Levellers

Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Star Trek: Science Fiction for Progressives

Okay, first of all, I haven’t seen the new movie, yet, so there are no spoilers here.  Second, I don’t want to be too politically correct.  Conservatives can certainly like the Star Trek universe.  (I hear they are especially fans of the Ferengii and have many posters of Quark. Go figure. :-) ) I am a strong progressive, but love the Terminator movies and other films with conservative themes like Bruce Willis’ Die Hard series. (Although the Die Hard movies aren’t QUITE as rightwing as many wingers seem to believe.  After all, a prevailing theme in the films is of hi-tech thieves, motivated by nothing more than capitalist greed, are the real villains.  They pretend to be terrorists, taking advantage of conservative government hyper-fear of terrorism to provide cover for real crimes.  Hint, hint.  Is this too subtle?)  We all have our guilty pleasures.

But I do think that Star Trek is a fairly progressive/liberal science fiction franchise.  It’s a basically hopeful vision of the future.  It offers up a future earth that has survived war, terrorism, and ecological disasters and forged a global government of representative democracy (we are never told this, but it must be some form of federalist system to avoid tyranny).  Hunger and poverty have been overcome.  Most diseases have been conquered and high quality universal healthcare is available for all.  Education is free and the world is highly literate with most people going beyond secondary education.  It’s a clean energy society that is eco-friendly. (In Star Trek IV, the Enterprise crew in their stolen Klingon ship actually go back in time  to the 20th C. to keep whales from going extinct–and in the process save the earth of their future.) There is finally global racial harmony.  And, despite the micro-mini-skirted uniforms that reflected the fact that the original series was made in the ’60s, we finally have gender equality, too.

Even moving beyond terrestrial concerns, Star Trek paints a hopeful future not of a terrestrial-based galactic empire, but a United Federation of Planets–that eventually even includes the Klingons.  The Starfleet ships are armed–Roddenberry’s humanistic vision is liberal, but not pacifist–but their main purpose is exploration and diplomacy.  They try to avoid wars.  (It would be hard to write a pacifist space adventure series that would still find ways to be action-oriented–but I write that as a challenge that I hope some will take up.) And, although often violated, there is a strong attempt to avoid repeating the grim histories of imperialist colonialism and neo-colonialism through a “Prime Directive” of non-interference in pre-space cultures and non-interference in the internal  politics of even space-faring worlds.  The problems still to be faced are the problems inherent in civilization.

I don’t mean to suggest that there are no problems with Roddenberry’s vision.  Several come quickly to mind:

  1. I could never comprehend the Star Trek economics.  Money has disappeared. So how are goods and services exchanged?  A galactic system on the barter system?  The Ferengii certainly show capitalism at its worst (and I find it very fitting that their planet is horribly polluted and their society so patriarchal that the women are required to be naked all the time and to remain homebound!), but at least their economics is recognizable.  I am a democratic socialist, but NOT a Marxian communist.  I can’t buy the Marxist dream of the withering away of the state, never mind the withering away of money!
  2. It is a very secular vision.  Not until Next Generation explores Klingon religion and Deep Space Nine explores the faith of the Bejorranns do we see any exploration of spirituality.  Star Trek projects a rationalist view of the future that I do not share.  The Roddenberry vision still sees science/logic and faith as locked in eternal warfare.  This is a modernist outlook that our post-modernist world has, thankfully, begun to question. (Although, international readers take notice:  Here in the U.S., the Bush admin.’s utter hostility to science has led to a resurgence of modernist “scientism” among progressives.  The “faith vs. reason” framing that I thought we had begun to transcend in the ’90s is back with a vengeance. Sigh. Thanks, AGAIN, George.) I also like that the movies and the later series flesh out what the original series only hinted at: that even the Vulcans were not completely empiricist, having numerous meditation techniques and disciplines–even for their devotion to logic.  Like our Zen Buddhists, or some forms of Quakerism or Unitarianism,  the Vulcans may have purged the supernatural  from their worldview, but they have not been able to abandon some form of spirituality, including heavy doses of ritual.
  3. There is an Enlightenment/modernist disregard for tradition in the Roddenberry vision and in progressivism itself.  It can easily become rootless.  Of course, this is endemic  to pioneers.  Explorers and pioneers who leave home to find out what’s over the next mountain or the next wave or beyond the next star are a decidedly rare breed in human history.  They leave home and home traditions behind–but bring more home traditions than they think.  Yet they cannot be traditionless.  In the new place, they forge new traditions–and more of what they once knew will  work itself in that they consciously intend.  I have a healthier respect for tradition and received wisdom.  I think there needs to be a constant creative tension between tradition and innovation.

In general, I think, conservatives paint their ideal societies in the past.  In a lost Eden or a lost Golden Age or swallowed Atlantis.  They idealize the 1950s of Leave It to Beaver and Father Knows Best or they idealize an Old Europe or Puritan New England or the First Generation after the U.S. Revolution or life on the American Frontier (Little House on the Prairie)–or Ronald Reagan’s America.  The real history of all those eras was not so idealistic, of course. Wally and the Beav may have been oblivious to it, but the America of the 1950s had a Cold War, McCarthyist witch-hunts, a war in Korea, and deep segregation and the beginnings of the great challenge to segregation.  I could complicate the pictures of the other “golden ages” too.

Even when conservatives paint hopeful pictures of the future, they tend to be projections of a return to the idealized past:  Lost in Space shows the patriarchal nuclear family structure of Father Knows Best in the future.  And those science fiction shows simply had no black people, indeed, no non-whites, in them–not even in subservient roles.  It’s no wonder that African-Americans in the 1950s and 1960s viewed those shows as genocidal–they seemed to take place after an (unmentioned) racial genocide.  And no wonder that civil rights leaders like Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. were fans of Star Trek, which featured prominent roles for African Americans!

The conservative regard for the past  is not completely without merit.  We all search for a “usable past.”  The Hebrew prophets appealed to past actions of God  and past eras of greater faithfulness in order to call Israel/Judah to repentance and reformation.  We do well to judge ourselves by the ideals of our forebears at their  best. But we also do well to remember their failings and faults and to refuse to make idols of either our forebears or the times in which they lived.

Progressives, by contrast, tend to be more like the Church Father Irenaeus than like Augustine of Hippo:  we tend to project human perfection not in an unfallen past, but in a redeemed future.  But this also has its limits.  It easily falls into the trap of the Myth of Inevitable Progress.  Progress comes only through struggle and never without set-backs and pain.

Still, I remain a progressive.  I grew up in Florida–a mile from Cape Canaveral until Junior High.  I watched Apollo rockets and later space shuttles take off.  I had a poster of Neal Armstrong (as well as Jacques Cousteau).  My Christian commitments lead me to modify Roddenberry’s vision, but the Star Trek vision of the future still resonates with me.  In this time of economic recession and multiple perils, may we all “Live Long and Prosper.”

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May 10, 2009 - Posted by | arts, entertainment, science-fiction

29 Comments

  1. But Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush seemed to have a utopian view of the future. Of course, some of that may have been due to their liberal background or that of their ideology. Reagan was once in the United World Federalists, and neocons were ex-liberals.

    Comment by James Pate | May 10, 2009

  2. Sorry, James, but they prove my point. Reagan’s projection of a Utopian future, like Lost in Space was just a projection of his idealized view of America’s past projected onto the future. And W, at least post-9/11 had a very Dystopian view of the future–unless you want to argue that his idea of a “war on terror” lasting 50 or more years was his idea of a hopeful future.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | May 10, 2009

  3. I meant more W’s view that the world (particularly the Middle East) would become democratic, and that peace would erupt throughout the earth. My impression of Reagan was that he was somewhat the same way, even though he may not have been as interventionist as W. But, yeah, there was also a traditionalist component of Reagan’s ideology (though I seriously doubt he wanted a future in which there’d be no minorities).

    Comment by James Pate | May 10, 2009

  4. James, you’re right that W did have a Utopian view of what preemptive war could accomplish if peace-and-democracy-through-war can be described as Utopian. I think he expected that coups and revolutions would break out everywhere. I still don’t find that particularly progressive–just naive.

    Reagan, on the other hand, expected the Cold War to last forever, despite his “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this war” speech. I think he was just playing to conservative crowds. He never expected Communism to collapse. Instead, he seemed to expect the rapture and global thermal nuclear war.

    He was VERY interventionist, but on a smaller scale. He used special ops troops and the CIA to overthrow regimes he didn’t like in Central America.

    As to whether he wanted a future without racial minorities, I can’t speak to that. But Reagan was Gov. of Calif. during some of the Civil Rights era and defended a “kinder, gentler segregation”–or, at least, the rights of states to have segregation. He was quick to call out the CA National Guard against demonstrators. Reagan’s political career got started nationally making a campaign commercial for Goldwater, who opposed the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

    When Reagan began his own run for the presidency in 1980, he launched it in Philadelphia, Mississippi, site of the slayings of 3 Civil Rights workers (Goodman, Cheney, and Schwerner) in 1964–and the speech with which he launched his campaign was a defense of “states rights,” which had been a Southern code for defending segregation. (Just as W began his presidential run at the infamously racist Bob Jones University.) Reagan engaged in “soft” racist rhetoric throughout his career most of his judicial appointments were known racists. (He privately referred to Thurgood Marshall as “the Coon on the Court” according to shocked aides.) He openly supported the racist apartheid regime of South Africa.

    So, whether his vision of the future was genocidal consciously, I think he would clearly prefer the vision of Lost in Space to that of Star Trek.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | May 10, 2009

  5. I’m not convinced that Reagan expected the Cold War to last forever. Granted, there were conservatives who believed that it would, but my understanding is that it was always Reagan game plan to challenge the Soviets to a spending contest on defense, and then that would bankrupt the Russians. As you know, he said his strategy on the Cold War was for the Soviets to lose. While he believed in Armageddon, Bud MacFarland said that Reagan’s goal was to prevent that battle.

    On racism, I had never heard of Reagan calling Thurgood Marshall a “Coon,” and my google search turned nothing up. Is there a book you read that in?

    While you’re right that he spoke against the Civil Rights Act, there were also positive things that he did for minorities, such as revising the California state civil service exam to make it more fair. He was taught by his parents that racism was wrong, and he supported integration in a number of cases. I discuss this more in a post I did, “Reagan and African-Americans,” which is quaint in some areas, but it has some good information.

    Comment by James Pate | May 10, 2009

  6. The “Reagan deliberately outspent the USSR into non-existence” meme is a GOP myth. This claim came AFTER the break-up of the Soviet Union under Bush I. Reagan built the huge Cold War II arsenal because he believed that it would be USED against the Soviets.

    The Marshall remark is one I read but I am drawing a blank on the book since it was several years ago. It’s enough of an inflammatory remark that I should not have relied on memory. It may be apocryphal since it was supposed to be an insider’s account. I admit that I never heard any public slurs like with Trent Lott, etc. But Reagan’s politics always worked to undermine advances against racism–especially his judicial appointments. And I remember the Phil., MS speech like it was yesterday. Also the defenses of SA apartheid. But there was always a polite veneer; the ugly racism was usually done by Reagan subordinates or apologists–giving him plausible deniability.

    Modern movement conservatism is built on a coalition of 3 not-entirely-compatible elements: 1. Libertarians. 2. Militaristic nationalists. 3. Social conservatives (who would need BiG government to enforce some of their desired social conservatism). The third element built on Nixon’s Southern strategy, wooing racists fleeing the Southern Democrats after 1965 and added a wooing of religious fundamentalists (with some overlap). Reagan was the first to make thi volatile mix appear to work. In reality, the nationalists and the libertarians won more often than the social conservatives under Reagan. Under W, the social conservatives and the militaristic nationalists (now morphed into neo-cons) won to the detriment of the libertarians.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | May 11, 2009

  7. Hey, I’m not sure whether this edition is ideological purity, but saw the movie yesterday and loved it. My son, apparently, is more of a purist and insists he won’t see it. Oh, well, still good stuff!!!

    Comment by Bob Cornwall | May 11, 2009

  8. Excellent analysis. I agree that Star Trek was essentially a liberal vision for the future. I’ll link to this post in a few minutes.

    Comment by John | May 11, 2009

  9. Thanks, John, but with your Ferengii icon, is this an endorsement or panning of Star Trek?

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | May 11, 2009

  10. I probably won’t get to see it until next weekend, Bob. I saw an interview with Roddenberry’s son who thought his dad would love the new film. The franchise had hit a dead end after Roddenberry’s death. Gene had been worried that Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country which was about the end of the Cold War with the Klingons seemed too militaristic in tone. He intended that to be the last film. But the later seasons of Deep Space Nine and The Next Generation were more militaristic vis-a-vis the Founders and the Cardassians. The final movie, Star Trek: Nemesis rightly bombed (it stank) and the 3rd season of the pre-quel Enterprise jumped the shark and had to be pulled for low ratings. The franchise was effectively dead. The only way to restart it and give it an open future was with an “alternate history” time story. And so, the future is once more open and hopeful.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | May 11, 2009

  11. On the American Experience documentary, I recall Robert MacNamara saying that there was talk in the 1980′s of us winning the nuclear war. But I also vaguely recall quotes by Reagan long before he became President about his strategy to bring the Soviets to economic collapse. I may have read them in Reagan’s War, or some book like that. But Reagan was not someone who actively desired a nuclear holocaust, since he spoke out against nuclear war for years and supported SDI as President.

    I also don’t think that Reagan supported Apartheid. He noted that the South African government was desegregating things, which it was. I once read a speech by Botha that bragged about South Africa reversing Apartheid. Also, a conservative argument against disinvestment at the time was that it deprived South African blacks of jobs.

    On the Southern Strategy, you could have something there, but there are those who argue that race wasn’t a significant factor in the South becoming Republican. Rather, the South was becoming prosperous in the 1970′s. Bruce Bartlett goes into this more in his book Wrong on Race, which offers documentation, even if you don’t agree with him personally.

    I also don’t agree with liberals’ tendencies to seek racism behind “code-words,” like “law and order” and “states’ rights.” Maybe people were legitimately concerned about law and order in the 1970s and 1980s!

    Comment by James Pate | May 11, 2009

  12. SDI was a fantasy born of a Cold War desire to trust science fiction technology that didn’t exist over diplomacy. In fact, the original version of SDI, pushed by the rightwing science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein to Reagan as “High Frontier” called for placing nukes in low orbit!!

    Yes, divestment deprived SA blacks of jobs. Which is why economic sanctions are a tricky tool to be used with care. But the SA blacks CALLED for the Divestment strategy, saying they didn’t have the jobs anyway and that subsistence level jobs were no substitute for freedom–something that CONSERVATIVES argued whenever faced with the full employment of the Eastern Bloc. But none of that had anything to do with Reagan’s “constructive engagement.” He was a racist who saw all attempts are overthrowing apartheid as communist inspired.

    The idea that the race wasn’t a significant factor in the South becoming Republican is ludicrous. On the day he signed the Voting Rights Act in ’65, LBJ told Bill Moyers, “We have just delivered the South into the hands of the Republicans for at least a generation.” Strom Thurmond, Jesse Helms, Trent Lott, Jeff Sessions, and many others were former racist Southern Democrats who switched parties to stay with the party against racial justice. Many, like Helms and Thurmond, said so out loud.

    The Religious Right coalesced not around opposition to abortion, that came later, but in defense of Bob Jones University’s racist policies. The South hated private schools as long as public schools were segregated and private schools were Catholic schools. But after desegregation, Protestant segregation academies flourished and the Religious Right started arguing for taxpayer-funded vouchers for private schools (also the South became more Catholic due to migration patterns).

    The Sun Belt prosperity did have something to do with the rise of Republicanism, but more because of the South’s anti-union laws than because of rising wealth per se. (Studies have shown that while the ULTRA-rich vote Republican, overall higher income levels tend to vote Democratic because it usually reflects higher education. Education is a liberalizing force not because universities are full of socialists (some are, some aren’t), but because education, unlike indoctrination, always exposes people to more possibilities. So, a significant % will become more tolerant and socially liberal.)

    About code words. Of COURSE people were legitimately concerned about law and order in the ’70s and ’80s. But that doesn’t mean that code words didn’t exist. The majority in prison are white (though African-Americans and Latinos are higher in proportion to their % of pop.), but the FACES of crime were always faces of color. For crying out loud, Nixon had snipers on rooftops firing down on black and Latino neighborhoods and used the police, National Guard, and FBI as a de facto occupying army in many cities! Reagan was a little more subtle, but not much. Karl Rove’s mentor Lee Atwater got his start with Reagan before the infamous Willie Horton commercial for Bush I.

    And, although there is a legitimate debate over the degree of federalism after the 14th Amendment, “States Rights” WAS the battle cry of the segregationists. They put it on billboards that called for the impeachment (or assassination!) of Chief Justice Earl Warren after the unanimous Supreme Court decision of Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. Mississippi had an official commission dedicated to keeping segregation forever which coordinated the White Citizens Councils, the KKK, assassinations, cover ups, jury nullifications of murder trials for white on black crime, etc. This official commission was called “The Sovereignty Commission,” as in “Mississippi is sovereign and can ignore federal civil rights laws if it wants!” (The records of the Sovereignty Commission are sealed. If a federal court were to unseal them, and similar efforts in AL, LA, GA, SC, and possibly TX and FL, it would end the political careers of many still alive and still in office. Some would go to prison since there is no statute of limitations on murder.)

    If Reagan had launched his presidential campaign in St. Paul, MN with a speech on states rights, you might have a plausible claim that it was not coded racism. But when he launched it less than a mile from where 3 of the most famous’ civil rights martyrs’ bodies were found only 25 years earlier (with their killers’ accomplices still free and living in town, some in high office) in Philadelphia, MS with a speech on “states rights”–there is NO mistaking the meaning. I lived in FL at the time. EVERY Southerner understood the meaning, whether we were pro or anti racial equality. It was openly discussed on the evening news and around dinner tables and in barber shops, etc.

    To deny that coded racism is to not deal with reality, James.

    I’m not saying you are racist. I am not saying that all conservatives are racist or even all who admire Reagan. But there is no denying the racism that was part of the Southern Strategy which built the winning Reagan coalition. Reagan opposed the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. He opposed the creation of Martin Luther King day as a national holiday. He nominated Renquist first for justice and second for Chief Justice and Renquist argued that Brown v. Board of Education was wrongly decided. So did Reagan’s most infamous nominee, Judge Bork. So did Scalia.

    Wake-up, James. Before the 1964 Goldwater campaign, Republicans always got at least 20% of the Black Vote. (Prior to FDR, it was more like 80%.) African-Americans are not a unified political ideology. There are enough social conservatives among them and enough in the military that the GOP should be getting at least 15-20% of the vote–but they don’t because the GOP has consistently opposed policies that would create substantive racial equality. Now, by giving into the anti-immigration crowd, they are even more the white male party, despite the conservatism of many Latinos and Asians. Dear Heaven, some of the McCain/Palin rallies had so many Confederate flags they looked like KKK rallies. There were enormously racist signs at the “tea parties,” too.

    Don’t get me wrong. There are also forms of liberal racism.

    But the Southern Strategy was and is real. And, while it was an electorally winning strategy for 2 generations, it is now a millstone about the necks of Republicans and the GOP. And Reagan was smack-dab in the middle of all that.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | May 11, 2009

  13. I heartily endorse Star Trek as excellence in entertainment and fodder for social, economic, and political commentary.

    Comment by John | May 11, 2009

  14. Excellent essay.

    I would like to address your three criticisms of Star Trek:

    1. The economic system of Star Trek was portrayed inconsistently in the series and movies. Yes, there was the gag in Star Trek 4 (a film Roddenberry had nothing to do with) where Kirk is unable to pay his pizza bill because there is no money in the future. However, there are references to currency in the original series, TNG, DS9, etc. I believe the point the series is trying to get across is that we haven’t eliminated money, just greed and the scarcity of resources. This line from Picard (to the defrosted 21st century attorney who had been cryogenically frozen) sums it up nicely: “A lot has changed in three hundred years. People are no longer obsessed with the accumulation of ‘things’. We have eliminated hunger, want, the need for possessions.”

    2. I agree that early Trek was not merely ir-religious, but anti-religious. Despite the Prime Directive, there wasn’t an indigenous deity that Kirk or Picard would pass up the opportunity to debunk. Sisko’s more balanced worldview, and his dual role as Starfleet Officer and Emissary to the Prophets, were a refreshing change.

    3. I would not agree that Star Trek disregards tradition. McCoy is an “old country doctor” who distrusts modern technology such as the transporter. Sulu fences. The characters on TNG and later series were obsessed with the past — they dress up as Sherlock Holmes and film noir detectives for fun. Picard keeps a copy of Shakespeare’s complete works not on his Kindle, but in a bound volume. They play jazz and tap dance. The crew on DS9 play baseball and gamble in a rat pack era casino in their holodeck. Tom Paris showed Flash Gordon-esque sci-fi serials to his crewmates. When Picard visits his family farm, everything is done with traditional methods — not a replicator in sight.

    Most of the other comments on this thread have gone off on other tangents, so I will leave it at that. :)

    Comment by Rob Gardiner | May 11, 2009

  15. A good article I found on Reagan’s Neshoba County speech is David Brooks’ “History and Calmuny.” Even liberal candidates have campaigned at the Neshoba County State Fair, since it’s a big event. And, heck, Reagan talked about giving powers to the states in a lot of areas. By 1980, he said that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was working pretty well, so I think his reference to “states’ rights” was part of the legitimate debate over federalism that you mention, not a racist code-word.

    While the narrative you present has facts and probably explains why the G.O.P. is not popular among minorities, I think it’s one-sided. Nixon did a lot for Civil Rights as President. And some of the greatest proponents of private school vouchers–school choice–have been African-Americans (like Polly Williams)–people who don’t want their kids to be trapped in failing public school systems.

    Comment by James Pate | May 11, 2009

  16. [...] Star Trek: Science Fiction for Progressives « Levellers Uncategorized | [...]

    Pingback by The Swords of Zinjaban at USS Arch (AM-144) | May 11, 2009

  17. Thanks for getting the conversation back on track, Rob.

    1. I don’t think the pizza joke in Star Trek IV was the only place where it was stated that money had been abolished, but you’re right that this was inconsistent. And Picard quote you give is right on the emphasis–along with the fact that TV has disappeared as a form of entertainment since people pursue less passive hobbies.

    2. You and I are in agreement there. Gene Roddenberry was a signer of the Humanist Manifesto which pushed secular humanism. There are forms of religious humanism, but Roddenberry seemed unaware of them.

    3. I was not claiming that there are no holdovers. But tradition itself is not valued as a source of knowledge. This is a major heritage from the Enlightenment that progressives largely buy lock, stock and barrel. Your counter-examples, except for Picard’s family farm, are not really about tradition. And whatever Bones’ objections to transporters, he loved the latest medical equipment. As I said, I think openess to the future and respect for the past need to be held in creative tension–more than the original Star Trek seemed to do and more than most of my fellow progressives. I largely agree with many of the post-modern, communitarian critiques of modernity. However, I think postmodern should not be reflexively ANTI-modern. I want to keep the strengths of the Enlightenment Liberal heritage as well as correct for its flaws–something that puts me at odds with some other communitarian postmoderns.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | May 11, 2009

  18. Your Nashoba County Fair was a big deal just won’t fly, James. You obviously aren’t from the South and aren’t old enough to remember. None of the liberals who campaigned their started their campaigns with a speech on states rights. The juxtaposition of the two was the code. If you had surveyed everyone THERE that day, whether they were pro or anti segregation, they would ALL have said that Reagan was giving the green light to racism. If Reagan did not know that, then his speechwriters and campaign managers did. It WAS NOT coincidence.

    Nor was W’s beginning his campaign at Bob Jones University. No candidate for president should come within MILES of that notoriously racist school. It’s like launching campaign defending the confederate flag as “heritage” without mentioning that the heritage in question is treasonous secession and civil war for the purpose of defending slavery.

    FACE IT, JAMES: Your heroes may or may not have been racially prejudiced themselves. Regardless, they USED racist code words to win elections and backed racist judicial appointments and policies. You are living in fantasyland.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | May 11, 2009

  19. And that, James, is what you get by making respectful, mildly non-narrative observations to a pacifist.

    Comment by K Gray | May 11, 2009

  20. I always thought so, but this new movie had even less women characters than the series. I found this highly disappointing.

    Comment by Helen of Troy | May 12, 2009

  21. Wow, K, what a non sequitor. My pacifism had nothing to do with anything. Nor did the non-narrative nature of James’ arguments. I DID think that our exchange illustrated several of the points I made about perception in the thread about moral discernment, and I might post on that.

    You seem very threatened K by any charge of racism to conservative icons. James does too. I wonder why?

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | May 12, 2009

  22. Wow, Helen. I haven’t seen the new film, yet. If what you say is true, I’d also find it very disappointing, especially if the women were not in prominent roles.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | May 12, 2009

  23. On the contrary, your commenters are relatively restrained.

    The “coon” remark would be very, very sensational. I can’t find it anywhere, either.

    Star Trek is a truly entertaining movie, I hope you get to see it.

    Comment by K Gray | May 12, 2009

  24. Michael,

    It’s great to be reading you again. I’m really glad you’re still blogging. You’ve got me thinking about returning to my own blog. But thanks especially for this post. Believe it or not, I had never – until your post – considered whether “The Federation” could be thought to represent some sort of vision of The Kingdom of Heaven. (…many races/life-forms united under one benign leadership… no need for money because everything is provided…) Now, maybe I’m just remembering something that I’ve read elsewhere but at least your post has stirred that memory. The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth = the new Eden? Was Roddenberry telling us – in a way – that we have to look beyond our own little world (and our own little selves) to be enabled to enter into that Kingdom…. LOL! I realize I’m conflating ideas here but it makes for interesting thought. Anyway, I haven’t yet seen the movie but now, when I do, I’ll have some new eyes through which to look. So, again, thanks for this great post and please, keep on Bloggin’!

    Comment by Tom | May 12, 2009

  25. Wow, Tom, I was only thinking politically about Star Trek, not theologically. :-) As a self-declared secular humanist, I doubt Roddenberry had any theological component to his vision of the future.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | May 12, 2009

  26. I should not have quoted that “coon” remark without the citation. It may well be apocryphal.

    I’ll probably see Star Trek this weekend.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | May 12, 2009

  27. Oh, I don’t know. I doubt you like your heroes to be criticized, either. You criticized Falwell for calling Desmond Tutu a “phony.” You don’t like conservatives calling the African National Congress a terrorist organization.

    As for Nashoba County, no, I’m not old enough to remember, but David Brooks is. I listened to Reagan’s speech there online, and it was just your typical Reagan speech: free people trapped in welfare, government imposes burdensome regulations, we need to be tough on the Soviets. There wasn’t even rabid applause when Reagan mentioned states’ rights!

    Comment by James Pate | May 15, 2009

  28. [...] about Ronald Reagan’s 1980 speech at the Neshoba County Fair in Mississippi (see Star Trek: Science Fiction for Progressives). This was Reagan’s first public appearance after the 1980 Republican National Convention, [...]

    Pingback by Reagan’s Speech at Neshoba County « James’ Ramblings | May 16, 2009

  29. I’m unfortunately not too versed on Star Trek as I used to be, but I agree from what I can remember. There does seem to be a socialist message to it, in so far as human needs are addressed before profit. Whether the means of production were actually democratically owned, I don’t think was ever even hinted at, but I would highly doubt that there wouldn’t be at least something equivalent.

    Your analysis of progressive-conservative dialectic is pretty much on point. The challenge is always to get both sides to focus on the present.

    Back to Star Trek, I think one of the major problems with the series has always been time travel. Which sort of clouds the clearness of the aforementioned dialectic. If time can be traversed so easily, what stops the present from being in a constant state of flux. Maybe some sort of theory of entropic character to time travel? Regardless, it just seems that its used as crutch to bring back characters (and actors) since the newer series seem to have incrementally lost viewing attention.

    Comment by jackofspades83 | June 4, 2009


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