I really liked the transition from Berat having fun to Berat finding a “traitor”; I loved how disturbingly smooth
it was. It really showcases what’s gone wrong with modern Cardassia how someone like Berat can be...usurped...like that. It’s sad how easily, swiftly and fluidly even the mindset of someone like Berat can turn from appreciation of the self – like here, his own individual sense of fun, which he’s initially engaged with - into the depersonalized order of the state. The excessive, unquestioning duty, separate from any individual concern or sense of personal
duty, comes so naturally– if you’ll forgive the term, because I actually see it (as I suppose you do) as a corruption of the natural, or of something natural turned into something twisted. The writing was really effective in this part. There’s no break, no jarring shift, except intellectually. It’s as if Berat
(the actual individual) has had a shock at this discovery, but the “good Cardassian citizen”- the universal underlying identity- hasn’t, and so it easily slips in to thoughtlessly take over. Until, of course, he looks into Rebek’s eyes and his individual empathy kicks back, and breaks that pattern of thinking, that directive that’s taken control. Now he’s back to confronting himself and Rebek as individuals again. That whole aspect of your piece here really worked – the initial shift away from the self was so insidious in its entry, the writing makes no attempt to “note it” or draw attention to what’s happening. It just happens. Until Berat pulls back. It’s like Berat has in him some dark and twisted mirror to something like Oralius, only instead of transcending his isolated self to connect to creation meaningfully, this has pulled him away from himself into a...I don’t know, a quagmire of everything that’s not life or meaningful existence, that’s not appreciation. It’s like an inversion of Oralius, pulling him into itself in a way that suffocates him, rather than extending him by letting him move through it. Thinking on your title again, I guess it’s two types of “immersion”- one healthy, the other not.
I really did feel the sense that Berat was trapped - and whether it was a trap of his own making or of the position the Union had put him in is difficult to say. It was blurred (and you always do this sort of thing well - the balance between the self-responsibility and the communal spirit). But it was definitely a sense of being outmanoeuvred by something. When Berat does start to feel personal distaste at casually destroying another life (which he’d do if he reported Rebek, of course, even if indirectly), the “sacrifice” angle kicks in to justify that pain and try to turn it back to blind obedient duty. I really liked how that played out. It’s like he’s been anticipated at every turn. The state’s philosophy is near inescapable, because it’s already seeped in, and now moves two steps ahead. It’s like the internal version of a Founder changeling - it matches so well I can’t be sure (maybe Berat himself can’t), where the real thing begins and the infiltrator ends. Oh, we can tell that the raw empathy and respect for life is Berat – that’s certainly not the depersonalized “state” - but the mass of conflicting duties that it has to work in, that’s difficult to define as either him
or his conditioning. Which is which? And that’s another aspect of this I liked; I couldn’t tell if I was reading it as an entirely internal piece - Berat dealing with his own conflicting impulses only - or instead as Berat versus something else, versus some externalized force (I suppose “modern Cardassian state ideology”). Which I’m assuming is in part the point. The de-individualizing of the ideologies controlling the union are so dangerous because they don’t simply deny the individual, they usurp the individual (which is sort of what I meant earlier by a dark or twisted Oralius-like concept. Where the individual ends and the collective spirit that touches all begins – only here it’s not a divine or a spirit but an ideological poison). Where does Berat begin and the Union ends?
And that of course leads into that other theme – of a sense of duty, of how it plays out and the different meanings of duty. Another thing along that angle that I liked (as others like Gul Rej’al
have said), was the fact that Rebek evidently sees the Way and the Guard as equally legitimate parts of herself, and integrates them effectively. She’s able to find the good in both, not see them as fundamentally in conflict. That’s a very, very Trek thing to do - and as always, I really appreciate seeing your angle on the Trek universe, through the instrument of a culture very different from the Federation’s, yet touching on the same ideas- integration, tolerance, self-respect, making things work in harmony and refusing to accept that just because in many ways they’re different it has to somehow mean they are apart. And finally I loved the underlying theme in this about understanding
(a concept I’m as concerned with- interested in- as I think you are). I personally believe that to be understood is the most important thing. Love, hate, humour, friendship, exasperation- they all come later, or come second (no matter how important they are). So I really appreciated that.