"We've each learned to be delighted with what we are. The Vulcans learned that centuries before we did."
"It is basic to the Vulcan philosophy, sir. The combination of a number of things to make existence worthwhile."
-- Kirk and Spock, "The Savage Curtain" (STAR TREK: The Original Series)
News reports on exclusionary membership policies in 2012 once again caused me to reflect on the nature of evolution and the science fiction ideology espoused by Star Trek in the mid-1960s. The core of the Roddenberry philosophy, then and now, is the celebration of infinite diversity in infinite combinations. Discussed in several episodes as the underpinning of what marks an advanced species, Star Trek fandom has since embraced this Vulcan concept referred to as IDIC -- the celebration of our collective differences.
My father, Gene Roddenberry, used Star Trek to encourage people to question and explore our real-world mores by mirroring those scenarios in other worlds. In the '60s it was about race, religion and personal freedoms. Storylines would often point to fear as an underlying cause for discrimination. Clearly, these themes are still relevant as our species struggles not just to tolerate but seek out true diversity as a means to fully embracing our humanity.
[Click here to hear from Gene Roddenberry about his humanism.]
Eagle Scout Martin Cizmar's gesture of protest against organizations that practice excluding humans based on their sexual orientation is a shining example of how change of this kind potentially starts. In a world where diversity isn't simply tolerated but valued as an integral part of what sets our species apart as well as evidence of our evolution, organizations that display intolerance or discriminate for congenital traits like race, sexuality, gender, hair color or pointy ears would find themselves out of step with society.
This conversation often focuses on the call for "tolerance" of differences but that's really not enough. It's about acceptance of such differences. "Acceptance" does not mean having to throw away your own ideas and adopt others'. Instead it's really about accepting that there are many points of view and that when we allow ourselves to openly consider them we grow as a person. And when many people grow in that way, so too does the community. As communities evolve, a new social norm is set for our species.
A precondition of accepting is learning more about a new idea. I believe that true ignorance lies not in the lack of knowledge but in the lack of effort to obtain it. When we're disinterested -- even afraid -- of new ideas, it stunts our growth both individually and as a species. The best way to overcome this fear is by opening a dialogue with someone possessing a different point of view and asking what it means to them. In doing so you just might make a connection with a person versus an idea. Humanizing our thinking is the first step in our evolution.
For many years I've struggled with the concept of my own intolerance of those who are unappreciating of new points of view. Am I not being hypocritical and discriminatory myself? Perhaps for me the line is crossed when the belief spills over into action. Everyone is entitled to their point of view, but when someone takes action to hinder or prevent another from being true to their own beliefs -- in my opinion, that's where it goes too far.
We should all wish to be strong enough in our own beliefs that we would risk getting kicked out of an organization because of them and not be deterred from following our own truth. But that's especially hard to swallow is when the exclusion comes from an entity that's interwoven into our culture and is looked up to by so many people. But just like Mr. Cizmar, we have the choice to associate ourselves and our children with organizations that pay attention to their responsibility as influencers and role models in our society.
It's not easy to take a stand but an act like Mr. Cizmar's is so important to the future of our planet. Giving up something that undoubtedly meant a great deal to him for the purpose of standing up for others is the ultimate "badge" he could earn. Ironically, that character trait was likely instilled in him as a boy by the very organization he took a stand against as an adult. I'm sure that was also a very sad moment for him.
Though I'm impatient that we're not doing it as quickly as I'd like, we are making progress. It's all about education and awareness. Luckily, the Internet propagates new and different ideas at warp speed, so the youth of today are readily exposed to a multitude of views. Intolerance is slowly dying and I'm confident the next generation will be even better positioned to readily embrace diversity.
Personally, I can't wait for discrimination to become a non-issue. We've got so many important planetary issues to think about -- over-fishing, our decaying environment, hunger, disease. Our intellectual evolution is vital to our ability to concentrate on these things. If we can collectively envision a future where we come together to create solutions, then we're on the right track. I'd go so far as to say that I don't want to achieve planetary evolution until we first achieve an intellectual evolution. If there are other life forms out there, I don't want to meet them without having evolved our human concept of acceptance.
Infinite diversity in infinite combinations. That's the only future I want to live in.