Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Picard Is Not a Liberal, Morality and Power

The Survivors (Star Trek: The Next Generation) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

I happened to watch "The Survivors", one of my more favorite Star Trek Next Generation (STNG) shows last night in which the Enterprise answers a distress call and shows up at Delta Rana IV to find what was once a colony of 13 million to be now devastated and devoid of life save for two elderly humans, Kevin and Rishon. They are living in an all too perfect plot of land with a home and while saddened by the loss of life, seem none the worse for wear.

There are a number of twists and turns in the story to fill the hour, but eventually Picard figures out that Kevin must be more than he appears to be. When confronted on the Enterprise, Kevin breaks down and admits that he is a "Douwd", an exceedingly powerful immortal being. He can take multiple forms (or none), and while in human form, fell in love with Rishon and spent his life with her. When the violent warrior race the "Husnock" attacked the colony he tried to fool them with his powers and keep Rishon out of the fight, but as she saw the destruction, she moved to fight the attackers and was killed.

When Kevin saw her broken body that even with his vast powers he was unable to restore to life, he was enraged and attacked the Husnock even though the Douwd are pacifists by nature.

Picard indicates that such a a response is understandable -- but Kevin, shaken with grief and guilt, lets him know that he does not understand -- he killed ALL the Husnock, everywhere in the galaxy, some 50 billion -- they no longer exist. He committed genocide on a universal scale. The embedded clip is 5min long, but is well worth it and I suspect you will "get it" even if not a Star Trek fan. 



I know Picard is not a liberal, since his response is; "You are free to go, we have no courts or morality with which to judge you". Were he a liberal, he would have applied whatever the current liberal "morality" of the day was -- OBVIOUSLY the most "advanced", as liberal thinking always is -- and either praised or sanctioned Kevin's action with the kind of smug certainty that only liberals can have! 

<<  I've got my tongue in cheek a bit ... even a "liberal" would likely feel a nasty fear in the pit of their stomach when faced with such power, and be anxious to get "away" (whatever that might mean in the case of such a being), as fast as possible! ... although I may be giving them too much credit, for that would require COMMON SENSE, and it often appears that liberals completely lack that! >>

So Picard is a conservative -- he understands that the beginning of wisdom is the recognition that you (and your species, your country, your philosophy, etc) are less than "God". In fact, we are SO FAR from "knowing God", that it is hard to even imagine what is "moral" to some intermediate power between us and GOD, like the imagined "Douwd" species.

There are a number of things I love about the concept of the show. The vision of the Douwd species as having a sense of right and wrong and being able to love and feel emotion deeply. Their having a vast amount of capability compared to humans, but still not being able to restore "life". Their near total power of death/killing, somewhat analogous to humans with the atomic bomb.

We can destroy so much , but our creative powers are severely limited in comparison. The same is so of culture and tradition  as well -- we can easily destroy millennia of culture with cheap technological tricks  and "progressive" ideas, but are completely powerless to replace it, since that would require an alternate past to provide a connection, and that is FAR beyond our capability. For the important things, we only have the power to destroy.

I enjoy the idea of a species vastly more powerful than us, but still being infinitely short of God. The sense that "morality" definitely exists, we can emotionally sense it, it has some sort of relationship to power/capability, but our ability to sense what it means "beyond our pay grade" is missing. We however can possibly (though I suspect with imperfection and risk) apprehend that for lesser creatures, there is much less to be said of the moral imperative.

As Picard says in the end of the show -- we have no answers to such questions. But isn't it an interesting fact that even though we KNOW we can't answer for such a being, we also KNOW (in our hearts) that there does exist some form of "right and wrong" beyond simple "might is right" or "the greatest good for the greatest number" (Bentham).

Or I guess Christians, and probably most conservatives know that. Based on experience, it appears that "liberals" do not, and rather believe that morality begins and ends where they say it does.

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