5 Feb 2013, 8:29pm

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Star Trek Book Intro 2-The Need for a Future

urlWhen the anti-Capitalist Adbuster Kale Lasn was asked about this Occupy idea he’d started, and what all the fuss was about, he gave an answer that even a sourpuss like Adorno would have agreed with, an answer that I think proves just how important William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy will turn out to be.

The interviewer for Solutions Magazine asked:

Imagine that the Occupy movement achieves everything you think it can. What does the world look like after this ultimate success?

And Kale answered: It’s all about producing a different type of human being. Like the Occupiers who slept in the park. Their cynicism dissolved and they were engaged and they merged into this different kind of human being.

Now many of you are probably imagining the Borg collective playing hacky-sack in Zuccotti park right now, but the point is that Kale was right. If you try to imagine life after Capitalism you’ll pretty quickly realize that what will be really different about this future would be the people in it. That means that getting there will be a tricky business. Just losing a few pounds or giving up smokes is hard enough, changing ourselves all the way down to the ground in this way that anti-Capitalists are so keen on, well that’s much harder.


It’s obvious that all of this dissolution of cynicism and coming together isn’t something that can just happen overnight. And it certainly didn’t already happen yesterday. You’re not very likely to find this big change in between Starbucks and that cubicle job that’s slowly killing you. Maybe that’s why most of us seem to have given up on the whole idea of anti-Capitalism. It’s not just your cynical uncle or your mother’s friend who wears the same purple track suit every single day, the one who likes nothing more than to complains about the young people on Jersey Shore in a voice that is so laden with cigarette smoke that she sounds like Billie Holliday at the Monterey Jazz Festival circa 1958, but even leftist intellectuals, the supposed troublemakers, seem to have given up.

The art historian and radical TJ Clark, for instance, wants to escape from the idea of a future, or at least from the idea that the future is determined to be an improvement over the present. In his recent essay For a Left With No Future he asked, “What would it be like for left politics not to look forward—to be truly present-centred, non-prophetic, disenchanted, continually ‘mocking its own presage’?”

That’s obvious, isn’t it? If Clark really wanted to know he could have found his answer on youtube.

A left that is entirely present-centered and non-prophetic would be pretty much identical to the Occupy Wall Street coma victims Stephen Colbert had on his basic cable talk show back in 2011.

They appeared on the Colbert Report as two young activists without a future and who stood as far away from prophecy as you can get without a lobotomy. Ketchup and Justin Wedes insisted that they were only autonomous individuals who’d been selected by the general assembly at Zuccoti Park to speak to Colbert about Occupy, but they also insisted that the group had given them no authority to speak for Occupy. Why exactly they needed to be selected through a consensus process to act autonomously was never fully explained. What was obvious thought was that, without any idea of a collective future, Ketchup and Justin were stuck. Without a future they had to make due with what was on hand and all that they could find lying around were childhood nicknames like “Ketchup”, strange Quaker hand gestures, and self-help aphorisms about being true to yourself.

You have to sympathize. It’s not like you can really expect Ketchup to solve the problem of how we can remake ourselves when big smart guys like Adorno fell down flat, but what we can do is start by looking at the problem squarely, and the easiest way to do that is by watching a couple of episodes of Star Trek.

No really. I mean it. Consider this exchange from Star Trek IV: The Journey Home.

urlMcCOY: Come on Spock, it’s me, McCoy! You really have gone where no man has gone before. Can’t you tell me what it felt like?
SPOCK: It would be impossible to discuss the subject without a common frame of reference.
McCOY: You’re joking!
SPOCK: A joke is a story with a humorous climax.
McCOY: You mean I have to die to discuss your insights on death?
SPOCK: Forgive me, Doctor, I am receiving a number of distress calls.
McCOY: I don’t doubt it!

Ketchup, Adorno, those German girls with their titties, Doctor Leonard McCoy…all of them made the same mistake. They all took their perspective to be real and complete without thinking about what a real perspective requires. If what we’ve got now is reality, if there is nothing real outside of Capitalism, then what we need to think about is what isn’t real. And what isn’t real is our future. What isn’t real is this new version of ourselves.

How do we get at these unrealities? Watch Star Trek.

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