What is the ‘Borg’?
An entity that speaks as one. The uniformity of individuals grouped. Impersonalization of the individual, to ensure that the concerns of all are equal. The notion of equality, or the indivisibility of the group. That is all that defines the ‘Borg’, or the arch enemy of the United Federation of Planets. Or, more philosophically, the arch enemy of humanity.
The war of the Federation with the Borg has proved to be a great discussion about humanity- that is a constant subject presented by several science fiction television and cinema. There have been other films that have discussed this ‘war’ in great length, for example, The Invasion (2007). I will use it in comparison to the concerns presented by the Federation. The actual war as presented in Star Trek: The Next Generation 1987-1994 (TNG) is between the Federation star ship The Enterprise and the Borg, introduced by an omnipotent being called ‘The Q’. On ‘Q’s’ behalf, the purpose of the introduction was for the human [and humanoid kind] to understand that there are bigger, stronger, more influential enemies than the squabbles that they found themselves in within their domain [or sector of the universe(s)]. The lesson then was to be introduced, and to find a way to combat what the Borg stood for exactly. The aimed peaceful agreement, then was to combat the idea of uniformity without losing the particular aspects of individuality. This was also reminded in filler episodes, or where the human, the Klingon, the Cardassian haphazardly came together and heard a message from a representation of the human and humanoid ‘creator’. The ‘creator’ reminded the human and humanoids that they are of one DNA strand and that their differences were not a means for violence, but for character in a sense. Of course, as the captain, Jean-Luc Picard of the starship Enterprise stated ‘it was such a shame that the message fell on such deaf ears’. The squabbles continue as the Enterprise found itself in surprising and in intense contact with the Borg. The Borg’s purpose was to colonize and to include all humans and humanoid species as part of its entity. Their key collective mindset being that ‘resistance is futile’. This meant either peacefully or through violent contact all others not part of the entity will be assimilated as the Borg. For the sake of humanity, the humans ultimately refused, thus resistance proved worthy.
In the process of the war, there had been debates of the morally contentious thing to do. There is a moral code of conduct followed by those of the Federation. The codes are summarized as follows:
- All entities have the right to exist
- Disturbances or destruction of another life form is prohibited
- Disturbances or destruction of another life form’s environment is prohibited
- Solutions to where violence and death, which are preventable, is the preferred course of action
- Disturbances of newly discovered humanoid species have precautionary terms
- To engage in diplomacy where disagreements of species by respecting their customs and beliefs
As the Borg proved to be an enemy without the ability or inclination to speak humanely, or to form a peaceful agreement without force and an assumption of power- the one contemplated idea then was for its ultimate destruction. In one instance, a contact with a youthful Borg- or representation of being impressionable, willingness to change, and revolution-led to discussion of either ultimate destruction or a ‘choice’. The first decision was unanimously agreed upon by the Enterprise senior officers. Where they discussed that the entire destruction of humanity was of the greatest threat. Therefore, the ultimate need to destroy that threat is an exception to the moral code. All those that agreed thought to program a ‘virus’ that would then end the entity altogether. All agreed except for one senior officer, Dr. Beverly Crusher. The youthful Borg had come aboard the Enterprise injured. As it is Dr. Crusher’s duty and oath to heal, she took offense to the unanimous decision. She reminded the senior officers of the moral code and of her duty. As well, she reminded the members that despite the youthful Borg’s presentation he was still a being, a child and someone in need of humane treatment.
The Borg are a collective humanoid species existing within a highly technological advanced hive. In their worldview there is no concept of ‘I’ or of the individual. If they are to speak about a desire it is only the desire of the collective. Or they will speak as ‘we’. For example, an individual Borg will speak as “we are alone” rather than “I am alone”. The chief engineer of the Enterprise, and one part of unanimous decision, Geordi LaForge helped Dr. Crusher with the technological aspects of the youthful Borg’s injuries. As well his task was to program the virus to ultimately destroy it and his kind. Though in interacting with the Borg, LaForge began to understand why they insisted on a collective. The youthful Borg felt disconnected as he was no longer part of his hive. In his mindset, or as he was programmed to think and feel, being alone or as an individual would be lonesome. LaForge would offer his rebuttal-that being an individual is not lonely as one can connect with another individual to share likeness. However, in sharing that likeness he would not give up his individuality as that gave him character, or a purpose to his name. In order for the youthful Borg to understand this need and desire, LaForge personalized him or gave him a character by naming him ‘Hugh’ [pictured above]. Hugh then accepted his name.
After this new discovery that the Borg are capable of changing or forming a new understanding about humanity, the senior officers of the Enterprise came together for a new devised plan. It is imperative that they devise the plan as the Borg collective intend to collect their kind. Therefore it was an imminent violent threat approaching, and a need to find a quick solution. In discovering that Hugh could have a character, the second decision then was to give the Borg a ‘choice’. This meant instead of programming Hugh with a virus to ultimately destroy the others, the senior officers thought to program Hugh with a sense of ‘choice’. In that is the desire for individuality, a new revolution of thought.
The concerns of the Federation about the ultimate destruction of humanity is adequately presented. Why would one want to give up their individuality for the sake of all others? What were the benefits of existing as a collective rather than as an individual? Upon the first encounter with the Borg there was total silence. Three of the senior officers of the Enterprise boarded the ship.
The Borg were unbothered and were not threatened by the presence of the few crew members. But what is characterized by the Borg’s hive, or their environment? It was quiet, it was peaceful, it was cold. What seemed like a blank slate was actually a thriving consciousness only present within the mind through connective wires. Now to answer the first two questions one must understand what humanity is like, especially existing as individuals. TNG presents the lives of 24th century Earth beings that had become united over their differences. Therefore, no more wars or acts of violence- though the ‘Q’ forced them to answer to their previous crimes or behavior. A rough summary of the event presented here. However there were still squabbles among the humanoid species and the human, whereby the human attempted to end. Revert to our own time, the 21st century, where countless wars and violence are waged in the name of ‘differences’, ‘lack of resources’ and ‘lack of education’. What is meant to give up being an individual to then become a collective means to give up violence, or the notion that differences are to cause tension. The benefit of existing within a collective, or as the Borg, is ultimately peace. As individuals we have proven that we are bound to allow disagreements to cause chaos and by that what means of peace is only through force. It’s an idea played out in science fiction countless times.
This point was played out well in the movie ‘The Invasion’, previously linked. Within the film the ‘virus’ had turn every individual into a blank slate. The only differences among those infected with the virus were their appearances. A police officer, a black woman, a white man, a Hispanic woman walking together though they are the same. There exist no personality, no strong emotions or emotions at all. There exist no other apparent differences other than physical characteristics. Instead they are all one person, a collective of the same being. The same thought with the Borg’s motive is played out within the movie or that ‘resistance is futile’. The resistance being the main character, or as the Federation, for the sake of humanity individuality must be preserved. The resistance proved to be worthy, however what did that all mean exactly? At the end of the movie, once a cure had been found for the ‘virus’, the main character and her husband were sitting about their living area talking. The last scene was of the news playing over as they count the last of those being cured. The news as well played over the rise of violence, and chaos going about the country and the world as the humankind regained its humanity.
In watching the television series now, and the movie as a child, I have begun to wonder why peace on Earth or among all individuals is so difficult to fathom. So difficult to fathom that the idea of peace is merely a fantasy and one that can only be forced. By being forced it is an alien being, or an alien concept to seem united and to convince others to be united in thought, action and behavior towards the other. As I am hopeful that humanity would come to a peaceful agreement- as there are human beings that are at peace, but I agree peace is alien. I disagree that in order for there to be peace we must strip human beings of their sense of individuality. As the 24th century Earth beings aimed to accomplish- as they proved for themselves that there can be peace without forsaking the individual. However, how did 24th century do away violence and disagreements that is so often associated with individuality? They gave up capitalism-profit, money and materialism, and in return found that minimalism sufficed the needs and wants of the individual. This too is revealed throughout the series. This then did away with greed, inequality and the violence, selfishness and the sort. That very thought or means of acquiring peace is why it is so difficult to fathom.
My love for Star Trek TNG is not the purpose or the point here, though it is proven useful in discussing key concepts and ideas. Instead I am here to discuss how the Borg finds its way into our society, and how it is ultimately resisted at every turn. Here I am to discuss humanity, and what we have accomplished thus far in preserving that idea of individuality. To define exactly what is humanity, what is peace, and by what means we may fix the issues from within.
What is Humanity?
Humanity is defined as by Merriam-Webster dictionary as the quality or state of being humane; the quality or state of being human; and of the humankind. What does it mean to be humane? The adjectives often associated with this term is that of compassion and sympathy. For example, it is humane to treat other animal species with the same dignity and respect that we, humans, require of ourselves. In practice, the ‘humane’ treatment is something that activist must argue for exactly. In this we are discussing organizations like PETA, or organizations calling for the fair treatment of criminals and of poor minorities. The ‘state of being human’ refers to biology [physiology] but in this context it’ll refer to character, personality, and a sense of morality that is kindred to all humans-or the individual. By no means is this a positive reflection of the individual, though there are positive aspects of some individuals. Humankind is simply the collective of human beings.
That is what defines humanity. In practice we, humans, reveal our humanity by showing compassion to those without a voice in their condition or predicament. We often contemplate about the humane treatment of others, especially those marginalized or oppressed. That is humanity when we are discussing the treatment of others or ‘othered’ people. Those discussions evoke feelings of passion and righteousness. All good and well, however, humanity is often associated with its third definition provided here. Humanity is often associated with violence, deception, untrustworthiness, etc. all that is thought of when we discuss individuals as being part of humankind. The religious of the West may refer to mankind as being wicked, untrustworthy, and impulsive or all those adjectives relating to the thoughts and behaviors of individuals within the collective. It is the individual, then, that taints the meaning of and the imagery of what is meant by humanity.
We are, as individuals, a collection of varying degree of personalities and moral judgements, and by that causes disagreements. We disagree in the way to provide proper healthcare for all citizens of the state. And we allow such disagreements to jeopardize the health of our people. On a personal level we may disagree with a persons’ character or how they may conduct their self outside of the established ‘norm’. This then causes trivial scrimmages that are not too important at first glance, but are of greater concern knowing that humans engage in pettiness. The individual is often corrupted and dissatisfied too. We base our wants and needs on what we want and need more of generally. For instance, the poor not realizing the economic state of their community will be compromised in the their want and need of something from someone else poor. Or when the poor steals from the poor the community has gained nothing more than a greedy individual. In the discussion of violence, the fight for resources is never a collective action, or so at first, it is the individual against another. And we may find examples of this in reality or in fiction whenever a nation of people, yet in disagreement, are faced with greater trouble. In summation we live in a society plagued by the self-interested.
And because there exist the greater self-interested human beings find it difficult to trust another. This is true that people are distrustful of their neighbor, be it closely related or not. As we age and as we become more aware of the troubles that plague our society-the cost of individuality- we find that more people are distrustful of others than before. When the next generation arises, they too become less trustful of the other (USA Today). This is easily divided among skin color, age and their respective environments and communities they may reside in (Pew Research Center). Those communities more so negatively impacted by the negative connotations of the individual, the self-interested, battle with the issue of trust.
To bring it all a back again, and as it relates to TNG: In a way the humans of Earth, perhaps the Federation exemplified, and preached often, all that is defined by humanity. However, in actuality and as the ‘Q’ character pointed out that humans and humanoid species are the exact antonym of the definition. This then helps me to conclude that the enemy of humanity is not that of a virus- or an entity that exist as a hive-that strips away the positive aspect of the term. Instead, the arch enemy of humanity is the individual, the self-interested.
In Our Society
Where do we see the individual most often? In random acts of violence that speaks to inequality and impoverishment- that may be either a generational effect or a failed individual. We see the individual as we discuss income inequality; racial disparities in the criminalization of citizens; inequitable access to educational resources and influences; experience qualifications for entry-level occupations; etc.. We see the individual as a violent reaction to lack of opportunities and resources in urban or rural communities. Or the subject of the individual whenever we discuss access to the same privileges afforded to the affluent. The individual is the arch enemy of humanity in this sense as it does not allow for peace, or for peace for our society.
Peace is what we aim to achieve whenever we discuss humanity of the individual that aims for it. I am discussing the activist that views the individual as self-interested too. It is in activism do we see the positive aspects of the individual. Where they fight for the marginalized, or they fight for the acknowledgement of the commonality of all of humankind. For instance, the fight to recognize people of the LGBTQ+ are in fact valid in their existence as they are with their inner feelings and truth. Or when past activist had to argue that those of non-Caucasian or European descent are in fact human and deserving of humane treatment. The activist are those that remind us that we can have peace within our society, however, only if all other individuals are willing. And we find that they are not willing to change, not willing to come forward in order to set aside differences. The activist struggles to be a greater influence, despite legislative changes that make their initiatives a reality. What do I mean exactly? In the call for peace, we still have a large population of individuals that are still racist, homophobic, transphobic, sexist, classist, etc.. I could go into great length of each example; however, I’m sure that you can either draw from your own experience or observations how unachievable total peace is exactly in our society.
How Do We Acquire Peace?
According to popular science fiction, we are told that by peace means that we should strip the human being of their individuality. And by no means will humans submit willingly to give up their character. Peace within our society will require that we share no apparent and/or emotional differences. Since we are so incapable of doing so ourselves, the means by which to acquire ultimate peace is a Borg. Here I’ll argue that in line with the argument presented by the humans of the Federation: peace is ultimately achievable without stripping away what qualifies us as human beings. We are able to exist together, yet so very different, if we are to be rid of two concepts. Those concepts are as follows: materialism and that differences are a means to violence.
The way, in which, to achieve a peaceful society is by be ridding our society of materialism. In doing so we embrace the notion of minimalism. There are different definitions and philosophical understandings of the word ‘materialism’. How I am using the term is in reference to consumerism. By consumerism I am referring to the preoccupation and inclination to buying materials (Merriam-Webster). Though I’m not suggesting a society without means to acquire reasonable material ‘wants’ and ‘needs’ [i.e. clothing or other accessories]. I am suggesting that in a society of excess, and where we are encouraged by either a marketing team our one another to acquire more than what is needed, we then create self-interested individuals. As we call for more, we then have issues with the more affluent assuming rather than sharing more materials. Thus we have on the other extreme the poor taking from those that are poor as well. It’s the assumption we always require more than we need, more than we can afford to posses. In this assumption creates the inequalities and the violence that activist aim to create initiatives for in order to erase. Therefore, the means to peace is by minimalism.
What is minimalism? It is defined as extreme spareness and simplicity. This is meant by foregoing the additional pair of shoes when you have two or three in good or fair conditions. This is meant by the decluttering of house space by allowing only the essence in organization, entertainment and comfort. This may include the actual physicality of the home, by reducing its size the equivalence of a bedroom and kitchen area. Of course this is respective to your relationship status and whether you have additional people to fill up space. However, have you ever thought how much space is wasted then, in obligation to fill an empty space, that we fill it with more stuff? It is wasteful, it is clutter, it is the means by which consumerism still thrives. There are those that hate the superficial aspect about a minimalist. I understand, in the age of social media human beings feel the need for additional fame and approval from others. Thus their minimalism is the cause to spend more money in addition for what they were able to save from what they lack. I’m not referring to those that chase the aesthetics and the fame. I’m referring to how minimalism, as defined could help with the idea for peace.
This is an oversimplification of the facts and factors about materialism and how it affects individuals. I am to prove a point here, and without drawn out specific examples. If we are to forgo what we have in excess, the constant vying for resources would reduce. If we are to give up what we simply want in addition over what we need, we would see less envy from the individual. If we can use minimalism to reduce the assumption that one always require more than what is needed, or one that requires more than what they can posses, then perhaps we can be at peace. To be at peace, meaning to live among others without the assumption of excess; without stripping away what all makes us truly unique. Since we are living in a constantly progressing society, in the age of advance technology and of social media all that is fine. As technology is often considered an excess material when it can be a positive reinforcement. How else are we to share our thoughts and ideas, alike or also different to society and so rapidly?
Acknowledgement of Differences
I encounter this issue quite often on my own as an argumentative personality. Whenever it comes to an expression of differences, people tend to find it as the source of tension and the reason for violence. This couldn’t be further from the truth, however it is difficult to convince others that it is okay if two or more people disagree. We are individuals, after all, and we have our own characters and moral judgements that are influenced by nurture or our own lived experiences. We are individuals with varying beliefs on how to do something or in what way to determine decisions for all. However, such disagreements are not the cause for upset and violence. As the Federation aims at mending the fraction of a species that are all too similar. For instance, the Enterprise constantly engaging in diplomacy of a species engaged in civil war over simple differences of opinions, values and beliefs. The cause of the Federation diplomats or those experts they may call upon are to remind them that they are all too similar. In one example, in United States politics I call upon issues such as gun violence, healthcare, and taxes. Whereby there are similarities in thought but there are differences in execution. And because of those differences, instead of allowing them for finding a common ground we find that it causes tensions. In some cases it may even cause violence. We reveal that we are unable to achieve peace because we are unable to resolve our differences maturely.
I call upon the classic film The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951). Where an alien, who appeared human as well, warned the people of Earth that if they are not to resolve their differences then they are doomed to be destroyed.
This film is quintessential as it aims to address the current political culture of that time with the ending of World War II and the new emergence of the Cold War (1947-1991). As the point was clear it was about the Cold War as the diplomats of the respective countries to be called for peace were those opponents of that war. I like this film as it addresses a political aspect in the midst of other issues surrounding their time that isn’t addressed but revealed. Or having a predominately white cast, though there were a few non-white Americans present as representing the citizens of Earth and of the United States. There was a Civil Rights Movement rising, as there existed no peace for racial minorities or black Americans, Latino Americans, Native Americans, Chinese Americans, immigrants, etc.. And the Women’s Liberation (Feminist) Movement rising, as there existed no peace or equality for women. However, in this time and frame of mind, global peace of the political persuasion was a great concern. As they addressed directly, or not all the several disagreements that caused so much tension and violence that the only way to achieve peace is to introduce an alien, perhaps one that appears similar to the majority demographic.
Peace can be achieved in the matter of differences if we as individuals could understand the concept of compromise. Depending only on some issues as not all are about an equal division of opinion. Other issues can exist with a compromise, or understanding that both parts are equally true. I’m discussing the recent light with police homicides and violence as briefly discussed and will expound upon later here. I’m discussing the issues with taxes and healthcare that is a common issue among many societies. We can achieve peace if individuals are so willing to engage in compromise and to understand that it is for the good of all. In this way we can still retain our individuality without compromising the nation.
To conclude with brevity:
There exist no need for a Borg to correct ourselves, it is only ourselves that should be corrected. Though this is difficult to fathom because it seems so impossible. The beginning of its possibility then is to start with sacrifices.