A Martian's Perspective on Humans Part 1

About a Martian's perspective on human culture and behaviors such as money, laws, and death.

THE MARTIAN MEMO

Pending the submissions of my full report to the Council, I offer you the enclosed memorandum with some reluctance. I have spent only a short time on this peculiar planet, less than the pitifully brief life span of a single native. Though I have acquired reasonable proficiency in their languages and customs, their thought processes and history, there is still much that puzzles and baffles me. However, at the repeated insistence of the Council. I send you these notes, unavoidably disjointed and fragmentary. They will, perhaps, give some indication as to the conclusions of the final report which I intend to render immediately upon my return.

XU

Except for an inconsiderable minority, humans attach far greater importance to their bodies than their minds. One of the most elaborate games they play is centered around the proportion of exposure, both in actual physical fact and in the body's so-called artistic representation. The two main categories on the active side of this game are called stripteasers and artists; their opponent is variously called censor, watch committee, bluenose, or puritan. The advantage appears to be on the latter's side; there is a limit to exposure, i.e., complete nudity; while there is no limit to what can be forbidden or denounced.

They spend immense amounts of money, time, and energy to darken their skin, if white, by exposure to sunshine and artificial substitutes for the sun. Yet any human who has acquired this color, in various shades of darkness, at birth, is considered to be inferior and suffers grave economic and social disadvantages.

A large proportion of their communal endeavor is devoted to the making of laws to regulate human conduct. Subsequently they employ, at great coast, specialists in the art of breaking the same laws. I have not yet discovered a single law, decree, or regulation which these specialists-quaintly called lawyers-have not been able to surmount or frustrate.

Their wise men declare repeatedly that the peculiar convention embodied in certain objects called money represents the root of all evil; but they not only submit to this evil with remarkable docility, they even seek to acquire as much of it as possible. Most of this money is invested with arbitrary value based on precious metals which many of their separate units, called states or countries, are supposed to possess but which only a negligible proportion of the citizens ever see or touch.

They are all afraid of the termination of physical existence, called death-something that is very difficult for us to imagine. But no single human believes, in the depth of his being, that he will ever die. It is something that happens to others all the time but cannot be encompassed by their consciousness, which is supposed to end with this so-called death. Their experts in such matters-called priests, clergymen, and, sometimes, philosophers-talk a great deal about life after death, but their descriptions and forecasts of this state are based entirely on speculation. However, according to them it is a condition entirely preferable to life before death. Yet anybody voluntarily proving a preference for this condition-this they call suicide-is considered a weakling or a criminal.

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