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Old February 13 2014, 07:08 PM   #41
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Re: Fridge horror for The Apple

Brutal Strudel wrote: View Post
Christopher, in response to your earlier post: I fully concede that, if Vaal was constructed by an external force to enslave the population of this world, the PD would be null and void. But that strikes me as being a bigger leap into assumptions than the idea that it was a solution (to what problem I do not know nor do I really need to--nor does Kirk) arrived at by the ancestors of the inhabitants.
I don't agree, since there's not a shred of evidence to suggest that the inhabitants' ancestors had any such capability. Conversely, the Trek galaxy is littered with advanced aliens who go around playing god on various primitive planets, including Earth. I think I've always assumed that Vaal was imposed by aliens -- although maybe that's because the climax is so similar to that of "Who Mourns for Adonais?" right down to the same music.

And I still say that even if it was the people's own ancient ancestors, that doesn't make much difference. That's still essentially an alien culture relative to the villagers -- an extremely remote civilization, one with entirely different technology and values, one that made a choice that the villagers themselves had no say in and no ability to understand. I think it's a double standard to say that a society has a greater right to impose oppression on its distant descendants thousands of years in the future than it does to impose it on aliens from another world. Either way, the people in question are being deprived of any right to choose their fate.

However, the rest of your argument--that development should not have an end-point and that an alien race, in its superior wisdom (those aliens, in this case, being human) should be able to come in and change things--is precisely the kind of thinking the PD seems designed to prevent (well, not the thinking so much as the acting on that thought).
Please don't twist my words. I deeply resent that characterization of my point, because it's a profound misreading. I'm absolutely not saying that we should assume our wisdom is superior. I'm saying that it's never right to follow any law mindlessly, to use it as an excuse to avoid thinking or making a choice. No, we are not superior by default to another race, but that doesn't mean there can't ever be a situation where offering help could be useful. The Prime Directive is meant to keep Starfleet officers responsible and careful in their decisions, to ensure that they remember the priority of the local culture's understanding of their own civilization, values, and needs. It's not meant as a way to avoid responsibility altogether by just rigidly following a literalistic interpretation of the rules. Every situation is unique and needs to be assessed on its own merits -- with the Prime Directive as a vital consideration, of course, but with the understanding that there may occasionally be times when it, like any wisely applied rule, must be bent or interpreted.

It still boils down to saying essentially "As a Starfleet officer, your prime directive is to refrain from interfering with the internal affairs of other cultures--unless you really, really, really don't like what they are doing."
No. I reject the glib assumption that it's impossible for an intelligent, careful, responsible individual to make a choice that is based on an appreciation of other people's needs above one's own prejudices. It is certainly possible to look beyond blind egotism, to apply one's imagination to put oneself in someone else's shoes and understand the validity of a decision that goes against one's personal beliefs. The Prime Directive is a way to ensure that Starfleet personnel do just that -- look beyond their own perspective to consider that of others. But it is not impossible that that approach to decision-making would occasionally lead to the recognition that a people need help making their own choices. Of course there's a risk involved in such a choice, but refusing to make the choice at all can be damaging as well.

Captain Kirk's speech from DTI: Forgotten History:
ďAnd thatís why Starfleet sends men and women out there instead of machines. Because doing the right thing isnít about blind, robotic obedience to a programmed set of rules. Itís about making choices. Choices informed by laws and regulations but tempered by wisdom and compassion, adapted to the unique right and wrong of every situation.
ďAre those choices always right, always free from bias or impulse? No. Weíre fallible beings. We make mistakes. Thatís why we need a Prime Directive in the first placeóto warn us against getting too sure of our own rightness, to stop us before we make well-intentioned mistakes that can devastate a culture we donít fully understand. The Prime Directive isnít about protecting other cultures from their weaknesses, but from ours. But they can make mistakes too. They arenít always right about whatís best for them any more than we are. So we need the latitude to make choices of our own. Itís a latitude that needs to be used sparingly and with careful thought. Believe me, Iíve seen what can happen when itís abused.
ďBut our laws were made by beings just as imperfect as we are, and they have their limits. We canít trust in them blindly, any more than we can trust blindly in ourselves. We need our laws and our individual judgments to balance each other, so that, hopefully, they can cancel out the worst of each otherís imperfections.Ē
Written Worlds -- Christopher L. Bennett's blog and webpage
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