I like the approach you're taking with it. Can't wait to read it!

  8. Interesting idea.

    I agree with you about the Master side coming from our own nature and experience of it through history. It's probably also our survival instincts kicking in - the number one question (based on our history) has to be "are they going to help us or hurt us?"

    The Mentor bit probably comes from aliens having a different culture and starting point, and therefore a different point of view - they would probably have different strengths and weaknesses to us, and different views of what were strengths and weaknesses. So there would be stuff we could learn from them (usually dependent on the author's theme/beliefs in fiction), and quite probably stuff they could learn from us.

    I'd go further and say there's at least another category: Monster :) an alien race which we are unable or unwilling to understand, or which is incompatible with our way of life.

    Hmm... how about Minority? (Loving the Ms tonight, lol) Such as the aliens on Earth in MIB.