When you teach your child to undervalue some people, they soon will be able to undervalue all including their parents.”

-Jean-Luc Picard (ST:TNG Chain of Command Pt.2)

December 1992, I was in Grade 9, and already a student of politics, social justice, mysteries and science fiction. A writer. It was also when Star Trek: The Next Generation aired the two part Chain of Command that covered a story of current political climate and historical, and one that still has its place today in discourse. Working with Amnesty International it was the exploration of torture.

                Think of this? What is the purpose of torture? Or as the P.C. neo-right call “enhanced interrogation techniques”? Some say it gets to information, everything points to the patent false hood of this for under duress the human psyche will do whatever is necessary for survival which means information captured in this process on the off chance may be accurate, but truly when one looks at archived information especially out of the Stalinist gulag it is about control. Breaking down the other.

This is where the quote that opened comes from. The scene is the Gul torturing Jean-Luc’s daughter is there in the room. Jean-Luc questions him about why, and he points out the need for them to see the value that their species has over others. To which Jean-Luc begins a counter with the undervaluing of all, the ability to be able to see anyone as the other. No actual communal ties. Pointing what the military-efficiency domination of Cardassians had taken them from a spiritual-scientific culture to this brutality.

Think of it, the breakdown of someone to be nothing more than the other. So stripped of agency that one could rationalization brutalization for they were not your equal so it was okay. History is filled with these atrocities. In fact, the beginning of the torture of Picard begins with the Gul pointing out he will have no name anymore, simply be the human. And yes, the torture involved lies “we killed the Klingon” or “your ship is in flames”. But the forcing of control to see how one had been broken to another’s will through answering how many lights Picard could see? There was 4, the torturer demanded he see 5, it was a finger control trick from the Gulag histories to see if the person had been broken.

Think deeper though, yes this is a bigger issue we can still see today. But look at what is at the core? The ability to dehumanize someone from their intrinsic value of a person. Boil it down so they are less than simply because of X, Y, or Z. It is the essence where bullying, assault, and abuse begin. The needs of me, outweighs the needs of others.

As we enter a time of quasi-enlightenment and seeing the damage removing intrinsic worth, and undervaluing the other has caused perhaps it is time to revisit communal rights and responsibly, along with the accountability.  For even during the pain, if the person does not break there is hope for healing, once broken there is the possibility of rebuilding.  What a better world though would exist if one did not have to endure the attempt to break or the breaking to begin with?

As I have written before sci-fi when done well can create conversations communities may not have the capacity to engage with civilly towards change. As I watched the blu-ray special edition, and remembered I saw part two on Christmas Day as a 14 year old I remembered a story trying to shed light on workplace abuse.

Years ago I remember ministers in Ontario looking at joining Union due to the abuse that had been heaped upon them by congregants. This group within the United Church of Canada got derision from the broader Christianities, yet what was missed was they were the whistle blowers on the unhealthy work and community created for them. It was and is a reality I have experienced and can speak to with my time in ministry and believe if this option had been on the table in some postings for myself I would have sought the support of a bargaining body. Too much was covered up with the “let’s pray about it” to the “it is God’s will” to the “we employ you.” Yet not willing to see harm done, and patterns created to perpetuate harm. If these congregations had been a person doing this to another at the very least they would have been a bully, at most possibly a harasser or assailant.

Yet accountability was lacked, because it was easier to stand with the voice devaluing…to be with the Guls (Cardassians Military) and not those that saw a different path, for those voices were pushed out or silenced. Other means that torture where used, but the valuing system of commodifying the person so that their value could be undercut still existed.

So do we crumble to the torturer, or after one exchange, stand as a Picard, with this closing quote:

Hey I got you to call me Picard.”

-Jean-Luc Picard (ST: TNG Chain of Command pt. 2)

Comments
  1. My Neighbour: ST:TNG Redemption-Are you ready to love yourself? | Ty Ragan, Psy.D says:

    […] My Neighbour: ST: TNG Chain of Command the value of the other […]

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