Nov 192009
 

Star TrekMy first recollection of Star Trek wasn’t its philosophy or its depiction of a positive future of heroes and adventure.  It was being frightened at the image of Balok in “The Corbomite Maneuver”.  I was only six or seven years old after all.

Despite that I was an avid fan of the show since it first aired I have seen every episode of the original series too many times to count.  But as I grew up I began to be just as much a critic of the show as a fan.  Sure it was great entertainment, projecting a positive sense of life into our homes on an almost daily basis (once it was syndicated) but it was also full of contradictions.  It is, after all a TV show and the writers are just that, writers, not philosophers or great intellectuals, but writers for television with the goal to entertain and sell a script.  There are bound to be inconsistencies and contradictions.

Some of more glaring contradictions involved the show’s treatment of deities in such an advanced society.

God and religion featured prominently in many episodes of the Star Trek canon.  The second pilot to the series, “Where No Man Has Gone Before” had crewman Gary Mitchell develop the powers of a God only to be killed by Captain Kirk.   In “The Paradise Syndrome”, Kirk himself fancied himself a God (Kirok) when he lost his memory among a tribe of North American Indians.  In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine the Bajoran’s have their Prophets with Captain Sysko as their Emissary.  The Jem’Hadar and the Vorta regard the Founders as Gods. In Star Trek: The Next Generation the Edo of Rubicun III worshipped an orbiting lifeform as their god.  The Klingons killed their Gods as they were “more trouble than they were worth.”  The Starship Voyager was considered a god called the “ground shaker” to Kelemane who offered it fruit in the hope that the “God” would stop shaking the ground.

In the original series episode “Bread and Circuses”, the crew find themselves on a world identical to earth where Rome never fell.  Some of the inhabitants describe themselves as Sun worshipers and we are led to believe that they are actually deifying the sun in the sky.  As the show ends, though, Uhura lets the Captain know that it wasn’t the sun up in the sky that they worshipped but the son of God.  “A philosophy of total love and total brotherhood” says Dr. McCoy.  Well I don’t know where he got that notion but if you ask me which one I would I rather worship, the sun in the sky or the Abrahamic God in whose names millions have been killed and tortured to this day, I’ll take the sun in the sky please.

The crew of the Enterprise in Star Trek: The Next Generation would more objectively and correctly consider primitive alien cultures who worshipped deities as just that, primitive.  This was a refreshing treatment of the supernatural which most likely arose with the easing of sponsor censorship and a liberalization of our society’s approach to religion.

If anything, these little morality plays certainly would make a person reconsider their notion of the God concept and I believe that Star Trek is probably responsible for a great percentage of atheists in the world; if not atheists then certainly a great number of skeptics and free thinkers.  This is a remarkable accomplishment.

If only the writers had a better grasp of Capitalism.  Their first attempt to portray what they regarded as a race of pure capitalists was the Ferengi, an ugly goblin-like, squat race of deceiving, conniving, untrustworthy con-artists who brandished whips and kept their woman naked and at home.  Around the same time we had Captain Picard declare that

“People are no longer obsessed with the accumulation of ‘things’. We have eliminated hunger, want, the need for possessions. “

From what I saw, Picard possessed a lot of ‘things’ from the clothes on his back to a saddle, to a star ship.  Apparently, everyone in the 24th century is on the dole.

Once again Star Trek contradicts itself in DS9 when we see that the Federation actually used a system of ‘credits’ or gold-pressed latinum to trade with.

I may be nit-picking, but sometimes when a great show like Star Trek comes along you expect perfection and forget that thousands of different people from all kinds of philosophies and backgrounds came together over the last 40 odd years to create this epic.  It could never be perfectly consistent.

Some of the things you might think we would all agree on I have my doubts about.  What about the Borg?  Nasty, right?  Who would want to be a Borg?  Well really if you think about it the only thing about the Borg which was frightening was the lack of choice when it came to being assimilated (no trifling item to be sure).  But I was thinking the other day (when I went and bought a bluetooth earpiece for my cell phone so as not to run afoul of the new law banning hand held devices while driving) that we, as a culture, appear to be getting closer and closer to the technology of the Borg.  We were glasses to improve our vision; we have headphones to talk to almost anyone in the world at any time; we have prosthetic limbs, cochlear implants, artificial hearts, and the Kindle and iPad which allow us to carry a good chunk of the total knowledge of our species in our pockets.  In many cases, at least with the bluetooth earpiece while driving, resistance is futile.

Here is another little contradiction in Star Trek.  In the episode called “The Savage Curtain” Abraham Lincoln calls Uhura a charming Negress but is ashamed when he realizes that he might have offended her.  She replies that people in her time have learned not to fear words, and yet Captain Picard gets a dagger through his heart in the episode “Tapestry” when he takes on a Nausican for calling him a coward.  Didn’t he watch the original series before he joined Star Fleet?

I could go on.  I haven’t even mentioned “Spock’s Brain”.

All in all there have been 726 episodes of Star Trek (if you include the animated series) over 30 seasons.  There have been 11 feature films (If you include Star Trek V which I would really rather forget).  If you sat down and watched everything Star Trek from “The Cage” to the latest film, 24/7, and didn’t take a bathroom break (remember there are no toilets on the Enterprise) you would spend over 30 days glued to the tube.  Anybody who has seen all the episodes at least once is going to be altered by what they have seen; some for the better, those who are comforted by the show’s acceptance of atheism, and some of for the worse, those who believe the show’s definition of capitalism.  It is no doubt great entertainment but we should view it critically and in the immortal words of William Shatner we should “Get a life.”

(Originally aired on Just Right #129, November 19, 2009)

Nov 122009
 

PoppyEvery November 11th we honour the war dead by remembering their courage, their suffering, and the risking of their lives for something of greater value.  Some might say sacrifice but that word is often used erroneously.

Why would a young man want to carry a rifle, be shipped overseas to face great hardship and possible death?  Why did 65,000 Canadians and 1,200 Newfoundlanders die fighting in WWI?  Why did over 40,000 Canadians and Newfoundlanders die fighting in WWII?

Today we like to say they fought and died for our freedom.  If that is so then I would have to say that they died in vain.  Canada before the first two great wars and even the Korean War was in many respects a much freer country than the Canada of today.

Many of us define Canada today in terms a 20 year old Canadian of 1917 or a Canadian of 1939 would not understand and if they did understand it I think they probably would be shocked.  Today you’ll hear the CBC sycophants say Canada is a country defined by its multiculturalism, its social programs, it universal health care, official bilingualism, even perhaps such trivial things like the CBC.

We have to remember that before the Second World War none of our current social programs existed.

Unemployment Insurance was introduced in 1940, Old Age Security – 1952, Canada Pension Plan – 1966, OHIP – 1972, Childcare Benefit – 2007.  It stands to reason that none of these existed before the First World War.  In fact, before the First World War we didn’t even have an income tax (or the CBC).  So that begs the question; why did these soldiers fight if it wasn’t for what many Canadians now define as Canadian?

If it was for freedom then it was for the right to live in a country where the government did NOT take over half of what you earn.  If it was for freedom then it was for the right to be able to speak out against religious and ideological beliefs that threaten world peace (something that will put you before a Kangaroo Court called a Human Rights Tribunal today).  If they fought for freedom it was for the right to choose any doctor you wish without waiting in a queue (something only our pets can take for granted today).  If they died for freedom then it was the freedom to work and to save for your retirement without having to rely on government handouts in your old age.   If they fought for freedom then it was for the right to live in a safe community where criminals were dealt with quickly and appropriately.  If our veterans fought for freedom then they lost the war.

That is, if they fought for freedom.

Before the two world wars Canada’s foreign policies were decided by England.  It seemed only natural at the time that when England chose to go to war that Canada only followed like a dutiful child.  Most of the veterans fought because of a sense of patriotism.  Not necessarily the best thing to fight for since the other side had millions of patriots too.

We should remember also that there was great opposition to the war from the French speaking Canadians.  And don’t forget the fact that we had to conscript 125,000 Canadians to fight overseas, 25,000 of these being sent to the front.  So when we remember the dead of the Great War we must never forget we sent thousands to die who did not want to fight for England.

We must also remember that Canadians entered the 2nd World War unaware of the atrocities that Hitler was about to perform on millions of Jews.  In fact, Canada had its own anti-Semites in government. And don’t forget our Japanese internment camps.  And of course we must remember that we still needed to enslave over 12,000 conscripted to fight.

I would like to think that the tens of thousands who died in Europe for Canada did so, not as a sacrifice, but because they knew they might lose their lives for something of greater value; a free and peaceful country.  I would like to think that.  The fact is we really don’t know why so many died since we obviously haven’t learned much of a lesson from the wars and seem to continue down the path away from the freedom we think they fought for.

If we consider why Canadians are fighting in Afghanistan I think we have to look at things very much differently.  We have a highly educated volunteer Armed Forces.  The way it should be.   For the most part today’s soldiers are career professionals and are fighting not out of blind patriotism but out of a clear understanding of which country is right and which country is wrong.  Afghanistan was, when we first invaded, explicitly aiding in the training of terrorists and harboring Osama bin Laden.  That country under the Taliban had no right to exist and we were quite right to overthrow them.  It was definitely in our best interests to do so.  What Canada is still doing there is a topic for another day.

Afterthought:

Not many know of a link between the two World Wars and the H1N1 virus.

In WWI over 15 million died from the war.  While at the same time between 50 and 100 million died around the world from the Spanish Flu which was an H1N1 strain of influenza A.  In fact 1 million of Germany’s soldiers had come down with the flu and had to retreat back to Germany effectively ending the war.  Hindenburg, not wanting to admit that his soldiers were unfit for soldiering blamed his loss on the Jews, socialist and Bolsheviks.  He created what was called at the time the “Stab in the Back Legend” claiming that the unpatriotic sabotage of the Jews led to the loss of the war.  This legend was widely believed in Germany and picked up by Adolph Hitler.  The rest, as they say, is history.

(Originally broadcast on Just Right November 12th 2009 (Show #128).  To download the show visit http://www.justrightmedia.org)