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The Founder

New Humans

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Mods - I put this in the General section because I am not focusing on the novel itself, but rather on this content and how it pertains to the rest of Trek.

I know, I know - I have a habit of harping on the depiction of humanity and the "evolution" of our society as depicted by Star Trek. I still have a lot of qualms of the idea that humans are mostly perfect and have gotten over every negative impulse in our genetic memory. It is why I always loved DS9 which exposed that humans were still human underneath the shiny painting brought on by sonic showers, holodecks, and replicators. I loved that Sisko said there was something different from humans living in the core of the UFP and humans living in the frontier. It makes it more palpable that humans are not the angels we're led to believe ...

I found something interesting in the novelization of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Roddenberry wrote a preface through Admiral James T. Kirk. Sadly, none of this is in the movies or shows (not even DS9). But regardless, I find it adds such a unique layer to the mythos that Star Trek was kind of robbed by omitting this.

(I bolded the aspects I find especially interesting.)

_________________________________

Admiral Kirk’s preface: My name is James Tiberius Kirk. Kirk because my father and his male forebears hauled the old custom of passing along a family identify name. I received James because it was both the name of my father’s beloved brother as well as that of my mother’s first love instructor. Tiberius, as I am forever tired of explaining, was a Roman emperor whose life, for some unfathomable reason, fascinated my grandfather Samuel.

This is not trivial information. For example, the fact I used an old fashioned male surname says a lot about both me and the service to which I belong. Although the male surname custom has become rare among humans elsewhere. It remains a fairly common thing among those of us in Starfleet. We’re a highly conservative and strongly individualistic group. The old customs die hard with us. We submit ourselves to starship discipline. Because we know it is made necessary by the realities of deep space exploration. We’re proud that each of us has accepted this discipline voluntarily. And doubly proud when neither temptation nor jeopardy is able to shake our obedience to the oath we have taken.

Some critics have characterized us in Starfleet as primitives. And with some justification. In some ways, we do resemble our forebears of a couple of centuries ago more than we do most people today. We’re not part of those increasingly large number of humans who seem willing to submerge their own identities into the groups to which they belong. I am prepared to accept the possibility that these so called “new humans” represent a more highly evolved breed capable of finding rewards in group consciousness that we more primitive individuals will never know.

For the present, however, this new breed of human makes a poor space traveler and Starfleet must depend on us primitives for deep space exploration. It seems an almost absurd claim that we primitives make better space travelers than the highly evolved, superbly intelligent, adaptable new humans. The reason for this paradox is best explained in a Vulcan study of Starfleet’s early years. During which vessel disappearances, crew defections, and mutinies had brought deep space exploration to a near halt. This once controversial report diagnosed those mysterious losses as being caused directly by the fact that Starfleet’s recruitment standards were dangerously high. That is Starfleet Academy’s cadets were then being selected from applicants having the highest possible test scores on all categories of intelligence and adaptability. Understandably, it was believed that such qualities would be helpful in dealing with the unusually varied life patterns which starship crews encountered during deep space exploration. Something of the opposite turned out to be true. The problem was that sooner or later starship crew members must inevitably deal with life forms more evolved and advanced than their own. The result was that these superbly, intelligent and flexible minds being sent out by Starfleet could not help but be seduced eventually by the higher philosophies, aspirations, and consciousness levels being encountered.

I have always found it amusing that my academy class was the first group selected by Starfleet on the basis of somewhat more limited intellectual agility. It is made doubly amusing of course by the fact that our five year mission was so well documented due to an ill-conceived notion by Starfleet that the return of the USS enterprise merited public notice. Unfortunately, Starfleet’s enthusiasm affected even those that chronicled our adventures. We were all painted somewhat larger than life. Especially myself. Eventually, I found that I had been fictionalized into some sort of modern Ulysses. And it has been painful to see my command decisions of those years so widely applauded. Whereas the plain facts are that 94 of our crew met violent deaths during those years. And many of them would still be alive if I had acted either more quickly or more wisely. Nor have I been as foolishly courageous as depicted. I have never happily invited injury. I have disliked in the extreme every duty circumstance which has required me to risk my life. But there appears to be something in the nature of depicters of popular events which leads them into the habit of exaggeration. As a result, I became determined that if I ever again found myself involved in an affair attracting public attention, I would insist that someway be found to tell the story more accurately.

As some of you well know, I did become involved in such an affair. In fact, an event that threatened the very existence of Earth. Unfortunately, this has again brought me to the attention of those who record such happenings. Accordingly, although, there may be many other ways this story is told or depicted, I have insisted that it all should be set down in a written manuscript which would be subject to my corrections and my final approval. This is that manuscript. Presented to you here as an old style printed book. While I cannot control other depictions of these events that you may see, hear, and feel – I can promise that every description, idea, and word on these pages is the exact and true story of V’Ger and Earth as it was seen, heard, and felt by. – James T. Kirk

________________________________________

This is pretty fascinating stuff (and admittedly non-canon). The idea of two classes of humanity emerging from the rubble of World War III. The utopian humans who focus more on group consciousness ("We work to better ourselves and the whole of humanity" types). The individualistic humans that don't lose that sense of self, but are not as self-sacrificing as the other group. This actually makes me re-examine the character of James T. Kirk a bit now. There are a lot of political discussions in this forum (especially with the fandom split on DSC). I can see why some find Kirk to represent a much different type of human than say Picard.

I am intrigued, also, by the notion that some humans (despite their intelligence) are not cut out for space exploration. That their loss of self caused them to be easily seduced by alien ideologies and they would "go native" essentially. It almost seems like this is an endorsement (or simply an acknowledgment by Roddenberry) that the "proud" to be human types were necessary to maintain a space fleet that could explore on humanity's behalf.

I wonder what Roddenberry was actually saying about the "new humans" and what he was saying about the old ones that were more like us than they were "enlightened"?

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Conservative meant something different than it does today, when it was used in 1979 when this novel was written. Counter culture too meant something else. The turbulent 1960s had passed, and an older, wiser Kirk was looking back on his mission and what he learned. In the story though, it was supposed to be about 1972 era Kirk. Well, 2271 anyway.

The second enlightenment of 'humanity' which had been the alledged 'age of Aquarius' following the Vietnam War and civil rights movements likely colored Roddenberry's humanist perceptions. No longer was his as naive to humanism, believing his worldview would somehow have humans go 'beyond their base nature and be better'. This enlightenment he saw was not that of the counter culture. Even the actors didn't really care for the 'hippies' and they even mocked them in an episode.

Yes, to him he was 'conservative' in that he did not seem to take a rebel side in the culture, but rode it through science fiction allegory via westerns set in space. Aliens in his stories represented 'humanity before, more prone to violence, not as civilized'. The Klingons were definitely boarish warlike humans, the Romulans sneaky cold war villains, and the Vulcans, coldly logical techie types. McCoy represented the everyman cowboy country doctor. Kirk the Hornblower hero, Spock not quite human, to relfect humanity, and not quite Vulcan, to relfect a changing era.

Interestingly, looking back on the 1980s, that is when the enlightenment later happened in America. By the mid 1980s we had a new Star Trek, and by the end, the cold war 'effectively ended'. Gene did not predict the future so much as make a guess. In 1979, humanity wasn't quite ready.

Curiously, the 1990s became the more subversive counter generation, and Deep Space Nine fit into that, being even more like a western in space than TOS.

Voyager and Ent played it safer, but things were going badly again post 2001.

Discovery has come out at the end of another little enlightenment, the early 2010s. Polarized political landscapes have turned humanity into more Klingon like people than Vulcans, and now people are set off by mere words on media sites, and labels, and consumerism. If TMP was done today in some remake form novel, it would probably have Kirk arguing with Vger that humanity would survive being in our current rut, Vger not buying it, and then he has to blow it up. It probably wouldn't end with that hopeful 'going to a higher plane' ending. Too bad really. I miss those trippy 1970s endings.

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On 12/31/2017 at 7:47 PM, The Founder said:

This is pretty fascinating stuff (and admittedly non-canon). The idea of two classes of humanity emerging from the rubble of World War III. The utopian humans who focus more on group consciousness ("We work to better ourselves and the whole of humanity" types). The individualistic humans that don't lose that sense of self, but are not as self-sacrificing as the other group. This actually makes me re-examine the character of James T. Kirk a bit now. There are a lot of political discussions in this forum (especially with the fandom split on DSC). I can see why some find Kirk to represent a much different type of human than say Picard.

I am intrigued, also, by the notion that some humans (despite their intelligence) are not cut out for space exploration. That their loss of self caused them to be easily seduced by alien ideologies and they would "go native" essentially. It almost seems like this is an endorsement (or simply an acknowledgment by Roddenberry) that the "proud" to be human types were necessary to maintain a space fleet that could explore on humanity's behalf.

I wonder what Roddenberry was actually saying about the "new humans" and what he was saying about the old ones that were more like us than they were "enlightened"?

I remember reading the TMP novelization when I was about 13 or so (shortly after I saw the movie; had to buy it! Allowance be damned...), and I too, was intrigued by what Kirk meant by ‘new humans’; I assumed (at that age) he meant new humans to be more enlightened, evolved, etc.   But as I get older, it sounds more like the grumblings people of ‘a certain age’ whenever they see themselves increasingly usurped by a younger generation; they call the new generation ‘candy a$$es’, or crybabies, etc. etc.  

I remember my generation getting a lot of that crap from older baby boomers (I’m at the very beginning of Gen X), and sadly I see many in my own generation do the same to millennials (whom I actually admire in many ways; they are tech-savvy and have interesting out-of-the-box solutions to stagnant problems that bedeviled my generation).  

We older folks always think the new kids ‘don’t have the stuff’ anymore, but I find that to be largely bulls#!t.   My generation had a 3 month Gulf War; these kids today have multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.  

I now read that bit about ‘new humans’ and it just sounds more like Roddenberry channeling a bit of his own angst over being usurped by younger generations...

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Thanks for the replies. Shame that only two replies came in ...

The 100th "Why do Klingons look different?" topic gets more replies. Haha ... Oh well.

giphy.gif

On 1/1/2018 at 10:13 PM, Chimera82405 said:

Conservative meant something different than it does today, when it was used in 1979 when this novel was written. Counter culture too meant something else. The turbulent 1960s had passed, and an older, wiser Kirk was looking back on his mission and what he learned. In the story though, it was supposed to be about 1972 era Kirk. Well, 2271 anyway.

The second enlightenment of 'humanity' which had been the alledged 'age of Aquarius' following the Vietnam War and civil rights movements likely colored Roddenberry's humanist perceptions. No longer was his as naive to humanism, believing his worldview would somehow have humans go 'beyond their base nature and be better'. This enlightenment he saw was not that of the counter culture. Even the actors didn't really care for the 'hippies' and they even mocked them in an episode.

Yes, to him he was 'conservative' in that he did not seem to take a rebel side in the culture, but rode it through science fiction allegory via westerns set in space. Aliens in his stories represented 'humanity before, more prone to violence, not as civilized'. The Klingons were definitely boarish warlike humans, the Romulans sneaky cold war villains, and the Vulcans, coldly logical techie types. McCoy represented the everyman cowboy country doctor. Kirk the Hornblower hero, Spock not quite human, to relfect humanity, and not quite Vulcan, to relfect a changing era.

Interestingly, looking back on the 1980s, that is when the enlightenment later happened in America. By the mid 1980s we had a new Star Trek, and by the end, the cold war 'effectively ended'. Gene did not predict the future so much as make a guess. In 1979, humanity wasn't quite ready.

Curiously, the 1990s became the more subversive counter generation, and Deep Space Nine fit into that, being even more like a western in space than TOS.

Voyager and Ent played it safer, but things were going badly again post 2001.

Discovery has come out at the end of another little enlightenment, the early 2010s. Polarized political landscapes have turned humanity into more Klingon like people than Vulcans, and now people are set off by mere words on media sites, and labels, and consumerism. If TMP was done today in some remake form novel, it would probably have Kirk arguing with Vger that humanity would survive being in our current rut, Vger not buying it, and then he has to blow it up. It probably wouldn't end with that hopeful 'going to a higher plane' ending. Too bad really. I miss those trippy 1970s endings.

Interesting points!

For sure - I'm not implying that Roddenberry meant conservative in today's terms. In fact, I almost had to deprogram my mind a bit when reading that bold snippet because I kept applying it to modern day political terms.

However, it is undeniable there is a certain overlap in today's ideas. The concept of being for the individual versus losing your own identity so that it is merged with a "group" is talked about even now. I find it fascinating to think that not all humans are the (excuse me for saying this) drones that prattle on about how life should only be to better Mankind. While I can appreciate the selfishness of today's humans has been... rendered obsolete - I find it slightly disheartening to think that all traces of what makes us ... well .... us has been erased.

It is interesting to think that Kirk's brand of Humanity is better suited to the perils of space travel and the dangers of how it can impact you as an individual. If you're someone that isn't tribal (for your species) at some visceral level, you may be more susceptible to joining with someone else. If you're mind is literally so open that it can be plucked out by a competing philosophy - it would spell a certain danger to space travel wouldn't it? Especially since, for all intents and purposes, Starfleet is the emissary of the Federation (and to a degree of humanity).

If Starfleet was filled with officers that minimized their self-worth to a point where they don't recognize the benefit of being part of the Human family - it would seem natural to seek that out in alien civilizations...

If I remember correctly - there was a Starfleet officer in TNG who did just that. He joined the Romulan Star Empire because he felt they had clear moral values and an absolute certainty about the purpose of life. Seems like he could fit what Roddenberry was talking about ...

On 1/2/2018 at 12:16 AM, Sehlat Vie said:

I remember reading the TMP novelization when I was about 13 or so (shortly after I saw the movie; had to buy it! Allowance be damned...), and I too, was intrigued by what Kirk meant by ‘new humans’; I assumed (at that age) he meant new humans to be more enlightened, evolved, etc.   But as I get older, it sounds more like the grumblings people of ‘a certain age’ whenever they see themselves increasingly usurped by a younger generation; they call the new generation ‘candy a$$es’, or crybabies, etc. etc.  

I remember my generation getting a lot of that crap from older baby boomers (I’m at the very beginning of Gen X), and sadly I see many in my own generation do the same to millennials (whom I actually admire in many ways; they are tech-savvy and have interesting out-of-the-box solutions to stagnant problems that bedeviled my generation).  

We older folks always think the new kids ‘don’t have the stuff’ anymore, but I find that to be largely bulls#!t.   My generation had a 3 month Gulf War; these kids today have multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.  

I now read that bit about ‘new humans’ and it just sounds more like Roddenberry channeling a bit of his own angst over being usurped by younger generations...

Interesting points as well!

I'm not sure I read that the same, though. It doesn't come off as bitter to me. In fact in the above Kirk even says: "I am prepared to accept the possibility that these so called “new humans” represent a more highly evolved breed capable of finding rewards in group consciousness that we more primitive individuals will never know."

The acknowledgement kind of tells me that Kirk realizes that his brand of humanity is fading out and they are the future, but that he isn't obsolete yet. He is still needed and may be better suited for Starfleet.

Plus, Kirk has the added virtue of being right in the sense that what he says above shows space exploration was hindered because of this problem. Versus an older person calling a member of the next generation weak or something.

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