If you ever want to really understand why shadowy government agencies continue to hide the existence of alien life visiting earth, watch CLOSE ENCOUNTERS (1977) again, and really study the behavior of Roy (Richard Dreyfuss), the immature "everyman" who makes mountains out of his mashed potatoes and frightens his family half to death with his lunatic ravings about UFOs. He's the guy we're supposed to identify with, one of the "chosen" invited to the party. And yet he's unable to accept the "truth" of the aliens until he's right there seeing them and touching them, even then he's more a wide-eyed kid at Disneyland than an adult trying to grasp this vast importance of this cosmic event. By making himself a mere patron on a UFO ride, Roy once infantalizes himself as a glorified spectator, a fan.
By contrast, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS regularly switches to the "insiders" led by Claude Lacombe (Francois Truffaut). While
There is a scene early in the film wherein a group of air traffic controllers are gathered around a radio listening to flying saucer reports from one of their planes. They ask him if he wants to report a UFO: "No. I wouldn't know what to report," the shaken but professional pilot answers.
By the terrified citizen standard, not reporting the incident that pilot is "hiding" from possible peer ridicule, but the reasons are actually more muddled: If this unseen pilot had chosen to make a report he may be ostracized, not for "believing" in aliens but for reporting the encounter, for clinging to the lie of "real" authority, expecting that someone higher up will have an explanation for him. In other words, these men in the military are forced to grasp the notion of the ungraspable real, the other, the "stain" in Lacanian terminology. By choosing to not allow the UFO into their consensual reality in this way, the pilot and those gathered maintain their positions within the symbolic order. They know there are UFOs, and they know there is no explanation for them; but they can "handle" the truth, and the way they handle it is by realizing and accepting that there is no possible rational explanation and not letting it get them too rattled. There's still a job to do. Roy can't go to work or function in society once the 'truth' overtakes him, that's why he's not ready for it.
This split between these "grown ups" and "adult children" is further borne out in a scene in CLOSE ENCOUNTERS where panicked citizens meet with government officials in a press conference. The government officials basically acknowledge that the citizens saw something that no one has an answer for. If the townsfolk were to really "hear" this news, they would just sit there, pale and shaken, but they clamor. These citizens cannot recognize that the symbolic authority of the adult government has been removed by the presence of this advanced alien intelligence. The explanation they are looking for does not exist; but this is simply not good enough for them, so they throw a mass temper tantrum, which is in itself a sign they are not ready for the truth.
Another popular consciousness movie touchstone might be examined here to see how a person can move from one level to the other. (
This is a key moment in Jeffrey's evolution as a male, and this psychic growth is something that's present in all of Lynch's films: Jeffrey doesn't panic, but rather greets the crooked cop with a smile and a handshake, as if he knows nothing of the matter. The chief is impressed and later when Jeffrey denies he knows who the cop is to Laura Dern, the chief says, "Good boy, Jeffrey." -- an acknowledgment of Jeffrey's newfound complicity within the social order. Jeffrey proves he can keep a secret, in this case the most important secret of all being the complete lack of 'truth' or solidity at the center of the social order, and this is the secret all true adults must guard. The 'dumb' citizens seldom realize that they need their politicians to lie - need to not believe in their leaders, so as to always presume there's more, rather than less, going on 'upstairs.'
We have a similar thing going on today in the world as we approach 2012: global warming, water and oil shortages; inflation, over-population, whatever you want to obsess on. We know something's up, but at the same time as long as the president doesn't come on national TV and proclaim any of this as officially doomsday, evacuate in a calm, orderly manner, say goodbye to your ass, etc., we're going to be all right. This is the trap we find ourselves in as we enter the age of total digital reality.
The infantilization of the masses by the ruling elite--both in film and in real life-- is no joke, and anyone with any authority knows that a large part of their job is simply to "embody" the "one who knows." By acting contemptuous and dismissive towards the citizenry's concerns at the aforementioned press conference scene in CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, the government agents allow the citizenry to continue to live in the illusion that somewhere along the chain of command there is someone who has the situation well in hand.
Now to bring this to our own current situation, which is the slow--presumably permitted--leak in information about the existence of aliens that's coming through on the internet, which manages to disperse information so rapidly that the shadowy government insiders would be hard pressed to stop it even if they wanted to, but one gets the impression they don't want it to. Rather, they want to continue to release the information with just enough disinformation to let them keep control. As long as there's debate about whether it's factual, we won't panic. People have an option not to believe if it scares them.
To put it in the Lacanian terms: during the infamous 3 1/2 second, Ilsa and Rick did not do it for the big Other, the order of public appearance, but they did do it for our dirty fantasmatic imagination - this is the structure of inherent transgression at its purest, i.e. Hollywood needs BOTH levels in order to function.
As Zizek points out, this two-sided reading is not only present but essential for control to exist. By a similar token, it is safe for us to believe in aliens because the government does deny their existence. Once the president comes out and tells the actual truth, civilization as we know it will instantaneously collapse, the way the
To really begin to believe in the alien conspiracy is to invite a complete collapse of values into your psyche; there are myriad "truths" to believe in, but one of the more obvious ones is that most humans are alien-ape hybrids. One of the most depressing is that we are a "soul farm" and gray-reptoid aliens eat our pain and suffering as snacks before they devour our souls. (which explains the fearsome appearance of Tibetan Demonology), and this is the reason why overpopulation runs amok, and that governments doesn't want us experimenting with drugs that will show the man behind the curtain, why they want to burn and destroy anyone who shows the way clear of bondage. It may be depressing, may not even be true, but it's one of the more acceptable all-encompassing answers to life's mysteries (the alien gene splice is, then,
The challenge is not to wonder what in that preceding morass of horrible truth and CIA disinformation is real or not, but to realize that if even one shred of it is true, just how vast and incredible its implications are. If you're not completely freaked out by the idea of alien life on this planet then you're not thinking about it clearly. You're thinking about it in the same abstract way you might think about death if you're not enlightened. You're still on the fence, wondering if its all true, still denying your own death, your own mortality, still clinging to possessions and temporal space like a kid grabbing his mom's ankles to prevent his having to go to school. You may believe in Jesus, but aren't sure if he rose from the dead, maybe believe in Santa Clause but not the Easter Bunny, and maybe you don't really believe in anything 100% and that's probably the smartest tactic, but it leaves you awfully numb.
To which Rinpoche replies:
"Have you actually realized the truth of impermanence? Have you so integrated it with your every thought, breath and movement that your life has been transformed? Ask yourself these two questions: Do I remember at every moment I am dying and that everyone and everything else is, and so treat all beings at all times with compassion? Has my understanding of death and impermanence becomes so keen and so urgent that I am devoting every second to the purpose of enlightenment? If you can answer yes to both of these then you have really understood impermanence." (p. 27)to the concept of alien life on this planet. Have you truly grasped the implications of "the truth" of alien existence? Have you overcome the egoic blinders that make you run to snap judgments and ridicule, the same defense mechanisms so overworked to keep you from thinking about death? If so, wouldn't you be spending, as Rinpoche describes "every second to the purpose of enlightenment?"
The mechanisms that keep you from thinking about death all the time are important for your functionality and sanity, but when you listen to them exclusively, life loses its scent of danger and excitement, and the dour wardens of your inner asylum start slowly taking away privileges. They only let go of your throat when they hit the wall of cancer or a gun in the face or death row... or psychedelics or meditation or exhaustion obliterates them temporarily. Is it any wonder that mind-expanding drugs are illegal and meditation such a hard habit to integrate into your life?
Or even more understandable--and chilling-- is it any wonder that even those convinced of the alien presence prefer to focus on issues of disclosure and evidence gathering, rather than actually altering their world view to the point of nervous breakdown? For once you "let it in," the truth about aliens cements so many missing connections, answers so many questions, that you find yourself on a whole other level of consciousness. Now that you believe in greys, anti-gravity propulsion, inter-dimensional doorways and reptoids, you can begin to deal with issues like the Pleiadians, angels, God, reincarnation, and the light to dark ratio of your own immortal soul. "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain," the man behind the curtain shouts. But he's doing you a favor; the man behind the curtain is you.