By PZ Myers
Some guy named William Lehman has written an essay, Destroy the myth, destroy the culture, that starts off with a reasonable premise and then goes totally off the rails, in an entertainingly oblivious way, and as it’s crashing, invents a new label: the “SJW Glittery hoo ha crowd”. I love it, even though I don’t have a hoo ha, glittery or otherwise. I’m still happy to be associated with glittery hoo has fighting for social justice.
Anyway, the part I agree with is the importance of foundational myths to a culture — we need aspirational ideas, and something to give us a worthy cause. Where Lehman goes wrong is that he identifies with science fiction culture, and proceeds to regale us with a completely nonsensical vision of our foundational myths. Read and be astounded.
Are we not a culture? Hack us off, are we not pricks? Wrong us do we not seek revenge? Seems to me NBC figured out that we were, back when they killed Star Trek…
Say what you will about the SJW Glittery hoo ha crowd, they get this. I speculate that they get it because while we (the guys that grew up watching STOG and said “Hey those doors are COOL, how would you do that for real? Those communicators, could you do that?) went to engineering and hard science classes and started building the future that we wanted, the aforementioned individuals where going to the soft sciences (not real sciences at all in my NSHO) and studied how cultures work.
Our plan for the future was that we would tell the stories of how we wanted it to be, and then go forth and MAKE it. Our myths where written during the “golden age of SF”. Steered by guys like Campbell, even when the myths involved the soft sciences, it made them into hard science (Foundation, anyone?). Well our view of the future has virtually no intersection with the preferred future of the SJWs, or at least so it seems to me. Their view of the future seems, in science fiction to be more driven by Silent Running, etc etal.
So, since they DIDN’T go to engineering schools, they use the tools that they have to try to drive the future they want. They have been working diligently at it for about forty years now. They are doing it by attempting to destroy the myths that are the foundations of our societies, and replacing them with their own, or with NOTHING. They’re pretty far along in England, but then they started earlier there, and had the advantage of a nation exhausted from two world wars that destroyed many of the best and brightest of three generations. In national politics they are working at it with things like attacking George Washington as someone who not only owned slaves, but was a virulent supporter of the institution. If they can destroy the myths that we base our cultural view on, they change the culture.
Whoa…the guiding star of his ethos was the original Star Trek? And he watched it and thought it was all about doors that go swoosh and communicators and tricorders and spaceships? I’m thinking he must have been watching Star Trek in that alternate mirror universe where everyone was evil and wore goatees, because that’s not what the Star Trek in my universe was all about. My Star Trek was a humanist utopia that focused on social justice issues, sometimes in a heavy-handed and corny way, and the gadgets were just the glittery hoo ha thrown in to make it science fiction. Gene Roddenberry was openly humanist and made it crystal clear that that was an essential part of his optimistic vision for the future.
Or better yet, I have David Gerrold, an original writer for the show, right here to set the story straight.
But where Lehman has completely missed the point is that he uses Star Trek to justify his own beliefs while overlooking the much more important fact that Star Trek, The Original Series wasn’t about the engineering as much as it was about the “Social Justice Warriors Glittery hoo ha” stuff.
I was there. I know what Gene Roddenberry envisioned. He went on at length about it in almost every meeting. He wasn’t about technology, he was about envisioning a world that works for everyone, with no one and nothing left out. Gene Roddenberry was one of the great Social Justice Warriors. You don’t get to claim him or his show as a shield of virtue for a cause he would have disdained.
Most of the stories we wrote were about social justice. “The Cloud Minders,” “A Taste Of Armageddon,” “Errand Of Mercy,” “The Apple,” “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield,” and so many more. We did stories that were about exploring the universe not just because we could build starships, but because we wanted to know who was out there, what was our place in the universe, and what could we learn from the other races out there?
Star Trek was about social justice from day one — the stories were about the human pursuit for a better world, a better way of being, the next step up the ladder of sentience. The stories weren’t about who we were going to fight, but who we were going to make friends with. It wasn’t about defining an enemy — it was about creating a new partnership. That’s why when Next Gen came along, we had a Klingon on the bridge.
It blows my mind that someone could praise Star Trek and at the same time think it was an inspiration for getting out and learning how to design automatic doors. Completely missing the point, dude. The idea that the future we want is one where white guys have more toys and gadgets is totally trivializing. Maybe he needed to take more of those liberal artsey literature and communications courses in school.
P.S. I hate to break the news to Mr Lehman, but anthropology, psychology, history, theater, and literature are often more scientific than engineering. I don’t consider engineering to be a science at all, in my NSHO. I also think it’s a terrible idea to use scienceyness as the measure of the worth of a discipline. Engineering is good and important, and so is literature, and it is a category error to try and scale their value along a single metric. That’s an error Roddenberry would not have made, but apparently Lehman is prone to it.
P.P.S. Most of the founding fathers of this country did make excuses for slavery, and set the US off on a grossly racist course that led to a bloody war and many generations of racism that we still haven’t recovered from. I think it’s very important that our stories about our culture offer an honest and realistic picture of ourselves, because there is no other way to become better. Sugar-coating the past as he’d like to do interferes with that process of improvement.