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Old August 5 2011, 07:52 PM   #34
Rush Limborg
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Re: The Federation Must Die.

Sci wrote: View Post
It's probably fair to say that I'm oversimplifying things a bit, even if the gist of my argument is not wrong.

Rush Limborg wrote: View Post
While I agree with the essence of Sci's post here (yes, I know--shocking...)
It happens every now and then.

--that no society is perfect, and that what the Federation has done right makes it frankly infinitely preferable to the stated alternatives...

Still, there's certainly a challenge to be made here:

I'm not frankly convinced that this is the case, that the Federation trully has shed bigotry or prejudice. We've seen it in many forms in the Federation and Starfleet--not just in "rogue" villains, but even in our heroes.

We've seen hostility towards Spock because he looks like a Romulan; we've seen Solok taunt Sisko--and are informed as to his mindset that Vulcans are inherently superior to humans.
Fair enough. But I don't think that either bit of speciesism there is indicative of the attitudes of the majority of Federates. There's only one person who distrusts Spock for looking Romulan; he's defended by numerous other Humans. Solok may think Vulcans are superior to Humans, but his crew seems to have no problem socializing in a friendly manner (well, as friendly as one gets as a Vulcan) with the DS9 crew after the baseball game, and make no effort to defend him when he behaves like a fool afterwards.

...I agree, but I think it's more complicated than that. After all, for all that Sisko has some prejudice towards the Ferengi, Quark himself was over simplifying things -- he claims that Ferengi have no slavery, but I do not think that it's reasonable to call the oppression of Ferengi women, nor the exploitation of lower-class Ferengi workers, anything other than slavery by another name.

And for all that Sisko has some prejudices against the Ferengi (at least as of Season Two of DS9), that doesn't stop him from sponsoring the application to Starfleet Academy of the very first Ferengi in Starfleet.

Even if there are occasional instances of personal speciesism, it seems pretty clear that the Federation's institutions do not engage in institutional speciesism. There's no reason to think that a Ferengi immigrant to Earth would be mistreated by officials, or that you'd have any trouble catching a cab in New York City if you're green, or that you'd be paid a lesser, unfair wage for being a Andorian chan.
Perhaps not. However, my concern is that, frankly--one would think that such speciesism would be actively discouraged in a society valuing diversity.

This is what I mean by "deep denial". The Federation assumes that, since speciesism is not "institutional", it therefore is not a problem within the Federation.

I believe Nog himself noted in "Homefront" that it was very difficult for him to find acceptance among the other cadets--due to his being a Ferengi.

And we see in Sisko's insistence that it is not dumb a counter-weight to Jake's attitudes. And we see in Kirk's professed faith in a monotheistic God in "Who Mourns for Adonis?" what sounds like Christianity.
Interestingly enough--Kirk's line said "We find the one quite adequate." While I admit it was a relief, considering Roddenberry's...misgivings...still, to this day, I'm not entirely sure exactly what he was trying to say to Apollo.

We see Christianity confirmed in Kassidy Yates noting that her mother would prefer to see her daughter married by a minister. It's never been confirmed beyond any doubt, but I'd bet you dollars for doughnuts that McCoy's a Protestant.
Well...while books aren't canon--and the Crucible trilogy is out of synch with the normal TrekLit continuity--still, in the McCoy Crucible book, he notes to the girl he comes to marry (in the alternate timeline where he saves Edith Keeler), "Don't you know I don't believe in a heaven?"

Still, your point about some instances of Christianty being seen/mentioned is fair enough.

And while it's been a while since I've seen those old DS9 episodes, the sense I got from Keiko, Jadzia, and Bashir was not so much a condescension towards religion as towards the idea that the Wormhole Aliens should be identified with the Bajoran Prophets. They're probably of the mindset that a clearly-identifiable alien lifeform should not be identified as any given religion's god or gods -- their reaction to the Wormhole Aliens being identified as the Prophets would probably be identical to a hypothetical scenario in which a Christian identifies Q with the God of Abraham. And in particular, with Keiko, I seem to remember that it was not so much that she objected to belief in the Prophets as to objects to censor her teaching of the scientific theories about how the Bajoran Wormhole functioned -- theories that were in no way incompatible with the idea of the Prophets' divinity.
Fair enough. But what of Picard's remarks in "Who Watches The Watchers?"

Meanwhile, there is no evidence whatsoever that the Federation has any form of religious domination or discrimination. There's no evidence that it forces Atheist Federates to support having "In God We Trust" on Federation Credits, or that there are Federation Days of Prayer. There's no evidence that Federation Councillors hold hearings of the Federation Security Council on the threat of Prophetic law against the Federation Constitution from Bajoran immigrants. There's no reason to think that there's widespread social pressure to belong to any religious organization, no reason to think that anyone's religious beliefs are used to justify denying equal access to civil marriage, no reason to think people are beaten up for professing their belief in God or for being Christian, no indication that there's any inhibition whatsoever on freedom of, or from, religion.
Institutionally, no. But again--though the law does not discriminate, the mindset still exists. Again, the Federation assumes that since there is not institutional bigotry that there is no bigotry, period.

I think it pays more than lip service. I think diversity has honestly replaced homogeneity as a virtue in the Federation value system. Now, that doesn't mean the Federation or its individual citizens always live up to it. But when you look at the sheer amount of cultural diversity inherent to the Federation from its very inception -- Humans vs. Vulcans vs. Andorians vs. Tellarites -- I don't think it's reasonable to say that diversity has not always been a Federation virtue and a Federation trait.
Again, if the Federation truly valued diversity, would it not make a constant effort to educate its populace on the values and importance of such?

Again, my concern is simply that the Federation as a society prefers to tell itself that everything is fine--because it doesn't want to have to do the hard work required for such education.

In the end, the problems of a society come from the culture. Institutional problems are merely a symptom--not the disease.

No. Imperialism is when you're out to dominate others, usually through violent conquest.

What the Federation is guilty of is a certain level of cultural imperialism. It honestly believes that its egalitarian, liberal democratic system is superior to any other system, and wants to persuade others to join it.
Yes...which was my point about imperialism. Apologies for not putting "cultural" in front of the term....

But that is the key difference: The Federation wants to persuade other cultures to join it. It does not want to coerce them. And if another culture says no, the Federation will accept that.
And I'm not against that. I'm simply pointing out the contradiction in putting "diversity" on such a high pedestal--and then saying that one's own way is superior.

In other words...for all the talk about promotion of "diversity", it is decidedly intolerant about value systems that disagree with its own.
Well, yes and no.

You'll notice I did not list "tolerance" among the Federation's virtues. That's intentional. Frankly, I view the idea that "tolerance" is a virtue as being at best a misnomer. It's a meaningless statement. Everyone is tolerant of something. Saying that you're tolerant doesn't mean a damn thing.

It is meaningful to say that of which one is tolerant. So, you'll notice that I listed numerous areas of difference in which the Federation is largely tolerant; it's tolerant of differences in cultural identification, it's tolerant in differences of sexuality (it would have to be, since Andorians marry in groups of four), it's tolerant in differences of species. It allows its member worlds to include ritual fights to the death -- consensual homicide! It is tolerant of differences of religion -- there is no evidence whatsoever that the Federation sought to inhibit or suppress the influence of the Bajoran Church as a prerequisite for Federation Membership. Etc.

But, no, by the same token, it's not tolerant of everything. It's fair to say, for instance, that the Federation is intolerant of the way Ferengi society oppressed Ferengi women. Federation society is based in part on the idea that men and women (and other sexes, presumably) are equal, and as such, they have no particular obligation to be tolerant of that kind of sexism.
Hence, my often noting that Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations is highly illogical, highly self-defeating, and altogether impossible to impliment. It's frankly astonishing that the Vulcans, of all people, would promote such a concept.

In some areas, I tend to agree that that intolerance goes too far. We see Federates being quite dismissive of Klingon pain rituals in Season Two of TNG, for instance, utterly dismissing the idea that personal struggle and sacrifice, symbolically engaged in, can yield personal insight or wisdom. But, by the same token, this is a function of the strong Federation value that people should not be tortured -- something that should, I would argue, not be tolerated.

And for all that the Federation and its citizenry can sometimes be dismissive of or condescending to aspects of foreign cultures with which they disagree -- there's no evidence the Federation ever tried to coerce those cultures into changing. So far as I know, the Federation never issued a trade embargo against the Ferengi Alliance for its treatment of women, for instance.
Here's my problem: where do you cross the line from mere intolerance into bigotry? Somehow, I doubt the Federation has ever really bothered to try and answer that question.

But, all those questions aside--the point is...the Federation is, as Ezri Dax would put it, "A society that is in deep denial about itself."
I really don't think the Federation is in deep denial about itself. If anything, I think the Federation and its citizenry have exhibited a continual capacity for self-reflection on their flaws, both individual and institutional, that is quite envious. We see Federation citizens engaging in self-reflection about the virtue of Federation values, the Federation's ability to live up to those values, and their own individual capacity to live up to those values, all the time. Sisko goes from being called on his prejudices against Ferengi to sponsoring Nog for a position as a Starfleet officer. Kirk goes from saying the UFP should let the Klingons die to being willing to sacrifice his life, career, and ship to preserve the peace treaty and defend the Klingon Chancellor. Picard goes from unthinking vengeance against the Borg to being willing to sacrifice himself and his ship to make sure that his crew and the timeline are saved. Etc.

The Federation, like all societies, is very flawed. But the Federation is also very adaptable and self-reflective.
To that, Sci, I would point to your separation of institutional bigotry from individual bigotry. Namely--we see individuals engaging in self-reflection--showing the guts to admit when they're wrong. But I don't really see much evidence of the institutions themselves taking a hard look at the problems of the society.

Indeed, Sisko himself discussed the willing blindless in "The Maquis, Part I". He notes to Kira that Starfleet Command in general, and Admiral Nechayev in particular, are so used to the idea of paradise, they possess a naive kind of "sainthood", assuming that all living in "paraside" are therefore saints. But as Sisko himself concludes...the only reason everyone looks like saints is that "It's easy to be a saint in paradise."

And meanwhile -- whatever its flaws, the idea that they're so great that the Federation deserves to die is just absurd.
Again--I do not in any way endore that notion. I do think those flaws run deeper than most would care to admit--but such flaws warrant reform, not destruction.
"The saying implies but does not name the effective agency of its supposed utopia.... 'Needs and abilities' are, of course, subjective. So the operative statement may be reduced to 'the State shall take, the State shall give'."
--David Mamet

Last edited by Rush Limborg; August 5 2011 at 08:42 PM.
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