Is Trek Still Too Eurocentric?

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by Nob Akimoto, Oct 21, 2013.

  1. NightJim

    NightJim Captain Captain

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    Urgh, all those holo novels. Most of them are just yet another front of WW3. Why can't we have something more recent?

    I've heard Call of Honour might be about the Dominion War? That sounds like a great step forward!
     
  2. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    That's an oddly random comparison. LotR is a fantasy world that's clearly based in European culture. But ST is franchise that purports to depict a global, multicultural, unified Earth civilization of the future -- so its Eurocentric tendencies cause it to fall short of that aspiration.
     
  3. JeBuS

    JeBuS Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    It's not Anglo-Centric enough.
     
  4. trash80

    trash80 Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    Yes i've thought this before, how hard would it have been to make up a band name or an author's name. Or maybe the TV writers were not allowed to?
     
  5. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    No reason why they wouldn't be. They made up Dixon Hill and Captain Proton and Janeway's Gothic holonovel, so nothing was stopping them from inventing in-universe works of fiction. They just didn't bother to create any from our own future because it didn't occur to them. (With the occasional rare exception like Flotter and Treevis.)
     
  6. trash80

    trash80 Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    Curious lack of imagination then. Pity i'd have loved to have heard references to that well-known late 23rd century band Everest Moss and their brand of Andorian influenced folk rock. :)
     
  7. Elias Vaughn

    Elias Vaughn Captain Captain

    You can't talk about 23rd century music and NOT mention T'Res and the Devotees of P'Jem. Every song was a flawless fusion of logic and freeform jazz!
     
  8. dansigal

    dansigal Captain Captain

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    There are probably other explanations than just a lack of imagination. My guess would be that writers often think it creates a connection that helps the audience relate to the characters. Oh, this person 300 years in the future likes jazz, I like jazz, humans must still be like we are today.
     
  9. trash80

    trash80 Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    I must admit i did have their Alpha Centauri concerts of 2287 in my holodeck playlist for awhile.

    @ dansigal - yes those connections were good but they could have added a few future pop culture references too surely.
     
  10. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    My frustration at the lack of future pop-culture references in Trek is why I made sure to put a number of them in my original novel Only Superhuman -- ranging from a kids' show called Annie Minute and the Time Trippers to Bollywood-produced "curry Westerns."
     
  11. Nob Akimoto

    Nob Akimoto Captain Captain

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    Some of it has to be pretty lazy cultural/class signifiers. Specifically that a lot of people equate things like baroque/classical music, Tudor era theater, literature from around that time, etc. to all be marks of erudition or sophistication. Therefore there's a certain amount of class signalling going on when you say "The Ambassador is quite fond of Mozart" that you wouldn't get if you replaced Mozart with the equivalent of a 23rd century composer.

    It's really really lazy, but I get the impression that was part of the "signalling" they were going for when establishing the bona fides of the characters. Hence some of the "folksier" or "rebelling" types have interests other than that. Tom Paris for example liking kitschy B-movies and cartoons is to imply he's a more "normal" guy than everyone around him.
     
  12. David Brennon

    David Brennon Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    I think this is a very good point. Paris is a very good example actually. Beyond his attitude, these things make him very real and pretty normal for a starship pilot from the 24th century.
     
  13. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    I have refrained from getting personal in this debate, and I would appreciate it if this courtesy were returned.

    Two people asserting that it was not without explaining why it was not, does not equal proving anything.

    What am I wrong about Lee? Is it factually inaccurate to say that he fought for a government that sought as its primary purpose to perpetuate the enslavement of four million people? Is it inaccurate to say that when he thought of himself as "siding with Virginia," he was ignoring the one-third of Virginia held in bondage, who were prevented from having a say in whether or not Virginia should secede?

    It's not that I cannot see shades of grey -- it's that I reject the idea that American chattel slavery or anything that supported or preserved American chattel slavery is anything other than immoral. I reject the notion that this is a shade of grey.

    This isn't judging Lee "by our standards." This is judging him by the standards of the abolitionists and egalitarians of his era -- people like John Brown or Thaddeus Stevens. These ideas were not alien to 19th Century America.

    Robert E. Lee lived in an era when the force of history had reached a tipping point, where it was very clear that either slavery -- which was itself a state of permanent war, of totalitarian oppression, against its victims -- had to end, or any pretenses of a culture of liberty had to be abandoned. I'm not unsympathetic to the idea that maybe we can't judge, say, someone from the 1600s on this issue -- but Lee did not have the luxury of being born in an era before the recognition that slavery was an evil was widespread. He made his choice, and he deserves to be, at best, remembered as a man who did not have the courage to stand up against his class loyalties and do the right thing -- and, at worst, as a man who deserves to be condemned for his choices.

    I did not say there are no reasons to honor him. I assert that these reasons are outweighed, are rendered moot, by this one horrible thing he did. And I specifically assert that he should not have a ship named after him in a society based on the ideas of liberty, equality, and multiculturalism, as doing so would be to celebrate a historical narrative that is both ethnocentric and dishonest about the true consequences of his choices for the victims of slavery.

    Is admiration of historical figures always a necessity?

    And here you can make a valid case for recognizing a "shade of grey," as most historians argue that he kept those border states in the Union to win the war -- and then realized that it had to end, period, which was why he first moved to free the slaves in the seceding states and then later moved to ban slavery throughout the U.S. when the political moment was right. Last year's film Lincoln has a well-written scene in which Lincoln defends his moderate stances towards staunch abolitionist and Radical Republican Thaddeus Stevens, arguing that a compass that tells you what direction to go but not when to diverge to avoid an obstacle is of no use, and that an eternally unyielding stance towards slavery would have led to the Confederacy winning the war and expanding slavery to Latin America, rather than to the abolitionists being able to pass the 13th Amendment.

    Do I necessarily agree with Lincoln? No. Do I think he was a perfect man? No; I'm not big on deifying historical figures. But I do think that a valid "shades of grey" argument can be made, and I do think that Lincoln has a better defense for himself than Lee.

    Let me put it this way:

    As far as I'm concerned, anyone engaging in any act of resistance to slavery was inherently justified -- up to and including overthrowing the United States government as it existed before the ratification of the 13th Amendment. The U.S. Declaration of Independence says that governments derive their authority from the consent of the governed -- and the government of the United States clearly did not have the consent of its slave victims. (Nor, for that matter, did it have the consent of its women.) It was, therefore, in my view, no more legitimate a government than any apartheid state.
     
  14. JD

    JD Admiral Admiral

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    Someone mentioned Oceania earlier in the thread, and that got me thinking. Did we ever see any characters from Australia or New Zealand on any of the shows? I just checked on Memory Beta, and the only people from either of those countries on there are Tricia Cadwallader, a character from Elite Force who didn't have an accent (I know a character from a specific country doesn't have to have an accent, but it's an easy indicator of their origins) and Kyle from TOS (I could have sworn he was English) and a one off character from Strangers from the Sky. They didn't have any characters from New Zealand.
     
  15. Nob Akimoto

    Nob Akimoto Captain Captain

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    To be fair, evidently New Zealand is a giant penal colony in the 24th century....

    That said, Veronica Fletcher, from Destiny is from Oceania.

    And Tim Pennington's journalism school is in Wellington.
     
  16. David Mack

    David Mack Writer Commodore

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    Actually, my one regret in the details of Star Trek Vanguard is that, upon reflection, I think I should have made Tim Pennington an Australian by heritage.
     
  17. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    I think there's a pretty noticeable dearth of characters from both Asia and Oceania throughout Star Trek. Latin America, too, frankly.
     
  18. JD

    JD Admiral Admiral

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    I never realized that. For a franchise that promoted diversity it really didn't do a very good job showing the diversity of our own planet.
     
  19. Nob Akimoto

    Nob Akimoto Captain Captain

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    As noted in the OP, I still think you guys did a fantastic job with human cast diversity in Vanguard.
     
  20. David Brennon

    David Brennon Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    I think you are smart enough to realize that the first thing you quoted was directly connected to the second. Yes, there was a period, but that period was a pause for effect... hard to convey in text but there it is. I was saying don't be the guy who just cuts up people's quotes, taking them out of context to make his point.

    Which is funny... because you did it again. I wasn't being rude or getting personal, I was saying what you did. If you take offense to being showing what you're doing... well I was going to say I'm sorry, but I really can't because I'm not. Don't do it and people won't call you on it.

    The reverse is also true, you can't just say something and have it be gospel. I think we're both guilty here.

    You seem like a smart person, so I think it's kind of silly you don't list the one thing I continued to repeat that you disagreed with. I think the Pol Pot analogy is wrong. I think you are wrong in that regard about Lee. Do I need to be so specific with you when that is the argument I've been making the whole time? You know what I'm arguing.

    As morality is subjective I will grant you this. However, I will say that while the institution is objectively wrong, individuals that supported it are not automatically objectively wrong.

    I do think you may want to amend your statement here though. It seems to me that you suggest here:

    that all soldiers of the Confederacy were immoral. That anyone who supported the war effort is immoral. I don't think you really believe that, but your phrasing does suggest it. If anything that supported or preserved American chattel slavery is immoral, then you're saying millions of people were immoral. We've already established that morality is subjective, so that idea is clearly wrong... a more appropriate way to put it would be to say that it is immoral to you. That way, you're only saying you look down on over 9 million people. If that's what you believe.

    NOTE: Bold in the above quote was added to highlight for better viewing.

    John Brown was a murderer. I wouldn't use him as an example of someone who's standard matters. The first person who died in his rebellion was a black guy... so there's that. In any case, the ideas were not alien in the United States at the time, but they were far from accepted universally.

    I don't disagree with the strength of force as you call it. I don't agree with your premise that he didn't attempt the right thing or that he need be condemned. He helped his wife's efforts to free slaves and funded their move to Liberia. He convinced southern slaveowners to free and arm their slaves to let them be soldiers of the Confederacy. Judge him honestly, not by cherry picking.

    Lee wrote a letter to his wife in the 1850s that read in part:

    Greater evil to the white man? What?! Better off as slaves?!? Teaching them how to be better?!?!?!? GOD DECIDES WHEN WE FREE THEM!?!? WHAT THE HELL!?!?

    By your standards or mine it sounds awful, but this is the way many in the boarder states felt. They believed that God wanted slavery and it would end when He decided. You have to realize that slavery in northern Virginia was different than it was in the deep south. Not the violent debased thing you see in something like 12 Years A Slave. The idea was alien to someone like Lee. Now, that doesn't make it right, but you can understand a little better if you think about it objectively

    A very rough analogy would be the fight for equal rights in the homosexual community. It is clearly wrong to deny someone rights based on the gender they love. Those who fight against equal rights generally do so out of "moral" and religious reasons. They are raised like that in most cases (irony if I ever heard it). They may know LGBT people personally and even like them, but they'd still fight tooth and nail against their rights because of their beliefs. Not exactly the same as fighting to keep people in bondage, but you see my point I hope.

    Granted, to a point, however I've made my position known and have nothing further to add.

    No, but I think you understood my meaning full well. The people who built the United States are (generally) worthy of our admiration for the work they did... or at least some of the work they did. That's my point. These people are both good and bad, right and wrong and to discount all of what an individual does because of a single detail (regardless of what that detail is) is being disingenuous to history.

    You brought up John Brown and that is a perfect example. He killed an innocent people. John Brown was a murderer. Does his work as an Abolitionist now become tarnished by that (albeit a lot of that work was bloody work)? Or does it outweigh the murder?

    Just so we're clear, you basically just said Lincoln freeing the slaves in the rebel states helps make a valid argument to the "shade of grey" we were talking about. Lee freeing slaves in areas under his command so that they may help fight for the Confederacy and helping his wife send liberated slaves off to Liberia does nothing in your view to make that argument valid for him.

    Not for nothing, but I don't think anyone is deifying any of the men we've been talking about.

    Huh... that's interesting. So you feel the United States wasn't a legitimate government until 1870 or 1920 or maybe even later? That may read like snark (and this like sarcasm) but I am genuinely interested here -- don't get me wrong, snark and sarcasm are there, but I'm still interested in the content of your reply just the same ;). I can very much see your position as I have similar feelings about other states that I won't bring up here. It's an interesting point (I think i used that word three times now to describe how I feel... I'll stop).

    Either way, the question was kind of yes or no. Do you think that those people I mentioned are as bad as Pol Pot? We'll go ahead and include the first 27 Presidents now because you mentioned the ladies and it is a good point. Wilson gets a pass because the 18th was enacted while he was in office (though if you'd like to include him you're welcome to)

    Is there a degree of mass murder that is worse than others or is there a point where one mass murderer is as bad as the last? Seriously, are Hitler and Pol Pot and Stalin and Saddam and Milošević and countless others all on the same level? (How's that for being eurocentric or very nearly?)

    Agreed. I think that the XO on Columbia was a Kiwi, wasn't she, but she's the only other that comes to mind.

    Also agreed. I'm particularly fond of Captain Desai myself, good choice.

    I think at the end of it all, Star Trek makes a more than decent stab at the IDIC philosophy. We're the ones that screw it up. That sounds silly, its a fantasy, how can it do something without us? It is an idea to strive for that we can't reach. The writers, the fans, the producers. We aren't those people we like reading about and watching so while the writers and producers and whatnot will make a valiant effort (and it is a damn good job you all do by the way), it will never be perfect... though I think some of them come very, very close. It's a lot like a lot of religions in a way, espousing a philosophy that is just a little too far out of reach.
     

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