A Lesson From “The Orville”?

MV5BYWU3Y2ZlMjUtMzNlNy00ZTFjLTllNTMtOGQ5N2M1MGI0Y2Y4XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjc5Mjg0NjU@._V1_SY1000_SX1500_AL_There is a new TV series this year — The Orville — that I’ve been watching on what I might call a “trial basis” — “trial” because I’m a long-time fan of the original Star Trek series and one of its offshoots [Next Generation] and movies with those casts of characters, but I’m initially skeptical about The Orville because it has a subtle twist of humor. My assessment at this point — keep on watching, but still on “trial basis”.

If you’re a regular reader and I haven’t lost your interest by now, please bear with me here.  If you’re a new reader, who knows? Maybe the title and opening paragraph are what brought you here.  Please stay with me on this. There actually is something here regarding the Major Paradigm Shift Well Underway in America.

Pure Democracy — A Good Thing Or A Bad Thing?

Although Seth McFarland [creator of the Orville] is no Gene Roddenberry [creator of the original Star Trek concept], a common thread between Star Trek and The Orville is story lines that present sometimes intriguing views of various aspects of life [politics, economics, technology, industry and commerce, religion, etc.]. A recent episode of The Orville depicted a very interesting view of the downside to pure democracy [all decisions are 100% made by 100% of the population].

Most academicians agree that a truly pure democracy is not theoretically possible [the main reason being that it would be extremely impractical because too much of the citizenry’s time would be consumed in administrative minutia, leaving no time for that society to produce anything for its economic sustainability].

As succinctly as possible, I’ll describe that episode before concluding with the lesson we can learn from it. … The Orville [the ship] arrived at a planet and sent an “away team” to the surface to do whatever they were supposed to do. One of the away team members did something in a public square that, if done here in America today, would be considered his First Amendment right. In that society though, it was extremely offensive in the eyes of millions of their citizens because it seemed to denigrate one of their most famous and beloved people. Quite a few people took pictures with their “smartphones”, apparently causing those images to merge into a government-monitored FaceBook-like system. Many of them walked up to him and pressed the red button on a badge-like red/green button thing all citizens wore [the team was there incognito, and therefore looked like anybody else]. Within minutes, the police came and arrested him. … To fast-forward a bit, because this guy quickly got to 4 million “red hits” [meaning that many people disliked what he did], he ended up being “on trial” on planet-wide TV. The show was essentially a “trial”. He was able to defend his behavior, apologize for it, or whatever. But at the end of the show, if the number of “red hits” got to 10 million, he would be “sentenced” to “attitude adjustment” — which, based on the persona of another person who had gone through that process, was kind of a prefrontal lobotomy.

The net story here is that, based on nothing more than the fact that a certain percentage of the population disliked what one person did, that person was accused, tried, convicted and sentenced “by the people”. That’s an alarming picture of what a truly pure democracy could become.

Is Our Republic Heading Toward This Kind of Chaos?

If you ask typical “people on the street” what kind of government we have, many, perhaps most, would say “a democracy”, perhaps thinking what they would call a pure democracy. We are not, and never have been, a pure democracy — we are a Republic, which is a representative democracy. It served us well for over two centuries, but in recent decades it has not worked as well as it has in the past — and in the past decade or so, its problems have been magnified in exponential proportions. I wouldn’t be so quick as to blame this on social media, or on the instantaneous news-around-the-clock environment that exists now, but think about “goings on” these days — e.g.:

Somebody [literally anybody with a smartphone who might post something that “goes viral”, or who otherwise has the ear of somebody with influence] accuses a public figure [movie star, politician, executive of an international corporation, …] of something which, if true, is offensive or even immoral at best and illegal at worst. The process that should follow is arrest [if grounds appear to be sufficient], convening of a Grand Jury to determine if there is sufficient evidence to take the case to trial, [if the result is an indictment] a trial, a verdict, and [if the verdict is guilty] a sentence and a date on which it will begin or be carried out.  … However, depending solely on whether the alleged incident shows up on the “radar screens” of “news” media and social media — and if so, how it is characterized — that person could be “indicted”, brought to “trial”, “convicted”, “sentenced”, and figuratively speaking, “executed” [although not so figuratively if his/her life is, for all practical purposes, ruined because of the negative public image that has been created]. Note. … I am not referring here to any current situation in particular. Even a very cursory analysis would reveal a considerable number of examples over many years of what I’m describing here.

I’m nearing my self-imposed limit for the length of my posts to this Blog, but hopefully, I’ve at least shed some light on something that might be worth consideration: As a society, have we been so hung up on our “right to express ourselves” that we have unwittingly shifted in the direction of a “pure democracy” like the one on the planet in the episode of The Orville? If so, I certainly hope we “wake up” before we end up like the proverbial frog in the pot of slowly-boiling water, unable to jump out when we finally realize what’s going on. As you ponder this question, consider the synopsis of the show on the TV listing [emphasis mine]: “Ed gives Kelly command of a team to find two Union anthropologists who disappeared on a planet similar to the Earth in the 21st century”.

Thanks for reading this post, and if you regularly follow my Blog, for that, too. Please consider sharing this or other posts with your friends, colleagues and associates.

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Charles M. Jones

Author: Charles M. Jones, PE, CPA

[retired — neither license active]

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