1/11/15

The Kirk vs. Picard Conundrum

No. Just no. No more. Do not do this anymore. Do not try to lift one character up at the expense of another. You have a favorite captain? That's great. Go and love your captain with all your heart. But don't make it sound like the other one sucks just because you like the other. When you start to take sides, a false dichotomy appears which applies to so many other things in life besides starship captains. So when I say "don't fight about captains," I really mean, "don't give in to tribalism."

Here's how it usually goes: You pick a favorite captain based on purely subjective reasons. You pick Picard because he was the first captain that you ever watched. You pick Kirk because he was your father's favorite. You pick Picard because you're into French stuff, or you pick Kirk because you wanna be the guy that gets the girls. After you've locked in your captain, you start to understand that there are qualities in the other guy that could also be good, but you ignore them. You point out the worst in the other guy in order to defend your choice, because, obviously, your choice is the best. When you meet someone who has a different opinion, it's your time to shine! Because you've thought of every reason that the other guy is wrong and now you get to tell them! The problem is, they've done the exact same thing. But you're in it now. You can't give in. Your captain is your captain! You quickly come up with some other reasons, and so does your opponent. In the end, there's nothing you can do but walk away in a huff. Your captain is the best, and it's inconceivable that this other guy can't see that. What you don't realize is that instead of convincing the other guy you're right, you've only strengthened his resolve. And he's done the same to you. By fighting about who's the best captain, you've only pushed each other farther away; made your opinions that much more extreme.

This is about so much more than just Kirk and Picard. This is about war and peace, terrorism, religion, bullies, cliques, atheism, nerds, politics, anything that has any kind of following that separates itself from the rest of humanity. Don't get me wrong, it's a great feeling to belong to a tribe. Many people live a miserable life until they find what their tribe actually is. I'm all for tribes. What I'm speaking out against right now is fights between tribes. Yeah, fighting over captains is silly, but the same mentality applies to fights that are so much more important. The fight between Democrats and Republicans has splintered the American government seemingly irreparably, and the fight between various religions and religious beliefs has pit family members so hard against each other that some of them often end up living on the streets. And why? It may or may not have started with an objective reading of the issues, but once you've locked into your choice, it doesn't matter how much evidence you may later face to the contrary, you've made your decision and you're sticking to it. The reality is that your opposing tribe makes some very valid and valuable points that you're just ignoring because you know they're wrong. The reality is that life is far too complicated to fit into your tribe's tiny box. The universe is big enough to accommodate all of the Starfleet captains. And all of the Starfleet captains are capable of getting along with each other.
And there's the point of all this: We can all just get along. You may have heard that phrase before as a question, but I present it here purposefully as an imperative. We can. We really can. All we need to do is realize that our opinions really are just opinions, whether they've been presented as fact or not. Isn't that something we learned in first grade? Unless you've personally done the research and come to a scientific conclusion of absolute facts, your opinion might help you live a better life, but it is still, in the end, a completely subjective, constructed, abstract opinion. It may not apply to the next guy. And that's okay. That's completely okay. In stead of hating the other guy for having a different opinion, we should be celebrating the diversity of opinions that exist. In fact, while you're out there fighting over which captain is the best, Kirk and Picard are banding together to save the day in Star Trek Generations.

It's true, as humans, some of us have a biological need for competition. That's what games are for. If you feel like fighting, take it out in a video game or on the sports field. Debating the better points of either captain may be a fine leisure activity, too. But it leave it in its proper forum, and don't get worked up about it. Nobody is an idiot because they like a different sports team. Nobody is a neanderthal because they like Captain Archer. And nobody is brain-dead because they spend all their time on Farmville. More importantly, no one is wrong just because you think you're right. A lot of ideas that seem to contradict each other are often just waiting for an opportunity to be used in tandem. A lot of ideas that are wrong for one set of circumstances are completely right for another. Don't let tribalism trick you into absolutism or extremism. Neither of those two things have ever done any kind of good for the world.
Star Trek is all about humanity getting better and evolving into a more progressive, accepting culture as time marches on. So the next time someone wants to debate about who's the better captain, my advice is to respond as Kirk would: "Who am I to argue about the captain of the Enterprise?"