Thursday, 19 May 2022

Who Watches the Watcher?

To boldly control what no President has controlled before



Back in the 60s and 70s, we had a much clearer idea of where we wanted to go. Science-fiction (both movies and short novels) taught us about the wonders of other worlds and the fascination and rewards of scientific discovery. Yeah, we also had the romanticization of the drugs and the unproductive “all we need is love”-pot-smoking kids, but still, we manage to land on the Moon and dream dreams of hope. Anyone remembers Space: 1999, a British sci-fi about a Moonbase going wild into the space? Or Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey? Well, forget about Jupiter Missions and Moonbases for a while, because on the other side of the wind, back to the present, Space Agencies have decided it is more important to discuss in what direction should Muslims pray in the outside space. And of course, what’s the point of flying you to the Moon if those landings were faked by Hollywood and Disney? Well, at least they were original making movies back in the 70s. The next landing would basically be seen as a re-make. After all, there is no need to dream what someone dreamt before you, right?

Being in denial has its advantages: if no one did it before, then you won’t feel the overwhelming responsibility of living up to all the hype. In the late 70s and early 80s, the glamour of denial gained ground, in part, because too many people were attracted by the pot-smoking kids and their “all we need is love” ideology –well, maybe “all we need is love”, but the enemy at the gates doesn’t really care, whether he is a Jew hating Islamic terrorist or some American pedophile living in Putney. But in part, also, because denial comes with the pragmatics of accommodation, that is, lack of will. And when that happens, well, someone has to get up and pay the bill. But since we are no longer willing to get up, we should pay someone to pay our bill. In the long term, this means more control, because that someone should be in compliance with some Bureau of Compliance. And more control means –European-style– Big Government.

The ex-Chicago Playboy Club actress, Nichelle Nichols, better known for her role as Lieutenant Uhura aboard the Enterprise and also the first black woman to inter-racially kiss a white male on American television, recently posed for a photo with President Obama, proudly giving the Vulcan salute. Someone actually asked former Captain James Tiberius Kirk, William Shatner, if “President Obama should be less like Mr. Spock and more like Captain Kirk”. Well, I don´t think the guy resembles Mr. Spock at all, even if Leonard Nimoy thinks so. For what is worth, Mr. Obamock is without a hint of logic. But in this age of remakes and sequels even Star Trek can be remade into something new, something more Obamish. When Nichols twittered “Wonder what the tea party will make of this one!?!?,” referring to her picture with Mr. Obamock, someone should have replied: “Well, Captain James Tiberius Kirk would not have departed when Mr. Obamock withdrew from Afghanistan.” You know, the guy is not very good when it comes to following orders.

obama_spockTake the Prime Directive –principle of no interference with the development of alien civilizations–. In the modern progressive exegesis this means Star Trek was anti-American and anti-imperialist –whatever anti-imperialism means, since the only colonies the U.S. have are the U.S. themselves. But for those of us who actually watched the series instead of checking  out Wikipedia, Captain James T. Kirk rarely followed this Supreme Rule No. 1. He was, in fact, more in the line of Michael Knight (David Hasselhoff) or James Braddock (Chuck Norris) –“one man can make a difference”. Gene Roddenberry’s ideals were very very utopian in nature. Money, fuel, religion, war, poverty, and offensive language were all medieval issues of the Dark Ages. Doesn’t it sound quite pot-smoking to you? Well, it is not. Firstly, because Earth arrived to that Utopia through major wars that almost annihilate mankind. Sounds familiar to you? Secondly, because religion was replaced by science, critical thinking, and real objective and moral education. And thirdly, because outside Earth and outside this Utopia, there were still wars to win, poverty to heal, and totalitarian regimes to fight. Too much for those “all we need is love”-mongers who criticize established science with their ecochondriac or homeopathic or vegetarian idiosyncrasy. So it seems to me that, in the Start Trek world, planet Earth looks more like the United States, boldly travelling to other parts of the world and righting wrongs, despise some pot-smocking kids crying the Prime Directive in Wall Street.

Just check out one of my favorite episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, “Who Watches the Watchers”. The Enterprise arrives at Mintaka III, a planet inhabited by a proto-Vulcan race near a Bronze Age cultural development. Our heroes are there to observe and learn, but when things go wrong and some of the Mintakans discover the crew and begin to worship Captain Jean-Luc Picard as a god, he just wants to follow the Prime Directive and close down the parade. His crew persuades him of the moral imperative of righting their wrongs, so they end up explaining the Mintakans that they are not superior beings, but flesh and blood with higher technology. Just as Mr. Obamock withdrew from Afghanistan, he would surely be happy leaving Mintaka III with an Obama-worshipping cult.

In the Star Trek universe, as well as in the real world, bold types take the heat for the greater good. Because they know that, outside their Fukuyama-like brand new world, it gets wild. Captain James T. Kirk may be the ultimate dictator, but he is a good Shakespearean one, a Jack Bauer in the space who does the right thing and makes all the right calls, those no one wants to take. Because he does not believe in no-win scenarios, Captain Kirk’s will is unstoppable. In 1887, in “The Genealogy of Morals”, Nietzsche famously wrote about “will”:

That lambs dislike great birds of prey does not seem strange: only it gives no grounds for reproaching these birds of prey for bearing off little lambs. And if the lambs say among themselves: “these birds of prey are evil; and whoever is least like a bird of prey, but rather its opposite, a lamb—would he not be good?” there is no reason to find fault with this institution of an ideal, except perhaps that the birds of prey might view it a little ironically and say: “we don't dislike them at all, these good little lambs; we even love them: nothing is more tasty than a tender lamb”. To demand of strength that it should not express itself, that it should not be a will to overcome, overthrow, dominate, a thirst for enemies and resistance and triumph, makes as little sense as to demand of weakness that it should express itself as strength.

Becoming a lamb is dangerous, so let’s ask for a shepherd to watch our moves and protect us from those birds of prey. Never mind the Big Question, Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who Watches Obama?


César Guarde