When it comes to social issues I often look to Star Trek for parallels worth studying. Growing up, Star Trek has been such an important influence in my life and there are some very important lessons to be learned from it.
One such lesson is relevant to this day and age because it really hits home. If anyone is vested in the plight of the homeless, I encourage you to watch a Star Trek Deep Space Nine episode called “Past Tense.” It’s a two parter and you’ll find it in season three.
In this time travel episode, Sisko and Bashir travel back to the year 2024. That’s five years from now and it’s about a hypothetical situation where the US has rounded up all the homeless and put them in what is essentially a concentration camp. By this year, there are hundreds of thousands of Human beings living in these ‘Sanctuary Districts’ which exist in almost every major city.
The idea of these districts is that if you don’t have ID or any form of verification, then you will be forced to live in these walled off sections of a city where you won’t be permitted to leave. Inside, there are guards with AK-47s and helicopters constantly monitoring the place and it’s pretty much an anarchy among the population of these places. The people inside are left to fend for themselves.
In the episode, this leads to riots and massacres and it forces the country to deal with a group of people that they have forgotten about. One particular quote is where Dr. Bashir says, “causing people to suffer because you hate them is terrible, but causing them to suffer because you’ve forgotten how to care is really hard to wrap my mind around.”
It’s a haunting episode because, being from California where housing prices are on the rise but wages are not, and tent cities have cropped up all over the place, it really struck home. Especially because my husband and I got very close to being in this exact situation. We were forced out of San Francisco because we could no longer afford it there and if we hadn’t had family to count on, we would be on the streets. And it’s sad because San Francisco was once known for culture, but that culture can no longer afford to live there so this housing crises has all but exterminated the spirit of the city.
It’s something that, as we near the 2020’s, we will have to be concerned about. It’s not like homelessness hasn’t always been an issue all over the world and since ancient times, but its the fact that we now have the means to do something about it. We have the ability, we have the technology, we as a human species can solve this problem if we got organized. I’m not suggesting that there are easy solutions, I know this is a complex problem that has plagued us for a very long time. All I am saying is that if we don’t make the effort, if we don’t do something, this may be the outcome.
It’s disconcerting that a show from the 90s predicted something about the 2020s that if we aren’t careful could very easily come true.