The Menagerie, the Cage

I just happened across the Star Trek episode “The Menagerie” the other day. That’s the one where they recycled the original Star Trek pilot into a scenario where Spock actually mutinies in order to get his former captain, Christopher Pike, to Talos after Pike became what today we call a “shut-in,” totally paralyzed and unable to communicate beyond “yes” or “no.”

It doesn’t matter whether you’re watching “The Menagerie” or the original “The Cage” when the Talosians, after keeping him caged along with other specimens (hence the episode names) and keep him occupied by feeding him full-sensory illusions based on his memories while they’re busy sorting through the Enterprise’s “primitive” database, discover that humanity “has a unique hatred of captivity. Even when it is pleasant, you prefer death.”

Of course, it does matter which one you’re watching if you believe the line or not, because in “The Cage,” Pike leaves the Talosians gilded cage for unfettered reality. But in “The Menagerie,” Pike, already fettered by a broken body, willfully returns to the fantastically-gilded cage.

I used to think we all wanted “The Cage” ending, but in recent decades, more and more of us seem to be living “The Menagerie” ending. We move from cage to cage, from schools ready to “lock down” if someone waltzes past with something that looks like a gun, to cars ready to lock doors against us and yank government-mandated seatbelts tight if the car’s ghost-in-the-machine convinces it that its occupants are in danger of bouncing out of the interior, to businesses and buildings that don’t care if someone chokes to death two feet off their property for want of a pocketknife to perform a field tracheotomy so long as nobody has a knife on their property. I even count Obamacare among the cages, because as many people have discovered, once they’re on a Government-exchange plan, they can’t easily get off of it if they find a cheaper plan elsewhere. And they can only get off if they can prove they’re on another plan. Sounds like a cage to me.

And when your whole life is spent moving from one cage to another, then one cage is the same as another so why bother moving about at all? If the only freedom that can be found is vicariously in watching pixels jumping about on a screen or chemically separating your mind from reality, well, why do you think kids are glued to their iPads, and marijuana growth consumes 1% of America’s electricity? I know if I could stay in my room and watch anime all day (with occasional breaks to paint, write, or otherwise express myself), I wouldn’t bother to go out into the oppression of the modern world. I’m not an acrophobe; it’s not wildlife, or wild weather, or even getting lost that scares me; it’s getting pounced on by the liberal nanny-staters for daring to have a life instead of dutifully kowtowing to their every whim chanting, “Save me! Protect me! Think for me!”


This obviously isn’t the country Patrick Henry fought to create. No, this is the country where cages of all kinds are 100% acceptable so long as the driving force behind it is laws and regulations passed by selling legislators on the statistical likelihood of lengthening citizens’ subjects’ life spans, and therefore their tax-generation (even a brain-dead vegetable needs taxable food and care).

There’s an old Chinese proverb that says, “A horse tethered too long learns to fear the freedom of the open range.” Unfortunately, we have too many tethered horses in this country and too few freedom-children of Patrick Henry.

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