Does Belief In Democracy (In Its Concrete Incarnation) As The Best Political System Anti-democratic? Can Democracy Manipulate and Blackmail Other Countries And Yet Be A Democracy?

When I emigrated from Soviet Union to US in the beginning of 70s, “Star Trek, Final Frontiers” was my favorite pastime before the TV set in my tiny/dusty hotel room. Desire to live in a democratic country was my main motivation for running as far as possible from the Soviet totalitarianism with its ideological dogmatism, cultural poverty and disrespect for human individual. And in “Star Trek” series I found a representation of democratic treatment of other people so exact and so sincere that I felt as if I was bathing in my own democratic dream, and often I added my tears to my beer. While living for several years in New-York I went through Star Trek crash course in democratic perception of the world which every American kid went through in the 60s.

Only step by step I started to notice some dissonances in the way democratic treatment of others was depicted in various episodes of Star Trek – smooth over-confidence and generic matter-of-factness with which this democratic posture was communicated to the viewers. I was confused by the contradiction between the undeniably democratic actions of Capt. Kirk (William Shatner) or Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and how shining and radiant was their self-love while they were behaving with genuine humanism and care about others. I started to notice their irresistible charisma and self-admiration which is usual in pop-music super-stars on the stage. I, who used to connect the presence of charisma with Stalin and Hitler was subdued by the generous presence in American culture of narcissistic beaming and all-American proclivity for irrational admiration of the rich, famous and socially influential personalities. The radiating smiles of Capt. Kirk or the enigmatic power of Mr. Spock were conquering children and adult audiences immediately, and their successful “interstellar” adventures turned on the viewers’ instant adoration. William’s Shatner and Leonard Nimoy’s charisma preceded the glorious deeds of the Capt. Kirk and Mr. Spock, and their heroic actions framed their charismaticity, not preceded it. These super-characters’ irrational emotional irradiation existed simultaneously with the democratic rationality of their behavior.

Isn’t all this like the American democracy itself – from the one side, today’s solemn proclamation of austerity measures were difficult to imagine in the democratic years? But from the other, Star Trek “subliminally”, by the non-formulated logic of the images suggests that US (The Earth) is the best place in the universe, exactly like Soviet communists believed that USSR is “better” than any other political system. But history is a river flowing often by zigzags. And if in one moment a particular place is ahead of the others in a certain relations, in another moment it can unexpectedly become behind. Democracy can regress. But in Star Trek the American (Earthly) democracy is stable as only totalitarian belief is in the stability and prosperity of a totalitarian regime. What started to bother me in the very symbolism of identification of US with Earth and in implication that Americans are the most progressive people under the sun is that I remembered too well identical megalomaniacal messianism of the Soviet communists who matter-of-factly declared their country the best in the world and the rest of the world as backward in its understanding of the human history and destiny of humankind. Though American democracy is, no question, a superior system of life in comparison to the Soviet Union’s crude political system which was forcing its ideology on every citizen, as it is typical for every traditional totalitarian system, the representation of democracy in “Star Trek”, although completely genuine, is not without megalomaniacal energies concentrated on the connotative layers of its plot and the charismatic acting of the main characters.

Furthermore, how the inhabitants of various planets (different countries) are represented in Star Trek problematizes the very concept of democracy. At first – it is not difficult to notice the scapegoating and villainization of leaders of another worlds which are represented as several types of totalitarian leaders. The first type of leaders who are opposite of the democratic ones are obvious tyrants whose monstrous nature is transparent to every American regardless of age. But the monstrosity of Hitler and Stalin is that of the human nature and has human roots. It is totalitarian propaganda depicts enemies as creatures of devilish origins. Tyrants in Star Trek take power through directly violent means, and that allows them to very quickly rise up over the simpleminded masses. The second type can be called essential tyrants who look deceitfully positive (have a deceitfully humane manners and show concern for others) but in reality are great manipulators of public opinions and beliefs. The third type are those who keep their power intact through high-tech scientific knowledge and super-advanced technology (some of them have magic-like powers). The villains/tyrants of the third type have a “democratic” – refined manners and look like American liberals successful in getting high positions. It’s needless to emphasize that all three types are not only extremely simplified representation of reality and for this reason very harmful in disorienting the public, but their depiction carrying a substantial doze of mythologization that weakens/destroys people’s rational thinking and puts the children and adult children’s ability to grasp the essence of the reality on a completely imaginary track.

What is completely neglected here is how anti-democratic leaders themselves understand their own behavior – what is their “neutralization technique” – logic justifying their crimes, and how they themselves understand existential experience which makes it look natural and inevitable for them to have despotic power over the population. Here we have a rich annals of historical knowledge which, alas, is beyond the representation in “Star Trek”. For example, why German worldview needed idea of “racial superiority”, why the Soviet communists needed to hang on to the megalomaniacal belief in the radical superiority of communist idea in the world, how Americans justified Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or how American neocons morally justify their obsession with money power and their readiness to put austerity on majority of Americans, etc. If the makers and the financiers of movie industry will not make real information about the world available to viewers, the subduing effect of their “art“ on the human mind will grow farther. Real power in modern societies is hidden behind the appearance that always makes humanism and care about people as principles of society. If Star Trek could include real information about the antidemocratic rulers, the American democracy in 21st century would be much healthier and more genuine.

Important part of Star Trek is how democratic people of Starship Enterprise handle the totalitarian rulers of other countries/planets. The correcting intervention of democracy takes form of a quick “coups d’état” which follows the totalitarian leaders’ aggressive preventive steps (so, the impression is that “enemies of democracy” always initiate the conflict). Quick fix under the command of always disinterested Kirk and Spock unexpectedly looks like special force operations US is involved in various locations on the planet Earth, strengthening up exactly totalitarian political systems sharing with democracy the fixation on fossil fuel. It is possible to wonder what would happen if Enterprise could visit US today, in the 21st century, where a handful of decision makers operate with brains made of bank-notes.

But the main “pedagogical” lie Star Trek commits in front of children of the world is the motif of absolute disinterestedness of the starship crew’s actions in other countries (other worlds). In the real, not mythologized world, to inspect the other places is never disinterested enterprise, as it is depicted in the movie which making children to continue to dream about disinterested American future right in the very middle of our dystopian present.

There are many other important aspects of misrepresentation of truth in “Star Trek” movies. In reality even democracy is not free from anti-democratic energies generated and produced in its midst.

Scientific and fighting skills are not brothers, but close cousins
In spite of their sincere desire to really understand what Kirk and Spock are looking at, (the both are competent scientists and persons with mighty epistemophilic curiosity), the viewers immediately identify them as very tough men. Probably, scientific and fighting skills are not brothers, but close cousins who are always in touch.

Melody of toughness obviously dominates that of epistemophilia
In this shot the melody of toughness obviously dominates that of epistemophilia. It seems that in our promising future people of different professions will always have their military ranks and ready for action. Their jobs will be combined civilian and military functions. What a pleasant message for boys of different nationalities!

Sloganeering clichés can easily justify monstrous deeds
Shakespearean actor Patrick Stewart in the role of Captain Picard has added to Star Trek movies the theatrical profundity of acting in pronouncing sloganeering clichés as the one we hear and see subtitled here. Phrases like this are so true that they can easily justify monstrous deeds like the use of nuclear weapons or torture, manipulation and betrayal.