Monday, November 30, 2009

The UN: too much Star Trek; not enough Star Wars

In the original Star Trek Captain Kirk was clearly in charge, running the Enterpise as any captain would a naval vessel. He occupied the central position on the bridge, surrounded by a small number of subordinates, soliciting advice only from Mr Spock, the rest doing strictly as they were told -- Bones would sometimes break away from the medicinal brandy to put in an appearance but he was invariably wrong about everything. Their mission: "to boldly go where no man has gone before."

In Star Trek: The Next Generation the Enterprise was run much more democratically. Captain Picard was in charge but the bridge was literally packed with juniors whose advice he actively solicited, always ignoring militaristic idiot Worf (a black Bush with a battering-ram foehead), however. There was even a Ship's Counselor to provide guidance. In this setting Picard functioned more as a wise father figure than an autocratic commander. Very touchy feely stuff for sure but not a realistic means for effectively responding to the many crises confronted -- we're under attack; time for a quick meeting; counselor Troy please accompany me to my quarters so we can discuss this, er, intimately. Their mission: "to boldly go where no one has gone before."

Had the show continued to evolve along these lines Star Trek: Totally Ineffective might have resulted, the captain now replaced by a participatory-decision-making-facilitator tasked with achieving crew consensus prior to any action being taken. The Enterprise would be a mini-United Nations and just like the real thing the Enterprise would never make it out of dock, the crew failing to agree on anything. Their mission: "to boldly go nowhere."

Such a show might attract a small but fervent group of supporters keen on observing inclusive decision-making processes but those expecting action would be sorely disappointed. I mean, no sane person wants to watch continuing episodes of what amounts to a committee meeting. The show would likely be axed after a few action-devoid episodes.

The United Nations, the ultimate committee, endlessly meeting and discussing, is still going strong, however, still trying to design horses and still coming up with camels. Sure the U.N. was a noble experiment worth trying in the wake of World War II but what has it achieved having gobbled up billions in funding? Quick, list five major U.N. accomplishments and don't give me any of that "the U.N.'s a quiet achiever" nonsense. The eradication of smallpox springs to mind but no others -- if you listed "world dialogue" or some such you're an idiot.

The vagaries of elected government can be tolerated but the continuing existence of the U.N. is puzzling. The various levels of government do provide a range of tangible services and through the electoral process voters are at least provided an illusion of participation, albeit indirect, in government decision making. The U.N. is a different beast entirely. No one there has been popularly elected; its massive bureaucracy totally faceless. And the main task of this bureaucracy? From all appearances, talking, report writing and updating.

Like most living in Australia I do not object to the taxes levied by the various levels of government because I get much in return -- medical care, garbage pick up, roads, defence, policing and so on. But I have no idea how much funding is provided the U.N. by my government and can't recall any politician discussing the matter. Even worse, I have no idea what Australians receive in return other than the warm glow achieved from knowing their tax dollars are supporting a worthy enterprise -- cynics such as myself therefore receiving nothing.

Even those most supportive of bloated bureaucracy, the left, know deep down that the U.N. is ineffective, John Quiggin recently letting slip:

As with most international agreements, the outcome from Copenhagen will prove far short of ideal.

Thus the U.N. fails to meet even its supporters' performance expectations.

The Copenhagen Conference, undoubtedly the biggest carbon-generating gab-fest ever, is unlikely to produce much beyond talk and no matter what is agreed isn't going to solve the manmade climate problem (provided it exists). You see, the U.N. is too much Star Trek and not nearly enough Star Wars. Just like Star Trek the U.N. devotes far too much time to talking and pondering and not nearly enough time to accomplishing mission objectives. Star Wars on the other hand is all about kicking ass in pursuit of established goals. If urgent action is required to head off a climate catastrophe we need a Luke Skywalker, not a Captain Picard. Hmm, I wonder how Obama looks in white? Nah, he's more a talker than a light-saber wielder. Maybe Gordon Brown? Kevin Rudd? Seriously folks, unless global warming can be talked to death we're doomed.



Anonymous verdi1996 said...

And what would you have if not the UN? Would the world's only superpower take the responsibility for keeping the peace in the world? A fat lot it has done too in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine. Extending your logic, why have parliaments, legislatures and senates. Aren't they bureuacracies that do precious little to justify your tax dollars? Would you rather have good old monarchies, albeit efficient ones?

6:23 PM  

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