Come, All Ye Cyborgs

by Gyasi Byng November 11, 2015

I first encountered cyborgs on Star Trek: The Next Generation. For some reason my parents could never figure out, I gravitated toward science fiction at a young age. I traveled through the galaxy with Captain Jean Luc Picard, encountering new species and civilizations. With each episode, I fell more in love with Worf and Geordi, and my friendship with Data grew stronger. The struggles the Enterprise crew faced became mine as well. I loved whom they loved and hated whom they hated.

The Borg, from the first time they appeared on the show, were my mortal enemies and the source of my nightmares.  

Their first appearance on the show scared me, as nothing seemed to deter them from their goals.

The Borg assimilate by merging organic bodies with inorganic mechanical implants. They take subjective consciousness and supplant it with a telepathic hive mind. Klingons, Romulans, Humans, and Vulcans have all become Borg through the assimilation process. Species that were vicious enemies worked together as Borg. They could not continue to fight one another once they became part of the collective mind and lost their individuality.

The individual Borg does not use the word “I” ever. It does not exist for them. They neither fight nor bicker, and they do not undermine or dominate one another. Their telepathic link allows them to share all available information and experiences. Consequently, when two or more Borg gather, they are unstoppable. On the other hand, they are perfectly harmonious, always.

To be human is to be an individual, to have a will and a distinct personality. When I first saw the Borg, my child’s mind assumed that losing one’s individuality would be the worst fate to ever befall a person. Why would I want to follow a will that was so vastly dissimilar from my own? What good could become of me if I could no longer distinguish between another and myself?

Captain Picard called the Borg the closest thing to “pure evil,” a sentiment that future Star Fleet captains would echo. Yet, when I returned to Star Trek as an adult, I couldn’t help but see aspects of my relationship with Christ and other Christians reflected back at me through the Borg.

I can still see the nightmarish cyborg, but this time, I’m less inclined to fear it. Without realizing it, I have become the cyborg.

The Bible says Christ’s followers, the Church, are one body composed of many parts each with it’s own separate function. The hands do not work the same way that the eyes do; yet each serves and pursues Christ. Though each member of the Church is an individual with her own distinct qualities and traits, most Christians find that they must “die” to themselves, be assimilated, in order to be of any use to God and the world around them. Their own individual will cannot take precedence over God’s.

Dominating other parts of the body, continuing to see the individual that exists within the body, the collective, will only breed disunity, disharmony, and division. The body cannot work if it is at war with itself.

I am a Christian, a PhD student, a teacher, a Democrat, and a black woman. More often than I would like, the people that I associate with as a result of these labels conflict with other aspects of my identity. Christians I worship with in church have implied that my political leanings invalidate my faith in God. Students and colleagues have expressed negative views about ignorant Christians and pig-headed religious people. During my sophomore year of college, a white friend told me she couldn’t wait for President Obama to be assassinated.

With the Borg, each individual Borg has its own task that it works to accomplish. Each of these duties fit with the collective will and benefits the entire group. The Borg, though evil, though lacking individuality, are perfectly unified. They work for the collective’s well being and will sacrifice themselves for it if necessary. There are no Klingons, Romulans, Humans, or Vulcans within the collective. They are Borg. Similarly, there are no Jews, Gentiles, Democrats, Republicans, men, or women within Christ.

Perhaps what scared me most about cyborgs, the Borg, was that blurred distinction between others and the self. What happens when we lose the ability to use the word “I”? What if that pronoun did not exist for us, and we could not comprehend a world with one voice? What if our entire existence was composed of the vast and endless experience of others?

Throughout my life, I have struggled to love God with each part of my identity. I have tried to love God as a black woman. I have tried to serve him as a PhD student. I have fought to be a Christ following Democrat. More often than I would like, the people that I associate with as a result of these labels conflict with other aspects of my identity. As much as I try, I cannot be like them. I cannot conform to their image of the perfect black PhD student-Democrat-Christian.

The Borg were evil because they offered no choice. Without mercy, their voice proclaimed that “resistance is futile.”

But what would happen if I chose assimilation?

What would occur if I blurred the distinction between God and myself? Would harmony with God and others be the result?

Perhaps assimilation, not in the way that Star Trek defines it, is the thing to do if I am to be of any use to God. My will must be rent for the good that is larger than the collective sum of my identity.


Gyasi Byng
Gyasi Byng

Author

Gyasi S. Byng lives in Rochester, New York. She is PhD student at the University of Rochester where she teaches a writing course on robotics and human identity. She received her MA from Florida Atlantic University and her BA from Palm Beach Atlantic University. Her recent publications include “I Have Never Been Strong” in Open Minds Quarterly, “In the Waiting Line” in Apogee: Reclaiming the Margins, and “Beige Girl Problems” in Rivet: The Journal of Writing That Risks.



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