Thanks to Picard Season 3, I’m back in a Star Trek phase; surprise, surprise, surprise!
That’s right. After I excoriated the first season on this very blog, I gave up on Picard and his angsty group of space misfits. Reports on the heinous second season (Q not withstanding) seemed to validate my position.
Then came the third season. The show got new writers, the band got back together and everyone who has hated new Trek started telling me how good the third season of Picard is.
They weren’t wrong. More on that in a few weeks after the show ends.
But this reemergence into Trek has got me to thinking. One of the purposes of Star Trek has always been to serve as subtle commentary on contemporary society. To that end, I will spend these remaining paragraphs illustrating why the progressive left and the so-called “new right,” strongly resemble the two greatest adversaries that the United Federation of Planets have ever faced in the whole of the Trek universe.
First, imagine this, if you will.
An alien species that is driven by a hive mind. It is one giant collective that feeds on the uniqueness of other cultures and worlds to grow itself. Individuality is strictly prohibited. All members are born into the collective and are immediately raised to service the larger community. There are no parents. There are no genders. There are no individual characteristics of any kind.
“Why do you resist? We only wish to raise quality of life.” That was the quote from Locutus, formerly Jean-Luc Picard, when his crewmates rescued him from the collective and restored him to his human self.
Such is the creed of our current progressive left. Resistance is futile. We only wish to raise quality of life. But instead of words like, “assimilate,” and “irrelevant,” they use other universal language such as, “diversity, equity and inclusion.” Always in that order, always with an eye toward intersectionality, always with the goal of inclusion, which is merely code for assimilation into the community (collective.) If anyone should express any tendency toward individualism, they are immediately castigated. “You will either be assimilated, or you will be annihilated. Resistance is futile.”
Think I’m exaggerating? Try attending any seminar or conference at which the language of the progressive left is used. Try dealing with governmental bureaucracy, the red tape of the university system or the growing number of corporations who subscribe to the hive mind and you’ll discover how Borg-like they really are. Today, it’s cultural. Tomorrow, it’s business. Next year, it’s the government. It ends with totalitarian regimes such as you find in China, North Korea and Cuba.
Sidebar: Eventually, we learn that The Borg have a queen. I guess the future is feminine.
On the other side of the table, we have a group of people who can change their shape at will. Yesterday, they described themselves as limited government conservatives who believed in fiscal responsibility, personal responsibility, the positive power of character and freedom for all. Then, a great changeling came among them and they all proved to be changelings themselves. This changeling took many forms over the years; successful businessman, Democrat, architect, stalwart husband, Independent, television star, Republican, and eventually, president. In truth, he was none of those things. He merely changed his shape to fit whatever circumstance suited him.
Like the Founders of the Dominion, this changeling insisted on absolute, unquestioning loyalty and obedience. This authoritarianism took the form of a spiritual slavishness in his followers. Any question should not only be ridiculed, but should be punished. Like the Jem’Hadar, these slavish soldiers will even attack institutions based on the mere whims of their leader.
As it turns out, all of the changelings, including the great founder, are nothing more than buckets of shapeless, formless goo. Whatever shape they take in the moment is not their true form. That has only the substance of soft, organic slime that will retreat, regroup and reconstitute itself when conditions warrant. As it turns out, many of the Trump loyalists such as McCarthy, Cruz, Giuliani and even Haley are little more than masses of undulating goo at their center. And if anyone should not proclaim an instant, dogmatic loyalty to the head changeling, he/she will be severely punished.
There was a time when no changeling was allowed to harm another. See Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment. But with the emergence of Trump the changeling, that rule was abandoned with gusto. It’s not a coincidence that in the current iteration of Picard, changelings can and do kill one another.
Sidebar: Eventually, The Cardassians (the space Nazis of Star Trek) allied themselves with The Dominion during the war. Art imitates life.
Think I’m exaggerating? Take a look at what’s happening to state and local GOP parties at the grass roots level across the country. Today, Arizona, Nebraska, Michigan, etc. Tomorrow, America. There are no countries currently ruled by right-wing fascist ideologies, but the movements are growing.
The Borg. The Dominion. The two chief antagonists of the Star Trek universe. Very different, yet similar at their core. Despotic, totalitarian, autocratic and absolutely convinced of the moral certainty of their cause to the exclusion of all others.
Perhaps all two of you who read this may find my analogy to be trite and simplistic. Many find Star Trek itself to be trite and simplistic. Yet, I urge you to examine the chief avatar of both the extreme right and left; Donald Trump and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. If they aren’t generators of trite simplicity, I don’t know who is. And their quixotic proclamations only hold purchase because of their amplification by their legions of slavish followers, especially within the media.
Of course, neither side sees itself in the way I describe. The right views themselves as Klingons; a proud, warrior race. But the Klingons have honor. The new right have none. The left views itself as a group with infinite empathy, compassion and intellectual superiority, much like the Betazoid race. Yet, the Betazoid people also welcomed free expression and debate from all viewpoints. This notion is impossible for the left to grasp.
I’m sure anyone who is a Trek fan and who also cares about politics will read this and say something like, “Ryan, your analogy about the right is spot on, but your depiction of the left is crap.” People from the other side will echo this sentiment in reverse. It’s very easy to diagnose the opposition without running a concurrent self-evaluation. That is why we find ourselves where we are now.
In the escapism of Star Trek, both The Borg and The Dominion were fought and defeated by the Federation and their allies. That is fiction. We have no idea how things will play out in the real world of today. All I can tell you with certainty is that the threat is real and it is growing on both sides.