Friday, February 10, 2006

out until march

So, just as I'm about to enter into a more regular blogging cycle, now its gonna be disrupted. Our pastor at life on the vine, Dave Fitch, is going to Russia to adopt their son, so all the church details (and the teaching of his class) are falling to me. So I'm not going to have any time for blogging until march.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Science Fiction Friday- Why Star Trek is liberal ideology.

Now I’m going to try and keep this short. My goal is to cover the role of aliens, the Borg, and Q within Star Trek as a means of understanding a more general understanding of aliens within SciFi. My analysis of Star Trek, I believe, follows through to at least Andromeda and Star Gate, if not many other current SciFi shows. This will all set up my discussion of Firefly, Lost, and Battlestar Galactica. .

So first off, it is fairly transparent that the role of alien species in Star Trek is to set up a multiculturalist dynamic, creating a diversity of story lines concerning the clash of civilizations, the (im)possibility of understanding other forms of life, and various means of solving these dilemmas. Of course the Federation has the ‘prime directive’ which is an attempt to govern the interaction of, or interference, of superior species with lesser species, as to not upset the nature flow of each species evolutionary development (it is noteworth that Stargate has problematized the flow of technology). So, within this world of aliens meeting each other, and overcoming difference (and sometimes not), we are trained into a worldview of tolerance (at least the attempt).

Now, disrupting this universe of conflicting interpretations (of democratic discourse), come the Borg. They are the figure of the Totalitarian regime, the harbingers of assimilation of all difference into the same of the Collective, waging war on everything until all is assimilated, for “resistance is futile!” This generally aligns with Cold War fears of communism.

But then we also have the Q. The Q of course were the most interesting and most god like, as in pagan god like, for Q was whimsical, capricious, and meddlesome. And just like the gods, Q acts as the measure of humanity, embodying its hopes and fears. From the very first episode (Farpoint Station) to the series finale, Q comes to test humanity (as represent on the Enteprise), to find out its true potential, or its radical collapse. In the very last episode we hear Q confess that the reason they have taken such an interest in humanity is because in humanity they see the emergence of a rival, a potential power that will one day dethrone the Q.

So basically, for me, Star Trek is nothing other than the perfect liberal-capitalist ideology.

Here is why.

Concerning the multiculturalism of Star Trek, I grow suspicious of two things. The first is the assumption that everything is fine and dandy on the home world of each alien species (or at least of all the good guys). Sure, there are some problems and disagreements, but the conflict is between different cultures, not within them. The second, and much more important, is the near total lack of economic/technological concerns within the Star Trek universe. Sure there are differences of technology between species, but it is assumed that each home world allow for equal access to the same technology among all in the same species. You never find a Klingon who can’t afford a blaster. So I would say, Star Trek is a liberal fantasy about technological equality, distracting from economic issues through multiculturalist stories.

Concerning the Borg…well everyone needs an Enemy, and the Borg embody the enemy of liberalism. The fear of liberalism is that we would be made to do what we don’t want to do, that we would lose our individuality and expression (an individuality and expression that Capitalism desperately needs in order to keep selling things we don’t really need). So again, the Borg are a pretend Enemy (totally outside ourselves) which keeps us from considering that the true enemies might be closer to home.

And concerning the Q, well I don’t have much against the Q because they totally reveal the Star Trek universe to be a hoax. For one they encourage the myth that humanity is really progressing somewhere positive (the myth of progress, that anyone can overcome obstacles and make a life for herself). And most damaging, by having the Q state that humanity is its rival, show that the multiculturalism of star trek has always been about affirms one particular way of life (the eminently America liberal way) against all others. At the end of the day we find out that the Enterprise is really the hope of humanity, but not only humanity, but of all alien life, and all other species be damned. The Q expose the fantasy if only we would look a bit.

So all that to say, I think, in general, the uses of aliens in SciFi generally conform to this multiculturalist agenda, obscuring economic matters, and therefore is a type of ideology of liberal-capitalism. And this is not a future I want to be part of.

So, where do we go from here? Well, we go to Lost, Firefly/Serendipity, and Battlestar Galactica.

But first, what is your take on alien life in SciFi? Am I being to harsh? Have I overlooked a use of aliens that upsets my little typeology?

on human rights

A response to a comments from the previous post (and me trying on some ideas)

Gordon (and everyone else) ,

I definitely understand you point, which is first and foremost a theological point about the nature of human beings. And while i would agree with the drift of you response, I would have to say that I'm coming at the question somewhat differently. While explicitly what goes around as a discourse on human rights (even by Christians) goes along the lines you suggest (that we have obligations to act decently toward each other) I would ask questions at the implicit level.

like, 1) who benefited from the creation of 'rights' during the enlightenment; 2) who guards these 'right'; 3) and for what purposes do they deploy them.

The answer to the first question is that merchants (the precursors to capitalists) benefited most from the creation of 'universal rights' because it leveled the playing field between them and the Lords, Barons, Dukes, and other land owners, shifting the flows of currency and commodity out of the aristocracy into the hands of the merchants. Some have even argued that the merchants spearheaded this discourse to wrest power from the powerful (who relied on tradition, heritage, and title). But here the exploitation is more hidden than the over exploitation between serfs and lords.

In answer to the second question, in general the guardians of ‘human rights’ are nation states who have the power (police within territory; military outside of borders) to protect these human rights. But generally, the right to have ‘human rights’ comes with the cost of citizenship. Being a citizen of the USA gives you the right to be treated humanely by the USA. And the same with other countries. If you are a citizen, then you have rights. But if you aren’t a citizen, then things get sticky. The paradigmatic example (for Agamben) is the image of the refugee because the refugee is one without a land and therefore stripped of everything but his very humanity, his body without symbolic support. Yet, these are the very people which the nation-state know not what to do.

And to the last, this discourse, guarded by the State is put forward for questionable purposed. Military intervention in the name of humanitarian aid becomes the norm in the name of basic human rights, yet prevention beforehand is not considered, nor are economic measures (like debt relief) seriously considered.

Which all comes back to my basic problem, that the discourse of human rights (while in it theological articulations within the church) tend to be used for dubious means by the State and by Capitalism.