Cardassian society - enforcement or preference?

Discussion in 'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine' started by Dal Rassak, Feb 26, 2013.

  1. Dal Rassak

    Dal Rassak Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    I always tended to think of it as being "their" kind of society, that's to say that, unlike in totalitarian societies on earth, the majority of the population isn't behind it because of state propaganda or brainwashing, but because they like it that way.

    That's not to say the dissident movement isn't genuine, only to suggest that they're perhaps atypical for their race - like a Ferengi who isn't interested in profit. I prefer to think of Cardassians as a people who, unfathomably to humans, live in a dictatorial system out of choice, that they're comfortable with it; and they truly do prefer general order, however it's ensured, over personal freedoms. It makes things more intriguing.

    For much the same reason I never liked Rom becoming Nagus either. I loved the whole Ferengi female liberation theme and Moogie was a hoot!, but she was in actual fact being thoroughly Ferengi - she wanted a slice of the cake.
    I liked the idea of there being some planet where the pursuit of profit really is the highest moral good. There should be incompatible value systems!

    Of course all the different races are there to reflect on aspects of us, but on the level of the story in and of itself, a mere mirror isn't all they should be. You can make a point about the repression of totalitarian governments, or the evils of exaggerated greed, by contrasting these with Federation/human culture, without having all the "good and true" Cardassians/Ferengi secretly aspiring to be just like us.
     
  2. Pavonis

    Pavonis Commodore Commodore

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    You may be on to something. The highest form of Cardassian literature is the repetitive epic, and The Never Ending Sacrifice is about seven generations of Cardassians serving the state. It might be propaganda, though, but if it is it's apparently well received propaganda....

    On the other hand, this was Garak's opinion, and Garak was previously near the top of Cardassian government and therefore society. His views might not reflect the population's.
     
  3. Gul Re'jal

    Gul Re'jal Commodore Commodore

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    I always assumed Cardassian values were different and their needs were different. In my own fanfic, Cardassians think democracy is BS, idiotic and chaos. And totally unfair. They don't want it on their soil. They believe in a "strong hand" rule and clear hierarchy. And what I write in my stories reflects what I think their were in the show. I could be wrong, but well... "Cardassians don't make mistakes", so I'm not ;)
     
  4. indolover

    indolover Fleet Captain

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    I think ever since the military took over, Cardassians en masse have stressed and embraced also fascist tendencies. It seems most Cardassians expend all efforts for the "glory of Cardassia". Maybe they really had a shitty time as a spiritual people, so decided to abandon that altogether. Similar to how humans on Earth changed from how we are in real life to the Roddenberry vision lol..
     
  5. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I tend to think that while Cardassians are very conservative and want order in society, they do NOT want to be oppressed. They want "sentient rights" just as much as any of us. I think they would define said rights in a very conservative manner, and would retain such things as the acceptance of capital punishment (and not just for murder--I still think there are several other crimes they would keep it for), but I do not see how any group of people can desire to live in constant fear.

    Their ideal government would look different to ours (I show an alternate universe where in a way Hebitia survived, that is still half-theocracy, and I have plans for a postwar Cardassia that is somewhat democratic but structured differently from ours), but I do not think they have some innate need to be beaten into submission, to live in fear of being dragged out of their homes in the middle of the night, or to have individual innovation punished instead of at least considered.
     
  6. indolover

    indolover Fleet Captain

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    It depends on the scope/definition of rights in Cardassian society.

    I doubt they have freedom of expression, but there is most likely some basic property rights, freedom of movement, etc. Even the Third Reich in the real world had basic property rights (Hitler didn't outlawing owning cars or houses per se).
     
  7. Dal Rassak

    Dal Rassak Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    As to Nerys Ghemor's point, yes I do believe a lot of people on Cardassia would want a little more freedom of expression, and certainly there's a problem with the Secret Service. I would conceive of a Cardassian patriot wanting certain things changed without wanting to change the system overall.

    Surely people would have severe objections to the Order being able to frame citizens innocent of wrongdoing just for convenience, but it seems there is some enmity between the military government and the Order for those reasons - so this wouldn't invalidate the notion that people might prefer a military-style strict government while also wishing for the indiscriminate powers of the Secret Service to be curtailed, as it seems to be serving itself more than the citizens it is meant to protect.
     
  8. lvsxy808

    lvsxy808 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I can see how the comfort and control of a fascistic society might be what Cardassians think they want. But I would propose that that could be largely because it's just what they've had for so long that it has become the norm to them, what generations have grown up in and never really considered that there might be other options. It's comfortable to them simply because it's what they're used to. Kind of a mass Stockholm Syndrome situation.

    Indeed, in a recent novel focusing on the Tzenkethi, a culture for whom democracy really is anathema as "the monster under the bed"...

    ...a Cardassian deep cover agent on Tzenketh actually ends up defecting to the enemy because she likes the feeling of being in a strictly regimented, controlled society where she doesn't have to make decisions for herself.
     
  9. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Yeah, with what many sources believe to be 500 years of military dictatorship, I have to agree with the possibility of a sort of Stockholm Syndrome causing them to fail to even consider other possibilities.

    And I think there are other possibilities that can be designed without having to do a direct copy-paste of Earth governments, or on the other hand leave them oppressed.
     
  10. Mr. Laser Beam

    Mr. Laser Beam Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    I am having a hard time conceiving that anyone could actually want a dictatorship. I've always viewed democracy as an absolute right, something that everyone wants - even if they don't yet know they want it.

    On Cardassia, for example, I agree that the most likely reason they seem to prefer a dictatorship is that they've had it for so long, they don't know of any other option.
     
  11. JirinPanthosa

    JirinPanthosa Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    There might be something in Cardassians that makes them more receptive to authority and duty to other races, but I think it's more they've been taught to prefer a dictatorship than they naturally prefer it. And a lot of their complicity is more about fear of punishment than actually wanting to be compliant.

    If you asked a citizen of the New World Colonies in 1750, they'd say, yeah, democracy is ridiculous, let's all be loyal subjects of the King!

    If you asked an American citizen in 1810, democracy rules, screw the King.
     
  12. Gul Re'jal

    Gul Re'jal Commodore Commodore

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    I'm not sure it is as simple as "prefer dictatorship and terror of the Obsidian Order". I think they wanted order and clarity. Hated the Order but didn't necessarily hate Central Command. And giving up "ephemeral freedoms" could be a small price to pay for structure, order and hierarchy military rule enters into their society. The Cardassians are not humans, so assuming they think exactly like humans is a bit off. They could have a bit different needs of how they belong to their society and what kind of society they consider safe and comforting.
     
  13. Deranged Nasat

    Deranged Nasat Vice Admiral Admiral

    The degree of comfort that people (considered as both individuals and collectives), exhibit with a given way of life is a tricky thing to examine in moral terms; even more so when we're dealing with alien species whose minds might work differently from ours, and whose psychological requirements might be distinct. First we have to take into account that education, tradition, and propaganda (didactic conditioning both "good" and "bad") will play their roles - very large roles - in shaping what a person and a culture considers normal, natural, defensible and moral. Community pressure, whether subtle and unacknowledged or knowingly reinforced, will be just as influential as natural instinct. Indeed, people will very often reinforce attitudes and behaviours in others for their own personal benefit without even realizing consciously that they're doing it. They can be selfish and exploitative, but without malice and without consciously intending to be exploitative at all; they might even be genuinely loving. This is difficult to deal with, as I'm sure others would agree. And then there's the eternal question - assuming we take note of what instinct rather than culture is telling us, which natural instincts should we heed and which should be overcome or repressed? Civilization depends upon rejection of instinct...but it cannot assume that instinct is inherently bad, and must also be in some accordance with human (or Cardassian) instinct in order to feel "right".

    Individual personality; natural urges; cultural and traditional teachings - how much can we trust in a given person's acceptance of their cultural or social norms when all these things are shaping them, and might be misleading them? Can we point to someone saying "Oh, it's alright with me" and use it to excuse or justify something that we think is unethical or harmful? To what degree can we trust what a given person says about how comfortable they are in their current lifestyle? Very difficult questions. After all, despite the image of "oppressed" people longing for liberation (most often used to justify third-party aggression or government manipulation, to be honest), in reality most people accept the norms of their culture however objectively harmful and restrictive those norms might be. Going against the group just isn't the way most humans work, and a great many will just accept what's normal without complaint, or at least without the urge or motive to cause trouble about it. Getting a group you think has the short end of the stick to accept it and challenge it can be just as difficult, if not sometimes more so, than changing the minds of groups or people you think of as having a better deal.

    On top of that, even if we assumed that humans (all humans) had a "correct" system that best fulfils their psychological needs and is most comfortable and beneficial to them (itself a problematic assertion in many ways) we must wonder if such a system can be projected onto another species. While I'm sure we'd all agree that the Cardassian Union has gone very wrong somewhere, and is detrimental to the Cardassian people in many ways, where we'd disagree perhaps is on whether their system has its merits and has just been corrupted, or is inherently unworkable and crippling to their development. To what degree do you "work within the system" to change things, and to what degree do you assert that the system is inherently unworkable and must be thrown out entirely? And having made that decision, how do you justify the pain and harm that either approach will inflict on others? Because there will be victims and exploited either way.

    Perhaps we have to ask ourselves whether Cardassia is misguided or just plain wrong. To give grossly oversimplified examples: Does strong patriotism lead inevitably to nationalism? Does a culture of military service lead inevitably to militarism, deindividualization and aggression? Does a strong centralized government inevitably mean tyranny?

    Without going into details, I can think of several underlying assumptions about the way human societies near-universally work that I consider unethical and, in the long-term, potentially disastrous for the instabilities they bring to our people. My perspective finds others' acceptance of those attitudes ("others" meaning both those I think suffer due to these norms and those who suffer less, for such distinctions as "wrongdoer/exploiter" and "victim" are so often largely meaningless when you get down to the really hard issues) - infuriating and even upsetting. I often think, It doesn't make it alright because you've been raised to think it's alright, and because those who convinced you of such were themselves fully convinced that it was. But what can we do? All of us have to deal with these questions - which is why the OP is to be congratulated for raising the issue, if I may say so. :)

    Another point is that change is often distressing; instincts tell us (and presumably also tell Cardassians and any other sapient races) that the familiar is preferable to the uncertain. It can often be hard to break out of ideological patterns even when they're actually maladaptive, or have become so; especially when there's pressure to conform. In the case of Cardassians, I think we have to remember that they've had a long, hard struggle against their natural environment. We don't know the details - what exactly they faced, what was mismanaged or taken advantage of, what was true desperation or necessity and what was incorrect assumption - but we know that Cardassians are a people who have long believed (been taught/assumed/known/take your pick) that in order to survive they must be harsh, strict, disciplined, self-sacrificing and dismissive of the individual if they want to secure the safety of the group (which they seem to value more). After 500 years of this, convincing them to change would inevitably be difficult. Natural instinct and centuries of tradition underlie a lifetime of education and conditioning, and all teach Cardassians (perhaps) that "this is how we simply must be".

    And yet we know that there are Cardassians aplenty who, one way or another, question and challenge the way their people approach things, or seek to adapt further rather than stagnate. As with any society, it's akin to an ocean. From afar it looks conformist and calm; get closer and there are all sorts of choppy waves and currents. We are all adolescents, torn between the need to be with our parents and accept their ways, and to strike out independently for something more in keeping with who we wish to be.
     
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2013
  14. Dal Rassak

    Dal Rassak Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    I certainly wouldn't want to live in the Cardassian Union!
    But to me that's the whole point. I'm human, they're not. Obviously there are still more similarities than differences between the two races, but I like it when the differences are stressed. (Same as with the Ferengi, which is why I love the scene at the end of the series where Quark makes his little impassioned speech in the bar in defence of "traditional Ferengi values").

    I find it makes those people more believable as being truly "other" in some respects, and that in turn makes them more interesting - otherwise they're nothing but humans in disguise. I mean, even among my own species there are ways of living and of organising a society that I find totally incomprehensible; how much more so therefore must that be the case with another race altogether?

    (Human society in the 24th century appears rather uniform, basically Federation culture seems to be an embodiment of today's Western European/American ideals - a generic statement that ours is the best possible culture...?)

    I think of Cardassian ideals and society as being shaped fifty-fifty both by outside circumstance AND inherent inclination. There were those great hardships which are often hinted at, which made expediency in all things a guiding principle of necessity, and which required strength, aggression and endurance in order to survive.

    I also tend to think that Cardassians as a species may well be more aggressive and more suspicious by nature than, say, humans (even their courtship overtures are based on aggression, and if you're not behaving instinctively in that situation, when are you?), and may be more group-orientated and so have a naturally lesser regard for the preservation of an individual life.
    I'm therefore working on the assumption that the adverse circumstances they experienced in their history served to underline and exaggerate certain natural tendencies which were species-specific. Their state ideology then built on this, encouraging the people to cultivate and exalt those qualities to the virtual exclusion of all others. That's my basic take.
     
  15. indolover

    indolover Fleet Captain

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    You're presuming that Cardassians would think, value and behave like humans. They would be a different species after all. Whilst democracy is the "best" system available, I don't really see an inherent good in it or something that is absolute (nothing is in life I feel).

    It amuses me when real life sentiments are assigned to fictional alien species, when their evolution and hence psychology is totally different.
     
  16. indolover

    indolover Fleet Captain

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    This. We even see amongst individuals different behaviour based on different neurology. If this can occur between persons, then this must be vastly different amongst species.

    It's like Worf saying that Klingons possess an instinct to see if somebody wants to kill them. To us in the real world this seems odd, but to Klingons it's the norm. I think in the case of Klingons, their warrior culture builds on their naturally aggressive nature.
     
  17. JirinPanthosa

    JirinPanthosa Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Strong patriotism does not inherently need to nationalism, but executing people without a real trial inherently leads to the murder of innocent people.

    Can we really make any definite statements about nature versus nurture within a culture that has been under a totalitarian regime for centuries? If Germany was a little more successful in World War II would we all think Aryans were just that awesome? How would North Koreans respond if you asked them about democracy?

    Maybe the Cardassians are inherently more submissive to authority, more arrogant and conspiratorial. Maybe they're that way because they were raised under a dictatorship, who really knows? But even in the show the average Cardassian civiliian exhibits more fear of their government than respect for it.
     
  18. WesleysDisciple

    WesleysDisciple Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    Your statement on how not every sympatheticly cast Cardassian needs to Aspire to be like the protaganists is poignant... but Im afraid, this isnt the way I read things.

    Cardassian society, is the way it is now, because of desperation, they DESPERATELY wanted peace and stability.

    in a lot of expanded universe stuff its generally agreed the cardassians outlawed any form of organized religion... which helps to suggest their animousity towards the bajoran's.


    just pointing out that cardassian society was not ALWAYS the way it is now, and thus could change genuinely.
     
  19. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Exactly! The fact that it once was something different shows that it does not have to be the way it is under the rule of Central Command and the Obsidian Order. As I said before--I think you could easily set up another system that neither oppresses nor copies the US Constitution or the Westminster Rules. Something alien and special to them, but that does not cannibalize its own people.
     
  20. indolover

    indolover Fleet Captain

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    Well how would the values of 21st century Western society apply to fictional aliens? If we ever meet real-life aliens, we certainly cannot apply our thinking and reasoning to them, or think there would be some commonality in such.