Sunday, October 09, 2005

The Curse of the Prime Directive

Star Trek's big political statement revolves around the Prime Directive, especially in the Next Generation series. The essence of this law is that Federation star ships and personnel are forbidden to "interfere" with pre-warp drive cultures and planets. What this amounts to is an attempt to avoid contact with "primitive" people, for fear of altering their "sacred" path of evolution....as if such isolationism was possible in the Star Trek universe filled with money-grubbing Ferengi, haughty Cardassians, militaristic Romulans, war-crazed Klingons, and even uglier races in other quadrants. It's OK to study these backward races, but not help them in any way, or enlist them as trading partners or allies.

Such a policy would bring about the downfall of the Federation, of course. Other races would grab territory, trading rights to valuable resources, military bases, and enroll the subject peoples as slaves or soldiers. What the noble Federation turns up its nose at, its enemies will absorb and grow in strength and even diversity. The Federation will not bother to interact with these pre-warp drive cultures, leaving their fate to the tender mercies of the other advanced races it is in competition with. Such a move is like making sure Route 66, which brought many tourists to the West in the early Twentieth century, did not pass through quaint towns as Santa Fe or Indian reservations, for fear of changing them or giving them a chance to make some money. Instead it would wind through the most barren wasteland avoiding towns along the way, preventing them from benefiting from free cultural interchange with whoever wanted to travel there.

Obviously the idea behind the Prime Directive is that any contact between differing technological levels will result in the colonization of the weaker by the stronger. They will be made into a Protectorate at best. The weaker society has nothing to offer the stronger. Is this the view of human nature the idealistic Federation holds? Why not be up front and say, here we are, we want a relationship with your people, let's get started now instead of waiting until the inevitable future contact with ourselves or some other unsavory race that may decimate your planet just for fun.

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