Sunday, March 1, 2015

United Federation of Planets, be damned

The actual death of Mr. Spock, reminded me of my very favourite episode of the original series: Mirror Mirror, in which Capt. Kirk, Mr. Scott, Lt. Uhuru and Dr. McCoy are thrown into an alternate, "evil" universe (famously encountering Mr. Spock's cool goatee).

I always cheered for the goatee (
I haven't watched Star Trek programs or movies in many years.  Quite frankly, I didn't like the Next Generation very much, and that being that case, I didn't believe any of the subsequent series or movies were worth checking out.

In the original series, at least, the viewing audience doesn't get to know very much about the constitution of the United Federation of Planets, the interstellar entity served by the U.S.S. Enterprise.  The latter, in turn, is a member of Starfleet, which according to the Trekkie web site, Memory Alpha, is a "deep-space exploratory and defense service maintained by the United Federation of Planets. Its principal functions included the advancement of Federation knowledge about the galaxy and its inhabitants, the advancement of Federation science and technology, the military defense of the Federation, and the practice of Federation diplomacy."

It occurred to me that the Starfleet as presented in the original TV series, and in subsequent shows and films as well, serves not a 
"federation" at all, but an empire.  
According to Memory Alpha, the political entity of the Mirror Mirror alternative universe, is a "repressive interstellar government dominated by the Terrans from Earth in the mirror universe. The Empire ruled by terror, with its Imperial Starfleet acting as its iron fist."

But isn't the "actual" Starfleet in the original TV series at least, 
an almost entirely human enterprise?  Sure, there are a few token extraterrestrials serving (such as the Vulcan Mr. Spock, or the Klingon Mr. Whorf in the sequel program).  

Still, if the United Federation of Planets, were an actual federal polity, wouldn
t it be expected that non-humans would play a major role in the Federation’s military?  Vulcans, for example, are shown not only to be much more "logical" but more knowledgeable and physically stronger than humans.  Why aren't there more them on the Enterprise or any other starship, for that matter?  No doubt, someone has provided an explanation for this from "within the cannon."  (The actual reason being that it is too expensive to have too many actors in "alien" make-up, especially supporting actors and extras, whose on-screen exposure is very limited.  Leonard Nimoy, for example, would spend hours each day before filming having the relatively simple Spock ears and brows make-up being applied).

Even so, for a TV show that promotes the values of liberty, equality and fraternity 
among all creeds and races, the crew-members of Star Trek in all its many variants seem predominantly human.  Even Starfleet headquarters is situated on earth.
The obvious inference is that the "Federation" is an empire dominated by the people of earth, and its alleged commitment to "peace" is part of a propaganda war to sway the inhabitants of the galaxy to accept Terran hegemony, in favour of domination by the Klingons or the Romulans.  

Think of the Enterprise and its famed "five-year mission...  to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before..."

The Enterprise is in fact the scouting party for the extension of the human galactic empire.  Otherwise, why send a warship on an allegedly "scientific" mission?  Why else would this ship have a "science officer" who also is able to kick-ass like no human ever could?  Humans of the twenty-third and twenty-fourth centuries are said to have given up their earlier war-like behaviour; but the Federation clearly expects trouble as it explores galactica incognito, and thus that is why the "mightiest ship in the fleet" (able to destroy an entire planet) was sent on the mission...

The United "Federation" of Planets' actions are thus consistent with empire-building as witnessed throughout human history.  The state, be in republican, monarchical, or tyrannical, exists so long as it can stake a requisite claim on territory.  This is the meaning of "sovereignty", and a sovereign without territory is a mere pretender to the crown, or a government-in-exile.  A sovereign (be it a legislature, oligarchy or monarch) is considered legitimate, in turn, when it can monopolize armed force within a given territory.

When any state encounters others of its own type - other armed claimants to sovereign territory - the ultimate result has always been war.  Not that states have always been at war.  But the extension of territory by any one state is viewed as inherently threatening by its neighbours, whose sovereignty is thereby curtailed.  Throughout human history, states have colonized and conquered territory for the riches contained therein.  But interstate rivalry has also led sovereigns to claim territory without natural resources, just because not controlling it may lead to strategic disadvantage compared to an opponent polity.  The scramble to acquire resource-worthless but strategically-valuable territory has led to war in itself, and the purpose of war for any state, has been to achieve absolute sovereignty over all its rivals.  This is the political arrangement called "empire."

Klingons and Romulans.

Thus the logic which led to the moonshot.  Having "lost" the space-race with the Soviet Union to claim the immediate boundaries of the New Frontier (that is, earth orbit), the United States was determined to stake a successful claim to the nearest territory to the earth: the moon.  Having planted the stars and stripes on the lunar surface on the timetable promised by president Kennedy in 1962, the Americans soon understood what the Soviets already determined by sending unmanned satellites to the moon: that the latter is an airless sphere of rock without any apparent commercial (or more importantly, strategic) value.  This the reason why, after going a few times, the U.S. hasn't bothered with the moon in more than forty years.
One giant stumble for empire

The original Star Trek series was conceived and produced during the exciting days of the space race.  It was a hypothetical (or really, fantastical) treatment of the New Frontier ideology to extend far into the Milky Way.  The Federation is a sovereign entity precisely because it controls so much territory: planets, and the outer space between them.  The Enterprise was sent into deep space to extend that territory, lest unknown planets fall to the imperium of the Klingons or Romulans (or, apparently, The Borg, The Dominion and the Cardassians in later series).

Of course, the United Federation of Planets has the Prime Directive, aka Starfleet General Order number 1.  This "prohibits Starfleet personnel from interfering with the internal development of alien civilizations."  For a military directive that is supposedly so primary, the various Trek crews violate it constantly.  Again, according to how the Prime Directive is treated by the Trek creators themselves, it is clear that it is part and parcel of "Federation" propaganda, a way to induce the alien civilizations the Enterprise encounter and then "accidentally" contaminate by breaking the Prime Directive, into joining the Terran empire, and not those of the Klingons and Romulans.  

The original Star Trek TV series, and its many sequels, conveyed the "Sixties" idealism of its creator, Gene Roddenberry, envisioning a future without war, racism, and hatred of any kind within the human family, and between people and many alien races.  However, the Mirror Mirror episode perhaps conveyed the fears of the Star Trek of what humanity actually would do, if it were to become equipped with impossible things like war drives, the transporter drive, artificial gravity, and so.

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