“The result of your ways. Your people were terrorised by your own government. Your people were conquering other worlds and making inhabitants miserable. You brought the Dominion to the Alpha Quadrant which almost destroyed us all, including you. Do you really believe your way is better?”
“I didn’t say it was better. And I didn’t say it was perfect. But we are Cardassians. We don’t give power to anonymous men who came from nowhere. We know our duty to our empire. We made mistakes and I hope we have learnt from them. We don’t claim we are the best and everyone must be like us. Can you say the same?”
“But our model works.”
“Good for you! We have our own model...err...no, right now we don’t have anything. We are in ruins.”
“Because of the previous model.”
“No, because of the people who abused it. Can you say that there were no such people in your history?” I couldn’t. “Why do you insist we should adopt your democratic elections?” he asked.
“We want to help you?”
“And is that a condition for this help? To become like you?”
“Because we believe that it’s the best for people. That it would make you happy.”
“And what if we don’t want to be happy your way?”
“I always thought there is just one way to be happy.”
He smiled. “What makes you happy?”
“Tell me. What makes you happy? When are you happy?”
I thought for a while. “My family makes me happy...for the most part. Exploring the galaxy and exploring myself. Exploring Cardassia makes me happy.” He smiled slightly. “My work and satisfaction from my work makes me happy. Listening to my favourite music makes me happy. A good meal after hard work day makes me happy.” Spending time with you makes me happy
. “What about you?”
“My brother and my mother make me happy. My service to the Union makes me happy. A won war against the Union’s enemies makes me happy.” He paused. “For us, Cardassians, two things are sacred. The family and the State. Our duty is to protect both.”
“And what if your State takes your freedom from you? What if they dictate you everything? What if you have to sacrifice everything for the State?”
“For a Cardassian, a sacrifice is the highest and most important notion. Our lives are led by a sacrifice. There is nothing more important than the Union. We are the Union, so serving the Union, we serve ourselves.”
“Even at the cost of your freedom?”
“I read about duties of a Cardassian and I must say that it scared me. Your lives are ruled by hundreds of regulations, by duty, by service. You have no freedom. You are controlled to a point you stop thinking, because you don’t have to.”
He leaned back and sat comfortably. “I could never understand that about you, the Federation, Kapoor. You speak of freedom, but don’t you have some laws, governing what you can and cannot do? Don’t those laws limit you? Then your freedom is an illusion. We don’t live in an illusion. If following regulations secures safety of my family and my empire, then I call it a small price to pay. I don’t need ‘freedom’. I need order. I need to know my place in the society. I need to know my role in the Union, my duty. If the illusion of freedom shall bring my empire to destruction, if it would make it unsecured—I would fail as a Cardassian. We sacrifice a bit of us for the greater good, because this is our duty to other Cardassians and to the future generations.”
“Your empire had been brought to the destruction,” I said.
“By a man who ignored his duty and thought he had freedom to do as he pleased.”
“So how do you explain Bajor or the Maquis massacres?”
He opened his mouth but didn’t say anything at first. “Those things were results of people who served the Union at the cost of others. Believe me, I hate what had been happening on Bajor for personal reasons. And the Maquis...they were killing Cardassians. They were massacring
Cardassians. How do you call it? If a Maquis kills a Cardassian, the Cardassian deserved it, but if a Cardassian kills a Maquis, it’s a murder? They were attacking our people. My duty is to protect civilians. That’s why I wear this armour. That’s why I am a soldier. To assure their safety.”
“The Maquis were civilians too.”
“Armed to teeth by the Federation government.”
“That’s not true!”
“Did you know that Gul Jarol had been tortured by the Maquis?” I froze. I didn’t know. “That other candidate I had mentioned, Gul Daset. So was he.”
“How do you know that?”
“I know because they hadn’t return to the ship on time. I know because two men of the small group that had beamed to talk to the Maquis hadn’t returned at all. Those two men had been tortured to death.”
He said it calmly but I saw fire in his eyes. I couldn’t believe it was the truth but he certainly believed it.
He didn’t say anything more, just kept sipping his juice, which surely was cold by now.
“So what’s going to happen to Cardassia? You don’t like to adopt the Federation style democracy. What do you want?”
“Return to roots? Eliminating corruption and evil guls, cleaning the system and making sure this time it doesn’t get twisted.”
“How can you do it?”
“We can’t. Not with the Federation making demands and putting their noses into our internal affairs. Don’t get me wrong, Kapoor, I have nothing against the Federation or you, but I’d prefer if you left us alone and stop interfering. Some people believe that you do it because you want to help. I think you do it because you want to widen your political influence and have a puppet government on Cardassia. This Ghemor is supported by the Federation. For the Cardassians it doesn’t matter who the Federation supports. It’s none of the Feds’ business.
“We had been a puppet for someone and we are tired of it—not mentioning how badly it had ended for us. If Ghemor goes as far as Dukat, he’s going to be declared a traitor too. And rightly so.”
“If you’d be more happy with Gul Daset winning, why didn’t you vote?”
“I wouldn’t be more happy. I would be less unhappy. And I wouldn’t give my vote of support to someone whom I don’t support. Simple.” He paused again. “Actually, I am against this kind of voting. It’s chaotic and unfair. It’s wrong.”
“I think you’re going to discover that it’s not as bad as you think. You’ll see I’m right.”
He gave me an attentive look. “So you think we should adopt you model.”
He nodded slowly, thinking. “So you think that millions of Cardassians are wrong and you, one, are right?”
“You had watched the news broadcast. Did they say how many people participated in the election?”
“Do the math. That means that eighty percent didn’t take part in it. What were their reasons? Take a guess.”
I looked at him. His face had a pleasant expression, his eyes gazed at me with curiosity and suddenly I didn’t think about politics any more.
“Kotra?” I asked.
“Sure!” He put his mug away and rose to bring the board.