Here’s David Penberthy’s “Calling occupants of interplanetary Bob”, last week:
The speech – which Brown opened with the phrase “Fellow Earthians” – was a deep ecologist ramble across a range of themes, including the possible existence of aliens, the disappearance of the dinosaurs, the fact that Bob saw a shooting star the other night and believed it was a portent heralding a new form of participatory democracy.
(Uh, that’s not what Brown said – he referred to “global democracy” as a “comet” of an idea. Is Penbo seriously a writer who’s never heard of a metaphor?)
Here’s Anthony Sharwood, today: “Earth to Bob. Little green men won’t save the world”:
A quick recap. Last week, Brown delivered the third annual Greens Oration in Hobart, in which he argued that a global government might be the way to solve the world’s environmental problems. This in itself was odd enough, but the really weird stuff was his frequent references to aliens, presaged in his now famous “Dear Earthians” intro.
What’s revealing is that neither article contains any other direct quotes. At all. If Brown’s speech was really as “wacky”, “batty” and “barking mad” as Penbo and Sharwood claim, surely there’d be some other juicy quotes in it? Some more hilarious examples of this crazy person who’s gone way off the deep-end, this mad “UFO spotter” with his “thousands of words of madness”?
And yet… neither David nor Anthony could apparently find any.
The reason, of course, is that whilst Brown did pick an unfortunately odd-sounding opening phrase (“Earthians” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, which is presumably why you rarely hear it from anyone but bad science fiction writers and crystal-wearing hippies who relish sounding weird), the rest of the speech made quite reasonable points.
I’m not sure why it’s suddenly “mad” to speculate that humanity might not be the only intelligence in the Universe, but it’s certainly something that’s exercised the minds of countless very intelligent and rational people in the scientific community for a very long time. And Brown is hardly the first rational person to suggest that one reason we might not have heard from other possible intelligences is that they might wipe themselves out before developing the capacity to contact us. Nor is it particularly crazy to note that human civilization is somewhat dependent on us not making the planet unliveable.
The biggest problem with Brown’s speech is his call for the development of a “one person, one vote, one value” global democracy. And that is because such a global democracy is more than a little incompatible with a world in which authoritarian nation states like China contain such a large proportion of the world’s population. I don’t know if Bob has a particular proposal for tackling this problem (and keep in mind, in the speech he was calling for global democracy to be an aim we work towards, not something we impose in five years involving submission to overpopulated dictatorships: it’d hardly be a “democracy” if a fifth of the voters have their votes effectively controlled by their government) but it’s something worth asking him. It’s something worth having a serious discussion about.
Or we could just call him a loonie and throw stuff at him. Obviously the simians in the cage at News have made their choice.