Friday, September 02, 2005

In the Star Trek future, the Federation and Starfleet recognize the common good as a guiding principle. The common good has several aspects. That which we hold in common, including our interrelationships, are part of it. We are dependent on each other, and on our community and our planet. The diners in Sisko’s restaurant eat because someone caught the fish from waters that were protected from pollution and other kinds of damage, even far away. People acting cooperatively got the fish from where it was caught eventually to the restaurant. Other food on one diner’s plate may come from many different places, and involve hundreds of people. Each process requires using infrastructure that everyone shares, like roads and water pipes. Each of those people are dependent on others for what they need---for daycare when they’re at work, for health care.

The common good is everyone’s good eventually. But the common good goes beyond interrelationships that benefit each of us directly. The common good means the good of the community, the society, the human family, and all of life. This is part of the value of Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations. Diversity means many talents and perspectives, many potentials and many skills, which makes us more capable and adaptable, and it makes life richer.

Diversity is a value of soul. In the Star Trek original series episode, "Is There in Truth No Beauty," Miranda’s parting words to Spock are: “The glory of creation is in its infinite diversity…” Spock completes the thought: “…and in the ways our differences combine to create meaning and beauty.”

There is no contradiction between diversity and individuality: in fact, they are the same principle. The meaning of diversity is to honor and benefit from diverse individualities, and to do so by getting beyond superficial prejudices, because of color, physical abilities and appearance, class, gender, etc. to the soul within, and the unique contributions of each.

Similarly, there is no contradiction in principle between the common good and the individual. The American Experiment has always been about valuing both, and finding ways to deal with the areas in which they might conflict, for example, through laws and the Bill of Rights.

There is no contradiction between private enterprise and government. There is only what’s appropriate for particular aspects of the common good. This was recognized in recent history in the US, although it has perhaps been forgotten here since at least the 1980s.

(The role of money in the Star Trek future is a somewhat separate question, though not in ours. But private enterprise in some sense must exist in the Star Trek 24th century, because Sisko’s restaurant appears to be much like a privately owned and operated restaurant today.)

Because the Federation values the common good in the Star Trek future, we would not expect them to provide for the privileged few but ignore the many, or especially to ignore the disadvantaged few. We would not expect them to neglect the good of the city the people hold in common. And if they did, Captain Kirk or Captain Picard or Captain Sisko would call them on it.

There are several theories being debated now concerning why planning and prevention for the New Orleans catastrophe were so poor, and why relief efforts have been so slow and meager so far. They also bear upon the Star Trek future, and what that future represents in how humans bettered themselves.

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