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Peter G.
Mon, Apr 19, 2021, 7:42am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S5: Doctor Bashir, I Presume

@ Booming,

Psychopaths do in fact have empathy, just not reflexive empathy. Meaning they don't mirror your feelings as you feel them. But they are quite capable of empathizing if they imagine or intellectually consider someone's experience. And that, they can choose to do or not.
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Peter G.
Sun, Apr 18, 2021, 1:58pm (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S3: The Way to Eden

@ benji,

It's interesting you see the ending as Eden not letting them in because they're unworthy. Admittedly this interpretation never occured to me. Knowing TOS and its extreme wariness about so-called paradise, I always assumed the ending meant that Eden wasn't what they thought it was. That is what a poisonous idea in the way they conceived it. The similarity to David Koresh's cult comes to mind, of trying to reach paradise by escaping the world. It's a death wish by another name.
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Peter G.
Sun, Apr 18, 2021, 1:53pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S5: Doctor Bashir, I Presume

The way he was portrayed, Khan didn't necessarily seem psychopathic. Just ruthless. These can overlap but don't have to. Plus he did seem to have genuine emotions of empathy...selectively perhaps.
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Peter G.
Sun, Apr 18, 2021, 8:23am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S5: Doctor Bashir, I Presume

Jason R, I would say one difference is that ambition of a certain political sort isn't merely to be at the top of a hierarchy of excellence, but specifically (to paraphrase Oscar Wilde) to 'control the lives of other men.' This is, to some people, the greatest thing they can imagine. Controlling your own life, your own career, and your own skill level, is small potatoes compared to the scope and scale of having dominion of those realms *for everyone*. And that really isn't the same as merely wanting to be the best that you can at something. It's not even the same as wanting to be filthy rich and live on the biggest yacht in the world.

That being said I actually still agree with you, and the desire to dominate and control the fate of others is actually not rare. No one knows for sure what goes on in the passing thoughts and hidden fantasies of every person (I believe that we only ever perceive the tip of the iceberg from most people). But I personally suspect that total dominion is not as far from the thoughts of average people as we might suspect. It's not so much that they crave it to the point of obsession, or of actual planning, but it's more of a "oh man, if only I were in charge and could tell people what to do" kind of mentality. So I don't even mean it in the sense of malevolent dominion; and indeed in Wilde's An Ideal Husband this kind of political power is actually painted as the greatest good, unironically. So I could even believe a Khan type person wanting to rule, but actually thinking it's to stop the corrupt idiots from ruining the world.
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Peter G.
Sun, Apr 18, 2021, 7:55am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S5: For the Uniform

Ok, let's assume this wasn't a goof, and that it wasn't a war crime. How can we reconcile those premises with Sisko's character?

One thing I think that gets overlooked is how hard it was to catch Eddington, and what in fact he was capable of (and willing to do). The episode isn't my favorite by a long shot, particularly because I don't like the Les Miz comparisons, and because I don't care for Eddington as a character or as a villain. Because I diminish Eddington's importance in my minds, because honestly I don't take him that seriously, it does create the risk of understating what his agenda is. He quite literally sees himself as a saint doing God's work, saving the poor colonists from destruction, and his means as having the stamp of Good on them. So far he has already gassed a Cardassian planet, and unlike Sisko I doubt he took any special care to make sure no Cardassians were killed. And if this was a "good" act, just imagine what happens when Eddington decides it's time to do something *really* good. He is, after all, Valjean, the protagonist of a romantic story. And if we also take seriously that, for some reason, it is just impossible to catch him, we are now stuck with a serious issue in the form of potentially genocidal attacks being made by Eddington next. I would actually categorize his threat level as extremely high, if we're to take the episode seriously. Typically I don't, which is why I get stuck in the "Sisko is bad" debate. But now I am, and I can see that something had to be done about Eddington.

The entire episode seems to center around Sisko needing to do *something* to bring in this dangerous man. Let's say he's like a bin Laden, only with far more destructive power. He cannot be caught by any conventional method, so Sisko devises a literary method to bring him in: show him that Sisko the villain will make the Maquis suffer equally for every crime they commit against the Cardassians. Things brings out the noble sacrifice from Eddington, and he gives Sisko an avenue to get him. If we don't take seriously that there was absolutely no other way to bring him in then I think we are ignoring the episode's premise. The question of whether gassing a Maquis colony is a war crime needs to be taken in context of (a) the Maquis were complicit in these attacks (we see no signs they they are splintered in their intention or that they make any move to get Eddington to stop), and (b) the scale of destruction Eddington was wreaking was unacceptable and likely would have led to all-out war eventually. So was gassing the Maquis planet the only way to get Eddington to make a noble sacrifice? I don't know. But if it did work, the episode suggests that Sisko will sacrifice his honor (i.e. in becoming a villain) for the sake of the uniform, i.e. to serve the Federation and protect its citizens and uphold its laws. As it was apparently the Federation's job to prevent colonists from attacking Cardassians with bio-weapons, you can ask yourselves whether giving them tit for tat to make it stop was even wrong as a Federation move. Sure, most Admirals wouldn't have signed off on it. But on the other hand you're talking about a terrorist group using WMD's on Cardassian civilians, and they had to be stopped any way possible. Sisko chose a way.

The one single thing I would agree was a good is how the last scene was written. It should have involved Sisko and Dax lamenting that serving the good of the many required doing things he found disgraceful, but that if he hadn't that many more would have been killed. This kind of numbers game would later be brought in with In the Pale Moonlight, and I don't think these are discordant. It only requires us to take seriously was Eddington's threat level was, and I admit this is hard to do because the actor comes off as...I dunno, not very threatening.
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Peter G.
Sat, Apr 17, 2021, 3:43pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S5: Doctor Bashir, I Presume

"Because the scientists overlooked one fact: that superior ability breeds superior ambition"

Maybe this doesn't mean that the quantity of ambition is increased. It could very well mean that the skill of ambition is superior. In other words, when people are superior in every way their capacity to carry out their ambition will be amplified likewise. Which is sort of what Jason R. said.
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Peter G.
Sat, Apr 17, 2021, 11:16am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S5: Doctor Bashir, I Presume

"According to the TOS Space Seed episode, it is the expansion of ambition, which occurred as an unplanned consequence of the genetic fiddling, which caused the problem. The suspicion that all genetically-enhanced beings will insatiably need to win, and to forever dominate, lies at core of the Federation's paranoia.

But surely Julian has rarely, if ever, shown himself to be of Khan's ilk. He's good at lots o'stuff to be sure, but he's hardly Mr. Space Seed."

I'm not 100% sure that DS9 is saying quite the same thing as Space Seed was about ambition. Odo and the others talk about the unfair competition, and how parents would be pressured to enhance their children. Essentially it's a race to the bottom...or rather to the top. You can say bye-bye to homo sapiens as a species at this point, and you may as well breed Jem'Hadar once you're at it. Actually I'm kind of shocked that the Founders were never mentioned in the discussion about genetic engineering.

In Khan's case, yes, he was ambitious beyond measure. But then again many normal humans have been essentially as ambitious as that too. We don't really know from Space Seed whether most of the enhanced were like this, or maybe most just wanted to live regular lives and only a few started ganging up to control the world. I think the book Ender's Game has a good instance of something akin to this, where of the three children of equally brilliant intelligence, only Peter has disposed to want complete domination of others, while Ender and Valentine didn't want into that game. Now maybe one of the enhancements given to Khan in particular was an increased aggression and ambition, but it seems that by DS9's time it's assumed that you can turn on and off anything you like and that even if ambition is one of the options it doesn't have to be chosen.
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Peter G.
Fri, Apr 9, 2021, 10:52am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: The Outcast

Sometimes people mutually enforce a certain code of conduct or rule of decorum, and even if every single person involved suffers as a result, they will still enforce it on pain of death. This is fairly common. In The Outcast we may be prone to assume that it's an evil government forcing this on the people, and that the individuals we see are an arm of the thought police. But what if they are just civil representatives enacting the will of the majority? What if that really is the will of the majority? This is partially why in a free society one of the chief principles must be the defense of minority opinions, no matter how unpalatable. Once unlikeable opinions are suppressed the bar will move in directions that no one can control.

Now as regards *acting out* these minority opinions - in the case of our episode, using gendered pronouns and behaviors - I think we will find that when people feel threatened they will do something about it, whether they're right or wrong. So in practice I think we will find little distinction between free thought, free speech, and freedom to act out ideas. You must suppress them all, or none of them. And suppressing none of them does mean the majority may feel threatened...or in some sense actually be threatened. Maybe not with physical force, but with a tearing asunder of their established culture. So from that standpoint I think a choice has to be made between a certain amount of chaos and uncertainty, and between a stable system kept in place through force.
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Peter G.
Fri, Apr 9, 2021, 7:33am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: The Outcast

"What if it's government putting the screws to giant social media companies to do it for them. You know, stop the "hate speech" on your platforms or else we might have to anti trust your ass."

The line between government and private actors has been gone for a long time, if it was ever really there. The notion that something is ok for non-government entities but not ok for government is essentially nonsense. There are many ways for these entities to affect government and for government to affect them. They are all informal partnerships. It could be anti-trust, it could be a threat to withdraw access (and along with it, any chance of good stories since investigative journalism is dead). It could be threats to withdraw funding from universities, or other such manipulations.

Now I still don't think that entirely addresses Dave's point, which is that even if government was theoretically not involved at all, the populace could just as soon rally together and effect something just as tyrannical. Where the source of the tyranny is seems somewhat immaterial. I guess my personal answer to that is that if a population becomes...for lack of a better term...bad, there is nothing to be done. The society will just be bad. You can't legislate your way to making people be better, that has to come from lateral moves and education.
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Peter G.
Thu, Apr 8, 2021, 10:33am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: The Masterpiece Society

When this episode was written China was a non-issue to mainstream American thought and writing. There is essentially no chance that China was the intended analogy with this colony. Obviously one can map China onto it, and in 100 years there may be other societies that strikingly fit, but that doesn't mean it's the writer's intention. And those here talking about the PD and the West are talking about the writers' intentions and the series message regarding the PD. That discussion doesn't bear really at all on the details of this colony and whether it resembles any current-day societies. That is, as far as I can tell, off-topic to the issue of how the PD is playing out and whether it's about the U.S. or not.

Now as an aside, I don't think China maps well onto the colony well at all. Sure, China has engaged in some limited eugenics, and sure, they have a more regimented society than we see in the West. But the similarity stops around there as far as I can tell. I see a lot more Brave New World here, where people are genetically engineered to love their niche in the society, where everyone is made beautiful and perfect, where their pleasure and fulfillment is maxed out using technology, and where the slightest perturbation or free thought would bring the whole thing tumbling down. It is fundamentally a weak society, whose stability is guaranteed only so long as it can remain isolated from 'the savages.' China, on the other hand, is a demonstrably strong society, where you would not easily find cracks in the system to topple it over, and where despite having probably low morale in certain respects, the ever-present eyes of government make sure that everyone is watching everyone. It looks a lot more to me like Orwell's vision in 1984, if we needed to make comparisons of this sort in the first place.

The colonist here really do look like nice and happy people, not stifled victims of an oppressive and cruel thought police. Their main problem is that they cannot absorb the shock of outside influence, but also cannot survive without it. That doesn't sound like China. So this analogy in the first place was forced, to say the least, and continued to be forced, apparently to make some kind of political point that IMO has little to do with the episode at hand.
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Peter G.
Wed, Apr 7, 2021, 1:10pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: The Masterpiece Society

Since zero of those points come close to representing what anyone here has said, yeah, I'd say you're having a problem parsing other peoples' posts. Maybe the written word is read differently by different people; maybe the technology makes us mistrust each other; maybe other things. Whatever it is, you're getting it very wrong, man.
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Peter G.
Wed, Apr 7, 2021, 12:28pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: The Masterpiece Society

@ Dave in MN,

"You created a STRONG inference that we shouldn't judge other cultures.

Don't be coy and pretend like that wasn't at least partially your intent."

Then let me be clear: that has nothing to do with my intent, is far from it, and in fact is essentially off-topic in regards to the point I was expressing. You can take this as a given: you are far off in your estimation of what other people here are meaning. I suppose you will have to decide whether we are all liars, or whether you may need to re-evaluate how you're reading posts. I agree with some points you've made along the way, so don't fall into the trap of thinking this is an ideological disagreement. It's about you not being able to feed back to others what they are actually saying.
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Peter G.
Wed, Apr 7, 2021, 12:09pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: The Masterpiece Society

Dave, you really don't get it. My only suggestion is to go back and re-read the posts carefully. If you so I suggest you may see that you are mostly responding to things not said, and misreading the responses that are said. You just now paraphrased what I wrote, which in no way resembles what I actually did write. If you can't put the other person's position back to them in a clear way that they agree is what they meant, you will certainly get nowhere arguing with them about how wrong they are. How can you know if they're wrong if you're confused about their actual position?
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Peter G.
Wed, Apr 7, 2021, 11:40am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: The Masterpiece Society

I'm saying that your position is apparently "infinite diversity and infinite combinations, except for your combinations and your diversity! Agree with me!" IDIC means to accept that others are different, think differently, and have different priorities. The Andorians are warriors, the Vulcans believe in peace. But in the Federation they have to respect each other's differences. Even better than that, they have to realize that these differences make the Federation stronger, not weaker. Conformity of thought and of form is not do be desired. It may sound counterintuitive to you, but in your concern for China you should in some sense be reassured that other people voice other concerns. There is room for all; or at least there is if you believe IDIC.
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Peter G.
Wed, Apr 7, 2021, 11:11am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: The Masterpiece Society

You are using the IDIC to prove to me how we *have to* speak in the way *you* would prefer? Do you realize how absurd that is?
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Peter G.
Wed, Apr 7, 2021, 11:03am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: The Masterpiece Society

@ Dave in MN,

You appear to be trying to push back against woke culture's tendency to rail against one's own country to the exclusion of other concerns, which I do understand. However I will point out to you that your argument is taking the current form at present:

"How dare you criticize X when you *should* be criticizing Y instead?"

But this formulation is actually a standard woke maneuver - to insist that outrage and condemnation be directed in pre-specified directions. The notion that individuals should be free to voice their own concerns as they see them is the only reasonable pushback against this pressured focus of ire. Telling people what to be concerned about is just joining the fray using the techniques you seemingly dislike. If your concern is people who are obsessed with condemning the culture that gave them so much, this would be an appropriate criticism of a larger, patterned behavior that seems to deliberately give a pass to much worse practices. There is no evidence of that here, and of all people Jason R is not the droid you're looking for.

This forum thrives on people speaking whatever is on their mind, and I don't see any reason to try to police that and insist on what the "real" priority should be, or what needs to be included with posts as disclaimers. You may ask well demand trigger warnings as well. People here already scoff at the demand for spoiler alerts!
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Peter G.
Tue, Apr 6, 2021, 8:58pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: The Masterpiece Society

@ Trish,
"Not that I personally approve of dead-end flings, but, well, it's not as if Captain Kirk hadn't set a pretty clear precedent. I'm surprised that we're supposed to think that such things are a big deal in the Trekverse."

In S1-2 I think we find TNG very much in the libertine camp, but by S3 and onwards the tone changes, almost to the point where it eventually becomes almost modest about sex. That's not an in-universe explanation, but I do think it permeates the writing. Just look at Conundrum for an example of a sexual encounter being treated as a really embarrassing thing, by Riker no less! He was certainly not in the headspace of a frolicking player by that point.

If we did want an in-universe explanation, I suppose one could suggest that serving under Picard is a whole other deal than serving under Kirk. On Kirk's ship everyone had a smile and a friendly wink when someone would find someone of the opposite sex to spend time with. But Picard's ship has a more earnest air, a professionalism that, despite a slightly informal tone, carries a great weight of setting an example for humanity. I expect that Troi may have felt differently if having this fling under a more boisterous captain.
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Peter G.
Tue, Apr 6, 2021, 7:04pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: The Masterpiece Society

@ Rahul,

Quite right, I mean that an individual does best to manage him/herself and the immediate environment. Pointing fingers and losing sleep over bad things in the world is counterproductive. Rarely if ever is it even possible to constructively change faraway people and places. To do so destructively, on the other hand, isn't always that hard.
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Peter G.
Tue, Apr 6, 2021, 6:16pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: The Masterpiece Society

@ Rahul,

"Does that mean that we need to be perfect in order to criticize another (not that we necessarily want to) ?"

No, it means that if the majority of your developmental time is spent pointing at "him! that guy! bad!" then not only does nothing change, but you and your environment probably increase in anxiety. Add in the premise that the target of your concern is something that you can't materially affect, and not only does anxiety increase but so does the feeling of dissolute helplessness. Whereas if all of that mental energy went towards dealing with your own flaws, and perhaps those of your immediate environment, quite a lot could get done. And I believe as well that improvements on a 'local' level have much more of an impact globally than one might think. They inspire, raise confidence, set an example, and create a positive-minded morale.

But none of that says to ignore things abroad, and to remain silent about them. It's just to keep in mind that I don't think railing about it does one very much good. Some attention - ok. But not too much, for one's own good. I think I learned that the hard way.
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Peter G.
Tue, Apr 6, 2021, 4:28pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: The Masterpiece Society

Thank you, William, for speaking up in Jason R's defense. His points are indeed fact-based and certainly conveyed nothing partisan.

@ Dave,

Regarding China, you will find overall that people are hesitant to allow themselves to be aware or to care too much about things they are powerless to do anything about. Dwelling on such matters is typically a one-way ticket to depression and anxiety. That's not to say we should be ignorant of it, and in fact I agree vehemently with your concern. *However* the attempt to turn your desire for attention on that topic into a partisan rift is going to make things worse, not better. Peace with your countrymen *might* relax awareness enough that there's room in overall consciousness for foreign troubles, even ones that we are powerless to affect. However my belief, and perhaps this plays into Jason R's comments, is that one should not point fingers outward until one's own house is in order. It doesn't matter if someone else is worse. There will always be someone worse to distract us from cleaning up our own act.
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Peter G.
Mon, Apr 5, 2021, 11:39am (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S2: The Apple

@ Tidd,

I see what you're saying, but I'd ask what content in the episode really highlights that we're talking about a brainwashed population. true, Vaal is an overlord who does use force, but on the other hand he does seem actually kind to his people and offers them a perfectly pleasant, if infantile, society. It's dangerous to outsiders to be sure, but it seems that all they have to do is offer fruit to their god and they get to live like happy children forever. To me this is how a cynical person would view the Garden of Eden, where (presumably from the POV of an anti-theist) the people are kept as mental children, not allowed real knowledge, and should they ask unacceptable question (i.e. eat the forbidden fruit) they will be punished. I think the episode is saying something like, "you threaten to kick us out? I don't think so, we quit." Like, take your Garden and stick it, sort of thing, since enlightened humans don't want to live like children anyhow.
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Peter G.
Sun, Apr 4, 2021, 5:54pm (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S2: The Apple

@ Tidd,

"Not-very-subtle 'anti-Soviet / Eastern totalitarianism' clumsily disguised as a Biblical parable."

That's interesting, since personally I never read a Soviet statement into it at all. Maybe I'd have to watch it again. It pretty much seems to me to be about the Garden of Eden is a rather straightforward way.
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Peter G.
Thu, Apr 1, 2021, 11:15pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: The Masterpiece Society

@ Mal,

I think both your argument and Luke's have merit, as obviously the PD is wrought with difficulty at the best of times. However I do think I would like to add something to clarify one major issue:

"In “Half a Life”, Picard doesn’t want the alien race to die. He wants to help them bring their sun back to life. But they have to want him to help them. He’s not going to impose his help on them. In “Pen Pals” Picard lets Data help his little friend Sarjenka, even though Picard is against the whole thing. Instead, Picard listens to all the perspectives, and in the end, he changes his mind,"

The general canon of the PD as I understand it suggests that a specifically *pre-warp* civilization cannot be offered help of any kind under any circumstances or even contacted directly (Pen Pals, Homeward, First Contact) whereas a warp-capable civilization can request help and receive it. However in the case of a warp-capable civilization the PD still forbids offering assistance in any case where the people in question are divided and do not agree on the matter. It also forbids offering help if that help will directly alter the political and social landscapes of that people.

So cases like Pen Pals and Homeward are open and shut PD situations that only resulted in Picard deciding to help because the initiative had already begun and to suddenly withdraw the contact and offer of help would be not only callous (which in some sense the PD may be at times) but also a betrayal. I don't think Picard was particularly happy about going along with Nicolai in Homeward, and in Pen Pals it would seem that things were far too developed between Data and Sarjenka to pretend that they could avoid involvement.

Contrast with other episodes like Half a Life, Redemption, and The Hunted, where it's not a question of helping those people being illegal, but where unless they are unified in their request the Federation isn't going to start taking political sides.

Kirk is exceptionally cavalier in some of his decisions, for instance in A Taste of Armageddon, where he springboards from getting the Enterprise out of their grasp all the way to shutting down their fake war. This was certainly not done at their request; but I think for him the line was crossed when they began to be aggressive toward his people. If he had only heard about them I doubt he would have rushed over to bring it to a halt. So here it seems the line he drew is the Federation won't *start* a process of interference, but if the people in question are the initiators then Kirk is within his rights to follow up and take action. In A Piece of the Action and Patterns of Force, the argument is different: a major PD violation has already occurred, and Kirk sees further interactions as being the only way to clean up the mess. That he does so in world-changing ways speaks to the immense power Starship Captains wield, but otherwise these 'violations' seem to be exceptional in a way that cannot be defined through rules.

The one episode that truly has no great justification for the PD violation is A Private Little War (and arguably Errand of Mercy), where Kirk's interference is certainly not done at the request of a unified people. His justification is that the Klingons already spoiled their natural development, so there's nothing left to protect any more. But while in a Sisko-esque manner this makes a kind of rough sense, strictly speaking the PD doesn't empower a Captain to make sure a planet's development goes fairly; it just says don't interfere. One can't help but feel that Kirk did this for reasons other than Federation law. Maybe it was friendship, or maybe the Cold War need to beat the Klingons; but either way it's a rough decision. I suppose if I had to invent a good rationale for it I could make a case that with Klingons as allies the local people were no longer a pre-warp civilization; but even then the political divide should have prevented it.

I'm being a bit pedantic about this just to make sure we're all talking about the same thing. I'm pretty sure Luke is talking about the pre-warp cases, where letting younger races die is what's at stake. I don't think Luke is talking about standing back and letting the Klingon civil war play out by itself. So from that standpoint I really do think B5's Lumati are at minimum an apt satire of the notion of not lifting a finger to help or to hurt 'inferior species'.
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Peter G.
Thu, Apr 1, 2021, 3:15pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: The Masterpiece Society

Given that the nature of the interference here is partially genetic exposure, partially cultural exposure, in both cases we might say that the Enterprise brought contagion with it. From that standpoint there may be a parallel here with the Europeans coming to the Americas. Intentions are irrelevant if your mere presence wipes them out. You can talk about whether they're stupid, or cowardly, or whatever you want, but if they know for a fact that you being there is going to hammer them then perhaps they're not being so dumb.

That being said it's worth mentioning that while their society might have been ideal from the point of view of individual satisfaction, it was also weak. Any system that cannot absorb strange inputs and survive is ultimately going to be short-lived. That's why our immune system doesn't involve keeping infection out, but rather letting just enough in to learn its tricks and incorporate it. Too much and one is overwhelmed. The same is true on the cultural scale.
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Peter G.
Tue, Mar 30, 2021, 12:10pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S6: The Reckoning

@ Erwd,

"Non-linear people that have command over time itself should not be able to be challenged by their linear Devils(pah-wraiths)."

Hm, now this is an interesting objection. My first instinct is to agree with the notion that this needed to be fleshed out much better than it was from a sci-fi perspective. But then again so did non-linearity in the first place.

I think part of the problem right from Emissary is that DS9 was purporting to tackle a hard sci-fi issue in a series that was never about hard sci-fi. True, the tech manuals tried very hard to stick to science, and true there was an incredible amount of detailing - even accurate predicting - about the nature and function of starships and FTL space travel. But for all that the shows IMO were always about people and how we need to improve as a species going into the future. The post-scarcity environment is a necessary backdrop to that but the shows do not explore economic conditions. So when DS9 brings up the issues of time, causality, and how advanced beings may interact with a skeptical scientific community (the Federation), we should assume that what we're getting is a backdrop for good character stories. After all, even Data's best stories were never about robotics, but rather always about humanity.

That being said, they *did* bring up the issue, so it feels like a dodge not to go there. In a sense this is a similar objection that I have with VOY, which is not taking its own premises seriously enough. So as you say, we have entities which can literally pick out future timelines as we would pick curtain patterns, knowing full well how and in what way free will (let's say) and choice figure into it. And now the premise is introduced that there is more than one faction of these entities. Is that supposed to mean that these opponents have a different concept for how future timelines should be chosen? Does it mean there is a disagreement about how in fact this process should even be enacted? Is it a moral/ethical difference (about how the decision should be made), a mechanical difference (how the changes should be enacted), or a more fundamental difference (why timeline-alteration should be done in the first place)? We don't know, and it wasn't ever asked. To the extent that he has myriad objections to this whole line, I agree with Elliott and others that the risk of this narrative degenerating into a cartoon version of good vs evil was severe. To an extent it did that. If a good vs evil binary was going to be introduced, evil at minimum would need to include a rationale we could at least attempt to understand. VOY's Year of Hell did do this, to its credit. If someone can re-write the timeline at will, what will be the basis for doing so? Greater good? Some other objective? One's own gratification?

I just can't help but suspect that in DS9's case it was (once again) stealing from JMS's Babylon 5 and almost just interpolating the Vorlons and Shadows into the Trek-verse. And this is putting aside how B5 itself deconstructs the concept that they are, respectively, good and evil in the first place.
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