=1 "Space report to the United Nations of Earth"
Space Report to the United Nations of Earth
On arrival at Hyas 3, I was first disinfected inside and out to be sure that I was germ-free. Then I was admitted to the examination board of the mental and cultural quarantine for exotourists. This board consisted of five scientists, and a computer which translated the questions and answers into mathematical abstracts and fed them into my own computer, which in turn translated them into my language.
On the third day the committee asked me to give a sample of our literature, so I asked my computer for some quotations from the literature which is taught in the schools and universities of earth. It started to quote at random from Homer's Odyssey.
- “Then they let out Melanthos through the doorway and the court, and cut off his nostrils and his ears with a pitiless sword, and drew forth his intestines for the dogs to devour. Then they cut off his hands...”
“I think this one is sufficient,” said the president.
I have my computer a secret kick, and it started to quote from Dante's Inferno, Canto 28, about the tortures inflicted on Mohammed and the other heretic leaders. I knew immediately that that was a mistake too, and I interrupted with an order to the computer to give a synopsis of Hamlet, explaining to the committee that here was the foremost poet of the world language. The committee realized that I was eager to please them, and listened politely to the synopsis which the computer gave. But when we came near the end, I knew that Hamlet was also a mistake.
- “... The hero stabs Polonius to death. Ophelia goes mad and drowns herself. Her brother, Laertes, challenges Hamlet to a fencing match. The king poisons Laertes' sword and the queen drinks from the poison cup he had prepared for Hamlet, and dies. Laertes wounds Hamlet fatally with the poisoned sword, then in the heat of of the battle they exchange swords and Hamlet fatally wounds Laertes. Then Hamlet stabs the king and dies.”
Everyone was silent for a moment. It was an embarrassing silence.
“Do you have any literary works which deplore killing rather than glorifying it?” asked the president. In a flash I went over in my mind the Edda, the Ring of the Nibelungs and the Bible, the Bhagavad Gita, the Quoran, Milton's Paradise Lost, and our history books; and I had to admit: “Not many,” adding lamely: “Killing is not accepted as normal family behaviour on earth. It is just ‘literature’.”
“Indeed?” commented the president, in a voice which strove to be polite. “It seems that to kill or not to kill is still your main problem.”
Finally he asked: “How far have you integrated life on your planet?”
“It has been 150 years,” I answered proudly, “since our last war. We have a United Nations... We also have books...”
“By war you mean mass killing of your own species?”
“How many higher life forms have disappeared from your planet in the last hundred years? How many new ones have you created in that time, or introduced from other planets? How many primitive life forms have you helped to evolve to higher levels of consciousness?” I was silent.
At length the president said, “Judging by your literature, you still belong to a preplanetary society. We can't admit you to visit Hyas 3. But you may send your children, if you wish, before they are indoctrinated by the murder stories which you substitute for literature.”