Friday, February 14, 2014

Star Trek And The Communist Connection: My Outlook On An Apparently Popular Conspiracy Theory

            Star Trek has been completely out of circulation in terms of delivering new television episodes for nearly a decade now. One possible reason I've made mention of previous to this is that after 9/11,society in general changed. There came a paranoia of a kind seldom seen since the height of the Cold War in America. In terms of immigration and tolerance of the Muslim faith in particular,the general world stage became increasingly exclusionist. A science fiction television show that celebrated optimism and humanity simply had no place in such an environment. Yet there was perhaps something deeper in Star Trek's absence. Something that ironically threw back to what was actually a prime period for the show in general.

            Having spent my adolescence during the 1990's,I can say from personal experience that it was a time where genuine cultural education played second fiddle to conspiracy theories. There were many-ranging from President Kennedy's assassination to whether or not George Washington chopped down that cherry tree. In the "keeping it real" era,tall tales were suddenly viewed with suspicion. One of these conspiracy theories I was personally exposed to even before the advent of the internet was that the Star Trek universe was a communist one. Two possible reasons were presented. One was because of Gene Roddenberry's left wing political views. And also because in the future Star Trek presented,money no longer existed.

             Being an American of course,I am of course very much a child of capitalism. I am a consumer and therefore benefit the economy. However I am also of the last American generation to have some memory of the Cold War-albeit the time of Perestroika  to be specific. So my understanding of American democratic capitalism is fairly well rounded. However all I'd ever heard of Communism was the basics,as well as Cold War era propaganda from both sides which ultimately said nothing. So based on my more well rounded knowledge of Communism-as envisioned by Karl Marx and of course my knowledge of Star Trek,I'd like to make an attempt at breaking down the facts and fiction of this matter. Well,the science fiction of it anyway.

             In the most basic terms,my personal conclusion is that Star Trek doesn't advocate or represent Soviet era communism. In fact in the debut episode of Star Trek The Next Generation Encounter At Farpoint, Jean-Luc Picard refers to the 20'th century principles of capitalism and communism as being "nonsense that's centuries behind us" to Q. This points to the principles of Star Trek as being related to neither political party. That being said its also important to remember that Star Trek is set in the 23'rd and 24th centuries. Its no doubt to me that on a sociological level,human beings of that period would look upon both said political parties much the same way as we'd view what was stated in The Mayflower Compact as it would apply to the current US constitution.

                 That brings me to the next level of all this in Star Trek's difference in perspective. Many of us course look back at the Salem witch trails today with the same disgust and embarrassment that the characters in Star Trek look upon some of the competitive militaristic intrigue of our real life society. That in fact points to the very function of Star Trek on a sociopolitical level for its admirers: showing our absurdities through the mirror of our possible future. In the Star Trek universe? There is no poverty,technology had genuinely eliminated the need for possessions and the United Federation Of Planets emerges as a mostly functional social  democratic  organization that,all the same embraces contemporary military ranking and hierarchy. So does any of these relate the fictional Federation to...say Soviet communism?

                   My answer to that is absolutely not. Originally Soviet type communism was a proletariat,one party despotic dictatorship which used humanistic ideologies to create classicist political descent in the developing countries it intended to overtake. Once massive revolutions around matters of economic and civil rights had finally overthrown said nations own government,the Soviet's then took complete power-creating an atmosphere of eugenics-through-terror where the Utopian ideologies were a mask for massive crimes against humanity. And,in fact communist governments ended up being as based in prejudice as their nemesis's despite their dogmatic approach to revolution.As a result,today just about anyone with a social democratic/humanist political leaning is considered to be a communistic oriented individual. In The Star Trek universe there is a world government on Earth-actually a more elaborate United Nations representing many different political systems.

                    The simple reality of Star Trek's political atmosphere doesn't relate to capitalism,no. Nor does it relate to communism. Terms such as "sold","money" and other phrases that a contemporary Communist party member would never use are used alternately by various Star Trek characters in its long history. What may sway some into thinking Star Trek presents a pro communist view of humanity's future is its strong sense of justice for the rights of,in their case,all sentient and intelligent life. The values of racial respect,sexual and educational equality were all a part of the communist ideology. But in that case were used in a totally dishonest fashion.  Star Trek presents a universe where the talk of our time,as it were,is actually put into action. And the best part is humanity still presents itself as fallible in the future,even to despotism in that future. That's what makes Star Trek's vision wonderful,non totalitarian and not related to the communist party.

                    I sincerely hope that this made some sense of this particular conspiracy
theory.Truth is that I'm not really sure if Star Trek absence has any connection at all to its perceived linkage with a the failed and corrupt Communist party. With the current president of the United States involved in multiple conspiracy theories surrounding his citizenship and is himself too often branded a communist sympathizer? Perhaps the world simply isn't able to deal with the message Star Trek delivers right now. Star Trek is not communism. Star Trek isn't capitalism. Star Trek is futurism. It hasn't been written in real life yet. The important thing Star Trek admirers should continue to keep in mind is its positive influence on social democracy and the values of justice and freedom. No one is threatened with arrest or execution if they don't like Star Trek. So in that light Star Trek may be more needed now than ever-if nothing more than to keep these type of conspiracy theories from continuing to overshadow the good its existence has done for humanity.