Blacks don’t have to adhere to the nation-state concept …

The ‘country’ or ‘nation-state’ experience was never a part of African culture. It was never birthed into the DNA of Africans or into their descendants that were hauled into the western hemisphere. The concept was forced fed into them by westerners who needed to ensure uniform administration of human capital and natural resources in Africa, North and South America, and the Caribbean.

Ironically, the only group of Blacks that voluntarily adopted and incorporated the nation-state was the Haitian people who captured territory and created a nation the old fashioned and only legitimate way: by gun, machette, and blood. In my opinion, Haitians are the only Blacks on the planet that have a country (pursuant to the rules of this realm) for this reason.

None of that petitioning shit…

Given the roadblocks erected by Europeans to fully incorporate blacks into their political economies (just look at the U.S. Virgin Islands and its 103 year unincorporated status and only partial protection under the US Constitution), one wonders why Blacks don’t aggressively take the opportunity to create an independent socio-political-economic reality completely of their own?

The immediate response to that question tends to be the classic, pain and suffering driven, moralistic argument about this country or that country being built on the blood and sweat of Blacks. It is a narrative that Blacks hope whites will buy into, but after 503 years in the western hemisphere, Blacks should have learned by now that morals and emotions don’t build countries and sure don’t provide a full license to be included into existing ones.

With all the talk of the tumult of 2020, maybe the “universe” is signaling that Blacks are free to go and try another way; to create another “dimension” within or better yet overlaid on top of this one. With the domestic output, disposable income, and population that surpasses most countries on Earth, and an existing if not shaky affiliation with a continent rich in resources, Blacks have the potential to dominate multiple spaces on their own terms. Time for a will that equals the potential ..

Star Trek: Even if we were all ‘beige’, capital would set us apart …

One the best acted and written episodes in the Star Trek television franchise was “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield“, an episode directed by Jud Taylor and guest starring Frank Gorshin as ‘Bele’ and Lou Antonio as ‘Loki’, two humanoids from the planet Cheron.

Bele has been pursuing Loki who he describes as a terrorist; a member of an inferior breed; an ungrateful descendant of slaves whose demands for equity and justice from the ruling class are seen as unreasonable. Bele also argues that Loki and his people are no longer slaves, but have failed at how best to use their freedoms. Bele mocks Loki’s cries for justice; that instead of acquiescing to their cries for pity, that the universe should instead see them as a people with no self-discipline.

Loki does not consider himself a murderer but a revolutionary. He resists going back to face judgment on his home world of Cheron, calling the planet a land of oppressors. Genocide, argues Loki, was Cheron’s plan for his people, including the willingness to send his people to fight wars whose benefits would flow to his oppressors, not his people. These oppressors, argue Loki, deserved no love. Cheron, he argues further, did not give him leave to be a father, to be a man, to be free.

Writers Oliver Crawford, Gene L. Coon, and Arthur H. Singer apparently decided to be clear that this would be a story about race in America. The episode aired on 10 January 1969, and the prior twelve months likely provided the writers with some inspiration. For example, the violence in the cities of Cheron correlate with the violence in American cities that occurred after the assassination of Martin Luther King in April 1968. The Vietnam War was at its peak in the late 1960s, a war where a disproportionate number of poor, black men went to fight in a war that made no sense politically or militarily and more importantly, did not provide any benefits for the black men that fought that war.

In addition, there was a presidential election in 1968, and America was also fighting a pandemic caused by the H3N2 virus, one that killed 100,000 people and, ironically, is still around today.

Another irony was the writers’ inclusion of a bacterial infestation that the Enterprise was on her way to reverse the spread. Whether including a bacterial infestation in the story line was influenced by the 1968 virus pandemic, I do not know, but a treatment of race and a health hazard in 1968 serving as a backdrop for what America is addressing in 2020, I could not overlook.

Mr Taylor, given the technology of the time, did a masterful job with the camera. His closeups captured the anger of Bele and Loki while displaying the incredulity on the faces of the Enterprise crew having to observe from the sidelines the irrational behavior of Bele and Loki. Their disbelief was summed up in one word by the ship’s engineer, Montgomery Scott: “disgusting.”

This episode came to mind today as I pondered what I see as an apparently long term approach being taken by the left on race relations. Using “Let That Be Your Last Battleground” as the case study, the Enterprise crew tried to convince Bele and Loki that their one of a kind physical appearance was a strength; that this apparent mutation of monotone skin coloring (Bele being black on the right side of his face and white on the left, and Loki being black on the left side, white on the right), could be a platform from which the two races go forward.

I view the term, “people of color” as an attempt to stir a political and cultural mutation where not only are different non-European ethnic groups lumped under the “people of color” banner, but black people in America see their blackness diluted where they are no longer referred to as black or even African American. This “beiging” of America may be seen by the left as a way to eliminate racial differences and mitigate the bias and violence stemming from race discussions.

America may eventually beige, but in the short term I am seeing pushback against the “people of color” phrase. Black Americans, in particular those who also see reparations as a policy for rectifying numerous wrongs perpetrated on blacks, are cooling to the term, seeing it as an attack on their lineage and culture.

Another thing to consider is that racial bias has to be addressed within the context of capital. Even if America was “mullatoed”, there would still be distinctions, in some cases severe distinctions, between people based on wealth and capital holdings, as I have alluded to before in other posts.

I don’t think, like Bele and Loki, a majority of Americans are ready for a mutation to a blended new being, politically, culturally, or otherwise.

The pandemic sets the table for a one-party nation-state, but there is one problem…

Quite a few lessons abound from this pandemic. The one I believe is most overlooked is how easy it is to erode our personal freedoms. Since the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001, our awareness of the consequences stemming from the attack seems to be waning. The aftereffects of the attacks resulted in the erosion of our public freedoms. This erosion is referred to by Professor Orlando Patterson as a reinvigoration by political conservatives of privatized freedom where public freedoms ie free speech, privacy, etc., are compromised by wiretapping and surveillance, and attacks on habeas corpus where extra-judicial detentions interfere with due process while private freedoms, i.e. shopping, what we wear, who we love, etc., are left untouched.  Patterson defines public freedoms or liberties as freedoms going beyond interpersonal relations, that “guarantee equal access to the nation’s public powers, laws, patrimony, and all other rights and obligations of citizenship…”

The pandemic presents a different narrative. Covid poses a threat to private and public freedoms.  On the private side I am seeing threats to freedom of speech where common folk or medical experts find themselves hesitant to express their misgivings about how the virus is spread, the efficacy of vaccines, and whether the virus has actually caused 200,000 deaths in the U.S.  Interpersonal relations have taken on a different look.  People now have to consider whether friends can come over for dinner, sex, or both.  There is only so much lovemaking you can do via Zoom (I think). 

The impact on public freedoms is just as apparent.  When I took my son to college last month to start his freshman year, we had to let the state of New York know where we would be and how long we were staying during our visit.  He was forced to quarantine; I had to inform New York about where I was staying and that I would be out of the state in 24 hours.  My access to New York’s rights-of-way, if you will, were being severely regulated.  The issue of wearing masks has been so politicized that the presidential candidate camps of Donald Trump and Joe Biden have had a brief tug-of-war over the issue of a national mask wearing mandate.  Such a mandate would create an assault on both private and public freedoms.

While we hope the pandemic will be over soon, uncertainty about a second spike in virus and disease contraction or deaths, or concerns about the virus morphing into a deadlier and more virulent strain could result in a new approach to or a new excuse for governance.  An approach that restricts both private and public freedoms under the guise of keeping the public safe from an invisible enemy could reduce the philosophical gap between liberals and conservatives.  Closing this gap could result in making the two major parties, Democratic and Republican look increasingly less distinguishable.

Linking the two types of freedom under a single regulatory umbrella would require more underlying work on America’s culture.  America is racially polarized and the country would have to see itself as one people deserving of universal protection before its political ideologies fuse in the face of a common invisible enemy.  I see an emerging “one-people” narrative in this regard.  For example, the media promotes mask wearing as an obligation that one citizen has to protect other citizens.  The Black Lives Matter movement has as its core message that whites must recognize existential rights of blacks and contribute to the inclusion of blacks into America’s economic structure.  America’s leftist political elites want to see America move to being more beige than black or white.  So prevalent is this move that even the term, “black people” is being pushed aside by the term “people of color.”

A beige or “Mulatto Agenda” may sound appealing to political or social elites on both sides of the racial spectrum.  America is already “browning” with ethnic minorities set to be, as a group, a larger percentage of America’s population.  Also, interracial marriages may add to the beige-ing of America as racial taboos continue to disappear and lineage becomes less important. 

There is the problem of capital allocation in the United States, however.  Descendants of Western Europeans will still control the majority of capital and wealth in the United States and political factionalism may realign along the resulting capital fault lines.  And as long as liberals and conservatives place different weights on public and private freedoms, the implementation of a narrative that pushes America toward a one-party nation-state will face difficulties.      

 

What Biden could learn from the movie Wall Street

I suspect that for many fans of the movie, Wall Street (1987), Gordon Gekko’s statement that “Greed, for the lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works.” is as anticipated as Sigourney Weaver’s line in Aliens (1986) (“Get away from her you bitch!”) or Jack Nicholson’s “You can’t handle the truth!” line from a Few Good Men (1992). While lacking the build-up of the lines uttered by Weaver and Nicholson, Michael Douglas’ delivery of the line had a come out of nowhere effect that gripped me with its crassness and truth.  Arguably the “greed is good” line would be great fodder for populists such as U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts or her fellow adopted New Englander and senator Bernie Sanders, the Democratic Socialist of Vermont.

It was another line, however, more metaphysical in its tone and cerebral that caught my attention: “Money is transferred from one perception to another.” The line took me out of the more solid quantitative world of stock prices, mergers, and profit and placed me in the abstract.  While the Gekko character, played very well by Mr Douglas, was a realist, he took me behind the veneer of hard currency and added more insight to my developing view on what money and banking really is. 

Money is more than a unit of account, a medium of exchange, or a mechanism for storing wealth.  Money serves as a proxy of an individual’s captured energy.  The more energy an individual generates, whether via labor or thought, and can be extracted by an employer or tax collector, the greater the value of the individual and the compensation the individual is owed in the market. 

Banking is not just about collecting deposits and making loans.  Banking is an information search process.  Banking facilitates the transfer of captured energy from one perception of economic reality to another perception of economic reality.  The information that the “banker” searches for is information that can increase the value of his money; increasing his money’s ability to be transferred to multiple perceived realities.  The more realties that money can take you to, the greater your wealth.  And the greater the amount of information, the optimal your returns on money.  As Gekko shared with his protégé Bud Fox, “The most valuable commodity I know of is information.”

The banker’s search for information is what built America.  He was aided by merchants and traders who sought out new markets and in exchange for the banker’s financing shared with the banker information about the opportunities that could increase the value of the banker’s coin.  This is where Mr Biden’s narrative is wrong about who built America.  Mr Biden, likely as part of his campaign to sway Mr Sanders, Mrs Warren, and their populist supporters, states that America was built by an American middle class versus Wall Street bankers and hedge fund managers.  History does not support his assertion.  The middle class is, historically, a recent creation, taking root during post World War II.  America was the result of the metaphysical where monarchs, merchant traders, and bankers closed their eyes and envisioned how best to exploit a vast land.  To paraphrase Gordon Gekko, these men created nothing; they owned. 

I doubt if Mr Biden takes this metaphysical view toward the American political economy.  Even if he did, he would not share these thoughts with voters who would have to process the thought that their contributions to America’s economic growth was more that of tool than conceiver.  Given Mr Biden’s close relationship with the banking industry, however, he should have a pretty good grasp on the reality of the banker’s role in the capitalistic system: that his greed for life and ability to move money from perception to perception, much like Gordon Gekko’s ability, is responsible for America’s growth.    

21 Bridges: Don’t judge. We are just trying to survive ….

The movie, 21 Bridges (2019), provided me with a reminder that being judgmental can impede our inability to look at multiple causes of human behavior and that desperate approaches to daunting circumstances can run opposite of the person we think we are and give the world an excuse to view us in a one dimensional view.

In 21 Bridges, director Brian Kirk tells the story of New York Police Department detective Andre Davis, played by the late actor Chadwick Boseman, who is in pursuit of two drug mules, Michael Trujillo, played by Stephan James, and Raymond Jackson, played by Taylor Kitsch. Unbeknownst to Michael and Raymond, the stash of cocaine they were sent to steal was part of a bigger load of drugs that was to be transported by four police officers. The crossing of Michael and Raymond’s path with those of the police officers led to a deadly shootout that left a number of cops dead and Michael and Raymond on the run.

From the beginning I was impressed with the solid acting which quite frankly drove this movie. If the viewer is looking for a throwback shoot ’em up going back to the Die Hard (1988) days, this movie is not it. From near the beginning, Mr Kirk started painting a picture of desperation on the part of the Raymond and Michael characters that went just beyond being on the run as cop killers. Stephan James and Taylor Kitsch were solid enough actors to convey this desperation and quite frankly had me rooting for them to get away. And this view of the characters started way before any suspicion that the cops they killed were “dirty.”

I admit that while I was impressed very early in the film with the story, I had reservations about whether the movie would devolve into an hour of irrationality and divergent sub-plots that would either be tied to the main plot with some ridiculous leaps of logic or, just as bad, not provide any dramatic value to the overall story at all. Mr Kirk assuaged my fears by avoiding collateral damage that straying sub-plots can bring. He set a framework for intelligence via Andre Davis, who we see from the very beginning of the story is a man driven by the murder of his father, a police officer, and took seriously NYPD’s role in protecting the city.

But like Michael Trujillo and Raymond Jackson, Andre Davis is carrying his own baggage. He is the NYPD’s version of “Dirty Harry”, having shot and killed nine people in eight years, and being investigated by internal affairs as a “trigger.” Mr Kirk was able to convey a suspicion held by Andre Davis’ fellow officers whether this smart but trigger happy cop would be able to find Trujillo and Jackson and put them down. Mr Kirk’s success in conveying this suspicion of Andre Davis along with the desperation on the part of Michael Trujillo and Raymond Jackson helped to unearth the underlying message of this movie: the need to dispel judgment.

As the story unfolds we learn more, via dialogue between Trujillo and Jackson that their actions were not driven by greed. Their actions were a reaction to a world that saw them as low value; to a world that underestimated their intelligence and character; to a world that they saw as making it hard for them to find their way. Three scenes help shed some light on this reaction.

First, when Trujillo and Jackson attempt to sell the cocaine they acquired, the dealer, Hawk, played by Gary Carr, attempts to low ball them, assuming that these two mules had no knowledge about the street value of the 50 keys of blow they were attempting to unload. Trujillo not only made his case as to justifying his asking price, he backed it up with sharing the details on how cocaine is usually cut and distributed and the current market price of the drug. Jackson then opines on his friend’s street knowledge: “He *is* one of those detail oriented motherfuckers.” Hawk, taken aback by Trujillo’s knowledge and attention to detail, had no choice but to acquiesce.

The second telling scene involved Jackson’s death. After a shoot out with Davis, Jackson, with his dying breath, says to Davis, “He’s not like us!” still trying to look after his friend Trujillo, trying to ensure his safety, knowing that in a few seconds he would not be on this Earth any longer to protect him.

The third scene involves a face-off between Trujillo and Jackson. While Stephan James brings a physicality to the work, what is most telling was his conveyance of emotion through his eyes. I have always been impressed with actors who can convey the narrative with facial expression and Mr James is superb in this respect. He let the audience and Andre Davis know that there was a human being there that had to be connected with.

I can’t end the review without circling back to the portrayal of the police officers whose attitudes, fears, and needs were expertly conveyed by veteran actor J.K. Simmons. Mr Simmons plays NYPD police captain McKenna, the commander of the police precinct whose “dirty” officers transport cocaine for a major dealer. You may have noticed that I put the word, “dirty”, in quotes. Why? It was during the penultimate scene where Davis confronts Captain McKenna about his precinct’s involvement in the drug trade that McKenna paints a story about cops who were not in the drug game for Rolexes or other material things.

His cops, who he saw as dedicated servants to a city that didn’t appreciate them, were going home to troubled marriages, facing bankruptcy or foreclosure, and committing suicide at an alarming rate. As McKenna bluntly puts it, ” I tell you what, anybody tells you money can’t buy happiness is full of shit.”

21 Bridges is not a morality play in the least for which I am glad because morality plays are too syrupy for me. From a cinematography view I think Mr Kirk failed on capturing the enormity of the task of shutting down the island of Manhattan, but made up for that lack of expansiveness by presenting more intimate scenes between the characters. More important was his ability to expose and share an important message on judgment.

Don’t judge. We are just trying to survive.

Joe Biden can’t do anything about racism. He has to know what it is first.

With all the attempts by the far left and the far right to resurrect the year 1968, racism is again at the forefront of the national political discussion. Joe Biden is campaigning in part on a platform asserting that he rather than Donald Trump is capable of stitching up America’s social fabric. Can Joe Biden do anything about racism in America? Having offered nothing of policy substance on the issue to the liking of American Blacks after 47 years in national politics, it is unlikely that he can. Beyond his apparently ineffective Washington tenure, I offer three reasons why Mr Biden can’t do anything about racism.

First, Mr Biden cannot even define racism. Mr Biden has not provided a clear, cogent definition of what racism is. Mr Biden hopes that people view racism the way U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart described pornography: “I know it when I see it.” Unfortunately, the definition of racism has gone from the use of political, legal, and economic systems to keep a certain group oppressed due primarily to their phenotype and lineage to an individual not liking another individual because of bias against their looks, language, and culture.

It is easier in the 21st century to call any individual a racist. This ease of identity attack, where racism has been dumbed down to name calling on steroids, makes it easier for candidates to push the emotional button and extract the black vote. Mr Biden has shown that he will not hesitate to push the button to get blacks in line.

Second, Mr Biden doesn’t understand the philosophy of America’s creation. Mr Biden is listening to his vote aggregators who have been using the narrative that America was built on slavery and racism. This narrative is false. America was built on a world view of manifest destiny, a world view that was refined over a four century period of western civilization’s expansion. Western man’s pursuit of global economic and political domination used non-western European human resources i.e. enslaved Africans as tools, but his reason for expanding was to spread his value system, ensuring that his philosophy flowed through the world via trade in goods, services, and ideology.

Given this world view, the only role the African played was that of chattel property. The African was so different that the western European could see no other use for him but to use his physicality as a tool for helping bring the vision into reality. Again, America was built on a philosophy. Slavery was just a tool.

Third, blacks were not and will never be fully incorporated as Americans because they contribute no value to the western European world view. Mr Biden hopes to govern over a social-political-economic construct that only incorporates groups that, at a minimum, have a lineage that traces its history to Europe; to the characteristics that make the lineage European. The lineage of blacks do not include original European characteristics. Any European characteristics exhibited by blacks today are merely imitation.

When the American black was freed from chattel slavery, he lost any value that the American social-political-economic system sought to extract. No executive action on Mr Biden’s part or legislation proposed by Mr Biden and sponsored by a fellow Democrat in the Congress can legislate a fabricated value that blacks can claim to then provide. In other words, legislation cannot create “whiteness” in blacks.

The closest blacks come to wrapping themselves in whiteness is through consumerism. I won’t expound here, but American blacks have overextended themselves on credit merely to keep up with white America much to the economic detriment of blacks.

So, how will Mr Biden use the narrative of racism to buy the American black vote? Fortunately for Mr Biden, blacks have not done the critical thinking necessary to deconstruct the definition of racism. The current state of mind of blacks finds it difficult to fathom their status as black in America as merely the result of a trade transaction that merged distinct African tribes into an economic asset. In telecommunications we call this multiplexing, where multiple signals are combined onto a single frame, making communications more efficient to manage.

It is not in Mr Biden’s interest to share this reality about being black in America. As long as Mr Biden proposes legislative packages that address basic needs i.e. healthcare, food stamps, affordable housing, etc., or, in the case of American black elites, more affirmative action set aside programs and government hiring, Mr Biden won’t have to do much.

Otherwise, for those hoping for a solution to the problem of racism, they are in for another multi-generational wait.

T’Challa is not dead …

T’Challa is not dead. The irony of Chadwick Boseman’s death is that given this year’s political environment, hardcore fans of the Marvel Universe may end up seeing changes they won’t like. Social politics may provide an excuse for removing a black male character. With the closing of the Avengers chapter in the MCU, ‘James Rhodes’ and ‘Sam Wilson’ are sidelined.

The tributes to Mr Boseman are not surprising and are deserving. For many American Blacks, the opportunity to see a Black lead character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe was uplifting. For almost six decades, the Black Panther represented Marvel’s position on civil rights. The mythical African nation of Wakanda represented to American Blacks the possibilities for empowerment that control and ownership of high-technology could bring.

Add to that the elegance, wisdom, and intelligence that Mr Boseman brought to the character and I can see why so many American Blacks saw Mr Boseman’s portrayal of the Wakanda king as iconic.

What I fear, however, is the merging of the actor and the character as one, a conflation resulting from the outpouring of emotion over Mr Boseman’s loss. The tributes that I see on Twitter, for example, would give the impression that fans see both Mr Boseman and the Black Panther as having passed on. It is natural from the everyday movie watcher’s viewpoint to see actor and character as one and the same. In my opinion, the Black Panther is bigger than the actor playing him. The focus should remain on the narrative surrounding the Black Panther, an African king protecting his people, and now, due to promises to the world to be more open to its problems, a king putting his nation on the level of all other nations.

American Blacks have always been the image that American liberals enjoy wearing on their tie-dye T-shirts. Liberals have used the civil rights platform developed by American Blacks as a spring board for advocating for civil rights for other groups, including women, gays, and immigrants. And American Blacks have always been left behind while other “minority” groups are catapulted to the front of the benefits line.

I see that event occurring with the loss of Mr Boseman. Political pressure will mount on Marvel to use this opportunity to take the Black Panther character in another direction, likely with another gender wearing the Black Panther suit.

Some may ask, “Well, why not? Isn’t this the time to expand and be more inclusive?” My answer is, “Not with this character.” First, no one talked about making “Superman” into “Superwoman.” The DC cinematic universe has always found actors to wear the red boots. If Gal Gadot passed on into the DC sunset, “Wonder Woman” would not become “Wonder Man.”

Besides, T’Challa still has some growth to explore. A number of story lines can still be developed around a young king still learning how to rule. The Black Panther has only had one stand alone film within which to see his growth. By comparison, Captain America has had three (Captain America: The First Avenger; Captain America: The Winter Soldier: and Captain America: Civil War), while Thor has also had three opportunities at growth (Thor; Thor: The Dark World; and Thor: Ragnorak).

If American Black fans keep expressing the loss of The Black Panther and Chadwick Boseman as one of the same, they risk not ever seeing a black male character showcased in the near future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

This view may be in the minority, but more times than not, blacks are their worst enemy when doing the pain and suffering dance. It tends to signal an invitation for further relegation to the back of the bus …

Is America’s human adventure taking a disconnected turn?

In Paramount Picture’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), the crew of the Enterprise intercepts a cloud that masks a living machine heading to Earth. The machine’s mission was to contact its human creator with the intent of evolving to a higher state of consciousness.

A lot of people didn’t like this movie because it wasn’t the shoot ’em up they expected. Too much Close Encounters of the Third Kind and not enough Star Wars. But when it came to tone, visuals, musical score, story, and the human message, Star Trek: The Motion Picture was the best. In my opinion, they should have ended the franchise right there. The movie’s artistry and adherence to the core meaning of science fiction as a genre leaves it as a standout among the other installments in the franchise.

Looking back 41 years I have come to appreciate the foreshadowing provided in the movie about where American society would sit in terms of human connection both to itself and the machine.

For example, take the notion of a cloud that contained digitized copies of all the information collected during its trek through the universe. Fast forward today to the concept of cloud computing where you no longer have to save data on your computer’s drive but can upload data to and extract data from a group of off-site servers managed by the likes of Microsoft’s Azure or Amazon’s AWS service. I also saw ties between gathering all knowledge available and Google’s mission to do the same thing with the knowledge it collects from consumers using its portal to access data.

In some ways we have become like the doomed navigator Ilya, our data scanned, stored, and in some cases hacked to create digital duplicates of ourselves. Those digital duplicates can also be used today as bots to probe unsuspecting internet users and collect data from them.

As COVID-19 rages through America, watching this movie reminded me of how quickly we are moving toward merging man and machine. Talk of artificial intelligence not only replacing our jobs but used to monitor energy usage, turn on lights, analyze medical data sent from patient to doctor, determine the relevance of documents requested during legal proceedings, or to operate exo-skeletons that enable injured people to walk has increasingly entered our discussions over the past decade. Whether the merger of man and machine results in a higher level of life form I can’t say, but it raises the question of how will we value ourselves as humans working in closer proximity to artificial intelligence.

But what has me intrigued may be the the threat to the “simple feeling.” COVID-19 has people taking wide berths around each other while walking down a side walk. I will never get used to wearing a mask and am irritated when I have to go back inside my apartment to retrieve one because a store will deny me entry if I am not wearing one.

I can also understand why people want to congregate at a bar or on the beach. It is that simple but energizing feeling about being around other human beings, sharing ideas, good stories, and good laughs that draw them together. Spock shares with Kirk the need to fill the empty vacuum that living by pure logic can create. That for all the logic and searching for knowledge, life may boil down to seeking that human element of irrationality and warmth as a complement to logic and its coldness.

Should American society’s controlling narrative accommodate the disconnection that can occur by dampening or extinguishing the simple feeling? Can advanced communications networks and high-resolution video apps replace the handshake or the hug? How long can Americans abide by a Twitter hashtag that claims we are “Alone Together?” We should keep a watchful eye on legislation and regulation that codifies changes in the narrative that results in authorizing a disconnected turn in our human adventure.

We won’t know if Ilia and Decker’s merger resulted in an efficacious balancing of man and machine. Spock’s ability to raise his consciousness to where he further recognized the need to merge his vacuous logic with the irrationality of human emotion allowed him to reprogram his failed Kolinahr experience. Purging himself of emotion wasn’t the answer. Instead, embracing the human element was likely his way of touching the creator, and like V’Ger, raising his level of understanding.

Hopefully COVID-19 and the artificial technologies used to plagiarize the “creator” won’t steer American society further off course.

The COVID/AI Era of Law …

For five months now, the United States has been in lock-up.  One of the ugliest hashtags I have seen and heard used is #AloneTogether.  At first it reads like an oxymoron.  If we are alone, how can we be together.  It sounds like the status of the last few years of my first marriage.  Sharing space with an energy pulling against you is draining.

The COVID-19 pandemic may be casting a new meaning on that phrase.  If you have the misfortune of having to share more time in energy draining space with a spouse that you are considering divorcing, #AloneTogether may be the last rallying cry before calling a divorce attorney.

Technology may also impact how we view the phrase.  Zoom calls and TEAMS meetings are a growing part of the workplace lexicon.  The spaces that we enjoyed being alone in at home have become offices and digital conference rooms where everything from sales pitches to digital happy hours are taking place.

For the extra sensitive, walking down a sidewalk and observing people take the extra precaution of taking a wider berth around you while hindering their own breathing by wearing a mask can be disconcerting.  The slightest attempts at saying “hello” or “good morning” are increasingly avoided because of fear that the slightest exhale from a fellow human may lead to a 14-day quarantine or time in a hospital on a ventilator.

In theory, the state quasi-mandated environment of staying away from each other should result in a reduction in analog contacts as our world goes increasingly digital.  Hard for kids to get into school fights when kids are at home distance learning.  Tough to get in a shouting match with a restaurant cashier over an order when Uber Eats, Grub Hub, or Door Dash is picking up your food.

There will be controversies; they will continue.  We are humans, taking conflict to levels that exceed what other lifeforms endure.  Legal philosophy should have us asking “Why are we engaging?” or “What is engagement?”.  Society will have to come up with tweaks to the rules for human engagement in a digital age where a corona virus is forcing on a global scale the reconstruction of society.  Should judges have to consider new threshold principles before trying to apply statutes, laws, rules, code, from a pre-COVID, non-artificial intelligence world to an issue before them arising out of a digital environment?  Will we need a new definition for personal spaces? For zones of danger?

In the area of political law how we structure political engagement and eventually the rules for engagement are already taking on a new twist.  For example, the recent squabble in the United States over funding for the U.S. Postal Service appears to be a result of the controversy over the use of mail-in ballots and the possibility of mail fraud.  As I ponder these questions, I suspect that new legal principles will appear as COVID-19 continues to change how we address the question of whose rule should prevail during political conflict.

Watching “X-Men: Days of Future Past” through the civil rights movement’s civil war …

I have heard some commenters refer to Stan Lee’s “X-Men” as a treatment of the civil rights movement of the 1960s.  I have never taken to the comparison of black people to “mutants.”  While I acknowledge that Mr Lee may have had a noble cause in starting a discussion on equality, diversity, and the inclusion of different cultures, ethnicities, and creeds into the American melting pot, but to be likened to a plant or animal with inheritable characteristics that differ from those of the parents, leads to questions such as, “Did Mr Lee and the good people at Marvel take a look at the definition?” “Who exactly are the parents that blacks differ from?” “Should we get rid of our inherited and unique characteristics in order to be equal?”

I won’t harp on the above questions too much because for the average movie goer the bandwidth may not be available for considering such social questions beyond the need just to get away and watch an exciting movie for a couple hours.  On the other hand, anyone who has read the comics as a kid or has delved deeply into the Marvel Cinematic Universe tends not to be too put off by the social observations.  Besides, lasting imagery and coming away from each viewing having observed different angles on the characters or the message are characteristics that push a movie toward the classic realm.

I hadn’t seen “X-Men: Days of Future Past in a couple years so revisiting it tonight on the FX channel gave me a chance to go a little deeper into the messaging.  The story was set in two time periods: in 1973 with the central event being the Paris peace talks to bring the Vietnam war to an end; and fifty years later where mutants are brought to the brink of extinction by an army of mechanical sentinels.  The X-Men must reach back telepathically to the past to stop an event that that, if left unchecked, will contribute to the start of the global war on mutants.

Three principal characters stood out such that they caused me to unpack the possible civil rights connection.  “Charles Xavier”, played by Patrick Stewart and James McAvoy; “Erik Lensherr”, played by Ian McKellen and Michael Fassbender; and “Raven Darkholme”, played by Jennifer Lawrence.  Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr are trying to prevent Raven Darkholme from killing the man who would eventually create the sentinels responsible for near annihilation of mutants.  Raven represented to me the militant arm of the civil rights movement, an arm led by leaders such as Stokely Carmichael, Huey Newton, and Bobby Seale.  Raven, at one point during the story, expresses to Charles her anger and disappointment stemming from his apparent abandonment of his fellow mutants particularly during the period of crisis where mutants were facing an existential threat. This anger and disappointment was also expressed by the more militant arm of the civil rights movement where they saw the non-violent, peace first approach of leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King as ineffective.

I saw Charles as representing the more moderate arm of the civil rights movement.  He did not see violence as the way to forge any peace with non-mutants but did not display to me any naivete of kumbaya and hand holding with non-mutants.  Charles’ preferable approach was to connect all mutants and teach them how to see themselves as great individuals.  While it could be easy to liken him to a Dr. King, Charles’ realism kept him slightly to the right of Dr. King.

Erik was the separatist. And yes, the civil rights movement did have separatists most notably Malcolm X.  Erik’s degree of pragmatism altered with changes in the facts on the ground.  He would have gladly took up arms against non-mutants, but if Raven’s assassination attempt today meant extinction of mutants tomorrow, then neutralizing Raven in the short term in order to secure a separate but strong mutant nation in the long run was the logical play.

This to me has always been the beauty of the science fiction/fantasy genre.  It provides an alternative backdrop for taking a look at ourselves.  The “X-Men” movie franchise has been able to paint that canvas by using the time machine and taking us back to the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, using events from those decades to provide us with teachable insights.  Using mutants as an analogy for race is not perfect.  As I discussed earlier I don’t particularly care for it and I would digress a bit and say I don’t care for the term “race” either, but in this specific space it works.