Is Mexico’s President right to think that elves exist?
Andrés Manuel López Obrador claimed an elf was captured on camera
The Daily Star is not a newspaper known for its in-depth coverage of Latin American politics, but yesterday its front page featured the Mexican President, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (‘AMLO’). That’s not because of his highly controversial changes to Mexico’s election law, but because he tweeted out a photograph of what is supposed to an elf. Yes, really.
Taken at night, the image shows what looks like an otherworldly creature crouching halfway up a tree. AMLO identifies it as an alux — which is a Mayan word translating roughly to ‘elf’. As surprising as it might be for a world leader to indulge in this sort of thing, he wouldn’t be the first president or premier to dabble in the ‘unexplained’. For instance, in 1977 then-Prime Minister of Grenada Sir Eric Gairy used a speech to the UN General Assembly to call for an international investigation into UFOs. Ronald Reagan regularly took advice from an astrologer during his presidency. Even a politician as hard-nosed as Margaret Thatcher was a fan of ‘alternative’ therapies, including her infamous electric baths (don’t try this one at home).
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To the cynics, there’s nothing unexplained about AMLO’s tweet at all — it’s just an attempt to distract attention from his current political difficulties. In any case, when it comes to paranormal phenomena the idea that elves exist must surely rank right at the bottom of the credibility league table.
And yet, as with many conspiracy theories, there’s a distinction to be drawn between taking something literally and taking it seriously. For a start, the elves we’re talking about here are not the elves of Tolkienesque fantasy fiction, but a much older phenomenon. Tales of mysterious beings who lurk in remote places and play tricks on humans go back thousands of years.
What’s more, this is a remarkably widespread belief. Though the word ‘elf’ is Germanic in origin and specifically drawn from Norse mythology, near-identical creatures populate the folklore of other cultures — including the alux of the Mayans. So, why would different civilisations tell such similar tales?
A rational explanation is that during most of our time on earth, human cultures have come and gone without leaving much evidence of their existence. If remembered at all by successor cultures, it has been as ‘little people’ prone to disappearing without trace. Indeed, it’s only a few tens of thousands of years since we shared this planet with other human species — including the diminutive Homo floresiensis (popularly referred to as ‘hobbits’). It’s therefore not impossible that our ancestors encoded the wonder and danger of these others in fairy stories.
However, there’s a problem with this theory, which is that the elves haven’t gone away. As the New York Times columnist Ross Douthat points out, there’s an obvious continuity between the sprites and hobgoblins of yore and contemporary observations of UFOs. Mysterious lights and strangely elusive humanoids: it all seems rather familiar.
What, then, could be compelling us to re-tell these ancient tales in modern form? For that matter, why is the American military now openly admitting that its personnel have observed UFOs? Could it be that our brains are messing with us — even the brains possessed by carefully-vetted US fighter pilots? Perhaps we’re neurologically hardwired to see things that just aren’t there.
It’s a troubling thought — though less troubling than the alternative.
The Mexican president believes elves exist and the Scottish First Minister believes that a double rapist is a woman. Which is the bigger loony?
Nice link to the wee elf theme.
Only one of those things has a tangible impact on people’s lives.
I’d suggest Franklin is mistaken in thinking that our brains playing tricks with us is less troubling than “the alternative” – which is that fighter pilots seeing UFOs for instance is an example of something real which we as yet don’t understand. An absolute minimum amount of research would tell him there’s dozens of video recordings from the on-board cameras which have been studied by experts in the technology and verified, and not as “a trick of the light”. Hence the ‘coming out’ by the US Congress in regarding these phenomena as proven, if unexplained.
He’s wrong, in that it’d be more troubling in my opinion if our collective brains were indeed playing such tricks on us, for what then could we trust by way of perception? Of course, we all know how memory can play tricks, and how different witnesses (e.g of a crime) see things differently, but here the topic is something which seems to be inherent in human culture, and even plays into religious beliefs, such as witnesses to miracles or apparitions (children of Fatima, etc.)
The Mexican president may well be trying to distract attention, but whether it’s elves or Elvis, genuine photo or manipulated image, there’s no point in being either dismissive or credulous. One thing worth mentioning however, is those dozens of UFOs captured on flight cameras have never posed a threat to the safety of those pilots. They simply seem to want to announce their presence, troubling or not.
It is amazing how many people struggle with that fairly simple acronym.
If a pilot observes a meteorological phenomenon or aviation event that they can’t identify, it is a UFO until it is. One needn’t presume it’s aliens, demons or the nazis who bunkered down in Antarctica after WW2.
In my long and odd life in weird parts of the world I have to say – if you get really outside of the places where modern life has intruded, you will see reality is not the same. Modern thinking seems to be a repellent to the crypro-zoological and crypto-physic, what ever they are, things out there.
It is odd – and also modernity doers not really work around them either – Modernity always wins – but before it drives off mystery, mystery has a bit of effect – that is why pictures taken of yeti and elfs and other stuff is always blurry and out of focus – they just work in different realities – but modernity wins –
Reality is not what you phone clutching sheep think it is. But that phone does impose the reality you think is the only one – by its sheer soullessness…
The world is weirder than you think – the problem is AI is releasing another reality – one very evil and anti-human – and it is not run off by phones and automobiles and asphalt roads – it is drawn to them.
You phone sheep have run off the old mysteries, but bring in a remarkably dark and anti-human new one we created and will soon lost control of…
I’m not sure how the existence (or otherwise) of elves constitutes a conspiracy theory.
Personally I think this is little more than a great example of pareidolia and elves don’t exist but don’t much care if people do. Iceland halt construction of roads to protect elf habitat, after all.
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