Role of Artists, Part Two

For those who say, in response to my column yesterday, that art which makes a statement has got to be boring or pedantic or not beautiful, let me offer the modern-day example of “Star Trek The Next Generation.”

“Star Trek TNG” had a definite and clear point of view on what a future—and better—society would look like.  TNG was ~not~ about technology and intragalactic battles; it was about how our economic system, our political infrastructure, our culture, beliefs, values and morals would change in the future.

Yet TNG is not boring or pedantic or preachy.  It is fun, glamorous, exciting, engaging, and compelling.

These are some of the values of the society portrayed in “Star Trek The Next Generation”; the values of its creator Gene Roddenberry:


UNIVERSAL EQUALITY AND RESPECT

  • Respect for all sentient life.  “We no longer enslave animals for food.”
  • A mandate (the Prime Directive) to respect the rights of all intelligent life; no one is to impose the will of the powerful upon the weak.
  • No discrimination against nationalities (or species); young people older people; women.  All are equal in the assignment of life’s work, if they have the skill and deseire.  All are respected.
  • Every profession is respected, from bartender to captain; the arts as well as the sciences.
  • The ability to feel is as important and as respected as the ability to think.
  • Anything that seems like slavery, even in the case of people who “voluntarily” submit to a life of giving up their own needs to support the needs of another, is challenged and examined.  The episode where Famke Janssen plays a Metamorph examines this issue in terms of someone who was born with the ability to completely transform herself to the desires of her intended husband and who apparently desires to do so.

PERSONAL HONESTY AND SELF IMPROVEMENT

  • Everyone is trusted; therefore everyone is honest.  Everyone is honest, therefore there is trust.  E.g. there are no passwords on the com panels: Riker is surprised when a guest from the 20th century uses the com panels to advance his own personal agenda.
  • Brains are preferred over brawn, negotiation over battles.
  • The attitude of being open-minded enough to learn from our mistakes and to grow as a person is portrayed in almost every episode.
  • Many examples of people admitting their own faults, especially leaders.
  • Many examples of leaders openly listening to subordinates—anyone who has a good idea, even the pain-in-the-ass guest from the 20th century who offered advice on negotiation tactics.
  • Letting each person develop at his or her own pace.
  • Constantly critical self-evaluation, constant learning.  E.g. are these little robots really an intelligent life form that needs to be respected?  We need to consider that possibility.  Finding the truth is more important than expedience in finishing a job.
  • The search for scientific knowledge is valued over the self-protection of ego (by hiding one’s mistakes, for example.)
  • Glory in conquest is unfavorably compared to duty, honor and loyalty.  Worf: “The battle is not without; it is within.”

INDIVIDUAL FREEDOM

  • Everyone picks the job s/he wants to do; any career path is open to you if you work for it
  • “No being is so important that he can usurp the rights of another.”
  • “We are special, each in his own way.”
  • “It’s a part of me and I like myself.” (from Season Two “Loud as a Whisper.”)
  • “Humans no longer own each other in that way,” (as in “Is he your man?”)

IMPROVED INTERPERSONAL & WORK RELATIONSHIPS

  • Understand the differences between little errors and big errors.  “You just messed up on protocol;  but you discovered a new organism.” (from Season 2 “A Matter of Honor.”)
  • Responsibility and authority go hand in hand.

CONCERN FOR THE GOOD OF THE LARGER WHOLE

  • Search for knowledge is preferred over pursuing your own individual interests.
  • “Jeremy, on the Starship Enterprise, no one is alone.  No one.”  (from Season 3 “Bonding.”)

PEACE AND LEARNING, NOT WAR AND EXPLOITATION FOR PROFIT.  SOCIETY PROVIDES FOR BASIC NEEDS.

  • There is no concept of money in the Federation; no need for money.
  • Everyone does a job they enjoy, without consideration for how much it pays or whether it has health care (since health care is universally available.)
  • Scientific inquiry is more important than commerce.
  • “We have eliminated hunger and need, want for possessions.  We have grown out of our infancy.”  (from Season 1 final episode.)
  • “Material needs no longer exist.” “Then what’s the challenge?”  “To improve yourself, enrich yourself, enjoy.”

SCIENCE, NOT METAPHYSICS

  • “…Just as we no longer believe the stars control our fates.”

 

All in all, a most excellent world.  One in which I’d like to live.  And it’s the art and entertainment which made it so.

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