Set Phasers to Bollocks

Janeway_and_Seven_sculpting

I got a hankering to watch Star Trek: Voyager this morning. Not sure why. Don’t judge me. My mum says I’m cool.

In the episode, lapsed monster Seven of Nine tries (as usual) to learn something about humanity. She happens to catch Captain Janeway unwinding on the Holodeck, sculpting a clay head in the holographically-recreated environs of Leonardo da Vinci’s workshop.

Seven, an ex-Borg and a slave to efficiency, wants to know why a starship captain would squander time in such a primitive environment away from mission and duty. It’s inefficient, she says, it’s archaic and disorganised. Worst of all, it doesn’t accomplish anything.

Ah, but that depends on how you look at it, explains Captain Janeway. Sometimes, she says, one must be open to disorder and creativity and imagination. These things might not accomplish anything in their own right but they pave the way to usefulness by distracting the mind for a moment or providing metaphors.

To which I say: Booooooooooooooooooooooo!

According to Janeway–spokesperson for the Protestant Work Ethic–leisure is there to facilitate more work. Fun, to her, is about the efficiency gains that might result from it.

This is exactly the problem with the Protestant Work Ethic: the idea that work is virtuous in its own right, that it’s the main project.

It’s a slave mentality and one you’d imagine a Borg coming out with more than a Federation Starship Captain, who comes from a postcapitalist, post-scarcity world in which everyone could finally put their feet up and be happy.

(But, of course, in Star Trek almost everyone works anyway, for free. Because they love it, the kinky buggers).

Asking what leisure is “for” misses the point. It’s like asking what music or mountains or orgasms or squirrels are “for”. Some things exist in their own right. Not everything is fuel or resource.

Of course, Seven of Nine might well ask what leisure is “for” because she was a freakin’ Borg. Janeway’s a human though, supposedly a pretty wise one, and should have seen through the red herring in the question. And her answer is wrong: saying that leisure is there to facilitate work is like saying peace is there to facilitate more war.

Janeway’s mentality is the same as the one held by managers and motivation experts who hold that coffee breaks, lunch hours, weekends and vacations are there to assist productivity, rather than, say, provide pleasure and well-earned (not that it should be earned) respite.

Boooooooooo, Janeway, Boooooooooo!

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About

Robert Wringham is a humorist and the editor-in-chief of New Escapologist.

8 Responses to “Set Phasers to Bollocks”

  1. It occurs to me that we often offer justifications for things in terms that we think the other will appreciate, even though our own appreciation of the thing in question might be much deeper and/or wider. But maybe it’s me that’s missing the point. Diving too deep?

  2. Spoonman says:

    I think the problem is that we’ve been thoroughly conditioned to believe that all projects should ultimately be for the purpose of money or prestige. If you can’t get a “pat in the ass” or a dime for your work, then the establishment thinks it’s something not worth pursuing.

  3. You’re right. Funnily enough, I just read this in a Fran Lebowitz book (she’s joking, obviously, and sending up a prevailing American attitude): “A hobby is, of course, an abomination, as are all consuming interests and passions that do not lead directly to large, personal gain.”

  4. True, but I don’t think the writers of this episode went so far as to observe that! Unless they did of course, in which case Voyager Roolz!

  5. Peter B says:

    ST: Voyager had more misses than hits, which explains why I’ve not watched all the episodes. I liked the ones that explore the Borg in more detail thanks to Seven, although a lot of this was similar to the exploration of Data in The Next Generation.

    Anyway, I read an interesting quote by Buckminster Fuller (a remarkable man) and traced it to a sort of panel interview in New York Magazine dated March 1970. Anyway, Fuller and friends talk about some interesting things regarding work and living.

    https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=cccDAAAAMBAJ&lpg=PP1&pg=PA30#v=onepage&q&f=false

  6. That’s the “specious notion” quote! Someone sent it in by email a couple of years ago. Like you, I was curious and tracked it down to the same place. I give the quote prominence (I think it’s an epigram) in my upcoming book.

    You’re right about Voyager too of course. Even as it was happening I remember Trek fans not being happy with the quality. Highly derivative of previous generations and, where attempting to be original, not very inspired. (I like the Borg too! The episode referred to above, by the way, is ‘The Raven’).

  7. Spoonman says:

    What do you all think about DS9 as a series? I remember Quark was really fun to watch because (being a Farengi(sp?)) he fully embraced greed.

  8. It’s probably the best written of the lot. My preference is for TNG but DS9 is definitely a more sophisticated production. I like Quark too! I like how a comedy player becomes so central to the plot.

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