I have been reading a book called Machine Intelligence and the Imaginal Realm by Luke Lafitte. It’s an exploration of the meanings that can be drawn from machine-men in fiction and in technological conception since the 19th century.
The book surprised me by looking at Inclusion in the context of sci fi – like Star Wars and Star Trek. It wasn’t a theme that I had hitherto thought of, so I thought I would take a meander down an entertaining pathway and celebrate sci fi’s pioneering spirit of Inclusion on a galactic scale.
The first Star Wars movie hit screens in 1977, but Star Trek arrived on US TV screens 11 years earlier, in 1966. Star Trek 2nd Gen (my favourite) first aired in 1987. Of course, there are the Star Trek spin offs like Voyager as well.
The great Cantina scene in the first Star Wars was not exactly a model for inclusion, other than the fact that such a diverse gathering was depicted. I suppose that simmering tensions fuelled by alcohol can erupt in many pubs. The inclusion implicit in the diverse drinking community doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be functional.
I confess that I didn’t celebrate the arrival of the Gungan Jar Jar Binks in an inclusive spirit. But this happened in my pre-enlightenment days, and I now regret my intolerance.
The inclusive vision
I have been a huge Gene Roddenberry fan ever since I found out that he was behind Star Trek and even more so when I learned that 2nd Gen was closer to his original vision.
The world was introduced to Star Trek on September 8, 1966, amid what had at that point have been the mechanical-man’s most prolific decade. Gene Roddenberry, (1921 -1991), the show’s creator, yearned for a future in which diversity serves to advance human consciousness. Diversity in all of its forms, by celebrating the connections among individuals and groups, multiplies the possibilities for experiences and feelings.
Roddenberry clearly had an inclusive vision – seeing in diversity of lives and experiences a rich array of possible ways of being and knowing.
Star Trek is telling us that spirit, empathy, and equality have to be the goal for any society if it is to realise a lasting utopian future of wonderment and enchantment. Diversity and the act of inclusion with the feeling of compassion attached to that action manifests the objective reality of peaceful diversity…
Star Trek 2nd Gen, in particular obliged the viewer to imagine beyond their own foundations as humans to recognise that aliens in all their forms had a valid foundation to their own being that did not depend on human affirmation.
…Nichols watched Star Trek with his family – judged by the content of their character, not the colour of their skin, the bumpiness of their foreheads, or any other irrelevant factors. Genuine and serious respect for and valuing of others involves a commitment to treating them as ends in themselves, not merely as means for our ends.
Aliens who look nothing like us, and who behave in ways that are incomprehensible, and even frightening to us, cannot be encountered through the filter of our fears and prejudices.
You don’t have to watch the hundreds of episodes of Star Trek in its various iterations to recognise that one must boldly travel through one’s own conscious and subconscious biases and prejudices in honest manner.
The courage to embrace diversity, no matter how extreme, relative to what is our normal, can create opportunities for relationships that can enrich our life experiences.
Indeed, to “boldly go” is not necessarily a journey into physical space, but into an inner life based on discovering and celebrating interconnections with others. Therein, Star Trek tells us, lies peace and long life.
We can’t yet flash through the galaxy propelled by a warp drive. The best we can do is take a jet to almost anywhere on this planet. We witness and celebrate diversity we can escape from – and come back home.
In Star Trek and Star Wars human life is intertwined with alien lives. The galaxy is our home. We can’t flinch from confronting lives whose diverse attributes may be challenging at first. It’s their home too.
The premise of the book is complex. But let’s say that advances in technology oblige us to redefine who we are. This is nowhere more compelling in the fiction of sci fi – which feed back ideas and aspirations to the ‘real world’ – which in turn stimulates more sci stories.
The compelling quote for me is Diversity in all of its forms, by celebrating the connections among individuals and groups, multiplies the possibilities for experiences and feelings. I’d add to that “that open us up to the truth that the wide varieties of human experience connect us all.”
If we struggle to include people with disability now, how do we imagine we will be able to handle our first encounter with ET?