Science Fiction Today – United Nations

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The United Nations. If you’re like me, then they are that overarching governing body that you completely forget about most of the time. They have a lot of member states, but do they have a lot of power?

Not necessarily something I need to answer here – because this isn’t about the UN of today. This is about the UN of the future, or whatever we might call the World Government of the future. We normally break things down into Utopia and Dystopia with these posts, but with this there’s also the question of will there or won’t there be World Government one day… In the interest of keeping this short, let’s just explore the good and bad potential of future World Government!

Peace In OUr Times

The ideal of the UN, or any World Government, would be for none of the member states to go to war with each other – and for everyone to be a member state! To be that place of meeting, negotiation, compromise, and arbitration. To solve the world’s problems diplomatically, rather than through other means.

Since this is a political topic, let’s talk politics. Thomas Hobbes in Leviathan talks about the “state of nature,” and how in this state, we would live in

continual fear and danger of violent death, and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.

Probably the most famous quote of the book and the line that most sums it up. In political science classes in college, we talked about how individuals don’t really live in anything like the “state of nature” in today’s world (YMMV), but in terms of international relations, we kind of do. We have groups banding together, forming groups to intimidate each other and get their way.

In other worlds, World Government could be a force for good, solving this sort of international strife – especially since “international” would no longer have any meaning!

War, huh – What is it Good For?

In science fiction, where we see World Governments are often in situations where what we describe as “the world” has gotten smaller. Maybe it’s an alien invasion, or a zombie apocalypse – something has made it so that everyone who is left has banded together. For instance, you see this in the recent adaptationย Dredd, where all the survivors live in a single, walled city. That might be all the government that’s left, but does it count?

Or else, you see a World Government when Earth is only one of many planets that have been colonized (and/or in connection with alien governments), in which case, it’s back to the beginning – instead of nations, planets. Mass Effect might seem great politically… or it might seem like a mess where nobody listens to the humans. It tends towards the latter… And it showed us the Protheans, an Ancient Alien Race who ruled the whole galaxy by empire-building. That’s one way to have a single government… just maybe not the best!

This post is part of the April A to Z Challenge, and also part of our occasional series on Science Fiction Today. You can read an explanation of both here. We are striving to keep these posts short, and know that we have not covered every example or angle – plenty of room for discussion!

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24 responses to “Science Fiction Today – United Nations

  1. Couple disconnected thoughts.

    First references I think of are how countries react to aliens. In a lot of stories, an alien ship shows up over one country, and that affects international politics. It also seems common to have multiple ships appear over multiple cities, possibly to alleviate the “It’s always over New York” or “always Washington DC” American-centrism. It’s still odd to see a non-urban-US setting for that, though, possibly just because of how movies etc. work here… District 9 was a big deal because the ship appeared over Johannesburg, and they even mention how odd that is in the movie. Blomkamp is now a big enough director that he can keep setting movies in Johannesburg. (This is a Chappie reference. ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

    Alternatively, if an alien appearance is seen as a mass event, particularly a mass threat, it can be unifying. See Watchmen, or possibly the Doctor Who episode “Kill the Moon.”

    In my own political science classes, we’ve talked a lot about returning control to smaller sections, like Scotland wanting independence. (There’s a term for this and I can’t remember it.) However, polls in Scotland indicated that yes, they’d like to be independent, but only if they could stay in the EU. So… smaller units, but more cooperation, maybe? Sounds like a good thing?

    In my own sci-fi project there are a lot of one-world governments, because most of the worlds were colonized by single groups that are now in the process of expanding over the whole worlds. They usually have governmental subdivisions more like counties, and each planet is more like a state under the main human government. (I do try to experiment with this on each planet and not have it be homogenous, but that’s a work in progress.)

    Liked by 4 people

    • You definitely have me thinking of Independence Day with this, and I do wonder what sort of world they built after that. Which is also similar to what it looks like after World War 3 in the Star Trek universe (seen in First Contact) – so much is destroyed, and alien contact might finally unite us. Also because there are fewer people to govern, and regional and cultural differences finally seem to mean less…

      Actually including other countries is both realistic, and has shown to lead to pretty good movie success. It worked for Independence Day, and more recently for movies like Pacific Rim, Distric 9, or Lucy. This is also nice because breaking down some of these international issues via media is probably a really good thing, and showing people around the world united. Might do better work than the UN on that front…

      Okay, so let’s bring this around to Age of Ultron. The Avengers was huge, but in the end was New York-centric. But it was also a big, potentially unifying alien attack. It looks like Age of Ultron will be more international in its threat and scope. It’ll be interesting to see what its box office looks like. It is, after all, the sequel of a massively money-making movie…

      Also: deciding to HTML-edit a comment is hard work!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Yup, thinking Independence Day all along.

        Star Trek is an example of everything going right, I think. Just happening to meet Vulcans first, instead of say, Klingons. I don’t remember if it’s canon or not, but I recall it being said the Vulcans didn’t agree to work with just one country out of however many.

        Seeing Age of Ultron a week from Saturday!

        Liked by 4 people

        • Same for Ultron ๐Ÿ˜€ Need to buy tickets…

          So your Star Trek example is reminding me of Mass Effect, which I did reference in the post… In Mass Effect, humanity encounters the war-like Turians first, and have what is called the “First Contact War.” Eventually it ends with people still alive and they end up kinda friendly and all part of the same galactic civilization. However, there’s also a lot of burned bridges there… Very much like a First Contact with Klingons might turn out!

          I like your point about the Vulcans wanting to work with everyone, not just one country. In the words of the political theorist who got me reading Leviathan and such, if it’s not true, it should be.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Interesting! And I think the Vulcans would be advanced enough to KNOW if one country was trying to monopolize them or something, and they would know the ramifications of a choice like that. So as you say… If it’s not true, it should be. Doesn’t make much sense otherwise.

            Liked by 2 people

    • The word you looking for is maybe autonomy.

      In my own PS classes, we talked a lot about how globalization leads to greater interdependence between units, but also to fragmentation as political units do things like want to be indpendent from great Britain but retain their EU membership.

      What they are looking for there is not so much sovereignty as autonomy. I’ll definitely be back on this thread later. Little kid birthday madness just started happening ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 3 people

  2. My thoughts immediately went to “U.N. Spacy,” the space military force of the united Earth government in the old ROBOTECH / Macross series.

    In the Japanese version, the arrival of the alien spacecraft set off a decade-long global war as the people of Earth fought over it.

    In the American version, the spacecraft ENDED the war as the nations of the world united to study it and prepare to defend against an otherworldly invasion.

    (It’s the exact same series of shots in the opening of the first episode, it’s just the voiceover that’s changed)

    I wonder what that says about the political and cultural climates of the US and Japan in the mid 1980s.

    Liked by 3 people

    • That is a fascinating difference, stemming from the exact same expected event! Similarly in The Lathe of Heaven, or Watchmen, it’s the alien arrival that leads to peace, so that matches as the American response. The Japanese response kind of reminds me of the game XCOM: Enemy Unknown (and especially the sequel Enemy Within), with the unity formed breaking down into forces disagreeing or working against you. Of course, XCOM is also kind of like SHIELD…

      Great example ๐Ÿ˜€

      EDIT: missed hitting reply, so I moved this up from a stand-alone comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. A unified world would of course be best, but I keep thinking to players like America, who demand other countries do X, Y, Z, and then in the same breath go “But, not us. We’re special.” See Kyoto Protocol. As long as there are groups that seek to gain an advantage by partnering with others, this sort of system will not be able to unify the world. Also, there’s the issue of consequence for not following treaties. What happens when a country breaks treaty? The world is in too much of a precarious balance, especially when it’s neighbor vs. neighbor, that others are hesitant to get involved, even when they should be unified.

    Basically, people are too complex. ๐Ÿ˜›

    Liked by 2 people

    • Good answer! And yeah, the Kyoto Protocol is one of those famous examples of this all just plain not working. There’s also that hard discussion countries/the UN has about getting involved in wholly “internal” matters, where the answer seems to be… Sometimes.

      People are definitely pretty complex and making this all work would be tough. This leads to my X post… Soon!

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Short answer: No world government is possible in anything like a fathomable amount of time.

    Longer version: Some technological or environmental apocalypse is much more likely, in my opinion. Space colonization along the old “Great Game” model, with Earth as a no-conflict zone and disputes between states settled by wars in space and criminals transported to off-world colonies is more likely than a global government.

    I do not think of the UN as a governing body. It is a weak, but, more-effective-than-it-gets-credit-for peace system. It is dependent on member states for its peacekeeping forces and its budget. It had 191 members last time I checked, and five of those get a veto over everything the UN does.

    It will run its course eventually. My International Organization professor told me that if you can get 100 years out of a peace system you should consider it a success.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_peace_system

    Liked by 3 people

    • Will have to check out that link in a bit! As the robots might say, I’ll be back.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Question for when you come back. International Relations is kind of my thing. I wanted some IR blogging to be in the mix from the beginning, but found it was hard to sell and did not have the blogging skill at that time to sell the IR posts. I might be able to, now. Both Hannah and ThereforeIGeek have an interest in this stuff. Should I be thinking about adding it to the content scheme? And at which blog, of all the blogs we have the ability to place it on, would it play best?

        Liked by 3 people

        • I don’t know. You have me thinking back to Thomas P.M. Barnett, and The Pentagon’s New Map. For the Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Pentagon%27s_New_Map

          For the whole friggin’ presentation (warning: about 90 mins):

          Also, since you mentioned it, linkdrop for the Therefore I Geek / @hannahgivens post: http://thereforeigeek.com/2014/11/17/editorial-does-geek-culture-hold-the-answers-to-national-security/

          Anyway, as to where to blog stuff like this? Some of the ways to write it, in the hypothetical and speculative, would fit here on CG as Science Fiction Today sorts of posts. Certainly the sort of questions that had me coming up with Science Fiction Today in the first place. By blog title and theme, Things Matter seems like a good place. Then again, it’s also a “dash of mischief” for Sourcerer, right?

          Maybe it needs a home on a whole new blog… ๐Ÿ˜‰

          Liked by 2 people

          • Hmmm . . . #ampondering.

            (You have a Facebook notification from me because I tagged you on one of @parttimemonster‘s personal timeline threads in which we are discussing Neil Gaiman.)

            I’ll be back as soon as I find the bottom of my Buffer queue. #AmRobotArmying.

            Liked by 3 people

          • TM can support a certain amount of historisociopolitics, and is currently well below that amount, as I’ve posted very little of it since graduation. So, if you’ve got stuff you wanna run, I’ve got room. Numbers would be low-ish, but it would get attention from a certain desirable element. ๐Ÿ˜‰ TM’s audience has been, for most of its existence, story-nerds who care about real-world issues.

            Liked by 3 people

  5. A recent example of sci-fi world government for me was Pacific Rim, where humanity bands together against a common threat. But even then, our human failings get in the way, where the leaders settle on what is easy to understand (and less expensive) rather than what is effective.

    Liked by 1 person

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