Monday, August 10, 2009

Ideological Seepage

I wanted to continue a previous discussion thread involving the defeatist attitude of the left and how it influences the media (it's in there; it's a long discussion thread). This post and this one are good to get a general idea of what I mean if you don't already know. The one about Spider-Man II is especially good because in Frank Rich's column he shares the notion that if you have superior power you should be extremely reluctant to use it, even if you are using it for a good purpose, including self-defense. You first need to do everything under the sun but use your power, which usually means talking and capitulating to demands a lot. If you do finally have to use it, you should be really unhappy about it the whole time and not be able to respect yourself afterward, because it's basically a failure in your diplomacy skills. That is, unless you're trying to push unpopular legislation through Congress, in which case anything goes.

Recent events in North Korea reminded me of an old Star Trek: The Next Generation episode that virtually mirrors what went down in Pyongyang and is also a great illustration of how this thinking has been seeping into our popular culture for a while now. The more I thought about it, the more I kept thinking of more and more things I was exposed to while growing up that had a decidedly leftist slant. Here is one example.

The TNG episode I mentioned is from the show's first season, so it's about 20 years old. In it, the Enterprise is dispatched to retrieve a badly needed vaccine from what Captain Picard describes as a "strange, alien world". Look at just how strange and different these people are:

Just in case the subtlety of the TNG writers and imagination of the make-up folks have confused you, let me clue to you in to the symbolism of this episode. This race of aliens has a tribal culture and primitive technology compared to the Enterprise crew, who has sailed through the sea of space on their ship. The aliens have a dark complexion while most of the Enterprise crew is light-skinned. Has it been laid on thick enough for you? I'm not going to give you any more hints, you'll have to figure it out on your own from there.

Picard and his crew could easily take what they want by force or even through some compassionate gunboat diplomacy, but in the future mankind is above stuff like that. They always find a way to talk things out, as the characters constantly remind us throughout this episode and others with their condescending remarks about "20th Century man" that really make you feel like crap. To be fair, though, if there's something you need that someone else has it isn't very nice to smack them across the face and take it. I can appreciate the value of a little fair market compensation, so I'm with the writers so far.

The first thing Picard does is bring the strange aliens up for a tour of the ship. For some reason this involves a demonstration of their security chief Tasha Yar's akido skills. This gets Lutan, the chief tribal alien, all hot and bothered because in their culture women are submissive and more or less stay at home and make babies. This causes a few more condescending remarks by the crew about how their society used to be like that, too, before they got super enlightened. Unfortunately, Lutan decides he really likes Yar and kidnaps her by suddenly grabbing her and transporting off of the ship and back to his planet. That is what some might call a "game changer".

Now it's a little unclear exactly what level of technology these aliens have because the plot is pretty convoluted. They apparently have very nice transporting technology and medical technology to rival that of Starfleet, but no space ships or weapons to speak of. And the crew constantly reminds us how primitive they are, other than the transporters and vaccines. The point is that the Enterprise is completely unopposed. There is no way these aliens can stand up to them, so at any time Picard could rescue Tasha and take the vaccine. If it were me, that's what I would do. No need to annihilate their planet, just get my crew member back and take the vaccine for my trouble. I am not as progressive as Captain Picard, however.

Instead of uncivilized brute force, Picard and his crew use their enlightened minds. After standing around and looking rather perplexed for a while, they discuss what course of action they should take, if any. Sure, a member of the crew was just kidnapped in an unprovoked act of violence and her life my be in danger, but Picard does not let his emotions get the best of him. Instead, he asks everybody what they think should be done. Data, the android, indicates that his memory banks say this alien culture has a great deal of respect for patience. Riker, the first officer, says that if that's the case then maybe the crew should just "wait [the aliens] out". Everybody thinks that's a pretty good idea and is relatively happy about the waiting, except maybe Yar and the people that desperately need that vaccine. They spend the next 24 hours doing absolutely nothing.

After a full day has passed, the crew starts trying to figure out why Lutan would have kidnapped Yar in the first place, which never came up in their initial discussions. They decide that it's a cultural thing they need to respect because it's some sort of way for Lutan to demonstrate his bravery in front of his people, and God Science forbid they make him look bad in front of his people. Shortly after that conversation, Lutan contacts the ship and tells Picard that he can have Yar back but he has to go through all of this cultural bullshit and formally ask for her back at the end of a long evening of celebrating. Naturally, Picard agrees, but unfortunately Lutan goes back on his word at the end of the celebration and says he is in love with Yar and wants to divorce his current wife and marry her. This makes his wife very angry, so she challenges Yar to a duel to the death using big, spiky, poisoned fists. Naturally, Picard agrees to these terms. Yar may or may not have been very keen to go along with that, but since she's not the captain it doesn't matter one way or the other.

For any of you oafish buffoons that think at this point Picard might have justification for taking Yar and the vaccine by force, you are in luck because there is a good 15 minutes of soul-searching dialogue where they talk about why they can't do that. Starfleet must be held to a higher standard, there's the Prime Directive to consider (which actually does not apply in this situation but since I'm rather embarrassed to know that I will save the commentary on why), there's the alien culture to respect, violence doesn't solve anything, they don't want to be mean, these guys aren't as advanced so they can't help themselves, and on and on and on. In other words, they can't take violent action against this culture unless it's violent action the culture wants them to take. Negotiations continue:

I won't waste time detailing the resolution of the story, but suffice it to say everything is neatly wrapped up, nobody dies in the death match, and the virtues of talking, waiting, and being a wimp are all shown to be superior to that of violence,except for the violence of the tribal culture, which is okay because that's different and stuff. Just like in real life.

It makes me wonder what would have happened if Kim Jong-Il said that Clinton could take the journalists home, but first they had to participate in a death match. He may have agreed to that if it was a mud wrestling death match and he had a front row seat. This also makes me wonder how much worse things are going to get for the U.S. Capitulating to North Korea is almost like what Picard did in this episode. We had two of our citzens kidnapped and while we were unhappy about it we sure weren't very proactive in resolving it. I wonder how much Obama really cared because he certainly did not talk about it a lot. Health care uber alles, you know. Bill Clinton goes over there, just a week or so after North Korea insults his wife, our Secretary of State, and we just cave in to whatever they want. We don't even pretend to act tough.

Is it any wonder that now Iran is upping the ante? It's always easier to start off as an asshole and gradually ease off than it is to start off as everyone's bitch and then try to get tough. That's another one of those "experience" things that Obama might know if he'd ever managed anything before starting with this country. This part of the article is my favorite:

The European Union, France and Britain all condemned the trial. The Swedish EU presidency said in a statement "action against one EU country, citizen or embassy staff, is considered an action against all of the EU."

Oooooo! Ahmadinejad's got the entire EU against him, now! Well, except for maybe this guy. How can any EU politician think they will be taken seriously when talking about something going on in a Muslim country when the EU won't even support the right of a Danish newspaper to print what it wants to in its own country? I'm sure Ahmadinejad is real nervous.

And yet, some people still think what we did in North Korea is a huge success and give points to Obama's foreign policy. Why? Maybe they are stupid, maybe they are partisan hacks, or maybe this type of thinking has permeated our culture for so long and their lives are so sheltered from reality that they are incapable of thinking outside of the last Star Trek or Law & Order episode. Or maybe it's just me.

My question is where did this defeatist line of thinking come from? You can find it all the back with Neville Chamberlain and the Sudetenland, maybe even earlier than that. It didn't work then, why are they so convinced it will work now? Have bad guys gotten less ruthless? Even in the TNG episode described above, the Enterprise crew eventually had to resort to violence to resolve the situation, so why not do it on their terms? Is there a single instance in all of known history where acting scared and being weak has worked out well in the end? If you hand over your lunch money to the school bully every day with no resistance, he will probably keep taking it but rough you up anyway, because he IS a bully after all. It seems that the only time this scenario ever turns out well is in the imagination of the left, whether it's sci-fi or another genre of fiction. Come to think of it, imagination is the only place most of their ideals work out well. Coincidence?

PS - Even if you have no other comments to make, please give me a thumbs-up or thumbs-down as to whether or not this is the sort of thing we want to do here.


  1. Well first off, a big thumbs up, great post. You nailed the reason that TNG started to sour on me -- the blatantly obvious view that ideal future mankind looks and sounds just like a progressive TV writer.

    Also, excellent tie in to current events. No, I can't name an instance where waiting and wimping out led to ultimate victory, but I'll tell you, appeasement can make a public figure *popular* -- for a while, at least.

    So, can anyone think of sci-fi cases where leaders acted like men and got the job done without pandering? Adama on Battlestar comes to mind, at least in the first season.

  2. Good piece Eduardo. Keep it up. I hope others will comment, but since we agree I'll content myself with a sidebar:

    "Is there a single instance in all of known history where acting scared and being weak has worked out well in the end?"

    It may be that the exception proves the rule. There IS one instance in history, though it tends to reinforce your main point.

    c. 300 BC, a huge celtic army marched into Italy and advanced on a city-state called Rome. That city sent out its army to engage the celts and got clobbered, losing maybe 20K troops. The celts were bigger and stronger than anyone else the Romans had seen. So they decided to buy them off, paying an enormous tribute so the celts would go away without burning the city down. The celts happily agreed and went away.

    In due course, of course, they decided they needed NEW Roman baubles and things, so they returned with an army of 50,000 men and initiated a campain called "Son of Roman Humiliation."

    Thing is, the Romans had learned their lesson the first time, and they were ready. They had developed all new battlefield tactics and weapons, including an innovative short broadsword that could be used faster than the big long celtic swords. It's hard to pin down the numbers, but word is, the Romans slaughtered the entire celtic army in one day.

    That was the beginning of the Roman Empire. They started weak and it still turned out well, for them anyway.

  3. I thought this was excellent. It was a bit of a struggle to get through the lengthy description of the episode, but certainly no more than it was to struggle through the actual episode and unlike the episode itself, the description had a point.

  4. Hiro, the end of the pilot for Firefly comes to mind. I was not expecting Mal to deal with the government agent that way. Very unPicard-like.

    Furian, yes that is a good example, but like you said at least the Romans figured things out. The Japanese did much the same thing after Commodore Perry's visit, didn't they? Only they lost.

    And sorry, apoth. That was a bit brutal. Then again, so was the episode.

    And I'm glad you all got something out of this because I've got some even better material I dug up for another post that's even more amusing and still relevant to current events. Don't worry, no long TNG plot synopsis.