Monday, August 5, 2013

What Shall We Do With All These People?

I was at the library over the weekend, and within the returned DVD shelf, I found Star Trek Into Darkness. A quick check of the catalog showed that there were 142 holds on this movie, and library rules being what they are, had I snagged it out of the returned shelf, I could have taken it home.

I chose not to.

Why? You ask. I'd read the plot synopsis, and didn't see any reason to waste my time on it, because the plot sounded so fucking stupid. I won't watch it especially now, that I have so little time. (In fact, there's probably a worthwhile essay about how attention has become the new scare resource as opposed to time, but I'm sure it's already been written by someone).

Interestingly, this ties into an article I read in New Scientist, which said that 1978 was the best year ever, and it has been downhill ever since. (I maintain the world went to shit in 1973, and the hysteresis effect of our built world postponed it to public notice some six years later).

So, what does this have to do with Star Trek Into Darkness? Simple, content provision.

As the GPI per person (Genuine Progress Indicator, which is GDP plus some 26 other factors, not unlike the quality of life average index) slowed and then stopped in the year 1978. Well, now, wait, this disheartening statistic is only for the developed world. The article does point out that:
"world poverty rates have fallen from 42% in the mid-1990s to a projected 15% by 2015, representing half a billion people lifted out of poverty. Life expectancy has risen an average of 12 years for women and 11 years of men worldwide in the past 40 years".
On the other hand, in the US, real wages have remained stagnant as productivity has increased, income inequality has reached unprecedented levels, and the level of real employment is around 44%. Forget outsourcing, some 20% middle class jobs and have been replaced by computers and automation. There is very little chance for the hollowed out middle class to bounce back, despite rhetoric from DC, as  robotics is poised to eliminate the remaining jobs before the century is out.

What to do? What to do with all of these people? Do we have the resources for Juvenal's "panem et circenses"? (Food and entertainment provided by the state)? If so, would that be a ...po-lice... state? As, at present, I can't see any other option for the near future (aside from a big cull, which is always Plan R).

But Star Trek didn't have any of that, right? That had all been solved. That being, not just war, poverty, hunger, strife, disease, all gone, but also boredom and loneliness, a meaningless existence of mindless toil, and apparently under some socialistic paternal libertarianism that preserved fundamental liberties. Cake and eat it too!

And how did this happen? Why, thanks to good old 19th century romanticism. I mean, come on, that's Roddenberry's vision, right? The original series was, in every respect, a utopia straight out of the 1860s. It was steampunk before steampunk existed. Updating quaint 19th century notions about what the future would look like, with steel-plated ships powered by some type of giant Corliss engines, but powered by anti-matter instead of steam.

(Although credit Matt Jeffries for the nice design fictions of the Enterprise exterior and interiors).

But it's all a 19th century vision of the future, and what is a socialist paradise without a little socialism?

The point being what? Well, does everybody have a job in the Star Trek universe? Even the ne'er-do-wells? Everyone has a hobby that provides? Everyone is a creative content-producer? No working class workers? Well, maybe that was all taken care of by WWIII, and Lesson Well Learned.

Or, it could be (and this is the contradiction that no one wants to admit), it would take more than just the excision of the Calvinist idea of sin (idle hands and all that) but the excision of large parts of the Neolithic cultural package, which included such   time-tested heuristics such as:

  • MINE!
  • Property is property regardless of how it was obtained.
  • If its easier to kill and steal, kill and steal!
  • Why work when you can domesticate and enslave?
  • Women's work is property too!   
Et cetera. True this is kind of a cynical morality, but nevertheless, if you look closely at nations that have successfully followed this heuristic, well, events speak for themselves. Which gets us to the US of A the most successful practitioner of the Neolithic package. Why abandon it? Especially as, so it seems, the US of A managed to get through Roddenberry's WWIII relatively unscathed. Well, maybe we just learned "not to kill today", or some similar horseshit.

Alright, what has this to do with Star Trek Into Darkness? Having read the plot synopsis, I said this sounds like a bunch of shit, as in JJ Abrams shit.

Which is to say, let's put together a completely mindless, brainless action movie, and let the popular audience veg out to it. And they did, with success. And I am NOT averse to vegging out and watching big, dumb, loud action movies. (Read my review of Pacific Rim). No, what really gets me is, here Abrams and team go to all the trouble to re-imagine the (geeked out) Star Trek universe as the (vegged out) Star Wars Universe, but with Star Trek characters, and then they are too fucking lazy to come up with a new story for their new alternate universe, and instead make a bad remake of Wrath of Khan, but, you know, different. The Star Wars version, with no thought required.

Ah. That's fine. You know what? Fuck you Abrams. Go make your goddamn Star Wars movie for Disney. It'll be fantastic and make a ton of money. But, please, please stay out of the geek-out fiction aisle. Don't make any more Star Treks. Stick with mindless Star Wars style entertainment, and future generations will thank you for it, as they sit in their modular cubicle homes, munching Soylent Green flakes and taking up as little space and energy as possible. 

(Whoops, and! And! Pictures!)


  1. Love the castings. As for Star Trek Into Darkness, I saw it. It was as good as any other action thriller and just as likely. Fiction. Suspend belief. Enjoy the spectacle. (Still haven't seen Pacific Rim though, too busy and now it's gone.)

    1. I am not entirely pleased with the castings. They are not behaving as I expect them to. But I am going on "accept as is" basis. So, beggars can't be choosers.

  2. Looks like you have some reactions going on with the colors.

    1. Correct, which... I have not been keeping notes on. Also, I'm slowing down the ramp from high end soak to the anneal step to avoid mold cracks, which is producing some flashing in the glass.