I hope this won't seem too much of a non sequitur
, but in considering how an "ideal" Cardassian society might work I find myself thinking of elephants (largely because I've been reading about them). Elephants are very hierarchal - both in the mainstream herds consisting of females and offspring, and in the looser male groupings that form outside of these. Elephants are also generally peaceful; bullying isn't tolerated in the herd, and elephant calves are used to a highly supportive environment, apparently making them rather psychologically vulnerable when they aren't getting one. I was reading recently about bonding in adult male elephants, which has historically been less understood (since following the dynamics of the permanent female herd is a lot easier, of course) but is now thought to be a lot more complex than used to be believed. While males in musth
buck the rules and challenge older elephants for status (and usually succeed, since no-one wants to stand in the way of a guy in musth
), relationships between males in a community are usually smooth and amicable, because everyone knows their place in terms of the hierarchy, knows where they stand in relation to everyone else. Relationships among members of both sexes are supportive and generally healthy. Young males seek out elder males for support just as females follow their matriarch.
I think Cardassians could be considered akin to elephants; perhaps they too naturally have (or seek) an instinctive understanding of where they stand in relation to everyone else, and their society is stable (and supportive/nurturing of children) because of that inherent respect for hierarchy. Cardassians are quasi-gerontocratic, competitive and seeking dominance, but respectful of elders and community-orientated... perhaps when Jellico compared them to wolves, he should have compared them to elephants (particularly male elephants)?
As for what went wrong to transform this obedient, functional hierarchal society into the Union we know and mourn, where those instincts are twisted into a dysfunctional, oppressive nightmare, I suppose the pressures of planetary environmental chaos would have a highly negative effect on such a structured society. I'm reminded of what happens when adolescent male elephants leave the female herds and there aren't any elder bulls around to "mentor" them (having all been culled, for example); the young bulls become unusually aggressive, their musth
cycle is abnormal, they're known to rampage around killing rhinoceros or humans for no real reason...but they calm down when older bulls are introduced and they perceive themselves as part of a healthy, supportive hierarchy again. With the collapse of the spiritual Cardassian society of old, and the loss of faith in the old ways, the gods, the leaders and their philosophies - and the rapid rise of a militant philosophy to replace it - are we seeing a form of civilization-wide trauma that Cardassians are particularly vulnerable to?