Solutions to Problems
by Saab Lofton
"On Earth, there is no poverty, no crime, no war. You look out the window of Starfleet Headquarters and you see paradise."
--Commander Sisko, from the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode, The Maquis, Part II
... and how exactly did the Human race achieve such a utopian state of affairs? Well, according to the 1996 movie, Star Trek: First Contact ...
"[Proof of intelligent, extraterrestrial life] unites Humanity in a way no one ever thought possible when they realize they're not alone in the universe. Poverty, disease, war -- they'll all be gone within the next fifty years."
... but it's NOT, I repeat, NOT as simple as alien intervention -- as Sisko once said in a subsequent episode of Deep Space Nine (entitled Rules of Engagement): "We don't put civilians at risk or even potentially at risk to save ourselves. Sometimes, that means we lose the battle and sometimes our lives, but if you can't make that choice, then you can't wear that uniform."
A genuine concern for Human life is what accounts for how there's no poverty or atrocities on Gene Roddenberry's future Earth -- a concern for life that's obviously lacking in reality ...
"Seven Afghan children perished Sunday in a U.S.-led bombing attack on Al Qaeda fighters hiding in a mosque ... A spokesman for the NATO forces apologized for killing the children ... The safeguarding of the innocent is not only a legal and ethical imperative; it is also a basic requirement of a counterinsurgency strategy to deprive the enemy of popular support ...The failure of American forces to take the utmost care to avoid harming Afghan civilians is making a difficult mission even harder to accomplish."
--The New York Times, June 21st, 2007
... as the biggest newspaper on the planet put it, a basic requirement of strategy is to avoid harming civilians. Therefore, the next time someone gets on my case about using pop cultural metaphors, I'm going to hurt their feelings, to say the least. Professor Noam Chomsky wrote that,"social action must be animated by a vision of a future society," and he's absolutely correct.
Star Trek inspired the cell phone, but that's technological progress -- what We the People need is more SOCIOLOGICAL progress (a LOT more), which can in fact come from works for fiction. Here are three out of MANY examples of this:
1) As I explained during a speech of mine given in Seattle's Westlake Plaza on Indigenous Day, 2011, John T. Williams (a Native American victim of police violence) would still be alive if the pig who shot him had been limited to NON-lethal weaponry -- and the BEST; the ONLY way to promote NON-lethal tactics is to point out how our culture's most famous/popular icons are NON-lethal ...
BRUCE WAYNE: No. I'm no executioner.
THE LEAGUE OF SHADOWS: Your compassion is a weakness your enemies will not share.
BRUCE WAYNE: That's why it's so important. It separates us from them ... I will go back to Gotham and I will fight men like this, but I will not become an executioner.
--from the 2005 movie, Batman Begins
... this goes for Sean Bell, Oscar Grant, Amadou Diallo, Timothy Stansbury Junior, Trayvon Martin and countless others.
2) Every October in Oregon, there's an event called Wonder Woman Day -- drawings of the superheroine are sold at an auction and all the money raised is donated to battered women's shelters ... I've been a proud part of this since 2010.
3) In the fall of 1987 -- after starring in Superman IV: The Quest for Peace -- Christopher Reeve went to Chile, where C.I.A.-appointed dictator Augusto Pinochet had sentenced 77 actors, directors and playwrights to death unless they left the country by a certain date. According to author Walter Oleksy, "their crime was having criticized [Pinochet's] regime in their theatrical works." With his good looks, white-skin privilege and the household name recognition success blessed him with, Reeve literally stood between those 77 artists and armed government troops at a protest.The very next day, Pinochet cancelled the execution order -- knowing full well if anything happened to the man who portrayed Superman, that'd have been his fascist ass on a platter (In fact, a cartoon that ran in a newspaper back then showed Pinochet being carried by the collar with the caption, "Where will you take him, Superman?"). Afterwards, Reeve was given the Obie Prize and two awards for bravery from the Walter Briehl Human Rights Foundation; a group that works with torture victims. In addition, Reeve received the Grand Cross of the Bernardo O'Higgins Order; the highest Chilean distinction for foreigners.
... imaginary characters saving the lives of real people ... Sadly, all too many assume I'm supposedly living in a fantasy world, but those who're claiming such a thing ain't worried about my sanity -- they're afraid of being expected to take superheroes seriously. Why? Because it's quicker, easier and more seductive to be cynical/apathetic, but superheroes are symbols of hope who strive for ideals, which is harder to do than playing video games or obsessing over celebrity scandals.
Besides, it canNOT simply be the case that the sole purpose of these stories/characters is to make an already wealthy entertainment industry even more money. The phrase, "people before profit," is often seen on many a protest sign for a reason.
A solution to a problem is a solution to a problem -- so by IGNORANTLY/ARROGANTLY turning your nose up at a solution ("Eww,
superheroes are for kids!"), you condemn Humanity to continually suffer from a problem ...