Nearly 40 years ago, when I was an adolescent running around in as much of a hormone haze as I now am surrounded by the Fog of Idealism, I was as madly in love as a boy could be with a girl whose intellect and compassion I admired nearly as much as her physical form. When you’re 16, it’s difficult to see much beyond appearance. Or, at least it was for me. Perhaps today’s adolescents are more enlightened than I was.
Among the reasons I fell in love with her was her Idealism was seductively attractive to me. She was a member of a religion of which I had never heard, called Baha’i. I had, even then, no supernatural beliefs, but I loved the idea of unity that was at the core of her religious beliefs. She had on her car a bumper sticker that has the unique status of actually affecting me. It said, “One Planet, One People… Please?” I have never forgotten the words. Now, I believe, she’s off living with her husband on a farm somewhere, and we say hello to each other occasionally on Facebook, but we don’t really have a serious friendship anymore. Her influence over my thinking, however, has only grown in the intervening decades.
She was the water and sunlight that made the seed planted a decade earlier grow and flourish. What planted the seed? It was Star Trek, of course.
I’ve been a lifelong Star Trek fan, and I often think of how The United Federation of Planets evaluates a new civilization. They consider not only its technological situation, but how that civilization treats its people. And, because they’re looking at alien planets, the societies they encounter can have any number of traditions, values, and ideas. They try to be respectful of all of them.
This is the Preamble to their Constitution:
We, the intelligent lifeforms of the United Federation of Planets, determined
to save succeeding generations from the scourge of intergalactic war which has brought untold horror and suffering to our planetary social systems, and
to reaffirm faith in the fundamental intelligent lifeform rights, in the dignity and worth of the intelligent lifeform person, to the equal rights of male and female and of planetary social systems large and small, and
to establish conditions under which justice and mutual respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of interplanetary law can be maintained, and
to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,
And to these ends
to practice benevolent tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbors, and
to unite our strength to maintain intergalactic peace and security, and
to ensure by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods that armed force shall not be used except in the common defense, and
to employ intergalactic machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all intelligent lifeforms,
Have resolved to combine our efforts to accomplish these aims.
Written by Franz Joseph (Published in the Star Fleet Technical Manual)
I believe the general ideas expressed above are a good starting place for our world. They are asking for us to respect fundamental human rights (although, since they’re dealing with many other sentient species, they refer to them as lifeform rights), to make social progress, and to keep peaceful and friendly relations among the different species.
In order to be admitted to the Federation a planet must have a one-world government. And this idea frightens the hell out of people today. I don’t understand why this should be the case.
One need not forfeit individuality to recognize one’s membership in the human race. Yes, different cultures have different values and traditions. They have different religions. They have different economic structures. Their skin colors and languages are different. Some have different ideas about sex. But, they all have blood, hearts, lungs, and all the other organs all human beings share. We all need to eat, to have a place to sleep, to have medical care, and to be able to spend our minutes in the ways that we choose without harming others.
We have decided, by some sort of universal consent, that time and money are traded one for the other. We have further decided that if one cannot or does not trade time for money, or find other ways of collecting enough of it, a person has little value. Your human value is determined by your market value. And that is simply wrong.
First, let’s recognize the we are at the summit of humanity.
200,000 years ago survival was our only concern. It was all the earliest humans could do to avoid being eaten, or to find a way to eat, themselves. Shelter was whatever they could find, and medical care was, for any serious purposes, non existent. But we did survive, and we did it because we worked together. No single human could have flourished then, and it’s doubtful one could now. If one of us is doing well it’s because of the contributions made by others for the last 200 millennia.
We have always made life better by working together, but we began to segregate ourselves into different tribes of one form or another. They can be based on specialization, on shared beliefs, on gender, race, or ideology, or national origin or citizenship in a particular country. But the tribes are there. The separation is there.
I submit the separation is counter to continuing to improve our world. Instead of trying to defeat each other, we need to try to cooperate with each other to find the solutions to our shared problems, and to find ways of making life more pleasant for all of us.
Another element common to all of us is that we have limited time on Earth. We can discuss afterlife at a different time, but our time here is extraordinarily brief. Few of us will be here for an entire century. None of us will be here for two. And, to our knowledge, that’s all the time we get. Ever. Once a minute is spent, it can never be recovered.
You and I will each get, perhaps, 50 million minutes. Why should we need, in the 21st Century, to trade so many of them for dollars? Most of us won’t even get a dollar per minute. If you earn $52,000,000 in your lifetime, you’re among the very few. This world works very well for the few. It works very poorly for the many. “The needs of the many,” as Spock would remind us, “outweigh the needs of the few.”
This doesn’t mean the few should be forced to give their dollars to the many. I’m not advocating that. Instead, I would like to see the dollars of the many used to benefit the many instead of the few. We have enough to ensure that all of us have the basics of survival. We can eliminate the need for slave wages by ensuring no one ever needs to take a job that pays less than a person’s minutes are worth just so one can keep living for a few more minutes. Instead of being about survival, money becomes about flourishing financially.
What would this world look like?
Everyone has enough money for food, rent, utilities, and clothing appropriate to the environment in which they live. Any decent civilization would provide that to all of its citizens. Those that don’t are never viewed well by the Federation.
Everyone has medical care sufficient to keep one not just alive, but healthy. Dr. McCoy never asked anyone for an insurance card. Had the Captain asked him to, he probably would have said, “Dammit, Jim, I’m a doctor, not a bureaucrat!”
Everyone spends their minutes in ways that are meaningful to them, and that contribute in unique ways to making the society a better and stronger one.
Everyone is appreciated as the individuals they are. No one is expected to conform to the expectations of others, so long as they aren’t hurting anyone else. Each of us chooses our own path through life.
Isn’t this world impossible?
No. It’s not. Flying was once “impossible.” Going to the moon was even more “impossible.” Communicating in the way you and I are this very moment was also once “impossible.” Things are impossible only when we decide they are impossible, or they are expressly forbidden by the laws of physics.
What do we need to do to bring about such a world?
First, we have to agree that we want to. Then, we need to try.
What are the logistics?
I don’t have a clue. I’m not an economist. I’m not a politician. I’m a drop of water in the Colorado River. There are experts in such areas. I suggest they work out the details, they do the research, they gather the data, and they work it out. And, to no one’s surprise, people have been doing this for quite some time. Buckminster Fuller spent most of his 87 years (not even the full 50,000,000 minutes we hope to receive ourselves) trying to figure out how to implement plans that would benefit 100% of humanity. The ideas are there.
What are some of the ideas?
Today, we are beginning the discussions about changing our economy in a way that benefits more people. Universal Basic Income is now a fairly well known term. It wasn’t unheard of previously, but no one really had any interest in it after it failed during the Nixon administration. Today, the idea gets airtime, although not much. Is UBI enough? No, of course, it’s not, but it’s a step in the right direction. Medicare for All isn’t enough, either, but we’re moving closer to the public health care we really ought to have.
Living wages aren’t the whole answer, either, but they are at least one more piece of the puzzle.
What Should We Do, Then?
The most important thing to do is to agree on our shared vision. If you see some reason to oppose the Idealistic vision I’ve discussed, I hope you’ll communicate to us what the basis or your opposition is. Why, in essence, should humans suffer unnecessarily?
Having done that, perhaps we can get a few more people to share it, and, in this way, we can begin, as little drops of water, to carve out the Grand Canyon. We can talk about the best ways of improving humanity, and we can share diverse opinions. We can find common ground, and we can move forward to become a world worthy of membership in The United Federation of Planets. I want very much to be qualified to join the Federation. Don’t you?
Wouldn’t it be lovely if Vulcan ships had been monitoring our progress for the last century, and they saw that we have moved toward slowing the spread of racism, at least insofar as we have made it socially unacceptable, illegal in hiring, and making it possible for someone who was not white to become President of the United States? They would see that we have begun to accept that people can have sexualities that differ from the norm, and those differences are no one’s business but their own. We have even accepted their right to marry just as it is given to everyone else. The Vulcans could observe that women have won the right to vote, to be in power, and to live their own lives independent of men. They would see we have begun.
Yes, we have light years to go, but we have begun the journey toward not only the stars, but to the deeper unexplored realms of what humanity can actually accomplish. Let’s keep moving down that road, together.