It’s hard to believe, in the current year of 2021 CE, that Star Trek: The Next Generation was once seen as the cutting edge of progressivism.
It’s true that it introduced a ship’s counsellor to the show, not to mention men who were willing to speak to her about their feelings (although, sadly, she was made to prance around in a body-hugging leotard, thus subjecting herself to the male gaze of various species).
It’s true that there was an episode that promoted reproductive rights: who can forget the triumphant moment when Commander Riker has his own clone destroyed, in protest at the stealing of his DNA?
And it’s true that Jean-Luc Picard tells the android Data: “We too are machines, just machines of a different type” thus cheering the (metaphorical) soul of every right-thinking materialist.
The Next Generation, however, seems increasingly problematic as time goes by. “The Prime Directive” — the doctrine of non-interference by which no contact is made with developing civilizations, until they reach a certain level of technological advancement — seems much less noble in the era of Brexit and America First isolationism.
Then there is the issue of Wesley Crusher, who lost his father as an infant and is perpetually seeking a father figure in the ship’s captain. That storyline might as well have been thought up by a member of the Iona Institute, with their perpetual babble of “a child’s need for a mother and father”. Spare us!
In this article, however, I want to ignore such low-hanging fruit and concentrate on a more challenging topic. I fear that even some of my fellow progressives might hesitate to follow me in this one. But can we really call ourselves progressives if we don’t continually question conventional thinking and taboos – to boldly go where no-one has gone before, in the best Starfleet tradition?
Surely it is now time to ask the question: were the Borg the bad guys after all?
The Borg, of course, were the race of cyborgs who formed a single collective consciousness, advancing through the galaxy and adding the “biological and technological distinctiveness” of other races to their own. In the series, they are presented as terrifying, implacable, the veritable Grim Reapers of the galaxy.
Admittedly, the vilification of the Borg had one good side to it — the notable pallor of their faces brought to mind another pale-skinned demographic with a lamentable history of colonisation, and may have subliminally helped white viewers of The Next Generation to accept their own guilt in so many of the crimes of history.
But the show’s handling of the Borg is also deeply, deeply troubling, on many levels.
First of all, the “hive mind” of the Borg is portrayed as something inhuman and deadening.
Take the words of Geordi La Forge, who attempts to explain individuality to an isolated member of the Borg: “I am Geordi. I choose what I want to do with my life. I make decisions for myself. For somebody like me, losing that sense of individuality is almost worse than dying.”
I don’t know about you, but that sort of rhetoric, in the context of today, makes me shudder.
It’s the rallying-cry of the lockdown sceptic who demands the right to avoid vaccination, to walk around without a mask, and to endanger the health of everybody around him.
It’s the language of the backwoods home-schooler who wants to teach her kids that homosexuality is a sin forbidden by God.
It’s the justification of the Alt-Right university professor who demands the right to mispronoun his students.
Let’s be honest. As knowledge progresses, the reasonable domain of “individuality” is doomed to shrink ever more. We know more than our grandparents did. Our grandchildren will know more still.
Our grandparents, for instance, might have reasonably believed that “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”. Today, however, mountains of objective social scientific research make it clear that hate speech endangers the health and even the lives of minorities.
The Boomer’s naive belief in “free speech” is now, to be honest, untenable. And the same principle applies to more and more (former) controversies every day.
In The Next Generation, the calling-card of the Borg are the words: “We are the Borg. Resistance is futile.” In the series, of course, the words are doomed to be disproven, as a tribute to the undefeatable spirit of humanity.
But try this on for size; how much do the words “resistance is futile” resemble the warning not to be on “the wrong side of history”?
Are progressives “menacing” conservatives when they warn them that they are putting themselves on “the wrong side of history”? No, they are not! They are simply trying to appeal to their reason, trying to make them see the utter futility of their obstructionism.
Resistance to same-sex marriage, for instance, is indeed futile (and stupid).
As access to education becomes more widespread, more and more people see that opposition to LGBTQ+ rights is simply ignorant, bigoted and conducive to no good end whatsoever. Why should we encourage conservatives to waste their efforts on campaigns that will simply make themselves and other people miserable? What is achieved by that? Isn’t it kinder to tell them they are wasting their time?
The Borg are, to be blunt, more advanced than the races they assimilate. To be even blunter, the races that they assimilate are completely irrational in their resistance. They have everything to gain and nothing to lose. Does this remind you of anybody?
But what about self-determination, you ask? Surely the Borg are wrong in forcing their way of life on other civilizations? Can’t we at least agree on that?
Well, not really. The problem is that your standard reactionary (despite his predictable denunciation of consent classes for college students) will always muddy the waters when it comes to “consent”.
He loves slogans like: “Nobody ever voted for multiculturalism”. He will point to the second referenda on the Nice and Lisbon treaties as “proof” that the “globalist elite” in Ireland will “never take no for an answer”. He will question the validity of democratic decisions on the basis of “liberal hegemony” in the media, academe, and elsewhere. If you point to Brexit, he’ll argue that the “globalist media” did everything they possibly could to block the result. The term “Project Fear” will probably feature.
Let’s be honest: there’s no definition of “consent” that will ever satisfy the reactionary. So we may as well concede the point. Yes, BrianBoru1014, the globalist elite is pushing globalization on you. And they are right to do so.
Globalization is better. That’s why it happens. When people (even misguided lefties) complain about “McDonaldization”, they miss the point that McDonald’s simply came up with the best way to sell burgers. That’s why they succeeded.
As the world becomes more connected, better ways of doing things will inevitably flourish. Even slow learners will learn that listening to experts is preferable to wallowing in ignorance. Science wins over superstition, humanity wins over national chauvinism, and consensus slowly prevails. If you want to call that a hive mind, go right ahead.
So surely it’s time for progressives to say it loud and to say it proud: We are the Borg. Resistance is futile.