Photo by Sara Schmitt

There have been a lot of alien invasion blockbusters over the years. They all follow the same general plot. There’s life from another planet that violently takes over. There are a few explosions and heart wrenching sacrifices, but they all ultimately end with humanity triumphing over the threat posed by these strange life forms who wanted to exploit
their land.

There’s no real exploration of the future, or what’s next for these people. They’ve been exposed to new ideas, new technologies and new ways to oppress their own peers, and the concept of how they overcome that, which is definitely interesting, just not in a fast paced action movie way. Would humanity have forgotten certain cultural traits?

If movie producers wanted to make some really introspective and truly ground breaking cinema, this would be the setting: a post-alien invasion world, society reeling from a giant triumph now looking towards the challenges of the future and rehabilitation. If they wanted to gain some perspective on what that kind of society would be like, there are, in fact, areas of the world that they could observe and get a pretty accurate idea of what that life would be like.

All they would need to do is go to a country that attained independence in the last 100 years or so from a once major global power. For example, India gained its independence in 1947, almost 70 years ago. Its been almost a generation or two since independence was achieved, but there are definitely people who were alive during a time when Great Britain ruled the area.

There are people who have been alive through times of incredible development and change, spanning from social issues to economic and technological development. However, all of this change happened with the lingering effects of colonialism and the various divides it made in. Even decades after British rule, there are shadows of their influence in the way the nation currently exists and functions. Going back to the alien movie metaphor, picture this scenario: the aliens come and start with simple trade at first, with a few religious forays. They start talking to smaller countries and start making alliances, until suddenly they end up by some way or fashion becoming the main power in the region.

Imagine that they start taking over education systems, distorting the local history and telling us that our institutes of knowledge and our way of learning are just plainly wrong. They remake and reorganize the legal system to their own standards, and perhaps even start punishing things that were not an issue in the past. They tell us that what we perceive to be attractive is actually quite ugly and that they are the new standard of beauty.

Now imagine this happening for a period of over 200 years. The way you saw the world would be changed, and while you would hopefully still be confident in your humanity, a part of you would then and forever afterwards see yourself the way the aliens
saw you.

This is pretty much generally what happened when a European nation colonized an area or region, and the repercussions of those actions can end up taking many years to shake off. Parts of culture that were suppressed or just done away with because they just did not fit into the colonizers’ plan of what should happen would be reduced to a fraction of their former pomp and glory.

Human history has proved that cultures manage to survive, but almost always sustaining major losses and serious damage. We manage to absorb the positives, and unfortunately sometimes the negatives, but traditions continue to stumble on. It is very important to trace back and realize what changes happened and to find those missing pieces again, if only to have something to pass on to future generations.

  • contrarianopinion

    Excellent, thought-provoking article. Certainly, Western imperialism resulted in oppression throughout the globe. But the unstated assumption of this piece (and most post-colonialist ideas in general), that native cultures absent foreign colonization were “enlightened”in the sense of Rousseau’s idea of the “noble savage” and that western oppression is largely responsible for current ills and today’s inequality between the West and former colonies, is not necessarily true.

    It is an undeniable truth that industrialized Western powers exploited many parts of the globe for their own economic gain. But it is also a truth that pre-industrial, non-western civilizations such as the Aztec Empire or the early Islamic Caliphate were at least as brutal as later European colonizers, armies with “alien” weaponry. Brutality is an unfortunately a universal element of the human condition that hardly only resides in Europe and predominantly white countries.

    Furthermore, the notion that advanced economies and ideas such as “universal human rights” would have organically formed in places that were colonized is unfounded. Would ideas such as Jefferson’s “all men are created equal” have emerged independently in say, Hindu India with its anti-liberal caste system, or the Congo? Would a silicon valley emerge in areas under fundamentalist Sharia law? While it is impossible to know for sure, the evidence isn’t there to support an answer of “yes.”

    Britain exploited the Indian subcontinent for a century, but also ended some of the most despicable practices of the native Hindu religion, such as Sati, or the forced immolation of a woman after her husband’s death, in spite of tremendous native Indian opposition. Is Mexico better off under Christianity today, or would it be better off under the religion of the Aztecs, which mandated millions of human sacrifices? Food for thought.