Friday, April 12, 2024

If connection and understanding forged between people regardless of who they are is the solution out of dark times then we are totally screwed.

This is a "Doom Post." With the final season of Star Trek: Discovery now airing on Paramount + (I haven't started watching it yet), the fact that it is currently airing with new episodes made me reflect on what I like about Trek to begin with. And it is this: I like that connection and understanding forged between people regardless of who they are or what they've done is the only thing that will bring light in dark times. Knowing this isn't a comfort. In fact, it just makes me realize how screwed we are as a species on this planet, and how the ideals of "Trek" will never actually happen on Earth and are (in fact) impossible.

The smallest example of this I can think of is the housing crisis. I saw an article on the New York Times yesterday in which a person commented that one solution might be for every person who owns a second or third home to decide to go ahead and sell that second or third home thus helping to alleviate the problem. On paper, this does sound good. But the next commenter correctly poked a huge hole in this and explained why it won't work. "If anyone less than 'ALL' people don't buy into this, then what happens is that the people with good intentions who sacrifice and decide to unload a property get screwed out of a property. The reason? A person who doesn't intend to sacrifice and already owns multiple properties and who is already rich just buys it up and adds it to their hoard. So this wouldn't at all work." Basically, if a single person is allowed an exception, then none of it works.

Americans pride themselves on freedom of choice and the idea that "you can choose what you want to do, and you need to leave me alone and be free to choose what I want to do. That is freedom." Within a huge population and on a society level scale, this "freedom of choice" actually screws everybody. In a different example, if a bunch of people are in an enormous bathtub and even one person decides it is their choice to take a huge dump in that pool...then everyone will pay for it. Even the people who are as far as you possibly can get from the person making the mess. They will eventually get their fair share. That's just how a society works.

It's similar to a phenomenon that happens in tabletop roleplaying games. In the Dungeons & Dragons community, most games do not go above a certain low level (somewhere between 5 and 10). I know many games that have mandatory retirement at level 5. However, the ruleset for Dungeons & Dragons supplies rules that go all the way to level 20. One question that oftentimes comes up on reddit is this: why do games end prematurely? Why does no one run a game for characters beyond "X" low level? The myriad of excuses all boil down to a simple truth: the characters get too powerful for the person hosting and running the game to challenge, so they start over. The reason this happens is because a lot of players maximize what their character can do, and they try to find combinations and powers that allow them to punch much higher than they should. In other words, they are really good players. But, they are also terrible for the game system because they can't keep their "inner pig" in check. So the entire system gets to where it is no fun, things don't work right, and the person running the game just decides to collapse it all.

Well, believe it or not, modern capitalism in the United States works in exactly this same way. People are allowed to just indulge their "inner pig" with absolutely no checks on that greediness, and it is all done in the name of freedom. The result is an incredibly dysfunctional system that (if it were being run by a person like a D&D game) it would just be abandoned as hopeless. But the thing with real life is that you can't just walk away from it. So the broken system serves only those who have it all (the biggest and fattest pigs) where everything is super easy and probably boring for them, and everyone else who managed to keep their pigs in check ends up dying in poverty, and they find the game they are playing really difficult and that it doesn't make sense because they followed all of the rules.

And this is absolutely the opposite of what Star Trek: Discovery is all about. They want you to know that connection and understanding forged between people regardless of who they are or what they've done is the only thing that will bring light in dark times. Well that's all fine and great, but connection and understanding forged between people is impossible if you allow exceptions for swine (for greedy pigs). So then, the message to me is that lacking that connection and understanding, there is no other thing to bring light in dark times. Which means that all you have left are dark times, and so that preoccupies my thoughts. We are living in dark times, and there is no way out. At least that's the message I get from Trek. I have to hope there is another way, because right now, the swine are running over everything.


  1. The stuffed pigs on my couch feel attacked by this.

    I think you're forgetting "First Contact." It literally took a world war and the arrival of aliens before humanity started to do better.

    The system is pretty broken. The problem for Biden or Trump or any political leader is they really can't do anything about toxic capitalism. There's no magic wand to make gas companies charge less (despite record profits) or soda companies or grocery stores to charge less for Pepsi/Coke or to make people stop buying houses to rent them or "flip" them. All they can do is form committees to "look into" things and then wait for a busy news day so they can quietly say they didn't find anything.

    A big part of the problem is of course Wall Street. Corporations with stock have to make as much profit as they can to make the stock go up so the personal wealth of executives goes up and they can get their bonuses and such. And you don't make profit by charging reasonable prices. You make profit by charging as much as people are willing to pay.

    Which then gets back to your point: consumer behavior. Gas was super-cheap during the lockdown. Why? Because hardly anyone was driving. As soon as lockdowns ended, prices crept back up. It should have been a wakeup call for people. Use less gas and gas prices fall. But since gas was temporarily cheap, people bought guzzlers and drove around and then complain when prices jump back up. People need to stop buying huge SUVs/crossovers, stop road raging around in said SUVs/crossovers, and stop with stupid behavior like sitting in the parking lot for 10 minutes with the motor running. Similarly, stop buying Coke/Pepsi at obscenely high prices. Stop renting Airbnbs. If you don't reward price gougers then they'll have to stop gouging. It's that simple but there are too many who won't do it because "I can pay for it. If you can't, that's your problem."

    So yes we're screwed.

    1. @PT: Thanks for validating me. I feel better. Also, I did forget "First Contact." As an aside note, I've been rewatching all of the old 1960's Trek's with James T. Kirk and crew, and there was an episode with Zefram Cochran in it on a planet with a machine like being that was in love with him and preserving his life. I thought this was fascinating. Additionally, there was an episode of Enterprise in which they dropped that Zefram Cochran disappeared while testing an engine, and they wondered if a thing they found floating in space might have belonged to him (it didn't). But I like the connections to the movie "First Contact" that have been drawn.