Web Letters | The Nation

An Enduring Condition: On War Time

The timeless wisdom of Kirk and Spock

Many years ago, I was a schoolteacher, teaching science in a posh private school in Washington, DC. The excellent head of the English department at the time, whose name escapes me, was fond of saying that he could teach any topic by making reference to some episode of the original Star Trek series. And he would illustrate his point by explaining the split infinitive with: “To boldy go where no man has gone before!”

In the first season, an episode called “A Taste of Armageddon” aired, which described a distant star system with two warring planets, that had been in conflict for 500 years, reporting massive casualties yearly for all that time. However, the Enterprise crew was unable to detect any weaponry, and learned that the war was fought by computers, with “casualties” on both planets voluntarily reporting to disintegration booths to be counted up by the warring computers. The leaders of the planet argue that they have taken the destruction out of war, and Kirk retorts that it is precisely the ugliness and destruction caused by war that convinces us to sue for peace.

Is war for American civilians living in the US too sanitized? If we all saw what our soldiers see when they deploy, or even worse, felt what the local populations feel when our war machine rains down upon them, wouldn’t we sue for peace? Can Star Trek be used to teach anything under the sun?

Steven Novek

Vicenza, ITALY

May 12 2012 - 12:28am

An Enduring Condition: On War Time

Science fiction?

John Horgan also wrote a book called The End of Science, which should give some indication of his grasp on reality.

Larkin Breed


May 10 2012 - 11:17pm

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