How The Orville Could Have Had Peace with the Kaylon

This article includes spoilers for Season 2. It was updated to include a link to another article that was not yet written.

I’ve never been a Star Trek fan, but I was obsessed with Star Wars before JJ Abrams ruined the series, and with social media pages full of leftists I was able to pick up enough about Star Trek to know that its premise is what has been dubbed luxury space communism. I have also watched Seth MacFarlane’s work for decades becoming a strong fan of both Family Guy and American Dad, so with The Orville out I only held out so long before binging the series. It isn’t a typical work for MacFarlane – I don’t recall a single cutaway – but what has been made so far has been an enjoyable watch – enough so that I’ve agreed to give Star Trek another try as I may have just been too young when trying to watch the first time.

However, there is something that is lacking in The Orville and it stands out: Seth MacFarlane’s politics are too far right for him to fully grasp the setting he has created, based off of Star Trek. If you were to ask FOX News, you would likely hear how Seth MacFarlane is a communist – and there is a Quora thread asking whether he is a socialist or a communist. However, if he were, then this issue would not appear in The Orville. Rather, based on his involvement with politics: donating to the Democratic Party and supporting Bernie Sanders in the 2016 primary while supporting Hillary Clinton in the general, it seems safe to say that MacFarlane is a liberal – and liberalism is always capitalist. There is a bit of a misnomer in America where we consider people like Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and Nancy Pelosi as liberal – but they are conservatives – and all those self described conservatives are reactionaries or fascists; but MacFarlane is an honest to God liberal and it isn’t enough to make The Orville accurate.

This may have been overcome if MacFarlane was educated on dialectical materialism – and there are plenty of people of every political stripe who do get an education on dialectical materialism if they take the right courses in college. But MacFarlane got his education in fine arts – and he excelled at what he knows – but you don’t often learn dialectical materialism while getting a fine arts degree.

As you may have gathered from the title, this problem arises when MacFarlane’s character, Ed Mercer, tries to explain why humans aren’t a threat to the Kaylon. However, we should delve into dialectical materialism before delving into that interaction.

We don’t need a full course in dialectics here, but modern dialectics were developed by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, inspired by his connections with Hermeticist secret societies, and dialectics were all the rage in Europe in the early 1800s. Perhaps the most famous use of his dialectics was the master/slave dialectic: Hegel looked at the opposing forces of the master and the slave and was able to explain how, while the slave had the short straw in the relationship, the master’s freedom was also bound by the relationship and in freeing his slave he would also be freeing himself from those bonds. Of course, it also ultimately covers how the relationship is bound to be broken as the slave becomes conscious about his place in the world and rises up to force that freedom.

Hegelian dialectics suggest a thesis, an antithesis, and a synthesis. The thesis and antithesis are opposing forces which utlimately come together into one.

Marx took Hegel’s dialectics and developed dialectical materialism. For example, the stages of development followed Hegel’s dialectics: socialism (or the lower stage of socialism as Marx put it) is the thesis, feudalism is the antithesis, and capitalism is the synthesis of those two; but then communism (or the higher stage of socialism) is the thesis, capitalism is the antithesis, and socialism is the synthesis. However, what is important about dialectical materialism here is the materialist aspect of it.

Everything is dependent upon the means of production. The means of production determine the economic system and that economic system in turn determines the government, expression of religion, and society. Primitivism was based on a hunter/gatherer means of production which was replaced by feudalism’s agricultural means of production which was, in turn, replaced by capitalism’s small shop means of production, which is then replaced by socialism’s factory means of production, and finally by communism’s fully automated means of production.

In Marx’s time the terms socialism and communism were interchangeable, but there was also a higher and lower stage of socialism or communism. If you take nothing else away from Lenin – and I don’t take much more away myself – it should be that he simplified matters by deeming the lower stage socialism and the higher stage communism.

Socialism is the dictatorship of the proletariat, or working class – whereas capitalism is the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, the owners of capital, or the 1% as Bernie Sanders puts it – the working class is, through their sheer numbers, in control of society. Private property, which is productive property such as farmland, factories, power plants, and other productive things, is abolished – but not personal property such as your car, personal computer, clothing, or toothbrush. Instead, these things are held in common – collectively owned and – as George Orwell was impelled to clarify – collectively controlled through democratic processes. Workplace democracy is a socialist concept.

Communism, however, is a stage that comes into being once all labor is automated: Marx likened it to being nothing more strenuous than pushing a button – on, say, a matter synthesizer. At this point scarcity stops – whereas through history, thusfar, not everyone could fulfill all their needs (which include things such as art, drama, and romance) due to scarcity, under communism every single person can now fulfill all their needs and no one has to work. As such, the state itself has no reason left to exist and so it just withers away and disappears.

Gene Roddenberry’s luxury space communism is a bit different than Marx’s communism. Marx saw communism as a state in which every person just spent their days doing whatever caught their fancy: writing poetry in the morning, playing sports in the afternoon, and retreating to discuss philosophy over wine in the evening – or whatever they happen to prefer. Roddenberry’s communism, however, still has a state called the Federation (and MacFarlane has the Union), and there is still a hierarchy of authority. People are also doing jobs in service to this state such as captaining a ship or being the ship’s doctor.

A Final Argument to Kaylon

In The Orville, the Kaylon were poorly designed by their creators and were both sentient and had an internal drive that mimicked biological life, valuing things that they didn’t need to if they were to be slaves. As such, they objected to their standing and ultimately went to war with their masters, wiping them out. As their masters were biological entities, they were wary of other biological life and so they sought out to study biological life by sending Isaac to learn all about biological life in the Union to see if they were a threat or not. After learning about the history of various species, and particularly humanity, they saw a pattern of short periods of peace dwarved by long periods of war, strife, slavery, and genocide. They asked Ed Mercer why they should believe that this pattern has been broken.

The Union itself is all the proof you need. We are over three hundred planetary governments working together to ensure that no single world imposes its will upon another. We treat each other as equals.

Ed Mercer explaining to Kaylon ambassadors how this cycle has been broken

That is not a very convincing argument at all, especially as worlds have imposed their will on others through the Union – but dialectical materialism could offer a convincing argument. For Earth to have risen to such heights so as to have managed to automate all production capitalism had to have been abolished in order to keep it from destroying the world as it is currently doing with climate change and billionaires looking to escape it by retreating into luxury bunkers. As such, it would be expected that someone who is bright enough to be entrusted with a ship and a diplomatic mission would have a basic grasp of dialectical materialism and could offer the following argument:

Our history is riddled with violent and oppressive conflict, but that conflict was driven by scarcity. Because people were lacking something they needed in their lives that could be gained by conquest and subjugation of one another and because scapegoating other groups of people allowed those who did have their needs met to distract those they lorded over from their domestic oppression this sort of violence continued. However, that cycle was broken when we managed to fully automate production – we did away with that scarcity that made all that violence possible and broke those chains of history.

While we may still have conflict with the Krill, and we know that their violence is spurned by their religion – a religion we are unsure how it maintained such an interpretation after they accomplished the same thing – we have sought peace with them at every turn. Surely, Isaac has reported to you our earnestness in seeking peace and coexistence with them. Until that reason is discovered, you cannot have finished your research on biological life. An alliance between our peoples would only strengthen our ability to contain the Krill violence without resorting to a culture of violence ourselves.

What Ed Mercer might have said if he was versed in dialectical materialism

My name is Kaylon Prime. Please do not call me Shirley.

What Kaylon Prime may have said in response if this was an episode of Family Guy

Had this speech have been made, perhaps the Kaylon would have been convinced. Of course, that means that the course of the show would have gone differently from that point and whereas the Krill may be tamed with the alliance in the current story arc, another means would have to be employed to allow that to happen at that point. Of course, this is science fiction and an even greater threat further out in the galaxy could have been that catalyst.

What the show needs moving forward on Hulu is a deeper understanding of dialectical materialism so as to avoid such mistakes. Seth needs to study up or hire a writer who is well versed in the matter.

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