For anyone who is not in the “know,” and by that we mean a complete Trekkie, the Prime Directive is the first imperative of Starfleet and the United Federation of Planets. It is a rule of non-interference. The developed Federation and by extension Starfleet cannot interfere with the affairs of developing worlds, or they might taint their evolutionary progress, even if the planet and its refugees are under threat of destruction or death. Yet, is this a policy we should be adopting when it comes to our own planet?
Maybe there comes a time in the life of every person, and every nation when we need to ask ourselves the hard questions. What kind of people do we want to be? Does the Prime Directive have any positive divisors other than 1 and itself? What kind of world do we want to live in? What Would the Federation Do? We suppose the short answer is: “Boldly go wherever Captain Kirk’s libido has never gone before,” but another answer may become our very own Prime Directive, not in regards to any alien race, but in regards to how we treat other people in this world.
The Conscience of the King
As Jean-Luc Picard says the Starfleet Prime Directive is not just a set of rules, but “a philosophy.” At its core it is about letting a people fend for themselves. It is about teaching fellow sentient creatures self-reliance, to figure out the hard problems on their own, and without the technological and economical hand-outs of a more developed nation. In the end, one could actually interpret it as a “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” type of policy from the normally leftist Federation, but is it one directive we are willing to put to use in today’s world? What would Picard do?
Currently, Europe and the world are facing one of the largest refugee crises in a generation. 4.1 million people have fled the violence currently taking place in Syria, thanks to ISIS and other warring factions. That is nearly double the amount displaced by the Rwanda genocides in 1994. Europe and other countries have had varying responses to the flood of refugees trying to stream across their borders. Countries like Hungary have been cracking down while countries such as Germany have been opening their nation to fleeing refugees, but they have been forced to “drop it down to impulse” in the past week. Yet, what is the right way to handle this crisis?
The humanitarian side would say that we have a moral and ethical obligation to help the people who are currently fleeing war and violence. After all they are fighting for their lives and the lives of their family to make it to safer grounds, flooding into Mediterranean countries by land and sea. However, a more practical side could also argue that from an economic and security standpoint, letting thousands of unknown refugees from a high risk area of the world, unquestioningly, come into your country may not be the best choice. After all, when the Klingon moon of Praxis exploded and threatened the lives of everyone on the Klingon homeworld of Qo’nos, did the Federation decide to take the risk and help its most hated enemy?… Well, yes they did, but in all fairness they never had the Internet.
Balance of Terror
There has been a lot passed around on Facebook and social media about this current crisis. The most famous image is the picture of what appears to be an ISIS flag being held aloft by refugees during a clash with German police. It often gets posted to show why countries should be closing their borders to this outpouring of humanity. The picture is also falser than Seven of Nine’s implants. It is a picture from 2012 taken at an anti-Islam rally in Bonn, Germany. the flag is not an ISIS flag at all, but another Muslim flag with a similar color scheme. Many Muslims believe that one of the banners carried by Muhammad was black and monochromatic, so it’s a very popular color scheme.
In fact, according to the ship’s LCARS and our own research the only violence that we could uncover -that was even remotely related to the surge of refugees- had to do with anti-refugee protests. We are talking about people who already live in the affected countries and commit violence against migrants and government facilities, such as the arson attack against a planned center for refugees in Germany back in August. So far it seems as if most of the Syrian refugees have been relatively peaceful, especially in contrast to some of the more horrifying conditions they have been met with. 22 refugees, including 4 children, drowned while attempting to reach Greece, and that story is not at all out of the ordinary. What would Sisko do?
The Trouble with Tribbles
The problem with the refugees is that there are a lot of them, and they keep multiplying everyday, but nobody seems to be able to agree on what to do. A meeting of the EU this week in Brussels by European Union Interior Ministers failed to come to any formal agreement or plan. The ministers failed to set any binding quotas for how many people each EU member nation should be obligated to take in. The group did propose a system of camps for refugees to be housed in Africa, which for anyone who is bad at geography, is not in Europe. The minsters also agreed, in principal, to share the current 160,000 refugees, which are already in Italy, Greece, and Hungary, but all 22 nations could not agree on a time schedule or a quota.
There is a school of thought that this may simply not be Europe’s problem? The United States pledged to take 70,000 refugees from all over the world this year and will take an additional 10,000 Syrian refugees next year, but many in the US look at this problem and feel very little responsibility toward the solution. The USA has donated $4 billion in humanitarian aid, but takes a view as if this is an issue to be dealt with by the Old World, if not the Middle East itself. Yet, what is our Prime Directive in this mess? Is this really just a Middle Eastern problem?
Many people have criticized, and with good reason, the lackluster response from other Middle Eastern countries and their failure to take in more refugees. According to CNN and Amnesty International Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and other Gulf countries have offered no resettlement places to Syrian refugees. Many of the wealthier countries have donated money with Kuwait giving $101.9 million; Saudi Arabia $2.7 million; Qatar $2.5 million; and the UAE giving $2.2 million, but those amounts are a small bit of latinum compared to the troubles being faced by the international humanitarian crisis. However, it is easy to point fingers and lump all Middle Eastern countries together, but the truth is more complicated than the plot of Star Trek V.
The Immunity Syndrome
First of all, not all Arab countries have turned their backs. Lebanon has taken the most migrants per capita of any country so far, housing roughly 232 refugees per 1,000 refugees. They are followed by Jordan and Turkey at 81 and 27 per 1,000, respectively. Even Iraq has accepted 249,000, and Egypt has taken 132,000. In contrast, Germany is only currently housing 2.6 refugees per 1,000 refugees, and the United States ranks at a measly 0.8 refugees per 1,000. Secondly, it is not only Arab countries who have shut their borders to their neighbors in need. Israel, has offered no resettlement for displaced Syrians, which many have criticized because Israel is one of the richest and most powerful countries in the region, shares a border with Syria, and because the Jewish people themselves should empathize with the plight of refugees.
We do not say any of this to be critical against any country, only to show that this issue is not as black and white as some Internet memes would have it appear. As humans we like to make generalizations: Arab countries aren’t helping, Syrian refugees are all terrorists, all Star Trek: Enterprise episodes were horrible, but they weren’t. That was a decent show canceled before its time, but by making unthinking gross judgements we risk falling into a Tholian Web of inaction and excuses. In fact, even a lot of people whom live in countries whose governments are refusing to lend aid or resettlement, are doing everything they can to ease this crisis. Israelis, Saudis, Britons, Hungarians, Americans and all sorts of individuals are helping, because sometimes humans can be amazing creatures. We feel a responsibility toward our fellow humans, but are the responsibilities of an individual the same as the responsibilities of a nation? Wouldn’t accepting these extra people put a burden on countries, like Greece, who can barely afford their own citizens? Is that even logical. What would Spock do?
The Way to Eden
There may be other reasons for developed nations to take in more refugees, we can handle it. According to a US News report, smaller countries such as Jordan will spend upwards of 2.4 billion dollars on caring for displaced migrants. They will strain their country’s already limited water supply and other essential services. However, European and North American countries tend to have a sturdier infrastructure, and a lot more employment opportunities when compared to Middle Eastern ones. That is actually a boon for developed nations because any country that can shoulder the initial costs of a large influx of migrants has, historically, benefited in the long run. There are more people to work jobs, more people to consume products, more people to pay more taxes, and to just generally do more things.
For example, in Cleveland, the local service for refugees spent roughly $4.8 million back in 2012 to help a small number of refugees get established, but, according to Chmura Economics & Analytics, those refugees had a long term economic impact on the community equal to about $48 million, or about 10 times the initial resettlement investment. It makes a certain amount a sense. Refugees want to create opportunities and provide for their families, and they tend to be younger. Countries with younger populations often benefit economically, educationally, and militarily. Maybe it is not surprising that most Western countries are getting older, considering that the majority of EU members want less immigration. Yet, the United States continues to maintain a youthful population due to our constant influx of foreign immigrants -both refugees and non-refugees. New people means new ideas, new opportunities, and a new spirit of diversity, cooperation, and profit. What would Quark do?
Remember, the United Federation of Planets is made up of thousands of worlds, hundreds of different species, and each brings their own strength to the table, and that is the real philosophy of the Federation, and of our planet. The Prime Directive might be a guideline for technologically advanced civilizations, but we aren’t members of Starfleet dealing with a culture who are imitating early 20th century gangsters -for some reason. We are all humans, dealing with our fellow humans. There is this idea that we are somehow different from the people of the Middle East, or Europe, or any other nation, but we are all the same. To any passing Andorian, we are just humans, and maybe its time we treat each other like humans.
Maybe that should be our real Prime Directive.