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Peter G.
Thu, May 27, 2021, 1:28pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S3: Meridian

I dunno about Farrell. I think she did pretty well for a first gig, and I've always liked Jadzia personally. Unlike many others, I actually dig the 'ethereal Dax' she came in with for Emissary, and am almost sorry that went away. Or if it did, I'd rather it had been less of a soft retcon and more overtly a result of an episode like Equilibrium or some other Dax-focused episode. And I do think fun Dax is fun. The actress at least really seems to be having fun with her cast-mates, which is more than I can say for the likes of Harry Kim or Mayweather. At least she's rather pleasant on-screen.

I honestly think the problem with Meridian is that it's a terrible idea from the drawing board and onward. Why take a character who is supposed to be old and wise, and write her an episode where she acts like a dumb teenager? If that's supposed to be an example of Dax's temperament (going on instinct) then why bring that up all of a sudden? It's as if the writer is unilaterally re-writing the character bible, which is a no-no. That, along with the folly of *any* writer thinking they can write a credible "give up my entire life for this person" plot in a 45 minute episode using a random character and the greenest actress on the show. It's just awful conceptual writing, like bad fan fiction with no thought toward production. I really can't blame Farrell for this one. This script is so lame!
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Peter G.
Wed, May 26, 2021, 8:25pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: The First Duty

@ Lee Jones,

"I don't know why the author of this review claimed that Nick Larcerno and Tom Paris were basically the same character."

To be fair, I think it's pretty clear that they just wanted Nic Locarno for this show, minus the royalty fees for using the character. That being said, I think it's inevitable that once you have a slightly older McNeill, new writers, and a new setting, it's going to change. Even if McNeill had set out intently to 'do the same thing' it was going to come out different due to the different recipe. Now personally I think he actually did more or less do the same thing, but as you point out it still comes off differently because that's how the scripts went. Locarno came across as full of his own sense of leadership, of having his reputation on the line, and so forth, whereas Paris was in no position of leadership, had basically already lost it all, and had nothing to lose. Even if it was still called Locarno we don't know what he'd be like in other circumstances. So it was inevitably going to be different to some extent (although IMO to a surprisingly small extent).
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Peter G.
Wed, May 26, 2021, 2:01pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S4: Galaxy's Child

@ Tomalak,

Your analogy to Jason R. doesn't really make sense, because you're ignoring the fact that she's obviously not there univited. Either Starfleet arranged for a technical review of the engines, or else Geordi or someone else invited her. It doesn't really matter, since she's there and obviously supposed to be there. You wan to question that, you may as well question anything not said explicitly on-screen. That's not asking critical questions, it's raising issues in contradiction to the given circumstances.

Take Peak Performance: did Starfleet *really* give Kolrami authority on the ship? How do we know - did they show us his transfer papers? Maybe he's unlawfully usurping Picard's ship and is being a sneaky spy. Well it's "possible" insofar as nothing in the episode contradicts these ideas, except that the story establishes clearly his purpose for being there and moves on. You can question fundamental story premises, which then in turn undermines each scene that follows, and you can suggest that the entire scenic structure is illogical if your theory pans out...or you can just accept the premise and not try to poke realism holes in it. I'm about as amenable as anyone to exploring head canon, and asking how the episode affects the broader universe, but usually the starting point for me is taking the episode's story as a given and seeing where it leads. If you argue that Leah is out of bounds critiquing Geordi's engines, then each scene after the last becomes illogical for increasingly impossible to explain reasons. The whole script falls apart. At that point you have to either conclude that the writers were confused about their own intention (which happens), or that you're imposing script demands that are out of place in the story being told. I'm not saying the former is impossible, but the entire story and its structure have to be taken into account when making a grand statement about the story structure.
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Peter G.
Wed, May 26, 2021, 10:23am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S4: Galaxy's Child

Not sure why you're hung up about the chain of command. We have umpteen examples if Trek of civilians on a starship with significant authority. They don't need to be in the chain of command to imbued with authority on a ship.

As for disagreeing, I'm not even talking about what the episode says about her place in the authority structure. The episode is not interested in that detail. But if you deny that she has authority you are simply repudiating the writers' intention, and I would suggest to you that this is a technical mistake in script analysis. The given premises of a script need to be taken seriously if you're going to try to make the contents intelligible. The script is pretty focused on her attitude, not on whether she has any business being there. That's a clue. Not every premise is spelled out (in the best literature, it never is).
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Peter G.
Wed, May 26, 2021, 9:49am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S4: Galaxy's Child

@ Tomalak,

It sounds like your question about what Brahms' job is can't be reduced to more than that: a question. We don't know what her responsibilities are. Maybe the good function of starship engines in the field makes or breaks her career, since she's the designer and needs to be producing effective components. If engineers aren't using her devices to spec then maybe it makes her look bad. Or maybe it's an aesthetic thing, like he's doing messy stuff with her perfect design. Bottom line is we don't know, but since she's acting as if it's her business and the script never contradicts this, I think it's safe to say it's her business. She doesn't need to be in Starfleet to have authority here; Starfleet runs under civilian oversight, and many times civilians are given authority even on a Starship (see: Peak Performance).
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Peter G.
Tue, May 25, 2021, 6:12pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S4: Galaxy's Child

Yeah it was Hurley.
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Peter G.
Sun, May 23, 2021, 8:19am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S7: Masks

@ Mal,

Haha, I had to check, and my only comment on this episode is a short agreement with someone else's negative review. That being said, I think this must be one of the worst episodes in all of TNG. If you're not interested in seeing Spiner doing silly voices then there isn't much here. I wish this had been an Alice in Wonderland episode of walking through an alien culture, but instead it was more like watching low-budget theatre put on by college undergrads. It's a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing. We learn nothing about them that matters, nor do we care about them or their culture. The weirdness is mostly just weird because we have no idea why what's going on matters at all, not because it's bizarre in itself. Let's face it, they just wanted to give Spiner a chance to do some children's theatre.

So there you go! I wanted to make sure your expectation of me giving this one a negative review was right on the money.
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Peter G.
Sun, May 23, 2021, 12:03am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S1: Duet

Nice chronological review, Mal. I does seem possible to surmise that the Cardassian failure with Jellico might have caused certain people to lose credibility, or their jobs...or worse, back at Central Command. That, along with the Obsidian Order (IMO represented by Gul Madred) endangering Jellico's terms by prolonging Picard's interrogation, and therefore increasing the rift between them and the Central Command. Between these maybe whoever was chiefly the proponent of the Occupation was kicked to the curb and the resettled power structure was in favor of leaving. But really this is head canon, because the writers deliberately do not let us know the proximate causes.

About Garak, I've actually thought many times about what the timing was of his appearance on the station. From Past Prologue it was made to sound like he was a fixture on the station, and so didn't just show up a few days before Sisko and the other Federation officers. But does that mean he was there during the actual Occupation...under Dukat? Now granted back in Past Prologue there was no intention to continue the character, and so any backstory between him and Dukat (established largely in Cardassians) wouldn't have been thought of yet. So it may be a chronological inconsistency on this point. But how could a Cardassian agent be exiled to live on a station under Bajoran control? That doesn't actually seem possible, given the circumstances. So I surmise he must have been there during the Occupation. There is no need to figure out how this would have worked, because that backstory didn't exist yet. Garak and Dukat being enemies feels like at minimum a soft retcon. I suppose if we want to develop head canon it could be that Dukat felt Garak was untouchable, since he wouldn't have known it was exile. I suppose after the Cardassians left Terok Nor it would have become apparent that Garak staying behind upended any previous theories about why he was there in the first place.
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Peter G.
Fri, May 21, 2021, 1:23pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S1: Duet

@ Mal,

"why did the Cardassians withdraw from Bajor?

I get that the decision was taken by the civilian leadership. But I don't understand why. Was it really that - having signed a peace agreement with the Federation - the Federation was able to put diplomatic pressure on the Cardassians ("Ensign Ro")? Or was it something else?"

Yes, it is quite interesting that they never address this. It's almost deliberate. That way you get to hear various opinions but never have a God's-eye POV telling you the 'real story'. In real life you never get that anyhow. Kira believes the Cardassians were driven off through attrition. Dukat believes the civilian government was weak and caved in under pressure (from the Federation?). Maybe it could be both. It's entirely possible Bajor simply wasn't profitable, and like any imperialist business they'll move elsewhere if the $$ isn't rolling in. For all we know Dukat was actually too soft on the Bajorans (as he claims!) and it make the venture finally fail. The timing of it with the Federation peace treaty does seem a little too connected chronologically to be a coincidence, though.

Another question we could ask is how many other subjugated planets Cardassia controlled even after leaving Bajor. Was this a common occurrence? We don't hear anything about that. There are shades of Germany in France about the Occupation (including its name), but obviously Germany occupied other countries as well. So did Cardassia give up the occupation game, or only on Bajor? We don't know. One thing we do sort of know was there was political upheaval on Cardassia, in the dissident movement which we are led to believe is more significant than the Central Command is letting on. This was so much so that they were primed to outright fall as soon as the Klingons shook them up a little. So there may have been more going on than just withdrawing from one planet. It could be that, perhaps like the Roman Empire, it became impossible at a certain point to manage distant protectorates effectively.

It's kind of cool that it's left open, but the detail-nerd in me would have liked more intrigue episodes in S1-4 explaining what was going on, both on Cardassia and Bajor.
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Peter G.
Wed, May 19, 2021, 12:24pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S6: Rightful Heir

@ Booming,

 "And if you are still hellbent on seeing the Hellespont as a stand-in for the wormhole then why not mention Persia??"

We literally both did mention Persia. You ok over there?
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Peter G.
Sat, May 15, 2021, 10:13pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S7: The Emperor's New Cloak

@ Sigh2000,

I sympathize to an extent with the complaint that the war arc wasn't advanced in even intervals in S7. In fact the same sort of issue could be raised with certain arcs in S1-4 as well, such as the Bajoran stories or the Klingon/Cardassian problems. I think it's helpful to keep in mind that the showrunners had multiple plates spinning at once with this series, and getting some of them into the forefront was probably like pulling teeth. They weren't really allowed to do long-form arcs (which really only happened for the 1st time with the start of S6), and I expect they were even discouraged from too much serialization as an overall rule. They were trying to get traction with their desire for continuing storylines, but had to watch out, as the execs didn't like it. And on top of all that, there was also the idea that Trek should have numerous script ideas in the air, be creative about what each week's adventure would be, and entertain original concepts put forward by writers. So the objective of furthering an arc was apparently very important to Behr in particular, but that was probably not the chief consideration of what would make airtime even by S7.

Put that together with the fact that they did, in fact, get license to go on to do an unprecedented series of connected episodes (SPOILER, it's later in S7), and you get a situation where they had a batch of episodes mid-season that had to fill the mandate of (a) adventures of the week, (b) variety in both style and story type, and (c) giving unique stories to particular characters. That's a lot of boxes to check off, so I would not personally agree that they were playing a shell game with audience expectations. I think maybe a more charitable interpretation of the strange series of random episodes mid-S7 is that it was the price that had to be paid for what came later. It's sort of like seeing Shades of Grey as being an installment plan on Q Who, which if seen in that light makes it much more sympathetic as something that got greenlighted.
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Peter G.
Fri, May 14, 2021, 8:19pm (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S3: That Hope Is You, Part 2

@ Jason R,

"I thought the essence of totalitarianism was the state taking control of *all* aspects of society. But if your people have relative economic freedom and can even have private property, can travel as they please, can live relatively independently, how can that properly be totalitarian anymore?"

Well, I was specifically arguing against a definition like that, so accordingly my argument can't be supported if you're meaning totalitarian to mean that. Even Booming seems to agree that, despite that being the "scientific" definition, there are in fact few or no instances of societies that are even close to that. I would dispute that a definition like this could even be conceivably scientific, but never mind that. So to me that's a useless definition.

What I am arguing (or at least thinking through) is that China was totalitarian *and* communistic, and is perhaps shying away from its communist self-restraints (but not its rhetoric, you may notice) in order to retain or even strengthen its fundamentally totalitarian control. I am not using "communist" and "totalitarian" interchangeably, in other words. What I am saying is that societies that hold the individual as existing only to further the interests of the state can come in various forms, and that China is learning that it's more profitable (so to speak) to allow certain conditions to flourish while still ensuring the public values are geared towards compliance and a diminishment of the value of the individual.

Take The Dominion, for example, which no doubt not only tries to come across as friendly, but under the right conditions maybe really is friendly to certain member races. As long as they are compliant and loyal, it's possible some planets are treated really well. The problems only start when you deny that you serve only the Founders, etc etc. It would make little sense for them to harass populations needlessly if they're playing ball, or to create famine or poverty just to put people in their place. On the contrary, they probably want the harmonious happy little family that Weyoun is always wishing for. It's just that certain pesky races insist on their silly 'freedom.'
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Peter G.
Fri, May 14, 2021, 7:09pm (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S3: That Hope Is You, Part 2

@ Jason R.,

"But getting back to China my sense is that if they are totalitarian it definitely Diet or Lite version."

But that is exactly my point. To be totalitarian doesn't necessitate being stupid, even though historically this is what is typical. What people are used to is the inefficient power struggle between the few at the top who have everything and the deprived masses who are chattel. Naturally this is not a sustainable ecosystem, and is also unproductive. In Darwinian terms this type of society gets selected against by superior civilizations. But what China seems to have learned is that being totalitarian alone isn't enough, but (even as the ruling party) you also want to be rich and wield power. And unlike old-time regimes where having power only relative to the masses was enough, China wants power relative to powerful nations, and for that you need an economic base. So starting maybe 30 years ago they relaxed their anti-capitalist laws, allowing for designated economic zones, in order to compete on the world market using various advantages they had at their disposal. Many people say that this was a gradual going under of them being communist, and maybe that's true in a limited way, but what I think they realized is that they could remain totalitarian in every *meaningful* way and not manacle themselves in the categories where they need to compete. Unlike the USSR, they needed to establish real parity in market strength and not pretend that being a shut-in can work (like NK does). And yet for all that it's not like they relinquished political power.

So I think this is a decent way of showing that in real world terms even oppressive totalitarian regimes (which China certainly was to horrific proportions) can 'get with it' and realize that they are more powerful when their commerce is strong, compared to when everyone is dying of starvation. Really no one comes out ahead in the latter version, even the party if they have any brains. That a regime can arrange for their people to have plenty of stuff and jobs is really unrelated to whether the government has absolute authority and the people utterly subject to them. You can be utterly subject and still treated well. Chances are good your rule lasts a good while doing things that way.
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Peter G.
Fri, May 14, 2021, 1:44pm (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S3: That Hope Is You, Part 2

@ Mal,

That's a fair alternative definition, but I think you will find that practically speaking it doesn't really map onto how things really work. For example, by your definition of totalitarian there were really very few or even no totalitarian governments, because functionally the state *cannot* control everything, nor would it want to. Maybe the closest we saw to that was the USSR, where they did in fact try to control governance, production, education, etc etc. Obviously this was a practical impossibility. Mosy regimes of any stripe know to allow distributed efforts in different sectors and won't try to control all areas. Now China for example might in theory be able to claim any authority it wants, but I think that's because its civil rights is nil, moreso than because it wants to regiment every strata of its society. In most regimes that would typically be called totalitarian I think you will find that in practice they prefer people to run most of their own affairs, like commerce and civil upkeep. So running everthing does not seem to me a structural hallmark of totalitarianism. That's more on the topic of centralized vs decentralized government, which is a different axis of analysis from totalitarian vs individualistic.

Trek may be a good example of what I mean: in the Federation most services are probably run centrally and operated from a very centralized government system that has its hands in most or all areas of society. But it's certainly not totalitarian since it values the dignity of the individual above all and views the state as being in service to humanity, rather than the other way around.
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Peter G.
Fri, May 14, 2021, 12:18pm (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S3: That Hope Is You, Part 2

@ Booming,

"Your definition is not good. To give a simple example of what a totalitarian country would never allow. Studying abroad. Doing business abroad. Private property."

Nazi Germany is a very typical example of a totalitarian government, where the Fatherland was the greatest value and one's own goals were seen as subsumed under the greatness of the state (or the land, if you will). But that was also a place with commercial activity, banking, private property obviously, and other facets of what one would call a capitalist society. It's just that the moral and governmental structure was top-down. In terms of the specifics involving studying abroad, that's probably not going to be an appropriate item to consider in the case of a country at war with the world, so it won't be a good one to consider for Nazi Germany. Doing business abroad doesn't mean much more than having investments, and I'm sure people in totalitarian regimes are often quite able to make foreign purchases and conduct sales and such. That would take an exhaustive study of various totalitarian regimes (according to my definition, at least), which I haven't the means to do. So I can't really answer you about foreign investment or commerce. Somehow, though, I doubt you can find many examples in history of any type of government at all forestalling international trade. Even the most brutal empires probably partook of the spice trade and other such commercial spheres. Otherwise they wouldn't have much of anything :p

"Theocracies, absolute monarchies, one party dictatorships, oligarchies are all different forms of autocracies.
I'm not conveying personal opinion here. I'm giving you broadly accepted definitions in political science."

That doesn't sound inconsistent with what I'm saying. My main point in answer to Jason is just that I think totalitarianism is not just some random autocracy but a particular manner of regarding the relationship of the populace to the state. But it's also not a subset, since I think it is completely possible to be totalitarian but not an autocracy. There are totalitarian elements in the U.S. government, for instance, but culturally and administratively it's not an autocracy (there are oligarchic elements, but not in its formal structure). A great example in fiction is Starship Troopers, where that society is highly totalitarian but is afaik freely democratic in its election processes. Orwell's 1984 may even describe a totalitarian regime that is not in fact an autocracy, as it's not clear in the book how the power structure is set up. It may actually be 'democratic' in the sense that the majority of people force it on each other, rather than being top-down. That's actually my current running theory about how one gets to that point (that it's by popular demand rather than via a small clique of rulers).

This is the main point I was raising; less so what can or can't count as an autocracy. I wasn't aiming at an exhaustive definition, but rather a distinction. Anyhow Jason R's question to me stemmed out of my challenging whether a totalitarian regime needs to actually be a 'crazy place', which China does not appear to be in the same way the USSR was or NK.
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Peter G.
Thu, May 13, 2021, 10:04pm (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S3: That Hope Is You, Part 2

@ Jason R.,

"how do you distinguish totalitarian societies from garden-variety autocracy?"

I've never considered that question specifically, but I imagine it would be a combination of culture and structure. Autocracy seems to revolve around one or few people making all the decisions. So a tribal culture with a king 10,000 years ago would be autocratic. But to be totalitarian that culture would also have to incorporate the belief that the individual's primary duty is to serve the state. While modern retrospectives tend to view any autocratic government as being ipso facto a tyranny, in fact I suspect that many historic cultures were both autocratic but also dispersed in terms of its values. For example, a feudal England had a king but also places high value on the rights and individual powers of the local lords and dukes, who - while subject to the king - were not mere slaves but had a significant dignity and authority of their own. The feudal system worked on the spreading out of honor and a decentralized governance, even while the king was overall sovereign. Autocratic after a fashion, but not totalitarian by any means. The Roman Empire is probably another example of an autocracy in which the individual was by no means understood to be a mere vassal of the ruler or ruling party. The plebs, maybe, but the patricians had more standing than that. For a third example, I just read Seven Pillars of Wisdom, and the WWI-era Arabs seem to be very much an individualistic society (so not totalitarian) but they did have a king; therefore autocratic. They, too, had a dispersed power arrangement.

By contrast, the USSR seemed to place little to no value on any human life, and even though Party members had exclusive rights and privileges, they too could vanish if they stepped out of line; and this is probably even true of those right at the top. I've not versed enough in the minutiae to be able to argue whether even the ruler himself was afraid of stepping out of line, but my guess would be yes. So from this perspective the Soviets were utterly totalitarian, but depending on how you look at it maybe not so autocratic. Could the chief really just do anything he wanted, or was he tightly reigned in by the mob around him? Perhaps you could call that an oligarchy, but once we go down that road many cultures that have oligarchic elements could just as soon be said to have autocratic 'flavor'. But I think the sense in which you're using the term implies a clear individual or circle at the top exercising clear and absolute power (like in North Korea). And I would say that China falls under that category. But now I have to admit that I'm not familiar enough with the Chinese government structure to say more. Maybe they are both autocratic (the rulers(s) can do anything with impunity) and totalitarian (the culture and power structure place the individual as completely subservient to the state).

There's a moral, or perhaps philosophical element to this as well, which is that totalitarianism not only involves the populace being subject to the state, but like in 1984, the morality actually stating outright that this is their function. Contrast with certain types of autocracy, such as let's say Vikings or maybe the Mongols under the Khans, where while there was an absolute ruler (the best warrior, perhaps) but where the individuals were really in charge of themselves and vital in serving their own interests. The Klingons are similar to this, maybe. In this kind of culture the morality of following the absolute leader necessitates that he's the greatest of them, is above them in power, but still has to prove his worth time and again. And the public morality in this kind of culture seems to involve some kind of guarantee that the individuals will profit or at least gain honor from participating in the ruler's demands, but that they will probably depose him if he is weak or starts disregarding the spoils due the warriors that go into combat. It's not just a governance thing I'm trying to point out, but the actual morality that you're only fit to be ruler if you are XYZ, win us battles, get us booty, etc. This is certainly autocratic in terms of power structure but more or less the opposite of totalitarian.

I could list many other examples of divergence between autocracy and totalitarianism, but I should probably stop...
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Peter G.
Thu, May 13, 2021, 6:41pm (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S3: That Hope Is You, Part 2

Maybe it's wrong-headed to define totalitarian in terms of being a monstrous tyranny that wreaks havoc on the populous. I think the term in its basic sense means a society where the priority of health is on the society, government, or state, rather than on the individual. This can probably include states where the individual's well-being (and rights) are merely secondary to that of the state, or in fact are totally irrelevant. We could get into whether the rights of individuals being irrelevant can even possibly result is a stable society, but putting that aside the chief feature of totalitarianism seems to be that the totality (however it's seen) is the chief sovereignty. Contrast with a democracy, where the sovereignty of the individual is inalienable and (according to that philosophy) is subservient to no one without consent.

To the extent that China's society allows for government to exercise any means it deems fit to establish control; that individuals would have no say or recourse if the government acted against them personally (like if you were disappeared or arrested); and that even morally the general ethic is geared up towards the collective rather than the individual vis a vis one's duties and allegiances; so from this standpoint I have no trouble suggesting that China is totalitarian in the most meaningful sense of the term. That doesn't need to mean it's a brutal tyranny burning fields and disallowing commerce. Even Nazi Germany was still a commerce-oriented society, and from the perspective of a well-off German they probably would have felt that it was a pretty free country in terms of what they could choose to do with their day (so long as that didn't include criticizing the state or helping 'dissidents'). There's a big difference between that, and between the sort of tyranny where really no one is allowed to have anything and you can expect a pogrom to come any day for basically no reason.
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Peter G.
Thu, May 13, 2021, 9:48am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S6: Rightful Heir

Putting aside that the TOS Romulans were given Roman titles and an aristocratic bearing, I'd say the Dominion is most like the Roman Empire. They conquer regions that are sometimes allowed to self-govern within parameters, the legions come in when there's a problem, and the leaders are declared to be gods. Although to be fair, this was probably not uncommon, since afaik the Persians for example also deified their leaders.
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Peter G.
Wed, May 12, 2021, 10:34am (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S3: That Hope Is You, Part 2

"The rich people living in gated communities in California are Marxists."

It's probably more accurate to say that the rich people living in gated communities are often amoral in regard to how money is made, and pandering to a social movement of any stripe would be acceptable if it brought in the bottom line. That the far-left BLM movement is in vogue in powerful circles seems to me to make it obvious that people will try to cash in on that. It doesn't make them Marxists; quite the opposite, in fact, since they are the very type of people co-opting public discourse for personal benefit.

That being said:

"Nihilism and Marxism are completely incompatible"

I think Rahul's point is perhaps less that Marxism is put forward as a kind of nihilism, but rather that on a psychological level the same motive spurring people on to Marxist paradigms can also lead to a nihilistic outlook; or perhaps that too long spent in a headspace of resentment will lead to a decline in the positive energies of life, which is perhaps equivalent to becoming nihilistic. At any rate, I don't think Rahul was suggestion that nihilism is some sort of philosophy spelled out through Marxist. That indeed wouldn't make any sense.
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Peter G.
Sat, May 8, 2021, 4:51pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S6: Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night

@ Booming,

You think someone forced into sexual servitude upon pain of losing her family, and then keeping house under implicit threat, and eventually succumbing to Stockholm Syndrone, is "the very definition of a collaborator"? I think you might want to rethink that. You can debate the particulars of my points, perhaps, but not the main issue, which is that she did not voluntarily sign up for this service. Contrast with the Bajorans who were working as foremen of the other Bajorans for the Cardassians, even working them hard and pursuing punishment for them. They were in all essential ways Cardassian agents. But a woman who allows Dukat to play his delusional love game with her to help her family? I think a more reasonable way to call her would be a victim who lost some perspective due to not much fault of her own.
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Peter G.
Tue, Apr 27, 2021, 7:50am (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S5: Course: Oblivion

@ RonB,

You can always deconstruct any metaphor and invent a context in which it means something new. My point was that the profound 'meaning' found in something puerile is an artistic invention of the critic, not of the author. You're focusing on the author's intent. I'm saying that even if the author outright lacks intent someone clever can always pretend they had one anyhow. That doesn't make it so. I have to evaluate art in the theatre all the time, and I get to know pretty well when a work has meat in it versus when it's a piece of fluff. The mental gymnastics of a reviewer don't always reflect legitimate content.
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Peter G.
Mon, Apr 26, 2021, 7:16pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S6: Tapestry

@ Trish,

The thing about the Catholic vocations is that they are by definition a personal devotion to the greatest cause of all. So from that standpoint the meaning of life is provided by one's chosen call to serve. In Trek terms this bears some resemblance to serving Starfleet, for example. Among both Christians and non-believers having children is the most chosen life decision, so even non-Catholics will (from Christian perspective) end up going down that path of meaning whether or not they consciously think of it that way. Jason R mentioned he's not religious, but that having children feels like the ultimate good, which in Christian terms is the feeling of a call to vocation. I agree with you that there are perhaps other calls to great service that don't involve children or great works (e.g. 'building cathedrals'), although to be fair most people who don't see the world in beautified religious terms will almost certainly not feel their secular works (going to the office, going shopping, watching TV) to have much of a significant meaning. But there are no doubt secular, childless people who do highly meaningful things, such as building houses in Central America or doctoring in Africa. But those people probably know what they're doing is important. I think the default and perhaps ambivalent activities pursued by most people aren't even really controversially called mundane. The complaint of our time is that work seems to mostly feel empty. So for most, at any rate, that really does leave children and great works as things that feel legitimately special. Obviously when all action of any kind can be placed within a spiritual framework, then even the most humble action can be undertaken for the sake of all. But it really does matter (to the individual) that there's that conviction behind it for it to feel like that's what it is. Otherwise it will be tough to convince yourself that your life is remarkable in any significant way. To be honest, this is what Nietzsche said would happen when value (God) was stripped from everyday life, and I believe he was correct.
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Peter G.
Mon, Apr 26, 2021, 1:20pm (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S2: Bread and Circuses

@ Tidd,

Cool reflections on the episode, thanks. For what it's worth, I think the writers were probably correct that sun-worship was not exactly the standard religious practice in Rome in the first few centuries AD. To whatever extent the Romans were actual adherents to the Greek religion, and perhaps you can answer this, I imagine it would have been at minimum gauche to deny the supremacy of Jupiter and the other gods. But in the episode's context I think they are also talking about how there wouldn't have been a widespread sun-worship movement. So even if the odd weirdo did adopt a more Egyptian religious aspect, it wouldn't have been a popular thing...right?

For your point about English, maybe there's a semi-altered history element they're implying, where an English speaking PD violation led to an English speaking Roman empire (with proconsuls...). So it wouldn't be a precise parallel to Earth's Italy, but close enough in most respects.
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Peter G.
Mon, Apr 26, 2021, 1:11pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S6: Tapestry

@ William B,

For what it's worth, also remember that having biological children is largely a genetic venture. Meaning, as much as we have high-faluting (or something negative) views about our ideas, our character, etc etc, it's the genes that are going to shape the basic core of their character. I can kind of see the argument that people with genetic problems like disease might want to watch out, and I know people who would have enormous medical problems themselves if they got pregnant. But passing on our flaws...somehow it moves the world toward greatnesss anyhow. It's just counterintuitive sometimes how that could possibly be.

Maybe it's some kind of privilege speaking, but I'm also not so sure that the risk of being sent of the rails as a result of having kids is...I dunno...the end of the world. Lots of crazy eventualities can happen when making decisions, and even 'bad' result may not actually be bad in a larger sense. Just look at Picard being stabbed: who in their right might would celebrate that? The absurdity of actually choosing that over not being stabbed is worthy of a big laugh at minimum. We here on the ground don't have the vantage to know we actually should pick what he picked, which is why it takes a god to show him the objective truth about his choice. For us, we just choose and have to have some kind of faith that it's all worth it. Even the bad results have to be seen as good in some greater sense. WWIII and the Eugenics Wars lead to the Federation. Without them, no Enterprise and no Picard. That's just how history works, it would seem. It's a sort of modern corporate concept that a failure constitutes some kind of horrible situation to be avoided at all costs, which reflects on one's character no less. 'That worthless failure of a person', as the epithet goes. Well I don't believe in that.
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Peter G.
Mon, Apr 26, 2021, 12:45pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S6: Tapestry

@ William B,

Sorry to hear about that, and it's a very understandable thing for you to feel. However it requires a sort of premise like "life is only worth it if there's little to no suffering", a proposition to which I would strenuously object. Maybe part of that comes with being an artist, but for a couple thousand years there seemed to be essentially a Christian Western consensus that not only is pain and suffering not an objection to life, but in fact it's arguably a crucial ingredient making life have a higher meaning. Now obviously I'm not suggesting you adopt that premise for this reason, but just pointing out that it's a fairly new, and IMO psychologically problematic concept, that life's suffering is an argument against life (and creating new life). For most of history suffering was just a fact of life, to degrees we probably can't imagine. And even if some children do curse their parents in some sense, even that doesn't mean they haven't been given something great. After all, one's conception of one's parents is not actually going to do justice to the 'cosmic' sense in which everything exists. Maybe as an analogy, if a surgeon had to disable use of someone's leg to save their life, certain people might curse the surgeon even though objectively it was obviously a great thing to save the person's life. We're not up to the task of properly weighing what is good for us, unfortunately.

That being said, and if I may say so, if anyone has reason to fear that they shouldn't be a parent, I would wager you have less than most to fear. I don't know you on a personal level, but the products of your mind give me reason to vouch for you. You will not be a bad influence, even if you have flaws I'm not aware of (as we all do). Do what you think is right, but never think you are unworthy.

Getting back to the episode for a moment, I still believe that it's not that Picard believes that a life of mediocrity is to be condemned, it's just that it doesn't live up to his own ambitions. Obviously there has to be actual mediocrity in the world, it's just a truism. He wouldn't rail against that. But all the cockiness and self-assurance he had as a youth is still with him, which is why he feels this way. He's still the guy who got stabbed, and I think that's Q's message. He didn't actually change, it's just this is what that guy becomes after taking responsibility seriously. Picard's position was "thank god I'm not that guy anymore", and Q's answer is to show him who he actually would have been had he really not been that guy.

Now about Jason R's comment about children/greatness, it seems a perennial topic regarding how to become immortal, so to speak, and historically family and legacy are the two ways. I'm not sure I'd be quite so sure about limiting it to those absolutely, but if one's goal is to have a *noticeable* and lasting impact, it's hard to argue that these are the two chief ways. Many people just won't make as much of a splash on history. That's sort of ok, not exactly reason to condemn anyone, but it's perfectly reasonable for someone like Picard to say it's not good enough *for him.*
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