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Money for Trekkies? Part One

We can all feel the plodding march of human struggle going on world-wide, can we not? The urgent need for freedom is in our bones. We can see the light of liberty filtering through the clouds of oppression. We can hear it whispered on the winds of time. It is written on the pages of history for us to read if we but look. It is not a matter of if but in what ways the seed of our struggles will grow and blossom into new and exciting forms. No challenge seems too great that it cannot be overtaken by indomitable will, compassion, and perseverance.

Introduction

No other time in history has it been more important to passionately seek inspiration and studiously research possible solutions to the problems we face. Perhaps we have already been unwittingly programmed with the mindset we need to triumph in the face of so much adversity. Maybe we are already finding ways of reacting in clever and heroic ways to our societal woes.

This is the first part of a three part article. In this first installment, we will discuss the cult-classic Star Trek to see if it has any special significance for us in these post modern times. In part two, we will talk about recent innovations called Crypto-coins. There is a currency war raging around us and, fledgling though they may be, Cryptocurrency may be a way of winning the peace of prosperity. This is far from certain but may be worth consideration. Finally, in part three, we will conclude this semi-casual essay by seeing how these two seemingly unrelated topics can be reconciled.

Revelations

For decades now, Star Trek books, movies, and television series' have provided a tantalizing glimpse at a possible future for the human race. Even after we find out that the United Nations, which the United Federation of Planets was based on, is, at best, a useless edifice and, at worst, a global conspiracy to enslave the human race, we still find ourselves looking to Star Trek for inspiration. Why do we do that? Even after we find out that the Socialist-like society depicted resembles Utopic promises which, historically, have proven to be nothing more than Orwellian trickery used to centralize power and control, we still find ourselves enraptured, sometimes obsessed, with the iconic sub-genre. What is going on?

When one treats oneself to the nostalgic candy of the Original Series, we are hit in the face with several startling revelations. The Federation is just as bureaucratic and centralized as we remember. However, one reoccurring theme we find is that the senior officers, who have a great deal of autonomy, are often-times add odds with the faceless bureaucrats of the Federation as well as the out of touch authorities back at Starfleet Command. It turns out that what makes the Federation something special is not a clever new hierarchical system, for there seems to be absolutely nothing new about it at all, nor is it even a rigid set of rules laid out in the Federation Charter as it is little more than a plagiarism of the United Nations Charter.

Metaphor

The first revelation we may encounter, as we indulge in the comical Original Series, is that most if not all of the episodes are not really about pointy-eared crewmen, exploring suspiciously sound-stage looking planets, or meeting exciting new half-naked aliens. Those things are there, of course, but in our maturity we find these science fiction fantasy elements are actually bare naked metaphors for real world issues as timeless as the universe itself.

We find ourselves skipping ahead to the third season because, not only to we tend to be impatient at times, we notice Infowars recently posted a clip from “Day of the Dove” so it might be worth checking out. Expecting only humorously cheap props, we are immediately slammed with an obvious implication. We find that there is an (spoiler alert) alien entity manipulating both the Starfleet and Kingon crews toward its own ends. We the audience see this as a ball of broken energy but to the characters it goes completely unnoticed.

It can't get any more eerily familiar. It seems clear that this thing represents the true enemy of the human mind and society. Feeding off the negative emotions of others, it is the embodiment of fear which drives us to anger, hate, and revenge. We may be somewhat Atheistic and leave it at that. After all, human inter-species predators function much the same way. This may have been all the author consciously intended.

On the other hand, we may study a lot of spectacularly bizarre weirdness on the Internet, immediately recognizing this thing as an Archon (or Qliphoth) which is sort of a Gnostic (or Kabbalist) demon-thingy. One thing is clear, however: the Captain, who may actually be a personification of our self-determinism, will not allow himself to relinquish his control to this things influence. Regardless of what outside forces may be at play we are ultimately responsible for our own conduct.

Mind Taking

The revelations do not end there, of course. We find ourselves watching episode after episode after episode. There is found all nature of allegories dealing with topics ranging from hypnosis & mind control (Cats Paw & the Children Shall Lead Them) to the destructive futility of struggle between tyrants and usurpers (Let That Be Your Last Battlefield) to the irresistible yet dangerous allure of romantic love (Requiem for Methuselah).

So it turns out that the Original Series is substantially more sophisticated than we remember but probably the greatest revelation of all hits us when we think back on all the episodes and books spanning the whole of Star Trek we have read throughout the years (when we probably should have been working on that book report or applying for that better job). In every single spin-off we find some basic underlying principles guide the actions of each of our heroes and heroines as they confront each challenge. We realize it is all about the individual. Individual rights, individual responsibility, and the individual role within the team. It's about the individual, working with other individuals, to triumph in the face of adversity.

Collectivism Vs. Individuality

It turns out, that though there seems to be some kind of a Socialist-Collectivist back-drop to Star Trek, we really do not care about that. So long as the mighty Federation respects personal rights and liberties we tolerate and even applaud it. However, when the Federation violates those sacred and holy boundaries we are horrified and dismayed. The most obvious example may be them imposing martial law in Deep Space Nine episode “Paradise Lost.” Here we see the all too familiar scenario where fear leads to a loss of liberties and basic human rights.

Though it may not be difficult to concoct a grand New Galactic Order conspiracy theory about Star Trek, we find that the important ideals currently described as Libertarianism abound throughout. Time and time again we see the non-aggression principal, respect of sovereignty, and the singular person valued as an end rather than a means to an end.

Nowhere is this more blatantly obvious than the introduction of the ultimate contrast to Libertarianism: the Borg. When we first meet the Borg they are depicted as a decentralized hive mind with no obvious class system. We could experience some cognitive dissonance with this first impression. If there is no psychopathic ruling class why would a hive-mind be so dark and malignant? Surely this should reflect a sort of shinning Utopia; one that we are not comfortable with, but a Utopia none-the-less.

Then there is this problem with the level of decentralization and redundancy. Borg vessels do not even have a singular power unit. When first described to us, their power networks sound much like the infrastructure of the World Wide Web which was designed, we hear, to withstand a nuclear holocaust. Over something like eighty percent of a Cube can be destroyed without rendering it inoperable. This being the case how, the living mother of Dianna Troi, can the pathetically hierarchical and specialized Starfleet navy have half a snow cone's chance on Vulcan of defeating them?

Later we find out the Borg do not lack a class system at all. Presumably to make the Borg sexier and more fun, the writers solve the first problem down the line by introducing the concept of the Borg Queen. We love to hate her and now we have a power and control motive behind the Borg. It turns out that they are, perhaps, the most absolute totalitarian regime ever conceived. So we do not have to figure out why the Borg would make life so unpleasant for themselves because they are not linked as equals. They cannot make their hive-mind into whatever form they collectively choose. Our cognitive dissonance is swept away with a flourish. Thank the Prophets!

The unbeatable challenge of ultimate redundancy presented to us of the Borg originally was resolved as well. We hardly noticed because the way the authors and directors accomplished this alchemy was, apparently, by forgetting the Borg were not supposed to have a central power hub! Or maybe they just assumed we would forget. Now the cubes and spheres are still highly adaptable so hard to breach, but if one can only just get to the center of one of those things; fiery mass Borg death ensues.

We must digress at this point, perhaps, because the main point of this was to show how the Borg, in contrast to the Federation, are the true Collectivists and the Ultimate Statists. We only wish the authors had conveniently forgot that the Federation was centralized and UN-like. It could be that they figured we just were not quite that forgetful. Even so, we can reflect that, whatever the veneer, the attitudes of Starfleet personnel are decidedly pro-Liberty.

Non-market Economics

One last subject we must broach before we move on, and it is truly the big red Ghergher Beast on the front lawn, is the economic system depicted, or rather not depicted, of the Federation. This has been a major bone of contention for many fans. Those who identify with free-market economics do not seem comfortable with the notion of a moneyless society. Fans who do like the idea get frustrated at the shear lack of an explanation of how this would work. What makes the whole thing more aggravating is when the authors put money, and situations that would seem to insinuate money is being used, into the stories.

How aggravating is that?

So how does this work? Is it the advent of replicator technology which frees humanity to pursue its most admirable of ambitions? The writers of Star Trek don't seem to think so. As illustrated by the Ferengi, a greedy race of business creatures, this theory does not fit. First introduced in TNG but greatly expanded upon in the DS9 series, the Ferengi have replicator technology yet still ceaseless chase after the elusive dragon that is the opiate of material gain.

Possibly the most powerful discussion of the self-empowering moneyless value system of Star Trek can be found in the TNG episode “the Neutral Zone.” In this episode, Starfleet flagship Captain Jean Luc Picard, played by iconic Shakespearean actor Patrick Stewart, must explain the new paradigm to three people including a former financier named Ralph Offenhouse. At first Offenhouse is indignant and frustrated. He has difficulty accepting that everything he used to be involved in and thought was important no longer relevant. The life he built has long since crumbled to dust so he does not feel like he is in control of his life as he is accustom.

This is not the last we hear of Ralph, however. Mr. Offenhouse appears in at least three novels outside the television series. The Federation conducts trade, political, and diplomatic activity with a number of extra-Federation civilizations who still rely a great deal on market economics so we are mostly unsurprised to find that Ralph has once again maneuvered himself into an important position of commerce in the book “Debtors Planet.”

Without getting too in-depth about the details which could, perhaps, be the subject of another paper, we will just simply indicate that this may be an inevitability of a moral society. The right attitude and principles would render money irrelevant. No laws would have to be passed to ban money nor would any special structures need to be put into place to make abundance happen. Only so much hard work can be done, only so much charity given, and only so much technology developed before we end up with a situation where expecting people to submit to employment, whether they want to or not, will no longer be realistic.

Spirit of Cooperation

It is no magical technology that sets the Federation apart but rather a special attitude. The mindset needed, if the authors are to be believed, is one where basic needs of the individual are assumed as rights freeing individuals to follow their grandest dreams. It may be that when one struggles merely to survive, survival it self becomes the dream. When the dream is survival, perhaps more impressive dreams are pushed aside. If the more impressive dreams are pushed aside, it could be that the potential of many creative individuals are wasted.

Free to define their own place in the universe, the cast of characters confront many conflicts, internal and external, all within the bounds of their guiding principles. Many challenges are resolved through compassion, understanding, and teamwork. Ultimately, these issues are resolved, usually in some unrealistic fairy-tale manner, not just with clever technological trickery, but by overcoming fear and hostility by embracing hope and cooperation. Ultimately, these conflicts are overcome, usually in some unrealistic fairy-tale manner, not just with clever technological trickery, but by overcoming fear and hostility by embracing hope and cooperation.

Human Condition

Even though Star Trek archetypes are fictitious persons, we find that we can imprint ourselves with some of the characters' desirable qualities. We can, to an extent, manifest those things about them which appeal the most to us into the real world. We are not, however, foolish enough to confuse fiction with reality so we avoid setting unrealistic expectations for ourselves and others. We know, of course, that loose ends cannot always be so neatly tied up. We forgive the authors for their fanciful optimism because we do, after all, like to feel good by the end of each adventure.

Wrap-up

Part two will be posted soon of this article will be posted soon; watch for it. In it we will look at how the spirit of cooperation, collaboration, and individual liberty is threatening to derail the centrally controlled finance machine. The next part promises to be insightful and uplifting. You wont want to miss it!

Television | Economics | Philosophy | Social Sciences


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