I know how this sounds. How can one use Star Trek as an entry point to the very real discussion on possible first contact scenarios. Well, please keep in mind that this is a thought exercise. I do believe that if you keep an open mind and follow the premise you will see the very real threat to not only potential future first encounters, but the ontological state of humanity itself.
Let us not imagine in this scenario the Ferengi as we see them Star Trek: The Next Generation, when they are depicted as rather silly creatures with involuntary motor movements. Let us also not see the Ferengi as they are depicted at the end of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, when there is a women’s and equal rights revolution, Nog is a stellar Starfleet officer, and Rom is the Grand Nagus. Instead, let us imagine the Ferengi as they mostly exist, hyper-capitalists, ready to exploit any situation for financial gain. I have written a few posts about capitalism and science fiction over here. It is easy to imagine a future of humanity where capitalist stalwarts have only gained in their foothold over social development.
This could go one of two ways. One: humanity experiences first contact with a capitalist-type species and this hyper-capitalism is not something we share in common at that time. Or, two: humanity’s first contact with a fixated capitalist species is in line with our own capitalist endeavors. I know what you are thinking. This is certainly not ideal! However, it is a possible reality that should be considered if we are being open to all potential first contact situations.
What happens next? If we are congruent with the fixation on monetary value at the same time first contact is made and if that visiting species share the same values it is likely our natural resources will be the first victim. Yes, I am aware Earth’s natural resources are already under threat from ecological collapse, mass extinction, and climate change. Add to that trade agreements with an extraterrestrial species and not only will there be ecological victimization, but the mounting burden of the world’s poorest populations and those at risk of victimization themselves.
What is really happening here?
What is happening is the exploitation of Earth and people for the benefit of those in powerful positions and those who are already economically advantaged. No doubt this sounds familiar. Imagine tragedy compounded with tragedy. This is ultimately all existing only to protect those in power in the first place. The ethical reality is that power itself only exists due to the enforcement of its intangible, unspoken agreements. When societies agree to structural power, they agree to exploitation. It is about protecting the law, which only exists to keep those in power in control over the population. It is rather sociological Luddite-ism that insists that society cannot function without current Western standards of law in place. Those of that persuasion might need to think about how much faith they have in humanity’s abilities to manage themselves as well as their own subjective interpretation of the world around them. An ontological awakening is needed but that can only come about through a greatly reformed education system, which will not come about as long as power and law enforce each other for the benefit of the economically advantaged.
Let us imagine a changed world; a world where justice is a practiced and that values ethical principles. What if, somehow we make it there, at that time first contact with a capitalist-driven species takes our world by storm. Will we concede to their propositions? Will we lose what gains we have achieved? Will we instead obstruct this alien species’s attempt to influence us and push them away? If we did so we would no doubt feel a great guilt of having lost an opportunity to establish a relationship with an alien species. How will that reverberate through our world and our culture? Yes, no doubt it will be a lost opportunity. We will feel the loss. There will be great upset that cannot be controlled. That upset might lead to a decline in our freedoms or it may lead to dissent towards progression regardless if those in disagreement with the advancement of values that lead to parity truly wanted a relationship with this Ferengi-like species at all. It might also lead to isolationism. A galactic isolationism that will absolutely color our future, our idealism, what strides we have managed to take, and how we react not only to the universe, but to each other as well.
What is the optimal resolution?
If we are able to reform the education system to where violence is rare, money is abolished, humanity respects itself, and indifference is a thing of the past, then, and frighteningly possibly only then would we be able to withstand first contact with a capitalist-drive species. Let us hope this capitalist alien culture is not also violent and dominating. They may not take no for an answer.
[Header Image: © Star Trek / Paramount]