Ktismatics

2 December 2007

To Boldly Go

Filed under: Ktismata — ktismatics @ 5:05 pm

Dominic at Poetix wrote a post about Star Trek, where he observes that every episode constitutes an excuse for Kirk and the Enterprise crew to violate the Federation’s Prime Directive, which prohibits them from interfering in local affairs on the planets they visit. I wrote a comment on Poetix, which I’m dragging back over here. Those of you who are familiar with my obsessions will recognize the plot…

Imagine a first contact story. As usual, the planet’s inhabitants are humanoid but possessed of a primitive culture. They are language-users, but their communication is very concrete, concerned exclusively with food, shelter, predators, etc. Again as usual, the Enterprise’s away team Violates the Prime Directive. They make friends with the natives, are invited to enjoy a meal and to spend the night. It’s early morning, and Kirk and the chief are shooting the shit around the campfire. The rosy fingers of dawn start stretching themselves across the horizon.

“Look,” says Kirk: “light.”

“He Mojo,” says the chief; “he drive chariot of fire across sky.”

“Right,” Kirk replies, “but I’m talking more abstractly here.” He points to the campfire: “Light.” He points to the volcano glowing redly in the distance: “Light.” He whips out his phaser and torches a nearby bush: “Light.”

Slowly the rosy fingers of enlightenment spread across the chief’s furrowed brow. Suddenly he jumps to his feet: “Light!” he bellows, waking up the whole tribe.

For six days Kirk talks with the chief about this local sector of the galaxy: light and darkness, earth and sky and seas, sun and moons and stars, plants and animals. On the sixth morning Kirk is awakened by a young and lovely maiden crawling under his fur blankets. They begin to snuggle…

“I am honored to sacrifice myself to the god who comes from the sky,” she confesses to him when they wake up the next morning.

What the heck? Hurriedly Kirk tugs on his overly-tight uniform and steps out of the tent; the chief, pleased, awaits. “What’s all this?” Kirk asks the chief.

“We have offered you our finest young virgin, and tomorrow we will throw her into the volcano for you.”

“Don’t think I’m not grateful,” Kirk demurs, “but don’t you see? I am not a god. You, your headmen, that fine young maiden in my tent, you – are – no – different – from – me. I’ve just been around the galaxy a bit more is all.”

Astounded, the chief exclaims: “the god Kirk has created us in his image!” Thus was born the Legend of the Six Days, when the god Kirk created the heavens and the earth.

Anybody ever seen that episode?

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23 Comments »

  1. Very good.

    So, “truth” becomes untruth in a given context. The scientific truths that Kirk brought were assimilated and embedded into a foreign context. In the foreign context the truths became untruths.

    So, Shatner was truly and actor. He was embedded in a new context of a television, sci-fi world on a filming set and he truly became a starship captain. Then he landed on this planet via the Ktismatics blog (or rather vis-a-vis another blog) and brought fire to the natives and slept with the virgin and then he truly became a god.

    Not bad. Not bad at all.

    William Who???

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    Comment by Jonathan Erdman — 2 December 2007 @ 6:08 pm

  2. I’ve heard it befour…

    …and I like it with the new cast.

    Meilleurs voeux!!

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    Comment by blueVicar — 2 December 2007 @ 6:24 pm

  3. Erdman, you’ve distorted my text beyond all recognition. Heresy! The bit about Kirk sleeping with the virgin was a gratuitous play for higher Nielsen ratings, but maybe in a sequel she is with child, the child becomes a preacher, he is crucified by a coalition of local traditionalists and Klingons…

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    Comment by ktismatics — 3 December 2007 @ 5:56 am

  4. I distinctly remember that episode (it’s old!) and it made an impression on me back then too. I’m brewing another soliloquy for the True Myth post on just this topic…

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    Comment by samlcarr — 3 December 2007 @ 6:47 am

  5. You mean there really was such an episode, Sam? I thought I was making it up. That’s sort of depressing, but if it’s really true I could cite it as supporting evidence in my Genesis 1 book. I wonder if there’s a list somewhere online of all the Star Trek episodes with plot summaries. Maybe there was no such episode, but it’s part of the collective unconscious so it just seems familiar?

    I look forward to reading your True Myth post, though whoever is still active at OST seems to ignore that thread. My Thought Experiment post at OST seems to have dwindled down to me talking to myself — I kind of wish I’d posted it here at Ktismatics instead, where I could have milked at least a dozen separate posts out of that one thread over the last month. Also did you see my post on the Conservapedia and its incipient homophobic fascism? That too seems to have elicited not much interest or commentary.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 3 December 2007 @ 6:54 am

  6. Or did you mean it was a REALLY old episode?

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    Comment by ktismatics — 3 December 2007 @ 7:19 am

  7. I tend to think that the recent Star Trek narrative (with the female captain) is supreme imperial propaganda: a hypertechnological society led by an enlightened matriarch chastizes lesser ”patriarchal” nations into submission. There is also a sense of futuristic white Aryanism, as represented by the blonde bimbo with huge tits who always gets into identity crises (am I Clingon or am I a WASP), invariably opting for her WASP identity. The narrative also tends to present technology as benevolent, a tradition shared by Spielberg and Disney. The figure of the doctor with an omnipotent remote controller that solves all medical problems is especially indicative.

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    Comment by parodycenter — 3 December 2007 @ 11:18 am

  8. K,

    Does it matter if it really was an episode??????

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    Comment by Erdman — 3 December 2007 @ 11:18 am

  9. In fact Clysmatics it would be interesting to analyze STAR TREK from the Hardt and Negrian standpoint as given in EMPIRE

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    Comment by parodycenter — 3 December 2007 @ 4:15 pm

  10. Well, as to my faltering memory, yes reeeeaaalllly old! You’ve got the gist of Shatner, Spock, & Co. doing similar things, though and would have made an excellent (and creative) episode writer – themes like inadvertently helping bring ‘civilization’ to folks of different stripes is a common Trek theme. There was also the episode where WS gets to quote “we the people”, and probably the closest to your own plot is the episode where WS is an amnesiac and marries the chief’s daughter after having been mistaken for a God. I think you should shoot it, but not before you publish Genesis…

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    Comment by samlcarr — 3 December 2007 @ 4:20 pm

  11. I remember the “we the people” episode, where the civilization has made the US Declaration of Independence into a fetish, no longer understanding what the words mean, pronouncing them incorrectly. Kirk delivers the moving soliloquy in with his usual over-the-top dramaturgy: WE the PEOPLE etc. establish JUSTICE… And the marrying the chief’s daughter as a God I remember too. I’m sure I’ve seen every episode at least once. The general theme of bringing civilization I agree is intrinsic to Star Trek, also to imperialism in all forms, and certainly plays on our godlike desires that are both prohibited and eagerly desired from those who would see us as emissaries of the Big Other.

    The new edition I’m afraid I’m not very familiar with, Mr. Danger. I thought the big-titted one was half Borg, or am I confusing the generations. Perhaps you and Parodycenter can trade insights into the matriarchical version.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 3 December 2007 @ 4:38 pm

  12. You’re right Clys, she’s actually a dark-skinned Borgoriginal but that is just like a Klingon so no surprise I confused them. Anyway the matriarchate version is unique for its Hardt-Negrian premise I think that the new Empire exercises power irrespective of gender, race, nationality and sexual orientation. It advertises multiculturalism and is always full of these soapy dialogues where the Western Matriarch ”reasons” the lost children from the dark-skinned planets into obedience. I would say there is also a Democratic aspect to it in that the show is androgyny-gay-and-bisexualism friendly. The ideology is more soft fascism than the gold-digger adventurism of the original Star Trek, although that one was pretty imperial too if I remember correctly.

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    Comment by parodycenter — 3 December 2007 @ 4:52 pm

  13. Oops, sorry Parodycenter I thought it was Erdman who brought up the new Trek gen. I disagree with your equating Borg with Klingon. While both are collectives, the Borg are machinic whereas the Klingon are barbaric. Though when you turn the line into a circle these two poles come together. The instinctual and the machinic coalesce especially in Deleuze & Guattari, where the “body without organs” = “the desiring machine.” The Federation fights the battle for individual agency and cooperation in the space between these two dehumanizing and depersonalizing extremes. The first Trek was certainly imperial. I’m currently working on a summary and response to Bull’s critique of Hardt & Negri, recommended to me by Traxus. For H&N, as for D&G, the barbaric machine is the source of agency on both the individual and collective level, which maybe makes them more communistic in their ethos than Roddenberry.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 3 December 2007 @ 5:05 pm

  14. I see your point, but on the other hand it seems that the Federation’s technology is superior, which means the superiority-inferiority binary is translated from the original imperial situation? And then also, the Federation insists upon ”humanity”, restoring humanity from the manmachine fusion – it’s a Communist Federation obviously. It is the Borg who strike me as Deleuzian in this case, as you just described it.

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    Comment by parodycenter — 3 December 2007 @ 5:16 pm

  15. I was just going to retract my communistic assertion but you beat me to it. You’re right: in a Deleuzian world the energy and power of the borg-Klingon fusion would generate the Federation as an emergent intersubjective force for galactic civilization and creativity. It’s the place where the neo-Marxists and the libertarians are so similar, which is also the place where k-punk comes under attack from the old Marxists. I think the Federation isn’t communistic either: more Jeffersonian-republican, more American multiculti extended intergalactically.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 3 December 2007 @ 5:25 pm

  16. In the old TV series I always had a sense that the Klingons corresponded to the Soviets and the Chinese: dark and primitive collectives. The Romulans were a more mysterious, more rational, more dangerous version of this communistic threat. The Borg seem more like the usual fear of technology run amok, of humanity ceding authority and autonomy to the very tools that mankind has built. What is the global analogy to the Borg other than the future USA?

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    Comment by ktismatics — 3 December 2007 @ 5:30 pm

  17. The Borg seem more like the usual fear of technology run amok, of humanity ceding authority and autonomy to the very tools that mankind has built.

    When I use the word ”Communism” here I am implicitly drawing a parallel between Disney and Stalin – they both made appeals to humanism, to the human core of mankind. (Of course, in reality, they were anything but) Meanwhile the Federation is cynically using the same surveillance devices it repudiates in the name of humanity, just like Disney and Stalin both developed sophisticated technologies for getting rid of their enemies.

    I think Deleuze’s Marxism is something entirely different, as he seems to be proposing a coming-through technology, an overcoming of the very user-machine binary, or am I seeing it wrongly? Enlighten me, dad. Deleuze doesn’t sound humanist.

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    Comment by parodycenter — 3 December 2007 @ 6:03 pm

  18. And what was the disagreement between new and old Marxists, kpunk et al? Is it about Althusserian structuralist Marxism versus the old, humanist one? I was never able to distill that from all the debates with Le Cobra, because she spent most of them bashing him for being a Tee Vee consumer.

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    Comment by parodycenter — 3 December 2007 @ 6:23 pm

  19. Your evaluation of the appeal to humanism seems right. I don’t know what else the communists base their appeal for universal justice, access to work, and protection of the powerless is based on, though I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m missing something here. The potential for corrupting humanism, for cynically using humanistic justifications to consolidate power, is available to capitalists and communists alike. I agree with you also about Deleuze. The dispute between new and old Marxists is what I’m trying to sort out by reading Traxus’s assigned reading list. I’m hoping he’ll enlighten us as we go along.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 3 December 2007 @ 6:41 pm

  20. Sam, did you notice that on Andrew’s post about his new book somebody wrote a comment about somebody else’s interpretation of Genesis 1, linking it to Andrew’s ideas. Andrew then gestures briefly toward an interpretation of Genesis 1 that fits his Israelocentric interpretation of all Scripture. Notice that in all our discussions of Genesis 1-3 Andrew has never voiced an opinion. No, I take that back: in the current Thought Experiment post he brought in a comment about Paul’s sexism and his citation of the Eden creation narrative. But he did so explicitly in the context of his book about the role of women in the church. When I critiqued his ideas he never responded. So that means Andrew has commented twice that I know of on Genesis 1-3, and both times they were in reference to his own published books. I’m going to be glad to finish up this Thought Experiment project and once again abandon OST, which seems like a less hospitable place this time than it did when I used to hang around there.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 3 December 2007 @ 7:05 pm

  21. i have to rephrase is it so that deleuze sees a FUSION of man and machine, a kind of mechanistic dualistic fantasy like the makeup of the Borg, or more like a passage through the Machine, where man may be infected and corrupted but this will result more into a portalic passage/evolution/the New Flesh, the body using the technology as a passageway to its hidden potentialities? This is the idea one gets from Deleuzian movies at least.

    from what i was able to pick up I think K-punk was saying that Marx abandoned his humanistic phase with CAPITAL and GUNDRISSE NOTES, and reverted to a structural variant, but I will await your conclusion on the Childie subthread.

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    Comment by parodycenter — 3 December 2007 @ 7:07 pm

  22. I recall Deleuze contending that man IS machine, that man is a kind of assembly of lower-level machine-like drives that inscribe themselves on man, and that man then MAYBE adds something subjective to these machine-like flows as they pass through the membrane. So a man-made machine isn’t that much different from a drive-made man. The question to me is whether Deleuze is too antihumanistic.

    Believe me, I know next to nothing about Marx and Marxist theory. I await enlightenment from you and Traxus and anybody else that can express an opinion in terms that I can grasp. I just put up my notes on Bull, whose comments on Negri suggest to me that Marxism requires some sort of humanistic commitment guiding the administration of the collective societal apparatus. Maybe the term “humanism” gets conflated with “individualism,” and “values” become a statement of subjective preference rather than a commitment to something that makes itself present in social relations.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 3 December 2007 @ 8:30 pm

  23. Sam, nice contributions on OST. Your latest on True Myth seems like a fitting summary and overall commentary on that thread, whether or not anyone else writes something to follow. And thanks again for the nod toward my efforts, thereby assuaging some of my envy of Andrew. I think Peter moved on in part because of that same sense I have, as well as the persistence with which Andrew pursues his particular reading of Scripture despite what I think is the essential indeterminacy of the Biblical texts themselves. So I agree with you on the ever-openness to new interpretations of the Scriptures, which as foundational texts of the dominant world culture are embedded in our collective unconscious, always available for renewed understandings.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 4 December 2007 @ 5:12 pm


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