Arthur Meiselman

C(Q)ue the Borgias

Cue La famiglia Borgia. You probably know more about this heart-of- the-Renaissance family through Puzo, Coppola and, if you were fortunate enough to experience it, the delicious series created by Neil Jordan. It rivals HBO's magnificent Rome in production values and writing. And in similar fashion, The Borgias was cancelled by Showtime after a few seasons because they were antsy to spend the huge budget elsewhere.

Jordan, a devout student of history, did not affirm historical accuracy for his production. It's not a documentary, he said. What he did accomplish was a lush 25-hour portrayal of the harvest from 1500-years Christian usurption of the glory and putrefaction of the Roman Empire. The Borgia Pope of Rome was a founding father in the transition to the modern Vatican.

Cue George Santayana and others who aphoristically proclaimed that to ignore history is to be doomed to repeat it. True? Perhaps, with a caveat that the human species is a collective of behavior, habitual, ritual, repetitive behavior—not doomed to repeat its history, rather self-programmed to recycle itself… and its history.

Nothing new under the sun? Nothing!

All that has changed is the level of transparency, the spreading discovery of what’s already there, what has always been there. Today, seven billion humans are experiencing (at least on this planet) the result of exponential evolution—a “black hole” of technology that sucks in all impressions and expressions and spews out a nearly unfathomable ether of information and disinformation. It overwhelms the dike of the 24-hour day and floods into an archival sea at the abbey of Saint Leibowitz known as… Google.

The media is in this mix, and the mix is in the media.

Forget about television, it’s no longer a medium unto itself, as it once was when it was totally present, totally live.

Journalism seeks to be seen and heard rather than read. However, the vaunted BBC can no longer seem to find people who can write to speak and newsreaders who can speak for listening.

Ink print journalism has given way to digital print journalism and the inundation has caused them both to suffer. The majestic New York Times regularly publishes quickly-edited ramshackle articles and columns written with elbows instead of fingers. The Washington Post is deteriorating into a product-placement digest where intelligent copy-editing is reserved for the obituary section. The London Times—never mind, that’s a Murdoch paper! Even the sometimes heroic Harper’s Magazine, increasingly allows awkward, quick-cliché writing in its essays where once it wouldn’t.

And poetry, the beloved poesy. In the everything and anything that is called a "poem" today, where is the music, where is the metre? Long gone... a string of words that is just that, a string of words.

Cue the Q. One of the best, long-lasting series on television was Star Trek: The Next Generation. It was created by a visionary, Gene Roddenberry, with high production values, an excellent ensemble cast, and occasionally some great writing. One of its best characters was “Q”, delightfully performed by John de Lancie, so well-crafted that he seemed to be an actor “created” to create the role (think Holodeck).

Q is an omnipotent “being”, part of the Q-Continuum, which , in its omnipotence, is not a godhead or a divine being. It interferes in galactic events but it is not a source of redemption. It is a mystery, it is Q.

The individual Q in Star Trek harasses and challenges humanity, particularly the crew of the Starship Enterprise, the focus setting for the series. He is mischievous, sometimes malevolent, often breathtaking, always unpredictable and awe-inspiring. He is unrelentingly attracted to the human species. It is a “character-fault” he cannot overcome. He cannot resist humanity’s will and spirit to evolve and survive.

There is a parallel here, a vision of the human species and its recycling history. If humans can outrun the impending implosion of this plant, if the species can spread out into the galaxy and beyond, the Q will be waiting for them. Because, the destiny of the human species is to become… Q.  

It also reminds me of George Nolfi via Philip K. Dick and the answer by an angel-like creature to the question—
What about free will?
Answered the other-wordly agent:

    We actually tried Free Will before. After taking you from hunting and gathering to the height of the Roman Empire we stepped back to see how you'd do on your own. You gave us the Dark Ages for five centuries... until finally we decided we should come back in. ...thought maybe we just needed to do a better job of teaching you how to ride a bike before taking the training wheels off again. So we gave you the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, the Scientific Revolution. For six hundred years we taught you to control your impulses with reason, then in 1910 we stepped back. Within fifty years, you'd brought us World War I, the Depression, Fascism, the Holocaust and capped it off by bringing the entire planet to the brink of destruction in the Cuban Missile Crisis. At that point a decision was taken to step back in again before you did something that even we couldn't fix. You don't have free will... You have the appearance of free will.

Spoken like a true Q and a Borgia.

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Arthur Meiselman is a playwright, writer and the Editor of Scene4. He also directs the Talos Ensemble and
produces for Aemagefilms.
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May 2016

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