Vespertine Dreams

The Bible begins in the Garden of Eden, and from the story of the Fall issues the most influential sociophilosphical work in human history. Plato famously invented the continent of Atlantis to demonstrate his ideas. Thomas Moore had his Utopia. Philosophers throughout the ages have invented States of Nature, various Paradises, their fictional worlds in which they posited ideal systems and via which they constructed their worldviews.

The fictional world via which I most shaped my worldview was Star Trek.

Growing up, I was undoubtedly deeply influenced by the vision laid out in Star Trek: The Next Generation and the corresponding films, in which Humanity had reached what is known as a post-scarcity society: a level of technological productivity in which all needs can be provided for and competition – be it economic or military – was rendered unnecessary. Along with this economic abundance came a democratic-socialist system of sociopolitical organization, with sufficient welfare systems and healthcare, and in which scientific advancement was undertaken not for private profit but for the collective good.

I took this vision as my own ideal of what the future of humanity should look like. However, this was obviously a fiction, very greatly divorced from the way the world worked today. The questions that arose, therefore, were: in what ways was this vision achievable? In what ways would it have to be altered?

More specifically, this is a society in which some of the ideas of Western society are taken to an extreme: science and logic are given pride of place, religion has all but disappeared save for private affairs, all individuals are subject to rule of law, and people of all races and genders are treated as equals. Though many people may see these institutions as the logical termination of our current “scarcity” era of human history, it is important not to become trapped in a teleological fallacy. These values are not universal ideals. These ideals are the hallmark of Western Civilization.

Western ideas of liberalism, constitutionalism, human rights, equality, liberty, the rule of law, democracy, free markets, the separation of church and state, often have little resonance in Islamic, Confucian, Japanese, Hindu, Buddhist, or Orthodox culture” (Samuel Huntington, “The Clash of Civilizations”, 1993, p. 40).

As I understood it, the vision presented in Star Trek was closest to being achieved, in the early 21st century, in the European Union. In the EU, war had been all but abandoned as a tool of national policy. Religion was kept far from politics

For me, a young liberal growing up in Bush-era middle America, this idea of Europe offered me a vision of society free from everything I hated about the United States: its self-exaltation, its bellicose policies, the rampant capitalism, the overbearing influence of religion on national life.

As I grew up, however, I began to see that Europe was sleepwalking off a cliff. Western Civilization was not alone in the world, and it had no unchallenged right to lead the future of humanity. The philosophical changes that had led to a softening of military policies and an embrace of comfortable social policies in Europe had blunted any desire to carry a torch or wave the banner of a civilization. The projection of civilizational ideals abroad meant little if not backed with the ability to project civilizational force abroad. Though Europe was closest to achieving the Trekian dream, the road it had followed was a dead-end given geopolitical realities.

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