27 January 2013

Virtually all of Earth’s political systems are derived from and based upon specific religions and their behavioral credos. Asiatic rulers claim to be gods, descendents of gods, or chosen by gods to rule. Similarly, most European royalty have claimed to be “God’s chosen” and to have been authorized to rule “by the grace of God.” For most of the past 2,000 years the nation-states of Europe have waged wars of extreme brutality purportedly to establish the superiority of one version of their shared religion over another.  In Spain, early Christians were displaced by an Islamic invasion from Africa until Spanish forces in turn repelled the invaders in 1492.
In each case the prevailing group would confiscate the property of the other and torture, enslave or murder the vanquished peoples. With the ascension of a new ruler there often came a change in religious alliances that would spark both civil and international wars. As a detailed example we can look at England, an island nation that had, like most of Europe, been subject to the Christian Catholic religion. In the middle 1500s England was ruled by King Henry VIII, who as a young man wrote a highly supportive treatise about Catholicism. For his efforts Henry was given a title of honor by the leader (pope) of the religion: Defender of the Faith.
Several years later, Henry sought a divorce from his wife, an action forbidden by Catholicism except for very specific and extreme circumstances. But his request was denied by the pope, which led Henry the faithful defender to sever ties with the church and establish a new religious order of his own. To ensure that the new religion would do his bidding, Henry made himself the head, and he went on to repeal the many special privileges that the Catholics had long enjoyed. He did, however, allow considerable freedom for people to practice whichever religion they chose, which was a considerable novelty for the time.
Upon Henry’s death, his elder daughter, Mary, restored Catholicism and went on to ban and suppress all other religions in England. Under her rule, Henry’s Protestants were arrested, tortured, and murdered in great masses during a civil war that earned her the sobriquet “Bloody Mary.”
When Mary died, Henry’s young daughter became Queen Elizabeth. During her long reign, she restored Henry’s Church of England to status as first religion of the realm, but she also allowed broad religious freedom that Mary had suppressed. Her time and reign were still brutal, but far less so that in other European nations; and she ruled over a great surge forward in human social development. But when Elizabeth died she was replaced by a weak, pliable, and devout Catholic who once more restored chaos, violence and horror to England. That cycle would continue for another 160 years.
By the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries the political power to persecute others was considerably diluted among many governments of the planet. Yet those religious influences are still important in Earth’s affairs, and almost never for the professed purpose of making Earth a better place. Most leaders still take an oath to God, and nations believe that God is one their side—a “God loves us and hates you” mentality. Politicians still establish laws and guiding principles, selectively, based on religious sources. That is why, for example, gambling is illegal in many places, but many governments may engage in the practice (where they are typically called “lottos”) that is strictly prohibited for individuals; why prostitution is illegal in countries based on certain strict Christian interpretations, but is legal in other nations; and why warfare is the job of noble and brave young people under government orders, but killing at the individually-directed level is the crime of murder.
The argument has been made that some of the most repressive governments of Earth have not been based upon religions at all, but have actually been based on societies that have outlawed religious practices. Notable among these models are the Nazis of Germany, Communists of Russia, and Communists of China. The latter two have been the predominant political powers over most of Earth’s largest continent for the past 100 years.
Though Communism began in Russia in 1917, it is simpler to begin with the Nazi state of 1933-1945 because it is clearly an example of a redirected religion. The Nazi leader, one Austrian-born peasant of no particular talent save perpetuating hatred and discontent, was Adolph Hitler. To ascend to power he attached his cause to a historical distrust and antipathy of the Jewish people of his own part of Europe. By the time he had sufficient power to assume the role and title of Der Führer, his hatred and state-sponsored persecutions went beyond the Jews to include the disabled, deformed, retarded, Slavs, dark peoples, and many others. Early in his rise to power he was considered a German demigod, and the population literally accepted the proposition that Hitler was Germany: the nation would rise to greatness or fall into oblivion based on how well the people served their Führer. His closest cadre of bodyguards and elite troops was inducted into a religious order of Teutonic Knights, complete with the pomp, circumstance, and icons used by any dominant religion. Hitler’s Germany was not a godless state, but a state with its own god who happened to be flesh and blood and walking among the people.
The story of Communism has many elements in common with Nazism. In each case a charismatic leader was supported by a large establishment of people eager for change and the belief that such change would work to everyone’s benefit. In each case the old religions were suppressed and, eventually, banned. In each case an autocratic and delusional tyrant assumed the role of a god on Earth and then set out to destroy any and all forms of perceived threat to their power. Religions were banned, but so too was true scholarship, logic, reason, and rationalism. To even question a premise, let alone authority, could result in extreme societal retribution that could include torture, servitude, imprisonment, or death. The words “State” and “Führer” and “Chairman” would stand in for “God,” and to the same effect. To defy, in any small way, the authority could lead to eradication.
Chinese Communism started off in the Russian model, but quickly altered itself to fit a very different cultural system. This is, and has always been, the Chinese way. But in establishing Communism, China did relatively little to change from its historical governmental practices. For over 1200 years, China has been a huge empire under the political control of men (and, rarely, women) who were seen as “the sons of heaven,” and thus gods. Imperial decree was law and the society was organized in a way that largely ensured Imperial decree would be uniformly followed. Emperors were not especially tolerant of new ideas unless they could be kept under imperial control. For over twelve centuries the Chinese people saw their prosperity or poverty as periods when the Son of Heaven was in favour or not with his godly parents.
By the late 1800s the imperial situation had declined into a debased and ineffective center that was seen as overly under foreign influence. During the latter 1800s China had held firm to its policy of isolation and its people lived in ways that were almost the same as had their ancestors of five or six centuries earlier. Meanwhile, surrounding nations, including arch rival Japan, had enthusiastically embraced the ideas of the military-industrial West, and they became increasing threats to continued Chinese security. By 1911 the Chinese people revolted against their emperor and effectively brought down the imperial system. There followed 38 years of division, factions, invasions by Japan and Russia, and regional rule by warlords until, in 1949, the Communists took control of the nation. Though their titles and rhetoric sounded new and modern, the reality is that China was returned to a revised imperial system very little different from the times of powerful emperors of the past. Though Communist leaders loudly decry religion of any type, they have nonetheless established a religious-type empire anew.
Thus in Communism we see the old pattern repeated. The leaders repudiated established religions and made their practice illegal, and then made their own political entity into the new state religion. Like the earlier religion it replaced, the new order came complete with dogma, suppression, indoctrination, and blind faith obedience to the demigod ruler.
The philosophical question of whether a political system can be properly considered a religion or not is immaterial to the practice such a system requires. The net result is the same. The citizen is expected to pay some degree of obedience to a state entity that represents “The Nation” to an equivalent degree that must be paid to a religious order. “The Nation,” like the churches, may demand taxes, prescribe laws and standards of behavior, dispense punishments, and command people to engage in war. “The Nation” does not have a Hell to which it may banish dissidents, but it does have prisons and the ability to murder its own citizens if they betray The Nation. Such executions are the ultimate punishment, but need be performed rather rarely to ensure that fear of such punishment deters political infidelity. Through the various levels of acceptable intimidation that a state allows itself to inflict upon its own population, modern societies differ from the older ones by replacing religious fervor with a political dogma known as “jingoism#.” This devotion to patriotism in place of religion is generally termed Nationalism.

 [“Klaatu” is the name of a fictional character depicted in the short story "Farewell to the Master," by Harry Bates (1940). What follows here is not a work of fiction but a commentary. The author claims no copyright for use of the term “Klaatu” or references to the film, The Day the Earth Stood Stil, by Edmund North. Otherwise, the text is copyright© 2008, 2012 by Robert George Sprackland. All rights reserved.]

19 June 2012

Overview on Human Aggressiveness

I have been to Earth. Sequestered as it is near the edge of our galaxy and orbiting a rather common type star, Earth is home to a single technologically adept race called ‘human beings’ or ‘Homo sapiens’. Like many intelligent species before them, humans evolved from simpler organisms on a biologically rich world endowed with great beauty and abundant resources. In the nearly four billion years since the planet formed, it has evolved unknown millions of living species, of which an extraordinary majority, perhaps 99 percent, have become extinct. Of the millions of species alive today, the majority belong to microscopic bacterial groups and the extremely diverse and successful insects. Human scientists have so far identified and named about two million living species, and estimate that several millions more have yet to be discovered. But by whatever scale of diversity we use, we can extrapolate thus:

If the Earth currently contains just three million species, and if that three million represents just one percent of all the life that ever lived on Earth, and if Homo sapiens has been the only species to evolve on that planet with the capacity for true higher intelligence, then human beings represent a one in three-hundred-millionth of all the life ever produced on Earth. Of course, the odds for any particular species having evolved is also only one in three-hundred-million, but my point is that the suite of characteristics that make a particular creature human are indeed quite special because the several essential features needed to be classed as a higher intelligence are found in other species, too. The fact that makes humans human is that they alone possess all of those essential characteristics. Whales and elephants have larger brains, squids have faster neuronal responses, apes have opposable thumbs, and many creatures have language; only in human beings do all these features come together in the necessary proportions to allow the development of higher thought, memory, written language, and rapidly evolving social behaviors.

There is also a lack of serious competition for humans from other Earthbound species, which has not been true for their closest relatives. Earlier Homo species all became extinct after rather brief periods of time, possibly exterminated by their evolving offspring. The world’s great apes, from chimpanzees to orangutans, are all seriously endangered, again largely the result of their human relatives. From their first appearance some two million Earth years ago, humans have grown into a great many predatory roles that have led to modern populations of highly competitive, generally self-destructive, and martially adaptive creatures. In their acquisition of power and self-aggrandizement –at individual, tribal, or national levels – humans will spare no action or destructive impact on other living things or necessary resources if those actions lead to profit.

A prescient and wise man named H. G. Wells had the unusual ability of being a member of the society that considered itself the highest echelon of civilization—the British Empire of the 1890s—when he began writing some of the most potent and empathic essays on the dark tendencies of so-called civilized peoples. His early works were foundations of the literary genre of science fiction, and included The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds. In time, though, this thoughtful author decided to present a brief recitation of the history of the Earth. Among his many insightful observations on the tendency of civilizations to be overcome by self-destructive inclinations was this:

            “We are beginning to understand something of what the world might be, something of
            what our race might become, were it not for our still raw humanity. It is barely a matter
            of seventy generations between ourselves and Alexander; and between ourselves and the
            savage hunters of our ancestors, who charred their food in the embers or ate it raw,
            intervene some four or five hundred generations. Make men and women only sufficiently
 jealous or fearful or drunken or angry, and the hot red eyes of the caveman will glare out
at us to-day. We have writing and teaching, science and power; we have tamed the beasts
and schooled the lightning; but we are still only shambling towards the light. We have
tamed and bred the beasts, but we still have to tame and breed ourselves.” (Wells, 1949.)

As so often happens in very rapidly advancing intelligent creatures, humans have discovered ways to develop major forces of nature far in advance of their cultural and intellectual development. When we first learned of their early experimentation with nuclear power – commencing with atomic bombs – the Planetary Alliance dispatched me to inform humanity of the danger it would face if it brought violence and nuclear weapons off their world. Even after the dramatic demonstration that I provided of the overwhelming power available to the Alliance and informed humans that we could easily turn their planet into a burning cinder, Gort and I left Earth far from optimistic about humanity self-suppressing its violent tendencies. Given what I perceive as the probable fate of Earth, I am also obliged to provide a report on the status and history of humanity as it applies to its destructive habits.

Every single human is a member of the same, single species. Having arisen in the center of the African continent about two million years ago, one of the earliest group behaviors practiced by tribal family groups was the tendency to seek and reinforce individuality. In so doing, humans have put considerable effort in asserting the kinds of individuality that are attained and perpetuated by antisocial behaviors. Earliest of these behaviors included the fierce defense of tribal territories. While it is the extraordinarily rare creature that will not defend its space, sometimes to the death, such a fight to the death is rare. In most cases, if two animals encroach on the same resource, one tends to retreat rather than be killed. Males of such formidable species as elephants, gorillas, and wolves are apt, at some time in their lives, to be challenged by younger and stronger males. To the dominant male goes the rewards of tribal/herd leadership, access to mating partners, and assurance of passing their genes into future generations. When a young male challenges the present leader, there may be one of many resulting interactions. The males may engage in elaborate dance-like rituals, display changes in color, plumage, or posture, or produce sounds so varied as elaborate song or prolonged whines. Birds may spread their wings and utter loud noises at each other, while gorillas pound their chests and shout menacingly. In extreme cases the aggressors may attack each other, such as when wolves wrestle and rams smash their heads together. In these encounters the defeated male generally gets to retreat alive, even if injured. It is a rare thing for one combatant to suffer severe injury or death; more likely the defeated male either assumes a submissive role under the new leader or leaves the family group. Furthermore, the older – “simpler” is the term used by much of self-impressed humanity – the animal lineage, the less likely it is that territorial disputes end in either injury or death. For example, fishes tend to retreat after fairly brief displays. Even the larger and formidable-looking monitor lizards, which engage in male-male combat, rarely inflict notable damage during fights. It is among the “higher” animal species that we see ritual territorial combat terminate in serious injuries. By the time the observer encounters human beings, the incidence of serious injury between competitors increases considerably.

Humans, moreover, take territorial conflict to a much more complex level than any other Earth species in that disputes are very rarely between just two or a few individuals. Instead, many humans join in attacking perceived threats, and by learning to work cooperatively against outsiders, the outsiders adapted and learned how to attack as a group. As combat threats for group leadership became more complex and involved additional tribe members, humans had engaged in practicing gang behavior, the common first step leading to the most detrimental of group activities, war.

War has been glorified and vilified throughout human history. One of Earth’s enduring early scholars, a blind Greek poet named Homer, wrote with clarity and compassion about the horrors, wastes, and inhumanity of war. His voice, fully endowed with disdain for the activity, reverberates down the corridors of human history with authority, and garners great sympathy. Alas, sage words so often go mute around humans whose self-involvement craves power. Throughout the course of human history, whenever a tribal group has been faced with a problem for which war was believed to be even a partial solution, war has been employed whenever possible. As a direct outcome of this reality, Earth has been in a nearly continuous, indeed perpetual, state of war since before humans had learned to write or preserve their ideas in print. War may not, at one time, have been a predominant characteristic of humanity, but it has certainly assumed that role since at least 6,000 years ago. For as long as people lived in communities and certainly since the dawn of what may be called civilization, war has become one of the central activities of humanity.

To expand on the nature of war it is important to understand that it is a condition from which humanity is never free. Though no nation is constantly at war, Earth has so many nations that there is always a war taking place somewhere. In most incidents war is waged by two or more nations, but if there is adequate internal discord a country may engage in a civil war. Use of the words “civil” and “war” together is certainly oxymoronic, for “civil” refers to actions by civilians rather than by professional military forces. In reality, civil wars often, perhaps typically, occur when national factions split, with at least one group intent on taking a portion of national territory to establish its own new state. Because governmental power, and by direct extension control over the general population, is often related to territorial holdings, established governments are loathe to cede territory. Loss of territory allowed the Korean peninsula of Asia to become North and South Korea in 1953, each entity politically and idealistically an enemy of the other. Several southern states ceded from the United States of America in 1861 and formed into the Confederate States of America. It is how Pakistan broke from India after British rule of the subcontinent in 1949. Only in very rare instances does a nation undergo a peaceful and truly civil separation, such as when Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1991.

There is a single inexplicable and counterintuitive reason for the history of continual warfare: war is not necessary. Though the earliest human conflicts were understandable, the perpetuation of war by later societies is illogical. Need for land and resources became less important factors as human society developed. Trade, immigration, philosophy and abundant resources available to people made any “need” for war an illusion. Civilizations flourished because of commerce, and very few things could not be purchased across cultures, including other humans. Such human resources could be had by outright ownership in the abomination of slavery, or they could be “leased” under contract for prescribed periods of time, or one could simply engage the services of foreign experts via equitable financial agreements. Why, then, was war so regular an activity and why do Earth’s people continue its practice so enthusiastically today?

This concern about humanity’s most widely-practiced group pastime has been the subject of debate, study, and sheer guessing since humans produced their first authors. Many writers have made astute contributions to a collective grasp of just what war was and what it did. In the works of philosophers from around the planet came the universal acknowledgment that wars are the tools of death to great numbers of young men who form the soldiery. Why, then, are so many young men and, increasingly, young women so ready, so eager to march off and kill other young people? What makes them accept the murder of people they do not know, who may have done them no harm, for reasons they barely understand? How can well-raised intelligent children grow into late puberty and then join or be pressed into military service, be systematically taught to kill, and not question the ethics of their actions? By the standards of our Alliance, Earth is a world on which it is normal and acceptable behavior to raise each generation of youngsters to be ready, trained and obedient participants in the execution of other people – so long as the government determines which other people are to be killed.

To understand the factors behind the successful perpetuation of cultures of war, we need to examine the most influential components of human societies, and I offer examples from the individual up to the highest echelons of those societies.

Recall that humans are highly ego-motivated animals, both self-aware and inordinately self-centered. The keystone to self-centrism is cultivation of awareness of how “I” am different from others people, coupled with belief that “I” am also, at least in some ways, better as well. “You” may have more wealth, but “I” have a prettier wife; “you” have a prettier wife, but “I” have more intelligent children; or “you” have intelligent children, but “I” have a more prestigious job. Of course, what “I” actually want to have is the greatest wealth, prettiest wife, most intelligent children, and most prestigious job, but society quickly teaches young adults that such a suite of objects is exceedingly unlikely. Each person tries to obtain the best they can, and then engages in constant comparison to other humans. In this way people have invented universal competition, the  most basic source upon which conflict is built. In most of human history a warrior was allowed, indeed expected, to plunder the conquered. Insecure egos could add perceived value by gaining wealth, land, or slaves won in wars. Just to survive a war and have stories to tell could raise one’s status among peers. Acts that, if conducted by individuals would be considered theft, murder, and heinous crimes become heroics, patriotism, and profit for a soldier. The allure of returning home with wealth, glory and tales of adventure appeal to many, but most especially to the young men ready and eager to step away from the parental home and start an adult life of their own.

To build societies based on war there are only a very few acts of stupidity that need to be followed. On Earth, all of these activities have been successfully impressed into the consciousnesses of the dominant groups, though they would most likely deny this and take offense at the mere suggestion of this reality. But those acts essentially shout throughout history sparing no civilization: religious beliefs and faith, political adherence, nationalism, social and cultural insularism and conformity.

28 May 2012

Introduction by Klaatu

I am Klaatu. 

Not so long ago, I was sent by the Planets to bring a message to the peoples of the planet called Earth. As has happened many times before, a planet’s people was about to make its first steps towards leaving its home and, following our protocols, a patrol ship and first contact agent was sent to meet those people. I was the agent, and was accompanied by patrol robot Gort.

Unlike most other planets at the time they begin their first extraterrestrial steps, the civilizations of Earth are socially more simple and violent. Once our ship landed in the capitol city of their major nuclear power, we allowed the residents several hours to adjust to our landing before we attempted to deliver our message. They mobilized a large and formidable group of military personnel and equipment that, I had supposed, would give them some sense of security in the presence of our technology. In that assumption I was quite wrong.

I departed the craft and made the announcement that we came to visit in peace and with good intentions. As I withdrew the gift I had brought for the nation’s president, a single soldier panicked and shot me with a bullet. Army seniors took me to the Walter Reed Hospital where I recovered and also had time to meet with the secretary to the president of the United States of America. I informed him that I had brought a message of vital concern to all living things on Earth, and that the message must be delivered to all peoples – or their representatives – simultaneously. Though the president agreed to issue invitations to such a meeting, the petty squabbles among the peoples and their nations prevented such a meeting from taking place. One government would not meet in Washington, another would not meet in Moscow, and yet others would not attend any meeting at with the others would be present. Incredible as it may seem now, human leaders were more repelled by their mutual dislike and distrust than they were intrigued to learn what message was behind the first contact between their planet and an intelligent extraterrestrial race.

In desperation I sought out Earth’s most prominent scientist, and got him to agree to gather a meeting of the leading minds from all nations. In order to convince people of the power and thereby the gravity of my message, that scientist asked that I arrange some sort of dramatic but non-destructive demonstration. In the event, I arranged to shut down all non-vital electrical power on Earth for a period of 30 minutes. As per our protocols, which strictly ban endangering any life, power was maintained for air vehicles in flight, hospitals, emergency equipment, and other such devices. The demonstration was extremely effective in suggesting to the Earth people just how much power a single ship could deliver, but in a socially aggressive culture such as seen on Earth a display is interpreted as a challenge to try to overcome that power. Earth officials decided I must be caught and executed, and they shot me dead an hour before the scheduled meeting with the scientists and other scholars.

Through the assistance of a brave and intellectually aware Earth woman, Gort was restrained from destroying Earth, but instead recovered and regenerated my body. So far, I am still quite functional. I was able to attend the scheduled meeting just as the people were starting to disburse, and at that time I gave them our message. Gort and I then returned to the ship and began the journey home.

As we left the Earth, I was pondering the conditions that would allow creatures capable of such wonderful achievements to behave as they do. Among the truly awe inspiring accomplishments have been the music of Mozart and Beethoven, the eclectic genius of Da Vinci, the depth of insight of Socrates, Rousseau, and Voltaire, and the ability to observe and critically evaluate humanity as demonstrated by Aristotle, Jefferson, and Wells. There is no doubt that people are aware of the vile and reprehensible acts of aggression and violence they routinely practice, and there is considerable objection to those actions. Why, then, do those actions continue and expand? This is a question that I feel cannot be answered in short and simple terms and still hold meaning. Indeed, the overarching power of short and pithy, if less than informative, “sound bites” has become the most widely accepted form of news and factual information for much of Earth’s population. Combine the limited value that comes from a one or two sentence statement with the ease with which such statements can be presented out of context such that they are totally distorted, and it becomes easier to understand why humanity has so little real grasp of either its mass power or the factors affecting them all. Any species that would so thoroughly fail to respond to the crisis of having its two frozen poles melting seems, to me, beyond the ability to effectively understand. Perhaps humanity is simply more prone to self-destruction than it is to survival and advancement. Only time will tell.

Still following protocol, I have continued to observe Earth activities to determine how the people would respond to our message. In this, I have acted in the capacity of a behavioral biologist, with elements of ecologist added. The species has been predictable, having achieved very rudimentary space flight capability and, as we feared, sent nuclear materials into space. So far, at least, the ability for humans to take a controlled, manned spacecraft effectively out of orbit does not yet exist, although robot probes have been launched with increasing frequency over the past several years. Not surprisingly, when one of our police ships destroyed one of their Martian probes, it was not reported as a warning but as a mistake in programming between their metric and imperial measurement systems. 

As required by our laws, I am now providing my detailed report on Earth, its people, and my judgment on their suitability – or lack thereof – to join the races and peoples of the other planets. What follows is my judgment and the evidence I have used in coming to that judgment.


On a spring day in 1951 a spacecraft arrived on Earth carrying an envoy from “the other planets.” The very human-looking alien, Klaatu, bore a message intended for all the peoples of the Earth, a message upon which depends the fate of the planet. Klaatu set out to mingle and learn something of the nature of human aggressiveness, but fearful authorities sought him out and shot him dead. He was, however, resurrected by his formidable giant robot companion, Gort. Finally, and all too briefly, the understandably annoyed Klaatu addressed a hastily gathered audience of intellectuals. 

Earth, he said, had begun experimenting with atomic power and space travel. If humans continued on their historical course and bring the threat of atomic war off their small world, they would threaten the peace of the other planets. “This cannot be allowed,” Klaatu warned, and “if you threaten to extend your violence,” there would be no choice left but to reduce the world into “a burned out cinder.” “We shall be waiting for your answer,” he declared. “The decision rests with you.” 

With that he and Gort returned to their space ship and left. What would happen next? 

There seems little doubt that Klaatu would submit a detailed situation report upon returning home. In Klaatu’s Judgment, a professional biologist anticipates what Klaatu—or any other intelligent alien observer—would have to say about humanity and its potential for joining the peaceful assembly of other planets. Why are people so enmeshed in war and other violent behaviors? Are there any common threads that link aggressiveness across the bounds of race, culture, and level of societal development? Above all, do humans have the capacity or ability to abandon aggression? 

Zoologist Robert Sprackland answers these questions as Klaatu might, by looking at human societies through the eyes of a scientist aiming to explain human behavior with the same tools and models that he would explain the behavior of any other animal species. Is there something so basic to our biology that stepping away from suspicion and violence is simply not yet part of our developmental evolution? In Klaatu’s Judgment, Sprackland brings forth example after example to document a pattern that has gone unchanged since the beginning of written histories, and delivers a hypothetical outcome that forces us to face the idea that we have the intellect to make the jump to peace, but may not have the emotional stability to keep us from turning our own planet into that “burned out cinder.” 

 [“Klaatu” is the name of a fictional character depicted in the short story "Farewell to the Master," by Harry Bates (1940). What follows here is not a work of fiction but a commentary. The author claims no copyright for use of the term “Klaatu” or references to the film, The Day the Earth Stood Still, by Edmund North. Otherwise, the text is copyright© 2008, 2012 by Robert George Sprackland. All rights reserved.]