Just the other night, I got to enjoy two episodes of Star Trek; Deep Space Nine. My mom and I watch it together and so far, we’re on season 3. One of the things I love about Star Trek is how it challenges you to think broader. The two episodes I watched the other night were the Past Tense Part 1 & 2 episodes. If you’re unfamiliar with them, allow me to explain.
The crew of Deep Space Nine was returning to Earth for a lot of formal regulatory stuff. Well, while the commander, doctor, and science officer are beaming down to Earth, temporal particles disrupt the transporter device. Our three heroes make it to their destination safely; but, they end up arriving in San Francisco in the year 2024.
That’s 2 years from now!
Now, I’ve never been to San Francisco, but I like to believe the Star Trek version of San Francisco in 2024 is vastly different from what it really is. People in the Star Trek version of San Francisco who didn’t have jobs or places to live ended up getting placed in closed off areas called Sanctuary Districts. In fact, if they didn’t have an I.D. card on them, they got processed in those districts. The District our heroes got thrown into had over 10,000 people living it. 10,000 people were promised they would be helped in finding jobs, homes, and a way to sustain their own normal life. Yet, those promises went unfulfilled. The people were even divided by slang terms and demeaned often. A “dim” was someone with mental health issues that could be corrected if they were allowed the right kind of medication. A “gimmie” is someone who’s looking for help (a job or housing) and is making an effort to find it. While a “ghost” is someone inside the Sanctuary who preys on others for their food cards, clothing, you name it. The only person a “ghost” trusts is themselves.
The commander and doctor in our story got the opportunity to see every side of the Sanctuary while the science officer gets to see what life is like outside it. The upper class, the “haves”, or people with I.D.’s and jobs, they all know what happens in the Sanctuaries. Many believe they’re there to help people. To get those less fortunate off the street and back on their feet. Yet, our science officer begs the question that if the Sanctuaries are there to just help people, then why are there walls around them? The Sanctuaries ended up becoming a place for unfortunate people to get thrown into, forgotten, and mistreated like no one deserves.
Our heroes end up discovering that they have to live through a brutal point in Earth’s history (all because they got someone very important unintentionally killed and screwed up the timeline). You see, in Star Trek lore, the only thing that ended these Sanctuaries was a riot that got hundreds of people killed. One man (the guy our heroes got killed) kept hostages safe through the entire thing. He got the stories of innocent victims of these sanctuaries told through the internet so that the world could see what was really going on. All that paved the way for change–and apparently helped pave the groundwork for Starfleet and the Federation of Planets.
As wonderful as it is that our heroes righted history and made all things good again, the episode ended with one pondering question. Our dear, Dr. Bashir asks: “How could they have let things get so bad?”
“How could they have let things get so bad?”
That’s a great question, right? How could things in those Sanctuaries that initially had good intentions get so bad? And with it being the year 2024, it makes you wonder how much of Star Trek is going to be right? We may not have full blown Sanctuaries, but something similar? Something you look at that makes you think: “that’s wrong,” but you don’t do anything about it. Climate change, homelessness, job losses, illnesses going untreated, people going hungry.
There was something else said in the episodes that felt like a wake-up call to society. Our good doctor, Dr. Bashir, is trying to reassure one of the hostages. He tells her that it’s not her fault things are this way and she tells him: “Everyone thinks that; yet, nothing changes.”
I think people these days are guilty of seeing a situation and using that excuse.
“It’s not my fault that person is starving.”
“It’s not my fault the country ended up this way.”
“It’s not my fault those people are dying in a war they didn’t ask for.”
“It’s not my fault. I didn’t know.”
“I’m just trying to survive myself. I have too many problems to worry about. I don’t have time for yours.”
So, tell me: how can you make a difference in the world? How can we stop things from getting so bad that a riot needs to happen for change to occur? How can things get better if society remains in a “Me First” focus?
Imagine how unstoppable humans can be if we banded together to make things better. If we looked out for each other instead of ourselves.
You can tell yourself: “It’s not my fault that person is starving,” but are you in a position to help them? You may not be able to help feed them for life, but you can help feed them for today. Give them strength to keep trying.
It’s so easy to get into that mindset. “The government’s corrupt and that’s not my fault!” But it’ll be your fault if you let it stay that way. If you just stand by and watch problems grow or people starve. You’re still to blame for doing nothing.
OOF. This is a heavy post. Yet, sometimes people need a kick in the teeth to do something about the wrongs in the world. You might be thinking of something now that’s been eating at you, but you’ve stood idly by. Maybe it’s that guy on the corner who begs for food and money or a policy in a workplace that doesn’t help people like it should? My point is: I dare you to make a difference. It doesn’t have to be anything big and extraordinary! Everything starts out with baby steps–even walking! So, I dare you to take a look around during your day to day and look for a way you can make a difference in someone else’s life.
The Past Tense episodes of Star Trek; Deep Space Nine aired in 1995 and their prediction for 2024 isn’t a great one. We may not have Sanctuary districts, but wouldn’t it be neat if future generations looked back at our 2024 and thought: “that was a good year. That was a year people truly cared.” We could inspire them and make a difference to last through the millennia so no one ever has to ask the question: “How could they let things get so bad?”