October 22, 2009

The Enemy Within

Ethics With Anxiety

My blog on "The Enemy Within" will not focus on the obvious presentation of a "split personality," "alter ego," Id-Ego-Super-Ego, or a notion of a Manichean human subjectivity. The end of such a discussion would inevitably lead to event of "reintegration"--good needs evil and vice versa. . . fairly boring.

Instead, I would like to focus on the questions of ethics; that is, I would like to spend my time in this blog examining the ways in which the ethical appears or, better said, the ways in which a "metaphysics" of ethics is constituted.

After a transporter failure, which divides things into its opposing halves, an "evil" Kirk arrives on the Enterprise afraid, agitated, suspicious, curious, and unable to control his impulses. When these initial emotions leave him, he comes to "enjoy" or "find pleasure" in his inability to feel "anxiety" or hesitation--he pursues his "pleasure" without anxious reflection. This "evil," drunken Kirk lacks self-control and any sense of measure, which is why he seeks out poor Yeoman Rand after downing some Saurian brandy. In this scenario, "evil" is constitued as violent, sexual and with a lack of self-control or self-reflection, but with a twist. For his (the "evil" Kirk's) unchecked impulses, he maintains one quality--decisiveness. He "decides" to "confront" and assault Yeoman Rand and "actualize" his erotoc desire--"We've both been pretending too long."

The "good" Kirk, however, appears muted, weak, and indecisive. He equivocates and has trouble formulating his thoughts--he's chronically tired and looking to avoid his duties. Even when he learns of the transporter mishap and the existance of his "evil" double, he hesitates and stammers to a decision to form search parties. While this may appear as "weakness," I will argue it is an exercise in ethical thinking. The "pausing" judgment of "good" Kirk allows him to consider the consequences of force, a force leading to death of the evil double and possibily himself. So, fatigue, pause, indecision conflicts with energy (sexual/physical), action, and will. In the balance there is ethical judgment.

When "good" Kirk finally confronts "evil" Kirk in the engineering room, his halting, pausing self becomes acutely reflective. He tries to "reason" with the "evil" Kirk--"I'm part of you." He even refuses to draw his phaser while the "evil" Kirk keeps him at bay with his. "You can't kill me," he says. His conclusion is wrong and, if it were not for Spock's "neck pinch," the "evil" Kirk WOULD have killed the "good" Kirk.

In the following scene in sick bay, Spock observes that "good" Kirk has lost his ability to make a "decision." This suggests that "decision" belongs to the "side" of aggression, violence, action, and energy. The enervated "good" Kirk flounders and it is Spock who gives the lecture on human nature, a nature he knows all too well. Tenderness, compassion and violence, and lust--the Manichean divide. However, while "decision" may reside on the margin of evil. It is ethics that resides on the margin of good. The 'evil" Kirk lacks, according to Spock, the essential human attribute of "ethical reflection." When this is separated out, the "human" ceases to exist. "Evil" Kirk is an animal, "a thoughtless brutal animal," while "good" Kirk is the human par excellence--even if he can not make a decision.

After Dr. McCoy's follow-on lecture about human nature and the essential qualities of being human--reason, logic, intellect, courage--"good" Kirk makes his way to the transporter room where a potential fix is in the works. The decision is to send the "animal," in this case a divided dog like creature, back through the transporter. While Scotty and Spock subdued the crazed canine, "good" Kirk says "don't hurt him."

The significance of placing ethics on the side of "good" Kirk suggests that the resistance to "decision" opens a new space for ethical thinking. The example that I'm referring to here comes from Avital Ronell's segment from _The Examined Life_ in which she states a la Derrida and, to some extent Heidegger, the person who feels that he or she has "acquitted" himself well ethically is unethical. That is to say, the one who reaches a "decision, " without a sense of anxiety, is "evil" (my term not Ronell's). The lesson from this episode, if we are taking lessons, is that "decisions" or "decisiveness" should be bracketed and held in suspension; afterall, it is the "evil" within us that halts thinking and reflection, cutting it short by unreflective action.

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