GOOD GUIDES? — There’s much to be learned about solidarity, community and ethics from these Star Trek: Discovery characters, contributor William Nylen advises. SCREEN CAPTURE/SEASON 4, EPISODE 7, STAR TREK: DISCOVERY

BY DR. WILLIAM R. NYLEN

I have been binge-watching Star Trek: Discovery these days, and I find myself constantly in tears as I do so. The vision of a human ideal, personal as well as social, that is balanced between the best of human emotions and the best of human intellect is so beautiful … and so starkly unreal.

Guiding principles of solidarity and community — ethical conduct — actually matter in Star Trek; they are as critically essential to that world as they are rare in our real world. Striving to do and to be one’s best is defined in Star Trek as becoming a valued member of a greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts team that focuses on solving collective problems.

Meanwhile, Star Trek’s bad guys represent either the worst of our emotions (murderous Klingons, greedy Ferengi, power-hungry Cardassians) or the worst of our intellect (arrogant Q, machinelike Borg); they are as critically evil in that world as they are ubiquitous in our real world. Selfishness, greed, ambition for its own sake, power for the sake of domination, racism and speciesism; in Star Trek, all of these are character flaws or signs of a species’ “underdevelopment.”

Star Trek depicts a humanistic and meritocratic society that has finally realized, after several horrific world wars, that solidaristic teamwork — without effacing the individualism and cultural diversity that drive creativity — is the only logical next step toward getting humankind out of the unsustainable war-based, greed-based and fear-based social orders that delivered humanity to the brink of extinction. Wasting time on excluding and repressing others is seen as equivalent to wasting the talents that the excluded and the repressed could be contributing to humanity’s collective renewal and progress.

But instead of being inspired by Star Trek’s vision of our future, I tear up.

Because, in my heart of hearts, I don’t believe humans are actually capable of the kind of massive social and cultural, let alone political, “development” that a Star Trek-like future would demand of us.

Looking around us today, it’s hard not to imagine an all-against-all future leading to the ultimate decimation of the very planet we all depend upon, including all that is most noble about humanity: its literary, musical, architectural, scientific knowledge — and the ideal of individual freedom within a universalistic legal framework that got us to this stage of history in the first place.

Nothing could look further from the Star Trek ideal than the unfortunately growing anti-intellectual, anti-meritocratic, anti-science, anti-other (racist, nationalist, religious extremist), anti-rule-of-law, and antidemocratic world we currently seem to be passing on to the next generations of humans, who, frankly, deserve better from us.

— Nylen is professor of political science and director of the International Studies Program at Stetson University. He has degrees from Columbia University, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and the University of California at Berkeley. Nylen has lived in DeLand since 1992.

1 COMMENT

  1. I had done some research online that the far-right and religious right community had spent stupid amounts of money to make STD and like comics and other such things get appropriated to try and prove or justify any narrative they want came to realize how horrible STD was sin doubt of what I had read, not wanting to believe what I the few articles on it had said and saw from the hell they dragged the gay couple, though, to the situations made worst by every other action of female characters and there use of biblical passages I just about tasted my dinner it was so bad and then the pit in my stomach when I realized how others might react when others trying to use STD to defend justify or try to identify or understand their various reasons would get met with the Religious evangelicals or political right hate mongers sponsoring the narrative of STD into justifying their hatred of the fans to tell them it is not absolute, and only the commercials and hate is really not the adeptness of any of it since it is fictional fantasy to justify there brutality as thous in the nerd community get met with I often consider Revenge of the nerds almost a copout and betrail as to trying to teach rapeing hate mongering jocks how to do what they do better.

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