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The Final Frontier

Wed, Apr 25, 2001 09:05PM -0600

I just finished watching the fifth to the last episode of Star Trek: Voyager and found myself somewhat disturbed by the ending

Yes, Voyager is terrible science fiction (I had to laugh when they brought the starship into the atmosphere of a planet....never mind the radiation "inoculations" or the omnipotent nanoprobes....the number of occurrences of deus ex machina per episode is astounding) but it seems like it's the best science fiction on TV these days. A sad state of affairs.

At first it seemed to resurrect the aura of the original series, even invoking the name of Captain James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise. They even put on the classic nondescript crewman who gets sacrificed in the middle of the episode. The subtheme about the dangers of information and the attribution of responsibility was a little over the top, but I have to admit it elicited a reaction from me (I believe that information should be Free, and its consequences are the user's responsiblity....) and I'm now reevaluating my beliefs.

But the epilogue really disturbed me. The captain basically writes off space exploration, by saying that it isn't worth the life of even one person.

But I think we're talking about the survival of the species here.

(Bleh. This promises to be a long rant....)

This also touches upon a topic that is near and dear to my heart, being a quasi-exile/diasporan/etc. from a country that has been colonized by at least two Western imperial powers (not counting the brief British interregnum), one Asian imperial power, and living in the great shadow of another nascent Asian imperial power. Reinterpreting history without the lens of Western civilization is important, but the danger of revisionist history is that words like "colonization" and "exotic" take on sinister meanings, which are completely unnecessary.

Which leads me to the expansion of great Empires. Most of the history of the world shows that economic prosperity is essentially driven by expansion, whether this is in terms of territory, cultural sway, or market share. Without expansion, we set ourselves up for conditions of poverty and discontent that are the fuel of neverending civil wars.

I'm not trying to justify the massive destruction and killing committed by imperial powers throughout history, but I really think it illustrates the unsustainability of the lifestyles of the citizens of the industrialized world.

That is, unsustainable unless we pursue expansion.

I won't even mention the millions of square miles of ocean that can be somewhat terraformed without causing ecological catastrophe. I'm talking about Space. Colonization that doesn't require slaughtering the natives. No imperialism necessary. Just expansion driven by our technological prowess and intelligence.

There are grave risks to be taken. I won't downplay that. People will die horrible deaths, asphyxiating in vacuum or being cooked alive by radiation. But the people who will be doing it won't be doing it involutarily.

We can turn swords into plowshares. Or more literally, missile silos into launch pads, nuclear missiles into starships. Think of it. The military is full of people who are willing to die for their country. And now here's a mission that involves great courage without having to kill anybody.

So unless someone finds a way to convert our unsustainable industrialized lifestyles into something more eco-friendly yet comfortable, I really think this final attempt at expansion will make or break our species.

The International Space Station will be the beginning of this hope. Think of it, an actual platform for launching starships. People have already died for this dream. It would be folly to make their deaths meaningless by turning away from the stars.


I have begun to acknowledge my cultural identity. Not just the nascent culture of the "Filipino American," which I've always acknowledged, but which I've come to realize is mostly dependent on hope about the future and on a slight naivete regarding American history and race relations. I've finally accepted my position in this New World Order of globalization. Because of the color of my skin, it will surely be generations before someone like me can ever be American without any qualifiers, and current extrapolations seem to doubt the ability of American culture per se to remain cohesive for that long. And because of the geography of my birthplace, I can't realistically consider myself Pilipino without any qualifiers (not to mention the quasi-colonialism going on in the Philippines with regards to the metropolitan center versus the mostly rural provinces and the resultant institutionalized prejudices against provincianos like my parents...or the illusoriness of a colonially constructed nationalism... or the ridiculousness of defining identity by arbitrary and imaginary divisions of land....) But what I can acknowledge is that I am part of what has been popularly called "the Diaspora" (which I think somewhat misleadingly alludes to the Jewish Diaspora due to the Roman conquest of Palestine....) which has spread Filipinos to the most distant parts of the globe. I think it has resulted in a quasi-culture that, while ultimately rooted in the homeland, is greatly inured with the democratic capitalistic rationalistic philosophies of the West, and is a viable alternative to the soul-crushing sterility of American commercialism. But I could write forever about this without making any sense, so I'll save it for another rant.
The memory of getting called on the use of this word still sticks with me. At the time, I was referring to, of all things, fruit, and someone in the conversation interjected about the connotation of racial fetishism and other white patriarchicisms invoked by this word. Which I think is unjust--if you're going to negatively load a word, I think you should restrict its context gravely. It would be a linguistic travesty if all uses of "exotic" were to be tainted by this connotation. Not that I advocate forgetting this connotation....
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