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An Alien Invasion Would Not Unite Humanity
A thought experiment based on actual human history.
There is a longstanding theory that an alien invasion would unite humanity. This idea has been shared by political figures ranging from Ronald Regan to Bill Clinton and portrayed in media such as Watchmen and Independence Day. With recent UFO sightings, this theory is getting more traction. Yet, the idea that humanity would unite in the face of an alien invasion is unlikely. External pressure would likely further divide humanity.
Look at history: Did Native Americans unite when Europeans arrived? In every instance where an indigenous culture faced an existential threat from an alien army, what happened was division. Many took the side of new arrivals to fight old enemies. This is true across cultures. Spanish conquistadors were able to topple the Incan empire with less than 200 men because they had native help. African tribes sold captured enemies into slavery to foreign slave traders. The Iroquois fought other Native American tribes during the Beaver Wars alongside the French. If humans would sell out their own people for slightly more advanced human technology, why wouldn’t they do the same for far more advanced alien technology?
Many conspiracy theories already claim that human governments have sold out their own people for alien technology and alliances. There are already proven historical instances of governments “selling out” their own people. If large governments have sold out their own people in the past, there is no reason to think that they wouldn’t in the future. Likewise, “selling out” could occur on smaller levels, with disenfranchised people taking a higher role in an alien power over a low-status or oppressed role in human society. It’s also possible some humans would work with alien powers to defeat old human enemies. Do you think Russia or China wouldn’t work with aliens if it meant defeating the USA? Would political movements work with aliens to stop the “other side” of a political conflict? We already know the answer based on how those movements relate to foreign powers now.
There is also the possibility of aliens intentionally dividing humans. Many claim that humans spreading "misinformation" have already divided humanity. Advanced aliens would have access to "misinformation" and an interest in dividing humans. With their resources, they could have the ability to influence human society far more than any previous propaganda campaigns. The most likely scenario is not that "humanity unites,” but humanity faces the same fate as every other native culture invaded by a more technologically advanced alien power: division followed by defeat.
The best scenario for humans is that the aliens are divided. Many alien theories suggest that there are "good aliens" fighting "bad aliens" and we can make alliances with some against others. In this scenario, humanity could make an alliance with some aliens to protect them against an alien invasion. However, some conspiracy theories suggest that different human governments are working with different aliens, the same way that different Native American tribes took different sides in conflicts between the French and British. This poses a whole new problem. If different humans have different ideas about who the “good” aliens are to ally with, then it could be a source of further division.
I write about this not because of an interest in aliens, but because this of what this hypothetical reveals about humans. During times of peace, division is harmful, but not lethal. Under stress or threat, it can be the difference between survival or extinction. In The Intactivist Guidebook, I wrote that the strength of a movement was the strength of its relationships. Survivalists know that during a disaster, people are more likely to default to their training than rise to the occasion. During a global threat, people’s relationship patterns and traumas are still there. The time to solve them is now, not under pressure. While an alien invasion is unlikely, humanity is facing many other major challenges. Changing how we relate now might be the difference between success or failure when it counts most.
P.S. Infighting among humans during an alien invasion, with many humans betraying their own to defeat old political rivals, status climb, or get alien tech would make a pretty good sci-fi premise, wouldn’t it?