Saturday 22 July 2023

Saturday Sample: Citizens of Nowhere, bitter lemon


From our own correspondent

By Alan Gibbons


Stardate: xiL009877

(Earth time: June 16, 2016)

This is Orwys Interfarian on planet Earth, a small green and blue spherical, life-sustaining planet some six trillion Vetroceps from home. All across the universe, these colours, blue for the delicious combination of hydrogen and oxygen known as water, white for its fluffy, airborne manifestation known as cloud and green for vegetation, symbolise life in all its sublime, fecund, teeming variety.  Imagine my excitement as I prepare to set foot on this lush, mineral-rich haven spinning in a far distant void, certain that here, beyond numerous asteroid belts, dying stars and endless, echoing emptiness, here I would find hospitality, generosity and species solidarity.

Is the camera rolling, guys? OK, cool, let’s take our first step on the surface of this verdant, gentle world. There is a settlement up ahead, known on planet Earth as a city. Ah, here we have a large monument. It is a giant image erected on poles. Clearly, the Earthlings are proud of this, my first example of terrestrial artwork. I will interview this passing humanoid.  Just give me a few moments while I put my questions. Well, that was… unsettling. It transpires that some four or five million Earthlings are on the move, desperate to avoid want, violence and war. It seems that this species extracts base metals and fossil fuels in huge quantities in order to shred each other’s bodies in constant conflict. Still, that said, I am warmed by the sentiments expressed on this artwork.

Breaking point.

There we have it. Faced with suffering humanity, this orange man here, Nipple Porridge I think his name is, is making a strong statement. There is a moral breaking point, beyond which no Earthling would go. Look at these poor people, he is telling us. Look at their courage, their endurance, their…. Excuse me, the humanoid I was interviewing is trying to say something. What’s that? Sorry, I don’t understand. Let’s cut the transmission for a moment.

Right, we’re back. He is saying that the displaced people- or migrants- are not welcome. Nipple Porridge wants them to go back. I am not quite sure what he means by back. After all, haven’t they just come from somewhere intolerable? Why would they return to somewhere like that? Now, hold on, let’s re-run that last section so I can get this quite clear. Porridge wants them to return to an endless landscape of shattered buildings and roving, murderous armed men? What sense does that make? Sorry? Yes. Yes. Thank you. So Porridge thinks these helpless people, with their few belongings are going to harm their hosts? Have I got that right?

I think we will pause our broadcast there. This is rather bewildering. Without further information, I don’t feel equipped to editorialise. I will address this issue further in my next report.

This is Orwys Interfarian on Planet Earth.




Stardate: xiL009881

(Earth time: August, 2016)


This is Orwys Interfarian on planet Earth, investigating another aspect of the movement of poor, frightened people across the globe. I am now in a corner of north-eastern France, a fragment of a land mass called Europe. I have been absent from your screens for a little while as I researched the concept of country. The Earthlings seem to arbitrarily divide land masses into states or countries. Sometimes they find a relatively plausible reason to do this, a range of raised ground called a mountain, a ribbon of water called a river or some other geographical feature. On other occasions, they simply draw an imaginary line across a patch of ground. This in spite of the fact that the beings to either side of the line share identical DNA. Even more confusing, they lay claim to areas of water. Even though they are unable to stand on water or erect homes on it, they say it belongs to their country, even though it tends to travel back and forth in movements called waves.

Anyway, I think I can safely say that, though there is little rhyme or reason to the arbitrary setting of these lines, or borders, between the various states or countries, humans become very agitated about their invisible lines. It is for this reason that some humans board small, leaking waterborne vehicles to reach safety while other humans board larger, sometimes armed, waterborne vehicles to stop them reaching safety. This practice is called national security, which oddly, though related, appears to be the opposite of safety. I have been both surprised and appalled to discover that, rather than share out the people escaping death and poverty among them, the inhabitants of the richer countries, seem unconcerned that five thousand of the poor, frightened migrants are now lying dead at the bottom of the sea. Apparently, all life on Earth is sacred, but some lives are more sacred than others.

I asked a representative of one of the more fortunate, richer, arbitrarily-decided land masses to explain this practice of permitting people to perish or, if they survive, subsist in sub-standard accommodation called camps or even jungles (oddly, there are few trees in these jungles, which are different to the jungles that have trees and animals). He introduced me to a number of new concepts. One was swamping. This is the practice of permitting relatively modest numbers of poor people to live among rich people. Another is culture. These are the arbitrary practices conducted by some of the people in the arbitrarily established bits of land called countries. He also said that he wanted his country back even though I couldn’t find any evidence whatsoever that it had ever been anywhere else. Finally, he seemed keen to find a special prize called a red, white and blue Brexit which appears to be a kind of biscuit which you eat for breakfast on special occasions called referenda.

My enquiries took me to the jungle you will see before you called The Jungle. What made this jungle more jungle-ish than any of the smaller jungles I could not understand. In this treeless collection of primitive shacks live hundreds of poor people who would like to live with rich people across a ribbon of water called the Channel though the humans here in France called it the Munch or sleeve. I think this may be because Earthlings eat their sleeves then drink a portion of the sea to wash it down. From time to time, black-clad men and women called police shoot pieces of metal and canisters of stinging gas at the poor people to welcome them to their country. This makes the poor people angry, which leads them to climb fences and jump on vehicles called trucks. Some of the poor people fall under the trucks. Oddly, this does not lead the leaders of the rich people to change how they run their countries. Instead, they build bigger fences. I suggested erasing the arbitrary lines called borders to facilitate the movement of people where they want to go. They said I was a dreamer. I said surely I wasn’t the only one.


Stardate: xiL009887

(Earth time: December, 2016)


I have just returned from a land mass called Syria. It is from here that many people have fled across many land masses to avoid being killed. I have prepared a simple explanation of what has been happening so that you will understand why the people from Syria do not stay in Syria. Some of the people from Syria did not like the way the government (small groups of people who run the affairs of larger groups of people) governed so they protested. The government hurt their children so they protested more loudly. The government then killed those who were protesting loudly. Soon, the government was killing the people they governed and inviting people from other countries to help them kill the people they governed. Two of the biggest countries in the world had something called interests in this country far away and did not like each other so they called on different groups of poor people and encouraged medium-sized countries to help. The leader of one of these countries is rich, but does not have a shirt and travels on an animal called a horse rather than a vehicle propelled by fossil fuel. The new leader of the other big country wears the hair of another life form and likes building walls as a hobby. Other groups of people had faith in peace so they also killed people so there would be more peace, which seemed contradictory, but appeared to make sense to those involved. Anyway, that is the simple version of the story they told me and that is why the country called Syria, which used to have houses now has piles of rubble and lots of dead bodies.

On my way back, I went to see what was happening to the Jungle. When I arrived I found that the Jungle was now a patch of ground with no primitive shacks at all which the government there thought was better than a patch of ground with primitive shacks. One night the police came and took away the people and knocked down the shacks. They then moved the poor people who wanted to cross the Channel further away from the Channel. This would help preserve interests and security by not securing things in the interests of anybody, at least that is what the chief of police told me.

I am close to the end of my journey and I think I have at last made some sense of what I have seen. Most people on this planet want to live in peace and have enough to eat and drink. They want to sit in small dwellings and look at rectangular screens that glow. They laugh and stick smaller glowing screens to their heads and press small buttons and like things. They pass around pictures with untrue statements called memes. This makes them laugh and nod their heads. They do not want other people to hit, shoot or burn them or make them cross land masses or fall into salty water, but sometimes some of them get shot and burned and cross land masses and fall into salty water even though there seems to be enough food, water, land masses, dwellings and glowing screens for everybody.

The problem seems to be a word called profit. This means some people own the guns and aeroplanes and houses and food and water and screens and make money from them. Money is sometimes made of paper, plastic or metal and sometimes it is a digit on one of the glowing screens. It makes people who have it happy and people who do not have it unhappy. Profit by the way is different to prophet which is somebody who tells you something which may or may not be true, depending on your opinion. Because of profit, the extra money some people extract, not prophet, the person who tells you things, some people have more homes and food and water and screens and bombs and guns than other people and sometimes there are fights over who has things and who doesn’t. When there are these fights, some people leave their homes and end up with nothing at all then the people who have things say they will be swamped by people who don’t so they drown them or leave them in jungles. The wanting of more homes, food, water, screens, bombs and guns seems to be addictive. The more the rich people have the more they seem to want. In this process they seem to lose any feeling or sympathy for the people who have nothing.

After my six months on planet Earth, I would like to conclude my report by saying that I understand all this and have been able to suggest some solutions to its problems. Sadly, I do not and have not, but there is hope because I have seen a man on a glowing screen who does seem to have a solution. The man is called Siren Growl and may be non-terrestrial as he has an unusual square head. He says that the solution is something called the X-Factor, a quasi-magical force that makes people scream and talk into their small glowing screens while watching their large glowing screens. While they are experiencing the X-Factor, they forget the poor people that are moving around the world and feel happy.

Before I return home, I hope to get my hands on some X-Factor and discover its properties.

This is Orwys Interfarian on planet Earth.

Goodnight and may peace be with you.


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