Sat, Jul

To Boldly Go Where No Man (sic) Has Gone Before, Even If Funded By A Rapacious, Oblivious Sociopath



SAY WHAT? - Fulfilling their sonorous, longtime mission to "explore strange new worlds...To boldly go where no man has gone before!", Starship Enterprise's intrepid Capt. James Tiberius Kirk, 90, has finally gone to "the final frontier" - albeit briefly, on a penis-shaped rocket, in a somewhat tacky marketing ploy by a gazillionaire plutocrat whose catastrophic greed, hubris and hypocrisy represent all the worldly ills an admirably Utopian-themed Star Trek sought to overcome. In one small irony among many, William Shatner's 11-second ride into space Wednesday on Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin rocket - a trip the last passenger reportedly paid $28 million for - came free to a guy who for years has been hawking affordable travel on Priceline. If he was still with us, some Trekkies might have preferred the anti-war Leonard Nimoy, whose Mr. Spock was the cerebral, stoic "conscience of Star Trek." But the Canadian, determinedly apolitical Shatner is viewed fondly for his portrayal of the iconic, decisive commander who bravely undertook - in fact insisted on - one of television's first inter-racial kisses. Preaching the way to survive was mutual trust and a faith in beauty, his deeply human Kirk, flawed but decent, reflected a belief in "man, that lofty spirit." As such, he got some of the best, often Shakespearean lines: "The prejudices people feel about each other disappear when they get to know each other...I've tricked my way out of death and patted myself on the back for my ingenuity. I know nothing...A species that enslaves other beings is hardly superior...The greatest danger facing us is ourselves."

As the commander so of course he should get to boldly go etc, Shatner's also been appealingly honest and self-effacing in the lead-up to the launch. The guy who intoned, "There's no such thing as the unknown, only things temporarily hidden" said he was "terrified" but "comfortable that I'm uncomfortable," and that one of his big worries was getting in and out of the rocket's seat with his arthritis. But before the launch he pulled an eloquent quote from Isaac Newton that was posted during flight: "I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, diverting myself in now & then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me." In that, he echoed a show that embraced inclusion and open-mindedness in a universe where the United Earth Government, having eliminated poverty and other maladies, sought to enrich life for all humanity. Unfortunately, it did so by sending out scientific and exploratory Starfleet missions that looked an awful lot like colonialism - unsurprising, given the show was first pitched as "Wagon Train in space." Many argue it never shed that ethical stigma - howcome those guys got to decide what planets go hungry? - and the movies just dropped politics altogether. Still, for all its imperfections and the limitations of its time, Capt. Kirk and his stalwart crew were "inviting people to imagine a better world."

Jeff 'Just-Go-Pee-In-A-Bottle' Bezos, obviously, is not. Having  repeatedly proven he's a lying, greedy sociopath who wants to colonize everything, he's now replicated "the worst of capitalism" by funding what's reportedly another toxic, sexist, unsafe, soul-crushing company - Blue Origin - on the exploited workers' backs of his first, Amazon. This, in the dubious name of a billionaires' space race SNL dubbed "Ego Quest: A Mid-Life Crisis of Cosmic Proportions," and others deem, "One giant leap for pollution," dick-shaped yet. One furious critic on "rich boys & their toys" and the claim "this is about 'space travel for the masses.' What the hell will the 'masses' ever need to go into space for? (They're) working 2 jobs to feed their kids." Despite the paradox of the "kitschy branding opportunity" that was Capt. Kirk dropped into this excess, he rose to the occasion in a poignant, stumbling sort of way. Upon landing, Shatner was overwhelmed: "I'm so filled with emotion about what just happened. It's extraordinary...I hope I can maintain what I feel now. I don't want to lose it." Struggling to express "the enormity," "the vulnerability of everything," he ultimately described the atmosphere as "a comforter of blue wrapped around the planet. Launching through, it's suddenly ripped off, and you're looking into blackness, and you look down...and it's just...there is mother and Earth and comfort...and there is...Is that death?" First, though, exposing the tawdry contradictions, an insufferable Bozos barged in to pop open a champagne bottle and spray the shrieking rich people behind them. Shatner, silent, turned away. Beam me up, Scotty.

(Abby Zimet has written CD's Further column since 2008. A longtime, award-winning journalist, involved in women's, labor, anti-war, social justice and refugee rights issues.)