Thursday, September 22, 2011

They've Got Us All By The Roddenberries

Hey, Y'All!

Recently an acquaintance of mine posted the following Bookface™ pronouncement.  Reading it kinda broke my heart:

"With _______ back in school I fear I may have to get a 'regular' job. Doing anything other than acting, writing, directing or performing in some way is seriously PAINFUL when I know that I have been born to do nothing else but create art." 

The person who wrote that really shouldn't have to worry about such things.  She's an incredibly hard-working and talented vocalist and actor and I really do believe that neither the world nor reality has any right to ask her to do anything different.   

When I was working in a call center people would always come up to me and say: "OMG!  You're sooooo creative. You're just wasting your time here.  You should be out there doing something with your gifts."

To which I'd usually reply: "Really, wow, that's great advice, but who's gonna bankroll this l'il venture?  Are you gonna sponsor me for this noble but highly unprofitable cause?" 

That would usually shut them up.  

Indeed, we as a society always profess to love our artists, but we never seem to want to put our money where our collective mouths are.  Certainly our block-headed Conservative Harper government doesn't seem to want to help.  I used to witness this crap first-hand as a kid when someone would commission my Dad to do a custom painting and then haggle with him over the already-agreed-upon price, knowing full well that he couldn't sell it to anyone else.  

Look, I'm one of the biggest supporters of capitalism on this planet.  After all, I wouldn't have self-published a book if I didn't think I could sell it for my own financial betterment.  But I'm afraid that, more and more every day, we're moving away from capitalism and veering dangerously towards corporatism.  

I'm constantly hearing tales about how creative, unique people are being forced to abandon their dreams, turn a blind eye to their talents and pledge their allegiance to a patron corporation who's entire function is to turn them into interchangeable drones whose sole function is to make a bunch of rich assholes even richer.  Why is this happening so much?  Because they can't afford to survive financially the way our society is currently set up.

Like you, I never had a say in how things are done in this great, big, wacky world of ours.  As a kid I can remember watching Star Trek and trying to figure out why humanity didn't strive to be a little bit more like the future depicted in this visionary show.  Well, minus the rampant sexism, of course.      

Although I consider the philosophies of the original, early 60's iteration of Star Trek to be half-baked at best, the concept really came to term during the Next Generation run.  It's here that Gene Roddenberry's vision of the future really came into focus.  He seemed to be telling us that one day we'd all look at each other and go: "Hey, we're all not all so different from one another after all!  Why don't we stop all this greedy fussin' and a-feudin' and actually work together for a change!  We could achieve some incredible stuff!"


Indeed.  Perhaps the most intriguing thing Roddenberry posits is the end to monetary pursuits.  His society still has jobs and careers that need doing, but people volunteer to do them.  That way, what you choose to do with your life dove-tails perfectly with your area of interest.  If you're the risk taking type you can become a starship captain.  If you're the creative sort and want to become a traveling interstellar playwright, we gotcha covered.  Hells, even if you wanna do something totally pedestrian like tend the gardens outside Starfleet Academy, why you can just go ahead and fill your trowel!

It's like when Spock tells Kirk in Wrath of Khan: ""If I may be so bold, it was a mistake for you to accept promotion. Commanding a starship is your first, best destiny; anything else is a waste of material." 

So what if being an actor, writer or musician is your first best destiny?  Well, in our society, you'll likely end up with a title like "customer service specialist"; a fate just as wrong-headed as Kirk's promotion to Admiral.   

However, in the utopia if Star Trek, the space government will give you a place to live, food and all the amenities you could ever want.  Presumably as long as you continue to do something productive.  Certainly these philosophies are relevant to more then just artists.  It has the potential to re-work our entire way of thinking.  Can you imagine being free to live your life exactly how you want to, without having to perform meaningless tasks to earn paper credits which, in turn, you can exchange for the privileged of not starving to death or dying of exposure during the winter? 

For an inexplicably large chunk of the population, particularly in the U.S., they most certainly do not want to even ponder such a hellish scenario. They even have a label for just such a repellent concept.  It's a filthy word, a word which instantly conjures up images of shiftless hippies, idle immigrants and communist sympathizers.

That word is "socialism".  

I once got into a knock-down, drag-out argument with a particularly myopic co-worker over this.  After the left-leaning NDP party got elected here in Nova Scotia he went on a loud, public tirade about how their "socialist ways" would soon interfere with the business world and blissfully hand out a free lunch to all kinds of deadbeats and slackers.  

"That's friggin' ridiculous," I shot back.  "Do you really have such a low opinion of your fellow human beings?  Most folks are extremely dedicated and hard-working.  They get a sense of fulfillment and gratification when they feel as if they're contributing to society.  Trouble is, most jobs nowadays are so devoid of free will and creativity that people start to go a bit nuts after doing them for a few months..."

"But that's part of the streamlining process for businesses!" he replied.  "When there's turnover they don't have to put a ton of effort into training people!"

"When did not training people become a good thing?  Besides, what happens when some rich company decides they're not making quite enough money so they lay off all of their workers and ship their jobs down to Guatemala?  Don't you think some higher authority should be able to step in and say 'Hey, look!  We've seen your public records and your company isn't in any financial danger.  You're just doing this to increase the bottom line and make the investors even richer.  You can't do that!"

"Absolutely not!" he shouted back.  "Government has no right to stick their noses into business matters.  If I've worked my ass off to build a successful operation, the last thing I want is some outside influence telling me what to do!"

"Well that would be all well and good if these giant corporations could be trusted to do the right thing!"  I countered.  "I've seen vibrant, healthy businesses lay off people just because the minimum wage went up.  I've seen people forced to work long hours in terrible, stressful and unhealthy conditions.  I've seen supposedly respectable companies close up shop and move just because they couldn't extort enough tax breaks out of the regional government."  

"Well, I...uh..," he stammered.

"And what about all the poor slobs who's lives you've just upset in your quest to maximize profits?  Don't you think there should be some sort of government-sponsored support system to help people survive financially without devastating their life savings as they look for a new job?"

"Yeah, but people abuse stuff like that!"

"Then crack down on the abusers!" I yelled.  "Don't blame honest people for the failings of a few bad apples!  Sometimes corporate assholes do bad things to legitimately good people.  Trust me, I know!"

Yeah, he got real quiet after that.

But there's more lunacy afoot.  The endless debate on universal health care in the U.S. really cracks me up.  Why wouldn't you support a program that could provide basic unalienable rights to those unfortunate souls who don't have access to an affordable company-sponsored health care system?  Cripes, I can't believe that people wouldn't at least like see crooked HMO's get their just deserts.  I'm talking about the criminals who won't cover someone's medical bills just because they happened to be unconscious en route to the hospital after a car crash and couldn't fill out their paperwork properly. 

Seriously, it's like we're still all living in the Dark Ages, people!  It's like we're all still serfs in a feudal society and the Kings are the corporations.

Folks are so concerned and paranoid that someone else might get a slight advantage over them, they just freak the hell out.  Until we all stop being so petty and preoccupied with counting everyone else's beans, there will always be this crazed, irrational hatred for what's been mislabeled by the media and public perception as "socialist".  

For the record, my definition of socialism is "common sense".  It's a focus an humanism, work-life balance and a strong desire to make our world more viable by providing a level playing field for everyone.  I truly believe that the measure of a civilization is how it treats its most underprivileged members.  

Until this perception changes and we look at alternate ways to run our society (perhaps inspired somewhat by the Great Bird of the Galaxy himself), we're just gonna keep frittering our lives away, investing large chunks of our limited time on earth doing monotonous tasks to benefit a bunch of elite, rich jack-holes who don't give a crap about us.  

These corporate bloodsuckers just love to see the word "socialist" get misinterpreted by the media over and over again.  After all, why would they want to change the status quo?  It certainly wouldn't help their pledge for self-supremacy, now would it?

EPIC  This whole doc is pretty cool, but if you skip to Part III ("Project Earth") @ the 1:30 mark you can ponder another person's well-researched speculation of what society could be if we all just got on the same page...


EPIC TOO  Leave it to Jon Stewart to boil things down for us...

FAIL  Good litmus test: if you tend to think that Rupert Murdoch's lapdog Glenn Beck is completely bazonkers then you're on the right track.  This is actually one of the tamer clips I could find of this nut bar:

1 comment:

Brodie said...

Your analogy to feudal society isn't far off the mark, according to some. In those days there were "dragons" that we made offerings to, and did random stuff for to keep them appeased. Now there's the "economy"... it's all the same bit. The few are making money off the many :( Sad times. I hope more socially minded people get their voices heard, and we turn this ship around before it's too late - thank you for being one of those!