I mean… who doesn’t want warp drive?
Alas, this is not a conversation about Star Trek, although footnote: I’m really enjoying Discovery. And I’m not even a Trekkie. But given how much it’s lifted from Battlestar Galactica and the Expanse in terms of both vibe and values, I guess it makes sense that I’m cheering. But I digress…
No. What I want is a Star Trek-esque future. Albeit in which clothes have pockets.
A future in which all of humanity has been united in a common ethical identity. In which we zip around the cosmos in our fancy machines, and are all like “Do you see the universe in a different way? Cool!” and prejudice is a concept that needs looking up in the dictionary.
Whereas what it feels like we’re heading for is a Mad Max future, in which we eat two-headed lizards raw.
And this is, I guess, is another reason why I’m a fluffy left-wing liberal with a heavy dose of environmentalism and feminism.
Now, I’m aware as I say this, that declaring my allegiance to a political ideology based on science fiction doesn’t exactly dent the idea that fluffy left-wing liberals are hugely naive. So let me hastily add that as well as genuinely hoping for a world in which we don’t have to eat each other, I also believe the data supports the argument. The rampage of right-wing politics in recent years has lead to massive social inequality, entirely of our own creation; poverty, desperation, hatred and rage that feels only a few steps away from the Thunderdome. The rich are getting richer, the poor poorer, and in doing so we are permitting suffering in our society that we are more than capable of alleviating if only we bothered to treat everyone, universally, as human beings of equal value and respect.
At its heart, the ideology behind current British policies is this: that people don’t work because they’re lazy, rather than because society has a responsibility to its kin; that everyone has to look out for themselves first; that individual action is more powerful than collective action; that individual identity is stronger than social bonds and that money is more right than data, ethics or society. The current Conservative Party seems in many ways to be the epitome of this view, as the individuals who should be thinking entirely of the greatest good put themselves above the country in a back-stabbing war of attrition that shafts everyone else.
We permit suffering that we could prevent.
We put up walls, shutting down into insular self-protection, because to believe in this creed is to fundamentally believe that someone else is out to take what you have, at the earliest possible opportunity, because they can: and what’s worse, our society is probably gonna permit it. We permit the rule of the minority over the many, raise up and exalt money and power over any other ethical framework. We do not work together as a society to explore, or study, or to build something bigger for ourselves. Our ambitions do not stray towards the stars, towards a humanity that is more than just a species festered in consumption at all cost. We protect ourselves from shadowy demons that only we can name, and we do so with money.
We tell ourselves that multiculturalism is somehow a threat to our identities, as if 2000 years of a Jewish diaspora nurturing and protecting its culture through all the violence, bigotry and hate that the world could throw at it ever didn’t teach us that stories endure where people tell them. As if seeing a mosque on Dalston Kingsland instantly changes the shape of my soul, or, most absurd of all, as if by hearing other people’s stories and learning who they are, we might lose a piece of ourselves, instead of being enrichened by it. As if opening our eyes makes us weak.
We reduce other humans to being lesser than ourselves.
And damnit, this means I’m not gonna get a warp drive for Christmas.
Because all the science fiction dreams of the future – even the most raggedy ones – tell stories of a humanity that hasn’t just transcended its geographical constraints, but of a species that has found an ethical identity that matters, that makes it worthwhile that we go into the stars. It tells of an identity that defines humanity collectively as brave, intelligent, erudite, compassionate and constantly on a quest to do the ‘right’ thing, regardless of whether this human wears a turban or that human has a uterus. Not as what we appear to be right now – insular, bullish, resource-crazed introverts living in constant fear of our neighbours.
And yes, it is a tricky thing to both believe that humanity can be more than this, and also demand that our government legislate more to protect us from our minority overlords. But society’s values change – and right now we are being told by our rulers to be scared, rich and numb to daily outrage so long as its perpetrated by the powerful. We can do better. We must do better. We can change our politics, we can change our economy, we can change the way we think and still have the stories of who we are and where we come from, almost as if identity were a many splendid thing and the human soul can encompass a hundred – a thousand! – different ideas all at once, and be many things, to many people, as part of a whole, not as a lone wolf howling in the night.
And maybe if we do that, I can still get my goddamn warp drive.