I was a big fan, as a little boy, of the original Star Trek. I wanted to whoosh around the galaxy in the Enterprise, if I could have avoided being the unnamed and expendable crewman (always in a red shirt) who when he beamed down with the crew invariably got croaked by getting the salt vacuumed out of his body by some sucker-mouthed alien monstrosity, or otherwise got rubbed out in some other novel way. I didn't care to experience any of these most unusual methods of getting bumped off, which always ended with Dr. McCoy leaning over the lifeless guy sprawled on the ground and saying, "He's dead, Jim."
Then we had Star Trek: the Next Generation, which I didn't like nearly as much as I did the original. Jean-Luc Picard, played by an English actor pretending to be a humorless French capitan, was no James T. Kirk. I also could have done without all the gooey touchy-feely syrup from Gates McFadden and Marina Sirtis, both of whom made me grit my teeth.
However, I was very impressed by the Borg, whom I consider the scariest of the modern-day monsters I've encountered. Any villain who flies through space in a mountain-sized cube and whose motto is "Resistance is futile; you will be assimilated" has my vote for the baddest of bad guys.
There are two reasons for my view the Borg are the scariest of the scary.
One, being monsters, they do what is the nature of monsters to always do: be the Bad intruding into the Good, the monstrous intruding into the normal. As Stephen King wrote in his non-fiction book, Danse Macabre, the Bad intruding into the Good is the structure of every horror story. Think the Morlocks attacking the Eloi.
What's makes the Borg so scary as monsters is that they don't want to conquer one world or one galaxy; they want to conquer the entire universe.
Judging from their power and ruthlessness, it's entirely possible they could have. They certainly gave it a good try.
King referred to the structure of the horror story as the Apollonian intruding into the Dionysian, but in simpler terms it's Evil attacking Good. It's the archetype that animates Dracula and the Wolfman, which are based on two of the three archetypes King identified: the Vampire and the Werewolf (the third is the Ghost). This structure not only undergirds all of King's stories, but the stories of every horror writer, all the way back to whoever wrote the myth of Satan, which might be the classic archetypal horror story. (What could be more horrific than someone trying to overthrow God and rule all of time and space?)
Two, the Borg are a perfect example of the warfare/welfare state, which are eternally the two sides of the same coin. Monsters and the welfare/warfare State always go together; no matter how many people claim the State is not the former, and that we have can have the welfare without the warfare. We can't.
All empires, whether past or present, Terran or future interstellar, have been, are, and will be monsters and welfare/warfare: a murderous, destructive threat to Society, with Mommy-State welfare at home and Daddy-State warfare abroad. Remember Rome? Better yet, think of its modern reincarnation - the warped administration now running the U.S.
I don't know if the creators of the Borg knew what they were doing, or if they just chanced upon the concept. Either way, it's confirmation of Ezra Pound's comment, "The artist is the antenna of the race." They were portraying the universal truth that the cradle-to-the-grave mommy state is the other side of the coin of the let's-blast-them-to-hell warfare state. It's the way it's always been, and it's the way it always will be. I have resigned myself to seeing this as a law of human nature, although like all laws it gets broken. The upshot is that this is certainly one law that needs to be broken, and permanently.
Why this "let's be children at home and bullies abroad"? The reason for the first is the desire for complete security, which is one of the curses of childish humanity. It's the belief in getting rid of enemies at home – unemployment, poverty, lack of health care, drug use, cigarettes, potato chips, nuclear power plants, oil refineries, whatever – through the idol of the State.
The reason for the second – the bullying abroad, by using the same modern-day Golden Calf idol known as the State – is to rub out perceived enemies, and to exploit their resources. The writer Jeffrey St. Clair tells how the Roman historian Suetonius "chart[ed] how the expansion of that ancient empire paralleled the rise of a totalitarian regime at home that plundered the provinces to bankroll the invidious habits of a degenerate ruling elite."
These days, the Mommy-State says it's too dangerous to have nuclear power here, or drill for oil, so Daddy has to secure energy and resources from other countries. It's not just plundering the provinces for the corrupt running the State, it's for bread and circuses for the sheeple at home.
Apparently one of the defining characteristics of empire is that it's okay to mess up foreigner's homes, as long as the empire doesn't mess up its own. Is it any wonder those on the receiving end of an empire's abuses always hate and attack it?
But it's a con, both the welfare and the warfare. At home, people think they can have security guaranteed by the State, and freedom. But they can't. Security comes from Society and true law (which is Natural Law), which can only blossom when they are free from the State. As Proudhon wrote, "Liberty is the mother, not daughter, of order."
People who think they can have security – to be enfolded all their lives in the arms of the Mommy-State – and freedom are Borgifying themselves, only they don't know it. They think they're going to have security, but what will happen is that their "security" will disappear, and so will their freedom. As Benjamin Franklin wrote, "They that give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty or safety." The novelist Somerset Maugham (among many other people) noticed the same thing: "If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose that freedom, and the irony of it is that if it is comfort or money that it values more, it will lose those too."
The reason, as Albert Jay Nock pointed out in his Our Enemy, the State, is because there is eternal warfare between Society and the State. Society is persuasion and freedom; the State, force and slavery. The State can only expand by destroying Society. Hence, when people give up their freedom for "security" they are turning themselves into slaves. When they finally look up and say, "Hey, no fair!" it's too late. Then people revolt, the violence starts, and the State falls.
Abroad, the State in its hubris thinks that, might making right, it can just roll over other countries, caning all the wogs into submission and snatching their resources. But it never works. All the empires that existed in the past are gone. The ones today will disappear. The ones in the future will disappear, too.
Because there is eternal enmity between the Society and the State, the State is a monster. The State is Evil attacking Good. Like the Blob, it always tries to grow, and in doing so intrudes on Society, always damaging it, sometimes destroying it. The writer Butler Shaffer described this as "the disorderly nature of politically directed systems and the orderly nature of spontaneously ordered social practices." It's Chaos intruding into Order.
The observation of the State as Chaos intruding into Order isn't original with me. The first time I read it was in Nock's book. Ludwig von Mises wrote about it, and so did Murray Rothbard. Mark Skousen has an excellent article about it – "Persuasion vs. Force"– online.
Skousen quotes A.N. Whitehead: "The creation of the world - said Plato - is the victory of persuasion over force...Civilization is the maintenance of social order, by its own inherent persuasiveness as embodying the nobler alternative. The recourse to force, however unavoidable, is a disclosure of the failure of civilization, either in the general society or in a remnant of individuals..."
If the creation of the world is the victory of persuasion over force, then the destruction of the world is the victory of force over persuasion, of the State over Society. Of Evil over Good, of Chaos over Order, of the monstrous over the non-monstrous.
When I say "State" I do not mean true law, or the real government on which it is based. Real law, true law, is Natural Law. Law that is discovered, not created. It supports the Economic Means of Society, which is free, peaceable trade.
The Economic Means is opposed to the fake, political laws of Man, which are little more than disorderly and arbitrary rules, designed to benefit one group at the expense of another. They support the Political Means of the State – war and theft.
The Political Means is forever trying to expand into the Economic Means, to destroy it or absorb it. Since the Political Means is based on theft and violence, it is a monster attacking society. As Frederic Bastiat wrote, "The State is the great fiction through which everyone endeavors to live at the expense of everyone else." His quote also describes empire: it tries to live at the expense of other countries.
When government goes beyond its proper functions of discovering and applying Natural Law – the protection of life, liberty and property – it turns into the State, and invariably becomes destructive. What then happens is almost always the exact opposite of what is intended. The rest of the time you can't predict at all what will happen, as the Law of Unintended Consequences informs us. Those last two sentences are Natural Laws that never vary.
When I say "State" I also do not mean Country. The State pretends and tries to convince people that State and Country are identical. They are not. They are opposed to each other; as the State grows, the Country and Civilization shrink. I'll support Natural Law, and I'll support my country when it obeys Natural Law. Since the State is a monster, I will never support it (G.K. Chesterton once wrote that saying "my country right or wrong" is like saying, "my mother drunk or sober." )
When government turns into the State it always damages Society. That is why I consider the nature of the State to be exactly the same as a horror story: the Bad intruding into the Good. Whenever I think of the word "State" I often think of H.P. Lovecraft's story, "The Color Out of Space," which was about a sentient and malevolent meteorite that landed on Earth (in a well, of all places) and devastated the countryside for miles around. It also drove the local inhabitants insane before it murdered them.
One definition of a monster is "an offense against the natural order." Think of your typical politician: they comprise the State, and are exactly what the State is: an offense against the natural – and peaceable – order. The word "monster" is also related to the word "demonstrate." It means "to warn" – to watch out for something malformed.
The word "malformed" clearly describes the State.
Since the State is a monster, it fits all three of King's archetypes. The Borg fit them, too.
The State certainly is a Werewolf. It's supposed to protect and provide security. In the government's case, it morphs into the monster of the State, and you or your kids are drafted into an unnecessary war, or there's a State-caused depression and you lose your house or your life savings. Then you or your kids come back from the war looking like the Tom Cruise character in Born on the Fourth of July, or worse, like the basket case in Dalton Trumbo's Johnny Got His Gun.
In the Borg's case, those assimilated went from being autonomous beings to permanently enslaved, unthinking, expendable and murderous monster-ants. From Larry Talbot straight to the Werewolf, with nothing in between.
The State is also a Ghost. It doesn't really exist. It's just people. The name "State" is just a convenient fiction. We may smile at "primitives" whose lives are run by their terror at their non-existent Ghosts, but are we really that much better? We give power to the Ghost of the State so that it may rule over us, and then we live in fear of it. We think it's real. It's not.
Those assimilated into the Borg have also become Ghosts. They no longer exist as the beings they once were. They are but dim memories of their former selves.
The State is also a Vampire. It is a parasite that lives on the wealth of Society. It creates nothing; it only destroys. Not surprisingly, vampires usually don't want to murder people. They just want to ensorcel them, the way Dracula did Renfield. The way the State ensorcels people is through propaganda, as when it pretends it is the same thing as Society and Country, or demonizes and dehumanizes whomever the current "enemy" happens to be.
The Borg are also Vampires. Lacking creativity, as all bureaucracies do (and the Borg are the worst bureaucrats ever) they are reduced to absorbing alien races, to gain their knowledge and resources. Because they have no liberty and therefore no creativity, they can't produce what they need. For all practical purposes, you can say, "No Liberty Equals No Brains." When you give up your freedom, you also give up your brains. Security equals Stupidity.
I suppose I could make a joke in which Man goes before God and says, "Want security!" and God answers, "Okay, but it'll cost you your brains!" Like most accurate jokes, it's half humorous and half horrible.
The Borg, with their unslakeable thirst to conquer, aren't just blood-suckers; they're life-suckers.
Since the State is a monster, those who lust for control of it are also monsters. Specifically, politicians, all of whom I consider to be potentially Satanic, in greater or lesser degree. What kind of person generally goes into politics? Someone who wants power over others. Lord Acton wrote, "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." I think a better saying is, "Power intoxicates, and immunity corrupts." I am convinced the typical politician is a much weaker person, morally, than the average citizen. The typical politician is just about the last person who should be in government, because of his or her inability to handle power.
Thomas Jefferson had a trenchant observation about these kinds of people: "Sometimes it is said that man cannot be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others?"
The Borg are not only monsters, they are the clearest example I have seen of the welfare/warfare state.
In their case, they are essentially a pure State with no Society. They are the ultimate collective, worse than bees in a hive. They're commies in a cube. Everyone has a place, and is taken care of from birth to death. There are a few unpleasant catches: the Borg have absolutely no freedom, and they are engaged in eternal war – perpetual war for perpetual peace – to annihilate their enemies through absorption, and to grab their resources since the Borg lack the ability to innovate.
The Borg Cube is a gigantic Mommy-State womb, flying endlessly through space. No one has to think; everyone is taken care of from womb to tomb. That desire to return to the womb is a catastrophic problem for the human race. It's the desire to lose all unpleasantness, and in some ways, the desire to lose self-consciousness. This is why when the Borg character Seven of Nine (played by Jeri Ryan) was detached from the Borg she wanted to go back. The only way you can have complete security is to give up your freedom and self-consciousness completely. But it's not possible.
The beings who are the components of the Borg believe they have complete security, until they get in the path of a phaser or photon torpedo or a Klingon like Worf swinging a sword, all of which tends to happen quite often.
The Borg not only don't even have to think anymore, they can't think, not with all that nano-technology riddling their brains to prevent it. They have no fear or anxiety. No unpleasant feelings at all, as far as I can tell (this can only be due to all those wires running into their brains, numbing the fear centers and probably stimulating the pleasure ones. This is a fairly old concept in science-fiction: the implanted wires are called "wire-heading," and the contraptions on their heads that control the wires are called "drouds.")
Mark Vonnegut (son of Kurt) has written exactly one book, The Eden Express, about his episodes of schizophrenia and his days on a commune. The title is about the desire of the human race to return to Eden, to give up freedom for security, to give up self-consciousness and the choices that go with it. He wrote that what he wanted was to "lose his consciousness." To return to not just being a baby, but to the womb. And he thought he could do it through drug abuse and living the ritual life of a commune. He wanted to be a Borg, without the warfare.
In the myth of the Garden of Eden there is an angel with a flaming sword barring the way back. Since we can't go back to it, we can only go forward, away from the Borg and the womb, and toward liberty and self-responsibility.
The late Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, in his seminal book, Leftism Revisited, wrote that, "viewed from a certain angle, we are all subject to two basic drives: identity and diversity." Identity he calls "a herd instinct, a strong feeling of community that regards another group with hostility." He believes "identity and its drives tend to efface self, tend towards an 'usness' in which the ego becomes submerged."
He believes this is the basis of leftism and its various manifestations: socialism, Nazism, fascism, communism, liberalism, neoconservatism. I think he would call the Borg a "terrifying, bigger and more pitiless conformity."
A blood brother of identity and conformity is equality. Everything that is identical is automatically equal. Two quarters or two pennies are identical and therefore equal. They're interchangeable. Writes Kuehnelt-Leddihn, "Therefore, all political or social forms that are inspired by the idea of equality will almost inevitably point to the concept of identity, and foster the herd instinct." Everyone in the Borg fits this description; they are identical, equal and interchangeable. At home, identical, equal, secure, and submerged in the oceanic unconsciousness of the womb; abroad, at war, to protect the home and absorb resources.
In the famous "Grand Inquisitor" scene in The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoevsky has the Inquisitor say, "For centuries...we have been wrestling with...freedom, but now it is ended and over for good." Did the Inquisitor look up one night and see the Borg heading his way? No, he was commenting on the fact that many people want to give up their freedom to "authority." The Inquisitor goes so far as to claim, "they have brought their freedom to us and laid it humbly at our feet."
Erich Fromm wrote in his book, Escape from Freedom, that people will, in order to escape the burden of freedom and responsibility, even turn to dictators. They will bring their freedom to them and lay it at their feet. "The person who gives up his individual self...becomes an automaton," he writes. Echoing Kuehnelt-Leddihn, he wrote that when people are "identical with millions of other automatons...[they] need not feel alone and anxious any more. But the price...is high; it is the loss of [the] self."
There is in almost everyone a desire to be part of the Borg, to return to the womb, the Garden of Eden. It would be a world without anxiety or fear, without unsureness, without envy or jealousy, without self-consciousness. It's a world that doesn't exist, but the continual attempts to create it by the State always have the downside of war, in the attempt to protect the "Garden." This is why welfare and warfare are two sides of the same coin.
I don't know if it was a coincidence or a stroke of genius, but the Borg are ruled by the Borg Queen (played by Alice Krige, who I found hot even as a Borg, until her head fell off). Since the Borg Cube is a Mommy state, a huge womb, logically it would have to have a Queen. Since it lacked a King, the Borg Queen kidnapped Picard, turned him temporarily into a Borg, and renamed him Locutus. When he got away, all he wanted to do is destroy every Borg he saw, as the abused always want to do to the empires that cruelly dominate them.
Unfortunately, Mommies can't fight very well. So who has to protect them? Daddy, of course. That's why Daddy goes abroad and fights wars. To protect Mommy and all the children at home. But what happened when the Borg attacked the Federation? They fought back, of course. And what's going to happen when the American empire attacks other countries? They certainly aren't just going to roll over like kicked puppies.
However, if the Mommy-State didn't rule at home, and all the children grew up and took care of themselves, then there wouldn't be any need for the Daddy-army to venture abroad in search of "monsters" to destroy. George Washington suggested as much in his Farewell Address, when he insisted the U.S. should engage only in free trade with other countries, but stay out of their internal political squabbles. Thomas Jefferson agreed with him when he wrote, "Peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations; entangling alliances with none."
Wise words, utterly ignored today.
I've been impressed for many years about the ability of good artists to discern the problems of society. Whoever created the Borg certainly discerned two big problems the human race has: it can't tell the State is a monster, and instead thinks it their mommy and daddy. They also (re)discovered the cure:
When people are sheeple, the monsters of the State will always eat them. Unless, of course, they resist. In that case, resistance isn't futile, unless they – and you – really do want to be assimilated.