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Old July 26 2008, 06:06 AM   #42
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Re: Greater Than The Sum Review *** POTENTIAL SPOILERS ***

bennyrex wrote: View Post
I *love* the new security officer. Very awesome. I'll be quite sad if she dies in Destiny, as I'd love to see her approach to security explored more. So far, the major 'wow' moment of the book has been Worf's conversation with her after he's seen her fight from a tactical station for the first time.
Cool, thanks. Yeah, I really liked doing that scene.

I also really appreciated this scene, because just the other day, the island I work at hosted a 'Festival of India' day, and, in the midst of eating some absolutely fantastic vegetarian food, I got a chance to talk to a woman selling copies of the Bhagavad Gita. I tried to understand her faith, and learn about her spirituality, but it seemed very... static and self-centred. I left feeling a bit disappointed. What attracts me to my particular mode of Christianity is it's altruistic nature, and the importance of self-sacrifice for the good of the world. What this woman was telling me about reminded me too much of the health and wealth gospel, and the concept that one should do good for personal rewards, rather than for the sake of increasing goodness in the world.
She had a pretty odd understanding of the Bhagavad Gita, then. The goal is to act without attachment, without desire for reward or personal gratification.

Choudhoury's faith is one I find much easier to engage and explore than the bookseller's, even though I do still find parts of it difficult to... not understand, but... I guess, I take issue with the idea that according to the story Choudhoury tells, action must be violent, when it seems to me like someone who has such a holistic concept of 'security' would also realize that action can be non-violent.
Choudhury wasn't saying that all action is violent, she was merely discussing an act of violence in the context of what the Gita said about action. What Krishna said was a broader principle pertaining to all actions, to anything that has an effect on the world, and it guided Choudhury (and Arjuna in the Gita) in their approach to the specific action of combat.

Although, it's that very argument that I always refuse to kowtow too when people challenge my pacifism with 'Well, the Nazi's had to be fought. Hitler had to be stopped through violence' when I believe that isn't necessarily true, looking at a number of examples of succesful non-violent actions against the Nazi's in Europe. I believe that if people were to bring the same level of sacrifice and discipline to peacemaking and non-violent resistance that has always been brought to bear in war and violent solutions, that we would see that peace by peaceful means isn't just an idealistic pipe dream.
I like the idea, but I'm not sure how practical it would be. Even Gandhi, the great man of peace, declined to suggest that his methods of nonviolence would be effective against Hitler. They were effective against the British because the British thought they were the good guys, the civilised ones helping save a violent, savage people from themselves. Gandhi showed them that the Indians were not violent savages and that, in fact, the British were themselves inflicting violence on people who'd done nothing to deserve it; and that shamed the British into ending their occupation. But those tactics would not have worked on Hitler, who actually did want to inflict violence and destruction. Gandhi would not fight the Nazis, but he never condemned anyone else for choosing to do so.

Although who knows? If he'd applied himself to the problem, maybe he could've found a way to do it -- say, to bring the truth to enough of the German people that the Nazis wouldn't have been able to get enough support. It would've been difficult, though, given how effective Hitler was at winning mass support. (It's always struck me as remarkable that these two mirror images, Gandhi and Hitler, lived at the same time -- both extraordinarily charismatic figures able to rally mass movements, but to totally opposite ends.)

Of course, the challenge of nonviolence becomes even greater when faced with something beyond reason like the Borg, but that didn't keep Jasminder from confronting the question and seeking solutions. And the exploration of these questions will continue into Destiny.

Maybe I'm saying this too early, having not finished the book, but my one disappointment so far is that it seems violence is being shown as the way to beat the Borg, even by a character like Choudhoury, when one of the reasons I was really looking forward to reading a book with Borg in it by Christopher Bennett was because I wanted to see how Bennett would craft a creative, non-violent solution to the dilemma of the book, as he so often does.
Well... no comment, yet.

As can be seen by this post, this book has already made me do a lot of thinking and soul-searching, which is the important part of what I was expecting and hoping for from a Bennett book.
Wow. That's a really great thing to hear.

I'm also intrigued by the portrayal of Worf, and his discription of Klingon honour. It almost reminds me a bit of more Anabaptist or Christological views of the Old Testament. That all the violence of the Old Testament was merely God controlling and making less 'bad' the violence that was swirling out of control at the time. Like, the statement 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth' was not God's ideal, but God compromising, so that punishment would not be hugely out of proportion to the crime.
Hmm. I've never come across that idea before.

But similar to the way Anabaptists explaining away Old Testament violence makes me uneasy at the way it doesn't seem to let the text speak for itself as a product of it's time and culture (even if letting that text speak for itself also makes me uncomfortable at it's bloodthirstiness and, in my eyes, evilness) so too does Christopher's explanation of Klingon honour. I like it. A lot. Very much. Like Chaudhoury's faith, I can have a lot more respect for this sort of Klingon honour then what I've come to see it as through the show... but it doesn't really ring true to me with previous portrayals of Klingons, or even Worf. I can't back this up, though. And I'd like to be wrong, and see that Christopher's way of looking at Klingons be very valid and in line with what we've seen before. I'd be very curious to see what KRAD thought when he first read Worf's statements on honour and Kahless wanting to limit and control war.
First off, I agree about acknowledging a text as a product of its time and culture. As for Worf, I'm aware it's a bit revisionist, but I'm not really saying that it's the way most Klingons we've seen onscreen interpret things. After all, the original teachings of most spiritual leaders get endlessly reinterpreted by later generations. As for Worf himself, I figure his four years as a diplomat have led him to become more introspective and scholarly. He's probably spent a fair amount of time in conversation with the Kahless clone, I would imagine.

I could say that it just seems logical to me that a belief system predicated on glorifying cruelty and destruction could never be a viable basis for a civilization -- that in order to be effective and enduring, it would have to be able to manage and regulate the extremes of behavior and minimize the losses suffered by society and individuals. A culture made up solely of berserk killers could never survive as a culture. So I could say that I was trying to move beyond the caricature of the Klingon warrior and get more into how the Klingons could be a functioning civilization within the bounds of what's been depicted. I could also say that I was looking for a way to create common ground between Worf and Choudhury. And all of that would be true.

But the most fundamental reason, I have to admit, is that I can't really wrap my mind around the mentality of anyone who'd glorify killing, and I couldn't sympathize with Worf if his mentality were simply that. I had to find some way to approach Klingon beliefs in a way that could make some semblance of sense to me.
Written Worlds -- Christopher L. Bennett's blog and webpage
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