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Saturday, May 27, 2017

Klingons are libertarians

Humor was inconsistent with Roddenberry's grim vision of the future.

P art of what made the original Star Trek so popular was its sense of humor. Its jokes weren't always tasteful. In The Changeling, a faulty computer slaughters four billion people. It kills Scotty and then brings him back to life, and when it realizes that it hadn't found its creator but some doofus named James T. Kirk, it is so overwhelmed with despair about having made such a dumb mistake that it commits suicide. There is absolutely nothing to be happy about, but Kirk makes a joke anyway: “What a doctor it would have made. My son, the doctor!” It was their way of saying they didn't take the world too seriously.

In Spock's Brain, the same lack of seriousness was apparent. The humans had devolved into stupid cavemen; the women all lived underground, and the women's leader uttered the silly line: “Brain and brain! What is brain?” To the women actors, it was all great fun: they were obviously thinking things like “Wow, I'm on a science fiction TV show! How cool is this?”

Today's feminists, of course, don't think it was cool at all. They think the episode was just another example of the misogynistic phallogocentric patriarchy. Which isn't surprising, since they think everything is an example of the patriarchy. The essence of humor is unpredict­ability, and there are few things less unpredictable, or less funny, than a feminist.

As PC grew, Star Trek's humor, and the optimistic spirit that permitted it, died out. Humor was inconsistent with Roddenberry's grim vision of the future: a dystopia where everyone thought the same, where everyone was concerned with each other's feelings, and the docile humans lived in fear of saying something that someone would deem offensive.

It was a nightmare world so dull that even Trekkies only argued whether the Klingons or the Borg were more interesting. No one would have ever considered the humans, with their psychobabble, their vacuous smiles, their cardboard personalities, and their finger ever poised on the self-destruct button, worth emulating.

Broken earth in UN flag

The Klingons started out as representatives of the Soviet Union, but soon morphed into a species who valued honor above all. They had a strong streak of religious fundamentalism. They revered their ancestors and traditions, and ridiculed the orange, pink, and blue marshmallows the humans called food. Most of all, the Klingons despised the humans' sheeplike conformity. They vacillated between being tough warriors and uncompromising libertarians: a facsimile of American conservatives.

The worst insult for a Klingon was to call someone not a true Klingon. Compare that to the indignation of establishment Republicans when another conservative calls them RINOs. The implication is they are not true conservatives. Liberals never make similar accusations against each other; the words loyalty and honor seem to mean little to them.

The Klingon commander Kruge in The Search For Spock expressed his revulsion at the humans' world: “Oh yes. New cities, homes in the country. Your woman at your side, children playing at your feet, and overhead, fluttering in the breeze, the flag of the Federation. Charming.”

Here in the future, all jokes are forbidden

Of Roddenberry's predictions—the communicator, the tablet computer, the floppy disk, the carpeted spaceship floors—his most accurate was of a world without humor. Many of the later episodes were about the disastrous consequences of someone offending somebody else. In a world where everyone walks on eggshells, no one ever dared say to the alien silicon-based creatures: Oh, lighten up, Horta! Stop whining about your damn kids and get a job!

But in the last spasms of a culture, before incorrect speech becomes forbidden hate speech, there is one last stage: when humor turns nasty. And I'm not talking about eating Neelix, as entertaining as that would have been.

On old Earth, around 1970 or 75, it started with Archie Bunker and MASH, and reached its peak some years ago with some guy, I think his name was Carlos Mencia: a guy who has been called the most hated comedian of all time. His idea of humor was to do ‘interviews’ with people, then fake the video to change whatever they said into blatantly racist comments.

Perhaps this was where our news media got the idea. Nowadays, what the news media say is unimportant and we do not hear their words.

The biggest cultural change in the past decade is our realization that very little of what the news media tell us is really true. The two sides now have vastly different sets of facts that they hold to be accurate. As a result there is little in the way of shared references.

Humor is not, as some think, an expression of social dominance and aggression. Humor depends on an unexpected context shift or an unexpected interp­retation. As used today, it is tribal: take something your opponents say, exaggerate it to absurdity, and repeat it as if it were accurate, thereby confirming to one's audience that their opponents are evil and stupid. In short, it is hate as comedy. It is not unexpected. And it is not really funny, which is why the laughter you hear sounds fake.

True, there's not much for libs to laugh about these days. Because of their policies—especially multiculturalism and identity politics—Donald Trump is in the White House, Islamic terrorism is as bad as ever, race relations are at the lowest point in decades, and Europe is on the verge of breaking up. The Trekky dream of a light blue flag fluttering overhead is smashing into reality in much the same way as Starship Voyager smashed into that time ship in Year of Hell Part 2. Kathryn Janeway didn't crack too many jokes then, either, and not a few of us hoped the time ship would succeed in pushing that flying saucepan full of humorless droids out of the space-time continuum.

Here in the before-time, political conformity and fear strangle our ability to laugh. When you're scared, the unexpected is unwelcome. The market is ripe for a comedy about PC, but the stifling conformity of political correctness and the fear of change among lefties means that's unlikely to happen soon.

You might say the rise of hate comedy represents a fundamental shift in the balance of humor in the quadrant.

Created may 27, 2017; last edited jun 10, 2017, 8:32 pm

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