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Could Star Trek Hold Some Answers?

07/05/2013 12:58 BST | Updated 06/07/2013 10:12 BST
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It was fortuitous that Star trek premiered in London on Thursday.

Fortuitous because it bookended a week which started with a tragic factory fire in Bangladesh. A factory producing cheap clothing for global brands sold internationally.

A fire which was, no doubt, exacerbated by a building with substandard structural integrity not pointed out by workers desperate for their meagre salary.

A fire which, as Victoria Coren put it on BBC Question Time this week, many British shoppers feel they may have contributed to by patronising the stores for whom the factory was producing garments. As she so eloquently pointed out, when we demand cheaper and cheaper the only surprise when something goes wrong is that we are surprised.

If we insist on £3 skirts we can't be surprised that working conditions are sub-standard any more than we can be shocked when £1 microwave meals contain less than the highest quality premium meat.

While I absolutely do not believe that ultimately shopper is at fault for such tragedies, there can be no doubt that we bear some responsibility for the circumstances. An unending thirst and desire to have more for less creates a race to the bottom for conditions and pay. Our need to own the latest "it" top now supersedes our perceptions of responsibility to our fellow man and this is bound to have repercussions.

Demand for lower priced garments in London does drive a factory worker to work a 14 hour day in cramped, and evidently dangerous,conditions in South East Asia. In the same way a desire for drugs in New York will drive countless Colombians to work in dangerous conditions to cut and package cocaine to satisfy the demand.

These are the children of the marriage of capitalism and globalisation. The ugly side of a movement which has, despite protests to the contrary, raised the living standards of millions all over the world.

We must acknowledge that a rising tide does raise all ships, even if we might despair that some rise faster and higher than others.

What does any of this have to do with the glitzy and glamorous premiere in Leicester square?

For the uninitiated, and I am led to understand this is most people, Star Trek (fictionally) exists in a time when humanity has decided it had enough stuff.

Rather than chasing the next faster, smaller, sexier,shinier whatever the humanity depicted in Gene Roddenberry's cult series looks upwards and outwards to the heavens. To the final frontier.

The crew of the Enterprise exist at a time of rekindled human curiosity. When the best and the brightest are attracted towards a lifetime of service and the pursuit of knowledge and understanding.

In the Star Trek era an unquenchable desire for exploration and leadership is revered and respected and being smart (street or academic), having courage and helping others reach their potential is the ultimate accolade. It is a time when there is an understanding that there is enough to satisfy our needs as a race but that a perpetual need to satisfy all possible wants as individuals makes us selfish and self-centred. An understanding that the pursuit of the smaller, faster, sexier, shinier creates a world in which the sum of our parts never coalesces for a greater good and that we are all poorer for it.

Today we find ourselves at a crossroads between the world we have always had and (metaphorically) the world of Kirk and Spock.

We have enough. There is enough food to feed the world. We have the technology and social media capabilities meaning every person everywhere can have an education and the future they desire. There have been such advances in science and biotechnology that we must surely be inches away from, if not curing, making most diseases chronic.

We are ripe for new thinking, new approaches, and new points of view. We starting to demand answers but we are also starting to ask the right questions. Not just of our elected officials but, more importantly of ourselves.

Elected officials are supposed to lead but really they follow their citizens. We live at a time of upsidedown leadership, and they, just as AlexandreAuguste Ledru-Rollin did, say "I must find out where (my people) are going so I can lead them".

We are also approaching the age of generationX and the millenials.

Younger generations intuitively understand the power of crowds. We have grown up sharing pictures on instagram, posting our thoughts into the twitterverse, watching videos on Youtube and giving them the wings to go viral through our networks and tribes. We voyeuristically watch every move people make via Facebook.

We don't know what comes next but I would bet it will be communal and collaborative.

The collaborative economy, raising investment through crowdfunding,crowdsourcing answers to our dilemmas and seeking the recommendations of others before trying a new restaurant, is here to stay.

These are second nature to generations tapping into our ancestrally memory of the village. We know that the generations which bowled alone took more than they should have. They were individuals and not a cohort.

Am I suggesting we move towards socialism? Absolutely not. I believe that people exist and thrive only when they can pursue what they believe it best for them and is in their own personal best interest. After all that is why I am committed to ensuring everyone has an adequate level of financial capability. Only through financial security can people hope to have financial dignity. So a world based on socialist ideas is not how we reach for the stars.

But that certainly does not negate the opportunity to realign our personal pursuit of happiness. There is nothing to stop us redefining what "in our best interest" means. Recognising that my personal best interest is tied in with that of my neighbour, next door or across the ocean, satisfies a more, future aware, vision.

It means corporations recognising that they will be far more profitable if they consider the next generation not just the next quarter. It means individuals recognising that decisions have consequences which exist across time and space. It means families putting time into raising their children, maybe even introducing some boundaries and discipline, which will encourage their maturity into adults with a culture of respect and hard work, of courage and altruism. Imagine if we tried!

A redefinition of global ambition and a clearer picture of the future we want is within our grasp. Just as the stars will be should we tread a path away from more stuff towards more ideas.