"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Aliens, Genghis Khan, And Armageddon–The Allure Of Annihilation

After reading hundreds of dime store comic books about aliens Robbie Flint wondered if the real McCoy would be anything like those he read about – ghoulish, humanoid creatures bent on the annihilation of the world, shaking great cities with the pounding of with their giant, clawed feet – or something else unimaginable.  The H.G. Wells War of the Worlds images were the go-to memes for Fifties comic cartoonists; and the days of benign aliens – Cocoon, ET, Encounters of the Third Kind – or the more sophisticated, intellectual notions of 2001 A Space Odyssey were still many years off. 

Image result for images fifties comic book alien invadors

It would be so cool to see flying saucers hovering over Earth, he thought, blasting New York to smithereens with death rays then disgorging their horrible crews.  In his mind’s eye there could be no gentle aliens, only those out to destroy, conquer, and leave charred bodies, collapsed buildings, and burning cars behind. 

Aliens would all have superior intelligence, advanced technology, and the limitless will for universal empire.   No Jesus Christ, no prayer, no appeal to mercy would stop them or make them reconsider their bloody conquest and return to their own planet.  They would be implacable.  They would take no prisoners.  There would be no frozen gulags or hellish Turkish prisons.  Marauders, destroyers, and killers leave nothing behind.

Robbie was in awe of these alien invaders and their absolute power. Perhaps he had been fed too many stories of Armageddon, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and the Final Day of Judgment by Pastor Jenkins, the evangelical preacher of The First Baptist Church of Aberdeen who knew no temperance.  His sermons began quietly and invoked the kinder, gentler Jesus of Sunday school readers.  He then progressed to sin and sinfulness, pointing to the worst philanderers, cheats, and and spiritual derelicts in the back pews. They had not only turned their backs on Jesus, they had as much as  hammered in the nails.  They were reprobates, vile sinners, and unrepentant fools.

His voice rose at this point and he became more animated as he could see the storm clouds of the Apocalypse brewing.  It was imminent he said, and out of those clouds would come thundering the four horsemen followed by legions of God’s final crusade who would cut the heads off every man, disembowel every woman, and impale every child on a stake to be incinerated in the Holy Fire.

By this time, Pastor Jenkins had become a mad man, a wild, inspired prophet of doom.  Once he began to invoke the fiery destruction of Armageddon, there was no stopping him.  He described the field of battle after the horsemen had thundered on – its bloated corpses, its stinking filth, its horrendous rivers of blood – and then told of the shaking, cowardly, sinful populations who were next, who first saw the dust cloud of the the horsemen’s armies, then their silhouettes against the rising sun, and finally the terrible clamor of their swords and armor as they slaughtered in God’s name.

So it was no wonder that Robbie Flint had his own childish notions of alien invasion.  It would be pretty much like that of the Final Days but far worse.  Aliens with their rays and cosmic power would upset the Earth’s poles, freeze men in their tracks on one hemisphere and burn them to a crisp on the other.  They would snipe at stragglers from sleek fighter rockets, blasting them from existence and incinerating forests, cities, and suburbs along with them.  They would reverse gravitational fields and then shake the Earth so that millions flew off into space.  Only then, only after a completely depopulated, destroyed, smoldering world remained, would they go home.

As he got older, Robbie smiled at his boyhood fantasies but never really forgot them.  The idea of absolute destruction, willful power and conquest fascinated him. He imagined Genghis Khan with an army of ten thousand men thundering out of the Steppes, slaying all in his wake,  laying waste to village after village, and nothing but carnage and death from the Far East to Europe. 

Image result for images genghis khan's marauding armies

He and his armies were known for their cruelty and barbarity, and the sight of them advancing across the battlefield in a storm of dust, the feel of the earth shaking with the thunder of 40,000 hooves were enough to send enemies into retreat; but the thought alone of this terrible, bloodthirsty, and mighty warrior would have done the trick.

Genghis Khan was a man of absolute will and power, a frightening figure of power and vengeance.  He was a horseman of the Apocalypse.

The battles were exalting in their ferocity –  banners flying, swords flashing, and thickets of arrows flying them through the dust of battle.  Armed horsemen – mammoth, incredible figures to most enemies who had never seen horses – charged through the enemy lines, slashing all from their mounts until the battlefield was littered with dead.

The Crusades were Christian but just as barbaric.  Pope Urban’s armies were sent out to destroy and annihilate the Muslim occupiers of Jerusalem, to rid the world of them and their godless, heathen, insidious religion.  The mayhem and slaughter wreaked by the crusading armies was little different from that of Genghis Khan.

The world’s wars and conflicts, long, persistent, and disruptive were more traditional – powerful armies arrayed against each other, engaged in battle.  Stalemate was the outcome of most until, like the Hundred Years war or the War of the Roses, combatants simply wore out.  WWII had a fiery, nuclear end; but it was fought like all wars - battle lines and pitched battles.

It was not until Vietnam that the spectacle of real war again appeared.  F-16 jet fighters were Apocalyptic as they rained terror down from the skies.  The destruction was Biblical and epic.

Despite Hinduism’s image as one of shanti, Om, and peace, its mythology is based on endless cycles of destruction and rebirth.  The goddess Kali is the Destroyer and the god Siva dances for its rebirth.

Image result for images of Kali the destroyer with sword

Despite our intentions to end war and to progress towards a peaceful, accommodating, compassionate, and respectful Utopia, brutal, bloody, insensate conflicts will – as always – exist.   How can millennia of violent, aggressive, brutal, human history not be of relevance? Genghis Khan is more expressive of human nature than Jesus Christ ever was. 

The Old Testament, of course, reads in parts like the chronicles of Genghis Khan.  Yahweh having seen how badly the Garden of Eden turned out, destroyed the world in the Flood.   When the world repopulated and returned to its evil ways, God sent a message to the sinful.  He destroyed the entire populations of Sodom and Gomorrah – men, women, children, and babies – in a vengeful, murderous purge.  That too did not work, and he sent Jesus to deal with a seemingly irremediable world.  His message of love, compassion, and brotherhood went unheeded, and the world now is no different than it ever was.  God anticipated this, of course, and vowed to destroy the entire universe in a fiery inferno.

So aliens, Genghis Khan, the Crusades, Sodom and Gomorrah, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the firebombing of Dresden, the napalming of Vietnam, and the nuclear intentions of rogue states are all part of the same, predictable scenario.  The comic books of the Fifties were not aberrations but prophetic.  It would not be aliens who would destroy the world, but ourselves.  The same inevitability, the same destiny. 

A few years back American boys played with He-man figures and created out of imagination and popular lore their own existential battles.

Image result for images fifties comic book covers aliens taking over earth

The New Age has tried to tame such fantasies, and boys are encouraged not to destroy things but to build them – trucks, cranes, and bulldozers are sought-after toys by concerned parents – but little boys find ways to engage the trucks in battle, to crash them, overturn them, and destroy them.  It’s in our genes.

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