Cardassian society - enforcement or preference?

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

  1. Pavonis

    Pavonis Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2001
    It's not "reasonable" to apply our definitions to past societies. To hold the past up to our standards means it will inevitably fall short. Just as you will be seen by future historians as some kind of imperfect human from a society that was imperfect. What's the point of applying a future standard to a past society? What does it gain us?

    We don't really know that. I don't think the representation on the Detapa Council was ever discussed. It may have been anything, ranging from a House of Lords type body to a true representative council. What do we really know of the Cardassian civilian government and its relationship with the military?


    The fact that Janice Lester thought swapping minds with Kirk was a legitimate way to live out her fantasy of being a starship captain suggests she was not sane. Given her loose hold on reality, why should her statements have any authority with regards to the matter of sexism in Starfleet? We never saw a woman commanding a starship until TVH but, then, we never saw an Andorian commanding a starship, either. Would you suggest, then, that a bias against aliens existed in Starfleet alongside a bias against women?
     
  2. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2002
    Location:
    Montgomery County, State of Maryland
    So what if they fall short? The goal isn't to justify idolizing earlier cultures, it's to accurately describe them. "Democracy" literally means "rule by the people," but basic logic says that a society in which more than half the population is disenfranchised is not rule by the people.

    What is unreasonable is mindlessly adhering to their own propaganda and submitting to their ideological paradigms.

    1. Who's talking about individuals?

    2. I already think my society is deeply, deeply flawed and oppressive; I have no problem with future historians coming to the same conclusion. :)

    An accurate understanding of the nature of that society which does not rely on buying into the ideological justifications for their oppressions.

    Athens called itself a democracy. The concept of rule by the people surely owes a great debt to Ancient Athens. But the simple fact remains that by no reasonable standard can a society in which only an elite set of property-owning men were allowed to vote be called a genuine democracy; to uncritically call Ancient Athens a democracy is to make the women, the poor, and the people held as slaves in Ancient Athens invisible to history - it is to say that they were not really people and did not really count. But those people were there; they existed, and they were an important part of Ancient Athenian society -- even if the ruling elite wanted them invisible.

    Numerous, numerous episodes of DS9 and TNG made it very clear that the Cardassian state was controlled by the unelected military.

    For one, there's the fact that Kirk seems to agree with her assertion. And the fact that women in TOS were never indicated to hold any higher social status than women in early 1960s America does not factor into this?

    TOS reflected many of the social mores of early-to-mid 1960s white America, and that included the subordination of women. Sorry to say, TOS was not a product of second-wave feminism.
     
  3. Pavonis

    Pavonis Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2001
    So you have a problem with the semantics? Would it be better to retroactively say Athens called itself something else? Are you looking to white wash history because it doesn't live up to your standards?

    Yes, it's clear that you have an unrealistically high standard for everyone and everything. Constructive criticism is one thing, but your criticism is less constructive and more belittling.

    You wanted Athens of 2000-some-odd years ago to make the jump to modern equality in one go? That's unrealistic. Rather than belittling the Athenians for not being modern, you should acknowledge the debt modern society owes them for fostering the idea of democracy, even if they didn't practice it to your standards. As it is now, you may as well be belittling a child for not being a first-rate heart surgeon when he or she practices surgery on a teddy bear.

    Why shouldn't he agree with her? She's mad. I'd agree with anything she said, too, just to get her to calm down.
     
  4. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2002
    Location:
    Montgomery County, State of Maryland
    It would be better to say that Ancient Athens called itself a democracy, but that it was not genuinely democratic because this definition was based on the disenfranchisement and oppression of most of its population.

    Of course not. It is the act of calling Ancient Athens a democracy which white-washes history, as it buys into the ideological biases of the ancient Athenian elite and renders invisible those whom they oppressed. Noting that Athens was not a real democracy in spite of its self-conception is being accurate, not white-washing.

    Oh, yes, mustn't belittle an ancient patriarchal slave state. :rolleyes:

    I honestly never considered what I "wanted" ancient Athens to do; this is what it did and that's all there is to it. But I want its practices accurately labelled, and I say it is dishonest to use a term that means "rule by the people" to refer to a society that was in reality ruled by a small elite who held significant portions of their society in slavery.

    Accurately describing them is not belittling them.

    I have no problem with acknowledging that the concept of democracy has its roots in Ancient Athens. And I have no problem with a kid practicing "surgery" on a teddy bear -- if that fosters her development into a first-rate heart surgeon later in life, great!

    But that child is not a heart surgeon yet. And Ancient Athens was not a democracy.
     
  5. Kestrel

    Kestrel Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2009
    Location:
    Near Kestrel's body
    There's no better word than "democracy" - the point of the term is that it wasn't rule by a monarchy, or by a select group of families, but by all the (male) citizens. Just because the Athenian definition of "the people" doesn't match ours doesn't make it an inaccurate term, because the point of it wasn't for everybody to have a say, but that more people than a monarch had a say. Your focus is in the wrong place.
     
  6. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2002
    Location:
    Montgomery County, State of Maryland
    For a system where only 20% of the Athenian population could vote? "Oligarchy" comes to mind. "Timocracy" might be an even better term (except insofar as one might object to saying that only that minority of persons granted citizenship deserve to be given the name of "honor" or "worth"). "Pseudo-democracy" or "proto-democracy" are possibilities. "Patriarchy" is also good. So would be "slaveocracy."

    Yes, it does, because such a restrictive definition is one that by definition sought to make those not included in "the people" invisible to society and to history. We should seek to remember the role those disenfranchised persons played in their society and to accurately describe the system they lived under; we should not just adhere to the rhetoric historical elites used to justify their domination when we seek to accurately understand how a society functions.

    But that's the point of democracy. If that wasn't the point of the ancient Athenian system, then the ancient Athenian system was not a democracy.

    No, it is not. When we study and evaluate ancient societies and seek to understand the manner in which they functioned, we have an obligation to do so skeptically and critically; we should not approach these societies on their own terms (or, rather, on their elites' own terms), but should instead evaluate whether or not they fit objectively-defined criteria when describing them.

    A very clear, objective standard for "democracy" is "universal adult suffrage." Ancient Athens did not have universal adult suffrage; little Sally is cutting open a teddy bear. So little Sally is not a heart surgeon, and ancient Athens was not a democracy.
     
  7. indolover

    indolover Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2010
    It could also be historical propaganda that supported Central Command/Obsidian Order rule. Maybe both bodies actively promote that ancient Cardassia was a shithole, and that the their rule is better. Maybe also species evolve and grow. Perhaps Cardassians as a species had naturally outgrown spirituality.
     
  8. Pavonis

    Pavonis Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2001
    Since the ancient Athenians came up with democracy, and it didn't refer to universal adult suffrage, then perhaps a new term for "universal adult suffrage" should be coined. Stealing the Athenians' term and criticizing them for not using it in a modern sense isn't reasonable.
     
  9. Dal Rassak

    Dal Rassak Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2013
    Location:
    Terok Nor
    Ideas about who might legitimately represent "the people" in a "rule of the people" hadn't moved on much from the Athenian model in, say, England by the 19th century.
    You still had to be male and own your own land if your voice was to count for anything.

    An explanation of how and why Cardassia ended up as a stratocracy is given by the character of Gul Madred in the TNG double episode Chain of Command. According to what he tells Picard, the Cardassian people turned to their military for strong leadership and security in times of hardship and trouble, then continued to support the state's expansionist policies because this was the one way they could see to secure the necessary resources and raw materials Cardassia required.

    It's hinted in a couple of DS9 episodes as well as in a couple of tie-in books that the civilian Detapa Council used to have more autonomy, but had this gradually eroded until the civilian government representatives were reduced to more or less rubber-stamping legislature insisted upon by the military leadership.
     
  10. Gul Re'jal

    Gul Re'jal Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2010
    Location:
    Gul Re'jal is suspecting she's on the wrong space
    I'm not sure Madred is a reliable source of information in this case. He could be (and probably is) presenting the official version and we know that the victors tend to write history.
     
  11. Nightdiamond

    Nightdiamond Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2009
    Location:
    California
    I found this surprising bit of info about ancient Athens.

    http://languages.siu.edu/classics/Johnson/HTML/L10.html

    Democracy, but no overall constitution to protect citizens?

    OTOH, Star Wars had the Republic, where senators/politicians represented its citizens. They voted to give their chancellor so much power, he made himself an emperor without their consent. :shrug:

    Was Janice Lester crazy? Yes. Could you trust anything she said at face value? Pretty much, not.

    And yet, this woman obviously hated her own sex for some reason. But was it sexism that pushed her to it?

    The creepy thing about the Janice Lester episode is, the more the dialog rolls on, the more subtle sexism you can see in this time period.

    That sounds like typical view of a woman's role during that time. Even in the 23rd century super democracy of the Federation.

    There was no way Picard or Sisko could get away with saying something like that about a woman.
     
  12. Kestrel

    Kestrel Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2009
    Location:
    Near Kestrel's body
    Calling Athenian democracy "democracy" with an understanding that in that time suffrage was very limited isn't "adhering to rhetoric," it's an accurate description of how an ancient society functioned. You're not being skeptical and critical, you're projecting our definitions and understandings of today to people of 2000+ years ago.

    Your "clear, objective standard" has only been around within the last century or so (within this country) as compared to 2000+ years of a limited franchise. Maybe our definition - which I agree is the superior one - is the one that needs a new word or a modifier; "universal democracy" maybe. Or, perhaps, we should accept that definitions have changed over the centuries, as language, law and societies tend to do.
     
  13. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2002
    Location:
    Montgomery County, State of Maryland
    It's my understanding that only 20% of Athenians could vote, not all Athenians.

    As I already established, the Galactic Republic in the PT had already long since ceased to be a democracy -- it was a plutocracy, ruled in reality by the wealthy elite who funded Senators' campaign expenses, wearing only the veneer of democracy well before Palpatine became Chancellor.

    Yep. As I said, TOS was a product of its time.

    No, it's not, because it still legitimizes the ridiculous notion that a society can be a democracy yet prevent 80% of its people from voting.

    And what is wrong with that? Why shouldn't we look back on ancient societies and acknowledge when their ideology is morally objectionable by modern standards? Why shouldn't we judge them by the standards we'd use to judge, say, China or Russia?

    I'd say less, actually. I would say the United States was not a democracy until the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. Before that, we were a pseudo-democratic apartheid state.

    If we accept that definitions have changed over time, then why stick to their vocabulary?

    After all, at the time, they didn't call the Roman Emperors "emperors;" Emperors kept the rhetoric and language of the Roman Republic, even while concentrating all power in their hands. Yet we don't call them the Princepts Senatus or Pontifex Maxium -- we call them Emperors. And we don't continue to call their state "the Senate and People of Rome." In spite of their use of republican rhetoric and vocabulary, our vocabulary to describe them uses modern terms to describe the reality of their political system -- an Empire, ruled by an Emperor. So the practice of saying, "We know they used this term for themselves, but we're gonna use a different term because we don't think that's accurate" has a very well-established precedent.
     
  14. Kestrel

    Kestrel Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2009
    Location:
    Near Kestrel's body
    You seem to have some need for "democracy" to have a pure meaning, as though the term itself has to apply to societies which aren't morally objectionable. Maybe that's the issue here.

    There's a difference between recognizing their ideology as objectionable, even abhorrent to us and arrogantly declaring that a word they invented to describe their system of governance is too good for them. Not to mention China and Russia today are just that - today. Not 2000 years ago when our standards didn't exist.

    I meant the idea of it, the standard, not its implementation. Maybe a couple centuries even, at most.

    Because it's accurate to the time period, of course. I mean, with allowances for translation (or not).

    And, um... yes they did. Where do you think we get the word emperor, or empire for that matter? Augustus, Pontifex Maximus, Princeps Senatus... and Imperator. These were all titles that emperors held. They maintained the Republican rhetoric, yes, but in addition to adding on more and more blatantly imperial language as time went on (up to Domitian doing away with it and simply declaring himself Dominum).
     
  15. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2002
    Location:
    Montgomery County, State of Maryland
    I do, indeed, insist that "rule by the people" be used only to describe societies that feature rule by the people, not 20% of the people.

    It's not too "good" for them. It's just not accurate.

    And why shouldn't we judge earlier societies by modern standards?

    No, they did not call them emperors.

    And the word imperator was not a synonym for "emperor" in our understanding of the term:

    So, the title of imperator referred to successful military commanders, not hereditary monarchs -- and the monarchy we now call the Roman Empire was not an official monarchy, but was a de facto monarchy legitimized by the accumulation of republican constitutional offices. (One might compare it to the same way the ruler of, say, North Korea legitimizes his status through the accumulation of numerous seemingly republican titles [such as General Secretary of the Workers' Party, Chairman of the National Defense Commission, Chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Workers' Party, Supreme Commander of the Korean People's Army].) Imperator was merely one of the titles a de facto emperor would acquire.

    All of which is a very long way of saying: We don't adhere to the meaningless rhetoric used by the Romans. We call their emperors their emperors, not their "pontifex maximus with tribunician power and imperium superseding all others."
     
  16. Pavonis

    Pavonis Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2001
    Because they'll always fall short, and criticizing those ancient societies won't change them. You may as well save your "constructive criticism" for societies that can change.


    Perhaps we shouldn't though. The Athenians called themselves a democracy, so why shouldn't we? The Roman "emperor" wasn't called an emperor, so why should we?
     
  17. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2002
    Location:
    Montgomery County, State of Maryland
    So what? You speak as though the goal is to find a reason to venerate them.

    Because we can see through the lies they told themselves.
     
  18. Pavonis

    Pavonis Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2001
    The goal is to accept history as it occurred and accept that societies were different in the past. Criticizing the past for not being modern is pointless.
     
  19. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2002
    Location:
    Montgomery County, State of Maryland
    Sure. Accepting what they were doesn't mean you can't still judge them by modern standards.

    Of course it's not! By judging them by modern standards and learning to see through the lies they told themselves, we can learn about how to improve our world today. If we, for instance, insist on not calling ancient Athens a democracy because only 20% of its population was allowed to vote, that can help us see through similar propaganda people in the modern age use to justify disenfranchising others.

    You can learn from a historical society by judging it critically rather than just accepting its rhetoric on its own terms.
     
  20. Pavonis

    Pavonis Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2001
    In theory, I agree with you. On the specific matter of ancient Athens, though, since they developed and practiced a primitive and limited form of democracy rather than being another's monarchy, I find it pointless to criticize them for not making the leap to full universal suffrage in one go.

    They were was progressive as they could be in their own time. We are as limited by our sensibilities now as they were then. We all have limits to what we can imagine, even you, Sci. Will we be criticized by future historians for not making social leaps that we aren't facing now and can't even imagine? Should we be criticized for not letting computers have a vote? Will we be looked down on for not letting chimpanzees run for office? What kind of revolutions will occur in the future that will make even you seem like a backward heathen to future people?

    The past is what it is, what happened happened, and we can learn from the past without faulting them for their limitations that they couldn't overcome or even see. They weren't telling lies to themselves. They were just limited in their understanding.
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2013

Share This Page