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L.I. Underhill is a media critic and historian specializing in pop culture, with a focus on science fiction (especially Star Trek) and video games. Their projects include a critical history of Star Trek told through the narrative of a war in time, a “heretical” history of The Legend of Zelda series and a literary postmodern reading of Jim Davis' Garfield.


  1. Kevin Carson
    January 31, 2014 @ 10:54 am

    Perhaps the proper way to frame the origins of the West in this narrative is that, when Kukulkan was seeding the Riverine civilizations of the Old World, "the West" as we know it didn't even exist. The West was an offshoot of Mesopotamia and Egypt, by way of the Phoenician influence on archaic Greece. And until the rise of a distinctive Western European civilization in the Middle Ages, most of Europe was a sort of Third World periphery of Mediterranean civilization. So in a sense, the West is a sort of grandchild of Kukulkan's intervention.


  2. BerserkRL
    February 2, 2014 @ 8:48 am

    My enthusiasm belies the fact that this one is obviously really good

    Obligatory vocab nazi remark: "belies" means "gives the lie to."

    but the decision was made to change it to the feathered serpent because Mayan culture would be more colourful to depict and, well, more recognisable to a Western audience

    Having spent part of my childhood in Arizona, where thunderbird iconography was everywhere, I have a hard time believing that Kukulcan is better known.

    Westernism is … an ultimately nihilistic, dead-end worldview. Which is, to be fair, a perfectly fair and accurate statement.

    How can you possibly justify such an incredibly reductionist (and frankly offensive) statement?

    I feel assuming there's a monolithic, objective “Truth” that is only revealed to us a little at a time presumes a Greco-European and pop Christian view of things

    The Nyaya-Vaisheshika and Purva-Mimamsa philosophers of ancient India, and the Confucian and Mohist philosophers of ancient China, would be surprised to learn that they needed the Greeks and the Christians in order to grasp the basic idea that assertion presupposes objectivity.


  3. Kevin Carson
    February 2, 2014 @ 12:36 pm

    Oh, no. It looks like Roderick has decimated your argument.


  4. Josh Marsfelder
    February 2, 2014 @ 5:36 pm

    Well for one thing I don't think I'm completely off-base in positing the Platonic conception of reality as central to Westernism, even if other belief systems have roughly similar concepts of the transcendental. Secondly, I'll remind everyone that I'm not really a fan of divides like Objectivity/Subjectivity or Facts/Values in general, preferring instead a conception of situated knowledge-spaces.

    My problem with Westernism is that it leads to modernity, and modernity gives us a particular technoscientific, Scientistic test-oriented state-capitalist (or corporatist, pick your preferred term) hegemony that has been the direct cause of a lot of very bad things throughout history. Indigenous cultures simply do not end up "modern" in this sense, unless there's a lot of cultural diffusion. That doesn't mean they don't have their own problems, they just don't have that specific one.

    Even beyond that though, Westernism and lower-case-s spirituality don't seem to be easy bedmates for a lot of people. I recently read an ethnography of a specific strand of magickal reconstructionism in Ireland: This culture draws equally on traditional Celtic folk beliefs about faeires and the Otherworld and a Christianity-influenced conception of the transcendent divine. They believe that there is no elemental Earth Magick left in North America because Westernism's embrace of the technoscientific and the rational has choked the faeires out. This kind of belief that Westernism and traditional, indigenous situated knowledge are fundamentally incompatible and that Westernism is toxic to the spirit world is not an uncommon one on both sides of the divide.

    This is not to say that there isn't a kind of Western occult tradition (there of course is, just look at Hermetic Alchemy and Gnostic Heresy, though both of those have problems too IMO and neither is a tradition I'm 100% familiar with) or that it's not possible to pick the best aspects of Westernism and indigenous knowledge spaces to make something entirely new and better than both: I very much think that it is and would like to see that happen someday (I mentioned as much when I wrote about "The Jihad") but I don't have the answer to make that happen yet, if I ever will.


  5. BerserkRL
    February 7, 2014 @ 5:35 pm

    Western culture includes some really good stuff and some really bad stuff. Just like every other culture. Ditto for Platonism. Ditto for modernity. Treating Westernism as uniquely toxic seems to me just as much a simplistic distortion as treating it as uniquely great.


  6. Josh Marsfelder
    February 9, 2014 @ 4:45 pm

    Well certainly. And I even make this argument myself at several points (off the top of my head, IRT "The Jihad" and Year Four, Issue 2. But the negative effect it's had on world society isn't to be dismissed either, nor is they way people in other cultures view it.


  7. Daru
    February 11, 2014 @ 12:03 am

    Certainly it seems that Kukulkan is presenting a wake-up call to Western society as presented through the Federation.


  8. Josh Marsfelder
    February 11, 2014 @ 12:13 am

    I like this reading. Says what I was trying to say a lot more clearly and concisely.


  9. Froborr
    October 11, 2014 @ 5:44 pm

    It's also the solitary Emmy Award win of the entire Star Trek franchise.

    Not remotely true. It's the only win for a "best episode" or "best series" Emmy, but the franchise has won dozens of other Emmies and been nominated for hundreds. (And as with most awards, it's the nominations that really count–being nominated means you're good enough to win, winning means you have someone with political savvy and connections pushing for you to win.)


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