Na´ve or Groundbreaking?
(Book Review: Title, "The Truth"; Author, Joe Firmage; Publisher, Self Published. For more info visit www.thewordistruth.org ck)
Like the aftermath of a particularly vicious car wreck or one of the moreentertaining episodes of the paranormal show "Sightings", "The Truth", written by Silicon Valleys own Fox Mulder, Joe Firmage, while unsightly, somewhat badly executed, and often just flat out wrong, proved a compelling read.
I simply couldnt avert my eyes away from the wreckage of someone trying to combine spirituality with a decidedly Space Odyssey leaning vision of alien interventionalbeit a relatively benign and nurturing alien interventionapparently Joe has never seen the Damon Knight penned Twilight Zone episode "To Serve Man".
Yet, before I attempt to describe the bizarre mess that is the condensed online 240 (There is, God Help Us, a 600 page version out there, not yet available.) page version of "The Truth", let me add just a bit of back history for the reader.
Unlike many other alien visitation enthusiasts that Im aware of, Joe Firmage is quite wealthy. He used to be a prominent Silicon Valley executive, in fact, he probably still is. Except that ever since he publicized his X Files inspired ideology to the world, his friends at USWebthe spectacular web company Firmage helped foundhave insisted that his public role be, well, less public. (For a great read about Firmage check out the April 1st edition of Rolling Stone where hes profiled in the story called "Lost in Space". You can also find him being interviewed in the online version of Upside.)
To get back to the text, however, "The Truth" can be described in three ways: The Good, The Bad, and the Strange. Arrogantly billed more than just nonfiction, this book, nonetheless, is like a lot of great science fiction in that its primarily a book of ideas. And lots of them. It could be billed as Firmages personal grand unification theory: it delves into history, science, religion, capitalist critique (Boy, that must have gone down well in the Valley.), and the alien role in all of the above.
First, the Good: I would say Mr. Firmage saves his best for last. For on page 229, Joe informs us that hes going to put his money where his mouth is and create a website called Earth City.
Ill let Joe describe it in his own words:
"It will be the ultimate portal and commerce web site, but with the fundamental purpose of restoring power to the individual citizens of Earth who wish to reclaim their world from a dangerously materialistic economy and liberate themselves from the shackles placed around their necks by investor motives "
Now, thats great stuff. I mean, Long Live the Revolution.
Furthermore, because of his rep as a code cruncher and web whiz consultant (his own website, Kairos, is stunning and stylish), is that he might just have the chops to pull it off. I mean, if I say Im going to build a space station or adopt Robert Zubrins ideas and fly off to Mars, your appropriate response should be barely muted laughter and strident ridicule. However, if a Paul Allen or a Jeff Bezos promises the same thing, well, I wouldnt be so quick to mock. So, Im not laughing at Earth City.
The other thing that I like about "Truth" is that its very critical of the crass commercial culture. True, he wants to replace it with some dopey make believe religious culture, but I can agree with his initial point. Frankly, he says things that I would never expect to come from the lips of your average Silicon Valley Tycoon: namely, that the consumer culture is destroying the biosphere.
The third major aspect of "Truth" that I found compelling were his personal reasons for publishing the work. ( You can download a condensed version off of his Kairos website, just like I did.) I believe that hes being very truthful when he gives us five reasons why hes even publishing his ideas.
Number one being "I have no economic motive in advancing this hypothesis or these materials." Thats certainly true. Hes not doing this for the money.
However, all is not well in Truthland.
Second, the Bad or Enter the Darkside: Theres much more thats wrong with "The Truth" than is right. First off, its very title resonates with both arrogance and a kind of zealotry. It would be more accurately titled "Joes Special Version of Reality". The writing at times is just awful, full of New Agey exclamation points and such. "What symphony is Life!" is one example. Its also written, it seems, for someone who has never read a book beforeor, perhaps, written by someone who had never written or edited a book before.
As kind of a jittery agnostic myself, I found his take on religion to be the most troublesome. Its not the fact that he has religious beliefs that bother me (Hes a descendant of Brigham Young), or the fact that he believes that many biblical events could be reinterpreted as alien visitations, but the fact that he wants to convertastonishingly enoughthe entire scientific community to some vague notion of "spirituality"--whatever the Hell that meanswhich I find to be disquieting.
Im going to quote him in full here, from page 76 of the "Truth". You can judge the "Truth" for yourself.
"Do I propose a return to orthodox concepts of religion? No, but I do propose that science reunite with spirituality. I believe there are greater reasons than just good sense to do this. I believe that this is not the first time beings have asked and answered this question in this way. As both a student and a teacher of sorts through this book, I ask a question to scientists: would you reevaluate your posture against the historicity of the greatest ritual traditions of our heritage religion if I showed you how to use vacuum energy to warp gravity upon convenience, enabling travel at effective speeds far greater than the speed of light? If I showed you the way an "angel" could come down from the "heavens" and teach, would you listen to my hypothesis? Would you reconsider whether systems of belief in love and truth, ground in faith to the ultimate power of a higher order to which we aspire, are important to our future?"
I would hope that any self respecting scientist would offer a flat out resounding "No".
To me, these kinds of statements raise far more questions than they could ever answer.
What does he mean by reuniting? Dont Christians oppose evolutionary theory and the Modern Era in general? How would spiritual expression work exactly? Holding hands at MIT, CIT, CMU and Stanford? What religion would this "spirituality" be channeled through? Jehovah Witnesses? Mormons? Scientology? Taoism? Or can you buy spirituality at the store? How does he know that most scientists take a "posture" against religion? According to surveys Ive read theyre just as brainwashed as everybody else What is the ultimate power of the higher order? Are those the aliens? Should l worship the aliens and if so which ones? Alien Grays? Tall Nordic Time travelers? The Cardasians?
The other problem here, aside from the fact that what hes offering is a bribetactics which should be beneath anyone who writes "The Truth"--is that he misconstrues superior tech with superior beings. Apparently, if you follow his logic, the aliens really are our friends nurturing us to some higher level, we hope. But just because somebody has superior tech doesnt mean I should worship them. Theyre just older and wiser. I dont build idols of Eric Drexler or Hans Moravec, either. Why should I worship aliens who have been around longer. Space futurist Gerard K. ONeill once wrote that if we met an alien species that on average they would be 100 thousand years older than we are. To use Star Trek terminology, every advanced race we met would be like the Q.
More than likely, when we advance to the stars we will encounter a primitive race or two, should they worship us because we have teleportation and nantech? Of course not. And any advanced race that wanted worship would by its very actions not be "advanced". And where he gets love and truth in all that, hey, Im lost.
Then theres this real sneaky thing that he does which I find kind of subtly irksome, but irksome nonetheless. Hes constantly quoting Carl Sagan to his own ends, and Sagan, judging from his writings, was an unapologetic athiest to the bitter end, who also stood out as the scientific communitys leading debunker of UFO myth. I mean, heres a quote from Sagans classic "Demon Haunted World" where he asks people to reject:
Astrology horoscopes, faith-healing, UFO "abductions," religious miracles, New Age occultism, fundamentalist "creationism," Tarot card reading, prayer, prophecy, palmistry, Transcendental Meditation, satanism, weeping statues, "channeling" of voices from the dead, holy apparitions, extrasensory perception, belief in life after death, "dowsing," demonic possession, "magical powers" of crystals and pyramids, "psychic phenomena" etc.
Someone who claims to be speaking "The Truth" might be a bit more forthcoming about his sources. While Im sympathetic and open minded about UFO cases like Roswell and certain inexplicable adduction cases (two quick points: the absence of evidence doesnt mean evidence of absence and two, if you truly believe that the government doesnt lie to us about important things then their denials about Roswell and Blue Book can be believed faithfully), Sagan, if he were alive, would denounce Firmages whole treatise, condensed and otherwise, as hoax and bunkum. I would be surprised if Sagans estate didnt file a formal complaint.
Third, The Strange: Theres a certain naivete throughout this work. And its not just the fact that a 28 year old keeps referring to young people as "The Youth", a point also brought up in the Rolling Stone interview, but its his whole notion of what might bring about change. Apparently, again according the RS interview, hes surprised that the impact of the web publication has yet to change the world. What a shock. Of course, as any writer would be happy to tell you: just because you write the truth, it doesnt mean that anything gets changed.
So, Im going to go out on a limb here and offer some suggestions if you really want to change the world.
Make Some More Money: Im sorry but your reported net worth of $35 million just doesnt cut it. I believe that in Silicon Valley they call people like you "Peasants". Theoretically, I think that you could change the United States, and subsequently the world, for under a billion. But you need at least a billion. Come on. Get with the program.
Build Independent Political Parties: If you really want to change the world, then you have to create more than a snazzy website. You need major independent political parties. If you had that billion or so, I would recommend fully funding struggling wannabees like the Greens or the New Party. Money would go towards things like advertising campaigns and professional well paid staffs to get set up in the major states.
Build Independent Media: Hey, you are a "Youth" and therefore you understand this wacky New Media stuff. Cant afford to promote Green Party candidate This on CNN or New Party candidate That on Fox News? Then create your own channels. Earth City, with its fine idea of conscious consumerism, could be a great focal point.
Give Public Citizen a $5 million grant and ask them to create a daily electronic progressive paper. They already have staff and infrastructure. They just need money and web consulting. Know anybody? Further, insist that they name names and offer alternative policies. Its your money. If you have to be private to do that, then go private.
My own personal favorite is combining politics with music.
First videos by Sonic Youth, Steely Dan and Coltrane, then a public service announcement by the likes of Ralph Nadar or Noam Chomsky, or one of your faves, UFO expert Stanley Friedman. Use subtlety and repetition. The world wasnt ruined in a day, it wont be saved in one either. Think ten years, minimum, before you see any positive change.
Think Outside the Box: Joe Firmage meet Marshall Savage/ Lazarus Long and vice versa. Savage, also written about in this our premier issue, is the author of Colonizing the Galaxy in 8 Easy Steps. The first step is building colonies on the ocean and Lazarus is taking that first step, which is good. Whats bad is that its a monarchy. Perhaps you can improve on the idea. Instead of trying to change this society, which might be impossible even with billions at your disposal, build some new ones. Lazarus net is even less than yours I think. If he can do it, then maybe you can to.
Create a new democratic society and show the world by example.
True, its not as easy as creating a snazzy website, but you might get more done.