Cardassian society - enforcement or preference?

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

  1. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

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    While I can see that argument to some extent, I would also remind everyone that there is known to be shared genetic material between some of the Alpha Quadrant races. Humans, Klingons, Cardassians, and Romulans/Vulcans are specifically known to share genetics. This means (IMHO) that their motivations, while varying somewhat, are not going to diverge anywhere near as (for instance) a Founder's or a Tholian's. Some commonality should be expected. That's why I do not think that Cardassians desire abuse, and DO want their inherent dignity respected, even while wanting order.
     
  2. Deranged Nasat

    Deranged Nasat Vice Admiral Admiral

    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?
     
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2013
  3. Iliana Malek

    Iliana Malek Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    This is always the theory I've subscribed to. When looking at historical example on earth, when climate change has devastated a region, it tends to throw things into chaos, leading to political and cultural revolution. (Just look at how the Little Ice Age affected France and led up to the Revolution, or how the loss of the yearly floods for an entire generation brought about an end to the Egyptian Old Kingdom.) With a highly hierarchical society like Cardassia, climate change and the subsequent chaos could lead to complete social collapse. The militarization of Cardassia probably started out as a general effort to restore order in a chaotic world, and once that had been reestablished, the military had the room to take over the entire political system.
     
  4. Dal Rassak

    Dal Rassak Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    I never quite got the climate change angle, because as a race they're so obviously shown to be a species adapted to desert conditions - it's emphasized several times in the series as well as in some books that they like it dry and hot. This suggests they have evolved in just such conditions. Of course species can change and adapt, but this takes a lot of time, and if they're meant to have been living in some sort of lush green environment a mere couple of thousand years or even less ago, then their physiology doesn't make sense.
     
  5. Deranged Nasat

    Deranged Nasat Vice Admiral Admiral

    Maybe Cardassia was always desert-like, only not quite so desert-like? Maybe Cardassians thrived in an arid environment that was ultimately dependent on a delicate ecological balance and something (natural, artificial or both) pushed that biosphere over the edge, turning things from "life is hard here but we get on well enough because we evolved here" to "we're in dire straits, help!"?

    I'm reminded of the drell from Mass Effect; superbly adapted to arid conditions, but still experiencing massive death rates when their planet just couldn't cope anymore with their exploding population.
     
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2013
  6. Iliana Malek

    Iliana Malek Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    Agreed. My own theory is something similar to DN's, that Cardassia was largely arid beforehand, but climate change took away the few places that were good for farming and raising livestock, and it devastated the population.

    I never heard that Cardassians like it dry. I always had the impression that Cardassians like it hot and humid.
     
  7. DalekJim

    DalekJim Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Well, if you agree with the dictator entirely then it's an ideal scenario. Rather than a democracy putting in place somebody you don't agree with, or putting in place somebody you do agree with but is too ineffectual to do anything because of the democratic process.

    I uh, don't like or trust the public. According to a poll, most of Britain would like the death penalty bought back. I wouldn't like that to be put to democracy.

    In an asylum of the mad, the majority rule need not apply.
     
  8. Dal Rassak

    Dal Rassak Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    As to climate again, I take my inference from what the writers say, as well as remarks made in the series. For instance, in the DS9 Technical Manual the Cardassian climate is specifically referred to as being dry and desert-like; official literature (such as the Terok Nor trilogy) takes this up.
    Besides, if you live on an arid planet you do by definition not have high humidity - you'd get that if you were living in a tropical clime. The environment can't very well be both at once! There's that one scene with Garak and Ziyal in a sauna on the holodeck; that's nothing to do with environmental preferences. I go to the sauna to relax now and again but I couldn't stand living somewhere with permanently high humidity.
     
  9. Iliana Malek

    Iliana Malek Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    I never said the climate was both humid and dry at once. Cardassia may be dry and desert-like now, but it may not have always been so. Just because a climate is one way, doesn't mean the species doesn't prefer it another. There are plenty of people here on earth that live in desert climates, but it's certainly not the ideal environment to live in. They simply work with what they have.
     
  10. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

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    While I always suspected Cardassia, pre-cataclysm, was hotter and more arid than Earth, imagine if we humans had lived during the times of a mass extinction event such as the P-T extinction.

    Something that severe would gut the entire ecosystem too quickly for natural adaptation to save most species. The most sensitive species go immediately, and those first extinctions start a devastating chain reaction traveling through the entire biosphere.

    At least, that's what I've based what I call the "Cataclysm" on, in my own universe.
     
  11. Nightdiamond

    Nightdiamond Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Its also amazing how they accept their creepy justice system-- where the defendant is already judged guilty before the trial, and the sentence is already determined.

    But then again Cardassians probably think that the human justice system lets obvious criminals get off easy or even go free.

    They also seem to think their culture is better than most.

    In their minds, a military dictatorship is normal, compared to democracy which (they believe) didn't work for them .

    The military feeds, protects and brings glory to the people as far as they're concerned.
     
  12. Nagisa Furukawa

    Nagisa Furukawa Commander Red Shirt

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    While I certainly don't support a dictatorship...

    I find statements like this genuinely terrifying. It's using the language of totalitarianism for a philosophy that's supposedly "free." I could see someone arguing that "freedom" is an absolute right everyone shares, but in its purest form, that's anarchy.

    Democracy is a very specific system based on the premise of majority rules. It has its benefits and drawbacks, just like any other system of government. To say it's something that everyone subconsciously wants isn't just human-centric, as someone else in the thread claimed it was, but extremely Western civilization-centric. Many ancient Romans and Greeks, like Polyibus, genuinely disliked Athens-style democracy and viewed it as an inefficient system that quickly broke down into brutal mob rule, acknowledging it has its flaws just like oligarchies and dictatorships do.

    And just in general, I get REALLY creeped out when people say anything about what people want "even if they don't yet know they want it." That's usually the language of someone who wants to give others what they don't want.
     
  13. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    In the history of humanity, liberal democracy did not exist until the 20th Century. What makes you think democracy is the default setting for the human race?

    How is that not a contradiction in terms? If you live in a dictatorship, you by definition have no choice.

    Maybe -- but I don't really see how Cardassian psychology truly differs from Human psychology in the Trekverse. Nothing about Cardassian culture is without its antecedents in real life. And what about Cardassians who dissent?

    Of course, part of Trek's message is that while we value diversity, we also believe that some things are well and truly immoral and try to spread that belief peaceably, as equals rather than as cultural imperialists. And when you have a value system as oppressive as Ferengi Capitalism, it's quite natural that a more benign value system like the Federation's would eventually find purchase in Ferengi society.

    I don't think Rom was aspiring to be just like the Federation; he wants environmental protection, and a social safety net, and female liberation -- but he wants them because he (and Zek and Ishka) honestly believe that those things are more profitable for all of society in the long run. Their value system is, in essence, Capitalism with Socialist curbs on excess.
     
  14. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

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    What MLB said is correct even though I would have explained it quite differently. I believe that people inherently desire to have their individual dignity respected and to be free of fear and oppression. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, basically (noting the distinction inherent in pursuit of happiness, which is defined by the individual and the government is relegated to a role of the minimal interference necessary for the individual to do so--meaning that crimes are punished but individual rights are maintained).

    Democracy, though itself flawed and in danger of either paralysis or tyranny of the majority, is the best system we know of to ensure those inherent needs are met and inalienable rights respected. So people can need and desire those needs to be met without knowing what is currently the best means of their fulfillment. Should an even better means arise--and perhaps the Cardassians could come up with one for themselves that is not a copy of our system but that does not oppress or slaughter its own merely over differences in belief--then so be it. But I definitely will not stop believing that people inherently desire to have their dignity respected.
     
  15. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    I would go one step further, though: No government has the right to hold power without the consent of its people. The only way for a government to earn the consent of its people is to obtain a democratic mandate. Ergo, democracy is the only legitimate form of government.
     
  16. Mr. Laser Beam

    Mr. Laser Beam Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    ^ And not from some farcical aquatic ceremony. ;)
     
  17. Gul Re'jal

    Gul Re'jal Commodore Commodore

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    How do we know the power wasn't given to Central Command and the Detapa Council by the people in some way and later it turned into a twisted oppression (possibly due to the Obsidian Order growing into more power and terrorising everyone)?

    I agree people don't want to be oppressed, but I don't agree that everyone must like democracy.
     
  18. Mr. Laser Beam

    Mr. Laser Beam Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    ^ I find it likely that the Detapa Council once was the legitimate governing body of Cardassia, but the military and the Obsidian Order just flat out took all the power away from them. The people had no say in that.

    Isn't it almost self-evident that a dictatorship can never be democratic? The very meaning of the term 'dictatorship' automatically precludes the people having any rights in the working of the government (or indeed any kind of rights whatsoever).
     
  19. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

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    If you mean a government that operates according to the Westminster Rules of parliament, or according to the US Constitution, I agree that not everyone must like that. There are other setups. But I question how well setups without at least some credible element of popular representation are actually capable--even with the best intentions--of avoiding oppression.
     
  20. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    What about it? It's still a government that doesn't have the consent of the governed.

    Obtaining the consent of the governed requires renewing that consent. That means, getting a new democratic mandate periodically.

    Oh, I'm not saying anyone ought to like democracy. Democracy can be frustrating and infuriating. But some form of democracy is still necessary, because no other form of government actually obtains the consent of the people over whom it rules.
     

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