I think of Star Trek in exactly this way. I've been working my way steadily through the Deep Space 9 series and I can't remember the last time I've enjoyed such a thorough study of moral dilemmas that cover such a vast scope of possible outcomes. The show always gets me thinking, every episode is food for thought. For example, today I was watching an episode where one of the characters said, "It is a soldier's duty to fight during war time" in response to one of the other characters who was glad they'd been assigned a relatively safe mission. I found myself agreeing with him. If you know me at all, you'll know that I usually disagree with this sentiment entirely but the circumstances in this show are different.
|From "Starship Troopers"|
To be sure, this is because there are many different races of sentient, humanoid, life forms that take sides against us. I've phrased the last sentence in a certain way to make a point. The show makes the case that in our future human beings no longer seek out battles with any one, rather our curious nature has us exploring the universe to learn and understand everything that lies within it. We don't, any longer, take sides against other types of people, other humanoids, but from time to time, though we mean no living creature any harm, they take sides against us. We are enlightened beings in this sense. In this show, when we engage in war, it is always in defense of the sacredness of all life and in preservation of our ideals against forces which seek to destroy both. And so, when Commander Worf says it is a soldier's duty to fight during war time, under these circumstances, how could I not agree? Not to defend ourselves against an enemy force which seeks to reign over our curiosity and creativity, to bend our collective wills into blind submission of their own, would be a far greater evil than to be completely passive toward a collective of beings which have been genetically engineered to have no appreciation of life, and which can never have this idea communicated to them. This enemy in Star Trek is a purely destructive force. Such a war against such an enemy is a just war, alas I have never witnessed such a thing. I've read about one or two debatably just wars in history books, but no war in my life time has ever been a just war against an ignorant and purely destructive force that is incapable of being reasoned with. In my life time war has always simply been men and women killing men and women over squabbles that seem rather petty in comparison to the value of each and every human life. We raise our guns and arm our bombs to destroy one another where we should be raising our voices and opening our arms to embrace one another in the spirit of friendship.
We could learn a lot from science fiction, a lot more than we do. Instead of taking as much stock in the philosophies present in every science fiction novel, episode, and film, we denounce their admirers as nerds, and dweebs, and geeks. We mock people who spend their time hypothesizing about better cultures than our own rather than heralding them as champions of thought, and we do so at our own expense. We like to think of ourselves today as modern people, but we really haven't advanced that much. Our technology has evolved, but the way we think about one another is still very much the same, our general culture of some people being worth less than others is still very much intact. If you were to take any person who lived in the time of Jesus Christ and raise them from infancy here today, you'd find they would be no different than you or I, and the same is true in reverse, and thus in this respect we have not evolved even an ounce. We are still the same people today we were 2,000 years ago, the only difference is that we've got better stuff. And even then, we have the same appreciation of it now that we did all those years ago. We have an abundance of food, water, shelter, healthcare, and education and yet we still continue to treat it as if we don't know if next year's crop will be good enough to support the local populace, much less the world’s. What we have in abundance we treat as if it were scarce and we treat people as if it needs to be rationed out somehow and we do this by making them work under the threat of doing without these things. We gain people’s cooperation within all of our societies by holding their quality of life at ransom.
The United States alone generates more food in a year than there is money or demand to buy it all. And what do we do? We hoard our food supply, we stockpile it, anything but give it to someone somewhere else who is starving for no other reason than that they can't pay for it. This is incredibly ironic when you consider that the average American household wastes 40% of their food supply. Economics is an idea. Capitalism is an idea. Meritocracy, which is the idea that people should get what they deserve or have earned, is only an idea. People, men, women, and children, live in filth, live in constant hunger, live without proper medical treatment, live without realizing their potentials through education, all because of our ideas, their sum total being that for one reason or another, "it's not our problem" or "they deserve it". Amazing how in 2,000 years we still haven't learned how to properly view our fellow man. Many of us think of people as expendable things, as entities separate from ourselves, a few of which are greater than ourselves, and most of which are lesser than ourselves. We are human beings, and not a one of us is worth something different from another, not less and not more, because this value exists independent of a person’s contribution, wellness, rank in a military or in an academic institution or anything else for that matter. Man is something whose value exists as a means unto itself, not as a means to an end of some kind or another, which is what living with Capitalism has most of us believing. We are not Americans, nor are we Russians. We are not Christians, nor are we Muslims. We are not combatants, nor are we merely allies. We are Humans, that is our species, and we exist under this mantle as a collective which in its full sum is a singular, undivided entity. It is easy to forget this sometimes, or even never really learn this lesson at all, because of how caught up we've all gotten in the different ideas we've come to value and defend so ardently. Please, don’t misunderstand me, it is a good thing to have and to love ideas, it is even a good thing to defend one's ideas, but not at the sum expense of another person's existence or quality of life. The idea of this species trumps the value of all other ideas. Why? Because if we place any other notion above ourselves, in the end we will destroy ourselves. When push comes to shove, if you make some people choose between other people and an idea you've persuaded them to vest more value in than those other people, they will choose the other idea and then we are lost to nothing more than emotions fueled by opinions, beliefs.... mental constructs of a mind or minds not well suited to respecting the sanctity of life. To quote science fiction writer Philip K. Dick, “Then [we’re] cursed and cursed again. [We] will only wind up dead this way, knowing very little and getting that little fragment wrong too.”
I'll say it again; We could learn a lot from science fiction, a lot more than we do. And no matter what the source, we’d better learn soon because this way of life which each of us has found ourselves living in is not sustainable, and not just ecologically speaking. This isn’t a threat, this is our reality, and the only threat that exists is the one we’ve created for ourselves. Our species is its own arbiter and it always has been, and it is for us as a collective whole to pass down our own judgment upon ourselves. This judgment, it is not the government's job, it's not the church's job, it is not your job and it is not my job. It is a job for all of us, together, as one human race. The only question is, will we deliver unto ourselves a death sentence and then proceed to be our own executioner, or will we choose life, a better life, a human flourishing at a level which no person has ever seen before? These are really our only options, because our toys are getting bigger, faster, and far more deadly every day. We have learned how to construct near perfect weapons of mass destruction before we have learned how not to use them. Our cleverness with technology has made us our own worst enemy, to the extent that either we find enlightenment, we evolve our culture, we grow to unify as one people or we will find this planet becoming a mass grave for a bunch of imbeciles in the long run, it’s really that simple.