Columbus-ing Around: Columbus, The Borg, and the Great White Devil

The BorgA challenging new post over at Modern Mythology asks what we are actually talking about, when we talk about race:

History is portrayed as a science. And yet popular history remains as much subject to emotion as reason. History may be consciously rewritten; much more often, it simply evolves. … The present is a consequence of the past. But the past is an invention of the present. (Empires Apart.)

This concept of whiteness as function rather than people or culture is presented surprisingly clearly in the character of the Borg in Star Trek: The Next Generation. They are a perfect metaphor for whiteness not as race but as force of hegemonic appropriation, as you can see in the first episode they appear in, “Q-Who?”

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40 Comments on "Columbus-ing Around: Columbus, The Borg, and the Great White Devil"

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    • Jin The Ninja | Jul 26, 2014 at 12:05 pm |

      colonialism tended to stratify cultures either more rigidly, or along specific class lines defined by the colonial rulers.

      this trend codified a small elite group of pre-colonial rulers in some cases, or a mercantile or bureaucratic or certain ethnic-group upper class that worked for and with occupation. in the post-colonial, modern period, these divisions were utilised to create parliamentary and presidential democracies. many small groups of non-white state actors in newly ‘liberated’ nations took full advantage of the privileges bestowed by british and european colonisation to further insulate and entrench themselves as the ruling classes within these systems- which were part of the colonial legacy themselves- as extra actors, tended to infiltrate and solidify their economic interests using said state actors or by overthrowing ‘incompatible’ regimes, and installing friendly ones, whether democratic or not.

      in this context, non-white (or formerly colonised) state actors worked against the ethnic interests of the peoples over which they ruled, but worked for their individual interests, both economic and ruling.

      there is no denying a history filled with the machinations of conquest and control is filled with peoples working against their own national, ethnic, or sovereign interests. but there has to be a context in which this is placed. if white supremacy in the form of imperialism, neo imperialism, neo colonialism is indeed the ruling ‘system’- and there are ruling elite indigenous state actors, they can only be ‘blamed’ insofar as they ceded sovereignty over to the ruling system, perpetuating it, but hardly codifying it, as they lack the influence over int’l bodies, foreign nations, or the economic system.

      again your instagram-lite fails to demonstrate a literate understanding of the article (if you read it, that is) and the socio-cultural context of which that exists.

      • ‘there is no denying a history filled with the machinations of conquest and control is filled with peoples working against their own national, ethnic, or sovereign interests.’

        That’s right and the Quislings still cry foul (wigger warning, *a photograph* follows):

        • Jin The Ninja | Jul 26, 2014 at 6:45 pm |

          we were speaking of a colonial/post-colonial context. the hollywood analogy is a very distinct, and the photo you’ve posted is not demonstrative of ‘non-whiteness,’ you do realise, american queer history is distinct from extra euro/british/american ethnic history. and when speaking of ‘collaboration’ you would do well to contextualise the history of colonisation and neo-imperialism and regime change rather than use the same generalised epithet.

          • Resistance is futile.

            As an individual, I’ve the prerogative to address any dimension of this subject that I wish.

            I choose to highlight The Borg’s wiling assimilants.

            ‘And I’m not sorry (I’m not sorry)
            I’m not your bitch don’t hang your shit on me (it’s human nature)

            You wouldn’t let me say the words I longed to say
            You didn’t want to see life through my eyes
            (Express yourself, don’t repress yourself)
            You tried to shove me back inside your narrow room
            And silence me with bitterness and lies
            (Express yourself, don’t repress yourself)’

          • ➀➂➀➂


          • Jin The Ninja | Jul 27, 2014 at 2:47 pm |

            assimilation is a process of violence. assimilation is one of the 5 steps of colonisation.

            you are correct though, you are indeed ‘entitled’ to your campaign of misinformation.

          • Re misinformation: I challenge you or anyone in agreement, to evidence such a charge.

            4. The process whereby a minority group gradually adopts
             the customs and attitudes of the prevailing culture.’


          • Jin The Ninja | Jul 27, 2014 at 5:11 pm |

            every post you make is facile and sophomoric and that by itself provides ample evidence. but that you ONLY seem to advocate anti militarism, but have neither the balls nor the intelligence nor the political acumen with which to discuss it OR contextualise it- and on the most benign of responses- you’d rather accuse long identified anarchists of being nwo apologists and denigrate queer people than identify yourself politically and attempt to build an intellectual rapport with the community which you’ve ingratiated yourself with (like a flea) / on top of that, you then go on to spend your time repeating your same tactics ad nauseam, in the hopes you’ll find someone actually right wing enough that it makes sense, it seems to me at least, and i only speak for myself when i say this, that you bear all the traits of an agitator. i’m suspecting an alex jones type, if you don’t refute this charge, i am going to assume you agree.

            and while we’re speaking of your facile posting methods. using a 4th tier definition without any context does not solidify your argument. you must recognise that we are referring to assimilation in colonial and post-colonial settings (as per the very photo you posted). so you must use the definitions that arise out of the scholarship of post-colonialism.


            try harder B.

          • ‘every post you make is facile and sophomoric and that by itself provides ample evidence.’

            Even if that were true, it wouldn’t satisfy the accusation of a misinformation campaign.

            My style in responding to random, ephemeral, articles, for a tiny readership which pique my interest, may be aptly described as pithy, whereas your jealous indignation in my not sharing a dissertational OCD, is bordering on the pathological.

            I’m not looking for a biographer, please get a life.

          • Jin The Ninja | Jul 28, 2014 at 1:26 pm |

            that you think i’d be jealous of you is cute, but totally incorrect. i’m not jealous of people with lower than average intelligence, who descend to mocking sexuality as way to divert attention away from their inarticulate, miquetoast rhetorical style.

          • ‘milque·toast…
            a very timid, unassertive, spineless person, especially one 
            who is easily dominated or intimidated: a milquetoast who’s 
            afraid to ask for a raise.’


            Yeah that’s me to a tee. Just look at the avatar.

            Was I genually mocking sexuality or brilliantly demonstrating your reluctance to condemn two NWO rottweilers, who’ve cruelly savaged the lgbt community for at least the last ten years?


          • Jin The Ninja | Jul 29, 2014 at 10:54 am |

            lol. noam and cornel have ‘brutally’ savaged the lgbt community for 10 years?

            i’ll need a citation for that.

            notice i called your ‘rhetorical style’ ‘milquetoast’ not you personally. can you read? it also means ‘bland’ and ‘insipid.’ both of which i think are suited adjectives to your ‘rhetorical’ style. lacking substance as it were. interesting use, but neither wholly inappropriate.

            as for ‘your’ ideological purity test, i can hardly ‘fail’ the crayon scrawls of an alex jones wannabe that exists only in his mind.

          • Further defence tactics. Deliberately mistaking Stone & Parker for two Obama shills (despite the video), who you cosily mention by first name.

            I’m not bickering over desperate, dreary, pedantry.

          • Echar Lailoken | Jul 29, 2014 at 11:43 am |

            The moonbats have no comparison to Ramconesque posting styles. Care to walk away swiftly and spare us the trainwreck, said the Jonesian plebe. Yes sir, right away sir, just after I type some irrelevelent political nonsense sir. Really said the Jonesian plebe. Oh yesir, I can act all political and stuff sir, like jeses I can turn any topic into some pretentious political detritus. Well, said the Jonesian plebe, you should go fuck a badger. And so he did, and the world was rid of his awful annoyance.

            THE END

          • Echar Lailoken | Jul 30, 2014 at 1:03 pm |

            Stop your trainwreck.

          • Nobody’s making you post comments here. If you don’t want to be disagreed with or criticized I suggest you leave this site, because that’s what happens here to everybody.

          • Jin The Ninja | Jul 29, 2014 at 1:43 pm |

            stone and parker aren’t activists. they’re not intellectuals. they produce a show that for mass consumption and perfectly in tune with popular culture. i don’t enjoy it, i don’t ‘get’ it, it doesn’t provide me with particular insight, but i never accused them of ‘savaging the lgbt’ community. i called their show ‘questionable’ and stated ‘they have difficulty empathising with an ‘other.” it didn’t mean ‘gay, as i stated before.

            circular logic can often be serpentine in effect.

          • Echar Lailoken | Jul 29, 2014 at 2:03 pm |

            I think they empathize with capital overall. Their bread and butter is a low brow approach of using easy targets for a quick laugh coupled with longer laughs all the way to the bank.

          • Jin The Ninja | Jul 29, 2014 at 2:04 pm |

            that’s exactly my opinion. although i prefer the clear, concise way you explained it;)

          • Echar Lailoken | Jul 29, 2014 at 2:09 pm |

            It’s as if Walmart and Jackass were first cousins and South Park is the result of their incestuous pairing.

          • Ah, now resorting to strawmen.

            According to you, I’m neither an activist nor intellectual, yet when I one-off pastiche the type bigotry they’ve hugely popularised and you’ve condoned (or even praised, based on the outrageous remark above) for over a decade: you and crony hypocrites go PC nuts and conduct an interminible persecution campaign against me.

          • Echar Lailoken | Jul 29, 2014 at 9:00 pm |

            As most adults know, you reap what you sow. You may not know what the pic is, it’s probably before your time. Adults will get the reference and agree.

          • Echar Lailoken | Jul 30, 2014 at 1:38 pm |

            What is the history behind this engraving? It’s beautiful and gross at the same time.

          • Jin The Ninja | Jul 30, 2014 at 6:40 pm |

            a woodblock print from what i believe was a dutch newspaper.
            if it was published in a dutch-language jakarta-based paper i’d be surprised.

            the dutch west indies company was equal parts corporate and state tyranny, they nominally administered the territory with judicial oversight by dutch administrators. but basically they ruled with an iron fist, enslaving people to work on rubber, coffee and spice plantations. it’s a very fascinating history if that part of the world is something you’re interested in.

          • Echar Lailoken | Jul 30, 2014 at 2:04 pm |

            Put your junk away, no one wants to see it.

  1. Where one person sees cultural appropriation, another might see a demonstration of the successful spread of memes from their population of origin to a population that can host the memes and spread them more effectively, as Dawkins modeled in the 70’s.

    This sort of cultural cross-pollinization is as old as trade, and its acceleration with the advent of modern telecommunications was predictable. It may be that a culture that’s adaptable enough to embrace memes from others has an evolutionary advantage that a more calcified, fundamentalist culture does not.

    All of which may be a part of what the author is getting at, as he concludes that “whiteness” itself is a myth, having more to do with privilege and class than with ancestry. Curcio admits that the essay represents for a book in progress. I’d be curious to read the finished result.

  2. Simiantongue | Jul 26, 2014 at 11:23 am |

    “Columbusing” I’ve never had a word for the idea but that aspect of Star Trek I always thought interesting.

    The opening monologue says “To boldy go where no man has gone before” (TOS). They were “discovering” new races all the time.

    Once could interpret that as saying “Where no ‘human’ has gone before”. Okay a mission of discovery IS one of the central themes, Kirk was always saying “This is a ship of exploration” or something of that nature.

    But then in an effort to be more politically correct they changed that monologue to say “Where no one has gone before”. Presumably in an attempt to be inclusive of women. But I wonder if that was really the intent. The central conceit in saying “no one” is that until humans had gotten there other alien races were somehow irrelevant. If “no one” has gone there before, then presumably the other alien races which were “discovered” to be there, wherever there is, meant that “No one” was there until humans arrived.

    They say in the article that the Borg were a perfect metaphor for whiteness. But I think that’s misleading. The Borg are portrayed, quite rightly, as a nefarious force to be reckoned with. But people don’t see the white race as that. In fact I think the Federation is the perfect metaphor for “whiteness”.

    In star trek other alien races are irrelevant until the Federation arrives and “discovers” them. There is a passive aggressive central conceit there, a narcissism, a kind of racial egocentrism where the Federation regards itself “and their own opinions or interests as being the most important or valid”

    There are other species that belong in the Federation but it’s made abundantly clear the core of the Federation is Earth and Humans, where other races take up a minority position and supporting role.

    The Star Trek universe really is an exploration of the “oddities” of other species and cultures that are either lacking in some quality the Federation possesses or have too much. Like the violent Klingon culture, greedy Ferengi culture or sneaky Romulan culture. Riker partakes in the overly sexual culture on Risa the “pleasure planet”. And convinces Picard to do so too in one episode. In the episode Picard has his very Federation like sensibilities vs the awkward culture of Risa.

    The whole premise is that compared to the Federation’s sensibilities, the sensibilities of all other cultures and species are somehow “warped” or maladjusted. (yep a pun) If all these other species can somehow be brought into line with the sensibilities of Federation then the galaxy would be a better place.

    Which is a lot more insidious than the openly nefarious Borg. Nobody has any illusions about who or what the Borg are. The Federation on the other hand are intergalactic “liberators”. Bringing blankets, food replicators and democracy. Your species too can take a supporting role with humanity at the helm, raised above all others.

    • Jin The Ninja | Jul 26, 2014 at 11:28 am |

      very interesting and cogent points. i think your comparison of the federation to the hegemonic cultural interests of whiteness, actually makes for a more valid argument in a post-colonial, post-modern world.

      • Simiantongue | Jul 26, 2014 at 11:35 am |

        The core concept of “white privilege” really defines what the federation is in Star Trek I think.
        “The concept of white privilege also implies the right to assume the
        universality of one’s own experiences, marking others as different or
        exceptional while perceiving oneself as normal.”

        Where the Federation is the norm and all other species and cultures are “warped”.

        • Jin The Ninja | Jul 26, 2014 at 11:47 am |

          yes, completely agree. i think the borg comparison is useful only to early colonial history, and the federation much more reflective of ‘modernity’ i.e. capitalism, globalisation,liberal democracy and military-base occupation. i also think an analogy of the cold war, between the ‘free’ states of the federation and the ‘collective’ of the borg speaks to this. while the borg forcibly conquers and enslave, the federation insidiously pervades a culture through technology and mutual protection, particularly when the military and economic interests are beneficial to the federation. as both of their systems self-justify preservation and the annihilation of the ‘other,’ they make an interesting foil to each other. infringe, attack, retreat. all the while claiming their respective systems are superior.

          • Jamie Lee | Jul 26, 2014 at 3:51 pm |

            ” i think the borg comparison is useful only to early colonial history, and the federation much more reflective of ‘modernity’ i.e. capitalism, globalisation,liberal democracy and military-base occupation.”

            Yes. Also, see the Section 31 plot-arcs in DS9 and I think some other ST world elements. Of course there’s a certain cheese-factor in how ST deals with such issues, and they aren’t above the “noble savage” either (see the episode where Wesley is taken in by Native American settlers in space in that season 7 TNG episode.) But it is pretty overt as well.

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