Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Star Trek: The Blog Generation

Some interesting observations on facism in Star Trek from Dr. Kelley L. Ross. Also, an interesting response from Captain Ed at the Captain's Quarters blog. I bring all of this to you via Ann Althouse, which I post mainly to give more of a taste of the various commenters.

This being Star Trek, I have a lot to say. First, to call Trek fascist distorts the true meaning of the word. If one were to call Trek militaristic, that might be true, as Trek has always been about the military. But to be fair, as far as military organizations go, I don't think you'd be able to find one (whether realistic or in fiction) that is less facist than Star Fleet. It's just plain hard to see how the world of Star Trek fits in to the top down autocratic society invisioned by Benito Musolini in 1930's Italy. In Star Trek, Star Fleet is merely the military branch of the United Federation of Planets which is perhaps the antithesis of a fascist government. It's closer to a futuristic U.N. than it is to fascism, as the individual members of the Federation are permitted to keep their own culture and even their own laws.

Perhaps Trek comes off as fascist because the militarism in the show is a sharp contrast to the otherwise utopian future the show presents. Captain Ed makes this point and I agree with many of his criticisms of Trek's utopia. How did such a utopia happen? In Deep Space Nine's season three episode "Past Tense" the point is made that at some point in the 21st century, people just decided to start caring. (In that particular episode, the context was a homeless riot in the mid-21st century.) In the earlier incarnations of Trek (TNG, TOS) it was never put so bluntly, but you always got the feeling that there was a simple solution- maybe it would take an apocolyptic war in the 21st century, but eventually humanity would stop being so selfish and so bigoted and just work for the betterment of the race. It was that simple, we just had to care enough.

Captain Ed discusses how the utopian philosophy of Trek irritated him, but I'd argue it wasn't he utopian future that bugged him as much as it was Trek's view of the modern world. After all, there's nothing wrong with a perfect sort of future. But to tell us today that our real problem is that we just don't care enough is the height of liberal condescension. To many rational people (myself included) such a viewpoint ignores everything we actually know about the world.

If you can make it past the question of "how we got there," Trek's utopianism isn't so disturbing. You can search for specific meaning in Captain Picard's utopian statements about there being no money in the 24th century, but it's not so much a critique of capitalism as it is a desription of the economics of the 24th century. With technology such as replicators, the distribution of most resources comes at next to no cost. With such a cushy standard of living coming at virtually no cost, people are free to engage in other pursuits- art, science, or risking life and limb exploring and settling new worlds. Sure, this is all pretty damn utopian, but I don't have a problem with it. My problem is with the criticism of the world today.

The best of the Trek shows, in my humble opinion, was Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, which did the most to question Trek's utopian vision. It didn't reject the dream- it only questioned what it actually took to make that dream possible. Perhaps more blogging on politics, Star Trek, and Deep Space Nine at a later date.


Post a Comment

<< Home