With so many depressing stories in the news lately (i.e. Steubenville), I must say my faith in humanity has been rather shaken. I know everyone is probably sick of hearing about it, but the culture of violence and the apparent acceptability of violence against women that has been evident in both the story itself and the media coverage of it has been shocking. For a ‘civilized’ society we have a lot of issues to work out, and I must say that sometimes I am ashamed to call myself human.
So as usual when feeling depressed, I began a Star Trek: Original Series marathon to keep my spirits up. Out of some happy chance, the first episode I happened to watch was “A Taste of Armageddon”. For those unfamiliar with the story, Captain Kirk and the Enterprise are on a diplomatic mission to establish relations with Eminiar VII, only to discover that this apparently highly advanced civilization has been at war for five hundred years. The twist is that the war is fought entirely with computers, and the simulated casualties must then report to disintegration chambers to be killed. Apparently this prevents the destruction of culture and the breakdown of society, but Kirk and Co. are naturally appalled by the mass suicides. Anyway, after much drama Kirk forces the Eminiarian (I’m just making that up, I’m not sure what to call them as a whole) leader to choose between a real war and all the destruction that goes with it or the opening of peace negotiations. The Eminiarians eventually agree to talk peace, but what interested me in this episode was the brief dialogue between Kirk and their leader before he makes his decision.
Here’s a link to the scene:
ANAN (Eminiarian leader): There can be no peace. Don’t you see? We’ve admitted it to ourselves. We’re a killer species. It’s instinctive. It’s the same with you. Your General Order Twenty Four.
KIRK: All right. It’s instinctive. But the instinct can be fought. We’re human beings with the blood of a million savage years on our hands, but we can stop it. We can admit that we’re killers, but we’re not going to kill today. That’s all it takes. Knowing that we’re not going to kill – today.
Captain Kirk at his best! This scene really struck me, probably at least partly because I love Kirk’s little rants, but mostly because it rang so true to our own situation today. Like the people of Eminiar, we like to think of ourselves as highly civilized, yet we are still driven by the violent, ‘savage’ impulses of our ancestors. There is no peace here on Earth, not even in supposedly peaceful societies. This can be pretty disheartening, and it is easy to do as Anan did and choose to ‘accept’ that we are savage, to believe that we can never change. But Kirk offers us a hopeful message, a reminder that we can overcome even our base instinct. All we have to admit is that we do have flaws, but that we are not going to give in to them today. We are going to choose to fight for higher principles everyday and hope that we can someday overcome our savage instinct.
So I choose to fight the culture of violence- today. Everywhere I see and hear it. And everyday until humanity as a whole has achieved peace. Hopefully others will join me, and we can make a meaningful difference. Thanks for the inspiration Captain Kirk.