Back in the early eighties, when I first heard of them, the Borg in Star Trek were really scary. An obvious metaphor for communism, they promised equality and a guaranteed living, in return for your individuality.
The metaphor was so obvious, that I couldn’t avoid seeing the glossy pages of Soviet Life sold on the streets of Portugal by magazine vendors, and couldn’t help knowing that those promises were working in South America and Africa. I didn’t believe the glossy pictures. I never craved cohesion over individuality. But I could see their appeal, and I was afraid we’d lose.
Perhaps that was why I found so funny the feeble joke “We are the dyslexic of Borg. Prepare to have your *ss laminated.”
The ridiculous – as we know since the collapse of the Soviet Union revealed the true extent of its poverty – promises of pie in the sky were truly scary when backed by the propaganda machine and the military machine of the Soviet Union.
Well, we live in diminished times. The Soviet Union sleeps with its totalitarian predecessors – uneasily, beneath a weight of its victims’ bones – and their military might is a thing of the past.
Which brings us to the losers of Borg: i.e., those still pushing The Collective over the individual, the blessings of mindlessly surrendering our hearts and souls in return for an equality that always falls short (after all, some animals are always more equal than others) and a prosperity that always fails to materialize.
President Obama was the latest to promise us Nirvana in return for the rewards of The Collective. Only, as I said, we all live in diminished times. These days the Borg aren’t promising us bliss in return for subsuming our individuality. No, they’re trying to convince us we should join the collective so we can have what we already have.
They know they didn’t — look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there. (Applause.)
If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.
The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own. I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service. That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.
Yes, Mr. President. There are a lot of smart people out there, and you’re not one of them. Regardless of what your natural gifts might have been, sometime ago – given your background possibly in childhood – you gave up your ability to think in return for The Collective’s shibboleths. They are soothing. Regardless of history, economics and reality, they reassure you that you need not feel guilty. If you don’t deserve what you achieved, then neither does anyone else. We are all pieces in a larger machine and each of us is therefore absolved of responsibility, guilt or the necessity to struggle.
And the shibboleths are wrong. When you talk about the wonderful American system we have, I don’t believe you know what you’re talking about. The framework of the American system is life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That happiness, Mr. President, is individual happiness. The right to struggle for what the individual wants – not what The Collective thinks he should have – is what has resulted in the freest, most prosperous society in the world.
Did somebody invest in roads and bridges? The Internet? Teaching? Firefighting? Sure. Did they do it for us? Oh, please. The interstate system was arguably necessary for “common defense” – ie. To move troops fast in case of need. The Internet too was part of defense and research during the cold war. Teaching… Well, some of us had excellent teachers, but here’s the funny thing: for every excellent teacher I’ve met there’s one who is a waste of a salary. And you know what? Both types will turn out excellently educated students and buffoons. That’s because students are individuals and they can choose to study and learn. Or not. So the student who chose to learn is responsible for his own success.
And you know what else? Teachers get paid to teach. They don’t do it out of love to The Collective.
Our ancestors who came before us, and built up Western Civilization, did it because it suited their purposes to do it. And most of them got paid for it. They didn’t do it out of some ideal of abnegation because we would need it.
And now you offer us these works, done by free men, for defense, for pay, for need, as some sort of bountiful harvest of The Collective.
Mr. President, your psychological inadequacy is showing. Because you feel unequal to your power and your responsibility, you want to convince yourself and us, that none of us is equal to his achievements, his power, his responsibility.
You’re wrong. You’re also indescribably pitiful. You and your army of historically illiterate wealthy who feel inadequate and unworthy of their achievements are the Losers Of Borg. You approach us pointing fingers and trying to make us feel guilty.
Somehow “We are the losers of Borg, prepare to be ashamed,” falls short of the siren song of equality and plenty, and short of the menace of the armies of the Soviet Union.
Personally I think you’re going to get your *sses laminated.