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 A Cardassian Never Forgets....(elephants)
Deranged Nasat
 Posted: Mar 27 2013, 05:50 AM
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The Essay Master


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Member No.: 49
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Here's that post I promised, which builds on ideas I previously put forth elsewhere and have decided to expand on. smile.gif I'd like to see what the rest of you think of them. As odd as it might sound, in considering how an "ideal" Cardassian society might work - that is, one that isn't oppressive and dysfunctional like Central Command and the modern Union - I find myself thinking of elephants (in part because I've been reading about them). Elephants, of course, are among the most human-like (and thus Cardassian-like wink.gif ) of animals - very arguably sapient, with a lifespan and growth rate very similar to our own. Given what we hear about Cardassian psychology - and keeping in mind the great work that some of the forum's members have already done in that regard, arguing for a natural hierarchal instinct in Cardassians and exploring the consequences - I think elephants are a useful place to start in considering how Cardassian societies "should" work.

Elephants are very hierarchal - both in the mainstream herds consisting of females and offspring, and in the looser male groupings that form outside of these. Elephants are also generally peaceful, though; bullying isn't tolerated in the herd, with the penalty for bullying being (or so I've read) a form of "time out" that elephants find distressing, as they're highly social creatures who depend on contact with others. Elephant calves are used to a highly supportive environment, apparently making them rather psychologically vulnerable when they aren't getting one. Apparently, keepers raising orphaned elephants know that when you discipline an elephant or "tell it off", it's important to later show some one-on-one affection, so the calf knows it was being reprimanded for a misdemeanour and not being told it isn't cared for. Apparently, the herd is very nurturing and mutually supportive while having clear hierarchies and definite leaders; ultimate authority of course belonging to the matriarch, who is treated with tremendous respect for her experience and leadership skills.

What's interesting is that this combination of hierarchy and support is also, apparently, now being observed in male elephants, which of course leave the herd to live independently upon reaching late adolescence. I was reading recently about bonding in adult male elephants, which has historically been less understood, since following the dynamics of the permanent female herd is of course a lot easier. Apparently, male elephant society is now thought to be a lot more complex than used to be believed. Male elephants, like many if not most male animals, are competitive among themselves, seeking always to be the "top dog". However, they're also usually rather peaceful among themselves, always aware of their "rightful" place. While males in musth buck the rules and challenge more established elephants for status (and usually succeed, since no-one wants to stand in the way of a guy in musth - some scientists apparently think the whole point of musth is to encourage genetic diversity by letting a population cycle through "alpha" males), relationships between males in a community are usually smooth and amicable, *because* everyone knows their place in terms of the hierarchy, and knows where they stand in relation to everyone else. Relationships among members of both sexes, then, are supportive and generally healthy, even where males have a natural instinct for seeking dominant positions within a hierarchy (remind you of anyone wink.gif? ). Young males apparently deliberately seek out elder males for support just as females follow their elder relatives and everyone follows the matriarch.

The matriarch leads her herd to water, etc, and the herd very often has her memory and guidance to thank for its prosperity. The idea that "an elephant never forgets" probably has its basis in this (among other traits). When the matriarch dies, it's the most vulnerable time for a herd, and some apparently don't recover from the blow. Many human cultures, of course, revere the elderly for their survival experience and memory; Cardassians, seemingly evolved for an arid environment, might be particularly inclined to place emphasis on the disciplined mind and great memory of the elders. They are both a quasi-gerontocratic people and a race renowned for mental discipline, after all.

I think Cardassians could be considered akin to elephants; a combination of both elephant sexes. Perhaps they too naturally have (or seek) an instinctive understanding of where they stand in relation to everyone else. Their society, when functional, might be stable and supportive (nurturing of children) because of that inherent respect for hierarchy. Perhaps when Jellico compared them to wolves, he should have compared them to elephants. Like male elephants, Cardassians are competitive and seek dominance within a social hierarchy; Jellico claims so, and what we've seen suggests to me that in this he's accurate. But as male elephants show, desire to seek a dominant position doesn't necessarily lead to anarchy or a lack of mutual regard. in fact, such a people would likely have a cultural and moral system in place with the express purpose of negating any excesses. Cardassians are also like female elephants, in that they form permanent family groups and work with an eye towards long-term community, placing value on the wisdom of their leaders,

It occurs to me that in the novels, the Oralian Way makes the comparison even stronger. As Astraea leads the people by serving as a vessel for the wisdom of Oralius, it seems to me that this is almost symbolic of how a leader is able to access memory, draw from the pool of experience, and guide the group in matters both practical and emotional. If Cardassians are elephants, then in the old days of the Oralian leadership...well, Astraea was the matriarch, wasn't she? I don't know whether this is coincidence, but there's a really interesting bit in "A Stitch In Time" where a character - who is clearly and most definitely not an Oralian himself - quotes an old poem that, in retrospect, is pretty obviously about Oralians and quite possibly about Astraea (or so I interpret it, with raised eyebrow). The poem even refers to "my matriarch", and I've often thought that old Cardassian = elephants would make considerable sense; again, likely coincidence, but it makes me wonder... smile.gif

As for what went wrong to transform this obedient, functional hierarchal society into the Union we know and mourn, where those instincts are twisted into a dysfunctional, oppressive nightmare, I suppose the pressures of planetary environmental chaos would have a highly negative effect on such a structured society. I'm reminded of what happens when adolescent male elephants leave the female herds and there aren't any elder bulls around to "mentor" them (having all been culled, for example); the young bulls often become unusually aggressive, their musth cycle is abnormal, they're known to rampage around killing rhinoceros or humans for no real reason...but they calm down when older bulls are introduced and they perceive themselves as part of a healthy, supportive hierarchy again. Apparently, an elephant cannot be psychologically stable absent the hierarchy, and in males at least an absence of that hierarchy can lead to dangerous aggression. Combined with the restriction of herds to reserves, the shooting of elders, the death of mothers leaving orphaned calves (keeping in mind there's no father-child bond in elephants; the mother is their one and only parent)...human behaviour has had a serious and negative effect on many elephant populations, in terms of society as well as numbers.

Pressures that place strain on a society and a hierarchy; that might help us understand Cardassins, I think. With the collapse of the spiritual Cardassian society of old, and the loss of faith in the old ways, the gods, the leaders and their philosophies - and the rapid rise of a militant philosophy to replace it - are we seeing a form of civilization-wide trauma that Cardassians are particularly vulnerable to? I've come to wonder if pre-Central Command Cardassia - the apparently healthy Cardassia - might not be compared to elephant society. The elders and priests of the old society would be akin to the matriarchs, guiding the people and respected for their wisdom. But, for whatever reason, the planet's climate failed. Whether the population grew too large for the world to support, whether it was a natural shift in orbit, or any number of other issues, Cardassia was no longer sufficient to support the population. I always think; what would happen if there was no water, and no matter where the matriarch led the herd *nothing* presented itself. Would her people blame her for "failing" them, even though it's not her fault? With half the herd dying, might not the structure of this society fall apart? Thinking of those young male elephants who run rampage in the absence of elders to guide them, and keeping in mind that Cardassians combine the male elephant's competitiveness with the female elephants' social instinct, it seems sadly plausible that those angry, aggressive young men might depose the old leaders who are now seen as having failed them. I'm reminded of "Day of the Vipers", and Danig Kell's angry insistence that the Oralian Way were repressive and poor leaders.

After all, what is modern Cardassia if not a nation in which angry, aggressive men took control and declared themselves in charge for the supposed good of all? A society whose entire worldview is defined as "the old ways failed us. The old leaders were decadent, stagnating us. Now we're in charge, and we will preserve our people through any means necessary. We are your leaders now, and we will keep the group strong"?

Cardassia, I'd propose, is akin to a failed elephant herd where the psychologically damaged, aggressively out of control young men ended up in charge, and grew into a ruling class of old men dedicated to perpetuating that system. This is a traumatized society where the instincts for obedience, hierarchy, group identification and duty to provide leadership have been twisted through their inheritance by leaders who remember too well the suffering of the slow collapse of their old society and lost faith - not just in gods or religions, but in the idea that their more peaceable, measured forebears could possibly save them.
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Thor Damar
 Posted: Mar 27 2013, 02:02 PM
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Prince of Lakaria


Group: Cardassian
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Firstly that was, without a doubt one of the most insightful and brilliant essays on the sociological and personal values and interactions of two disparate species within their common environment that I have ever had the privilege to read. I thank you for sharing it with us.

Now that I've show the appropriate respect due to my peer and established a cordial agreement within our subset of this family I shall now go on to some of the meat (if you pardon the expression) of your hypotheses.

The conclusion taken, namely that the modern Cardassia that we see in DS9 is a broken fragmented reflection of a more rounded and wiser civilization, gels with my own observation that there is a indefinable psychosis with the psyche of the average Cardassian citizen, be they solider, spy or civilian (not forgetting a humble tailor or two...) and provide a larger context to that idea. The lost of 'the old ways' (not forgetting that one should not glorify the imagined Golden days of yore for fear of intellectual ahistorical disingenuous behavior) seemed to have caused a massive rupture in the mental and moral fabric of what was an ancient and proud society that led them to embrace one of the most easy to indulge of the seven deadly sins, wraith.

As you say DN, a Cardassia that developed a truer synthesis of its various wholes would have emerged far stronger than the wounded nation that almost died upon the fire...


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"Worlds turn as much by politics as surely as they do by gravity" Iloja of Prim
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Nerys Ghemor
 Posted: Mar 27 2013, 03:57 PM
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Hebitian at Heart


Group: Prefect
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That possibility Thor mentioned--what could have happened had they reformed instead of responded to the Cataclysm with a 500-year Reign of Terror--is the premise of my Catacombs of Oralius series. I do not believe as some on other fora have suggested that repression is natural or desired by Cardassians. I believe they want order and certainty, yes, but also dignity and freedom from fear. I think it takes them longer to question order, but properly encouraged and educated, they can when necessary.

The order I came up with for that alternate society is not one I believe humans could handle, since it remains half-theocracy. But minorities have rights under their rule. They do not in the canon universe.

The reason the SigCat Cardassia fell is because there were also massive changes made to Bajor in that AU. But I do think the sturdier foundation they have prior to the fall of Cardassia in their universe means they will recover from the long occupation when freed...and perhaps more easily than canon Cardassia will recover from the Dominion War. But I may not write that story, as I am not sure it's one that people will believe or want to read. I most likely will keep it to myself.

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Deranged Nasat
 Posted: Mar 27 2013, 04:32 PM
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The Essay Master


Group: Cardassian
Posts: 161
Member No.: 49
Joined: 20-October 12









As those who saw the Pinky and the Brain videos know, I've recently been hunting down my childhood. So...it's once again cartoon time, and with good reason.

With regards to the shift we're discussing here, if there was ever anything that summarized the new, aggressive, repressive Cardassia and how it was allowed to gain a chokehold on the people it's this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gy6-En53odQ

This is a large part of why Cardassians are so tragic to me; you can see how a once cultured and noble people could have corrupted themselves into such a nightmarish society. sad.gif
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Deranged Nasat
 Posted: Apr 27 2016, 12:12 PM
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The Essay Master


Group: Cardassian
Posts: 161
Member No.: 49
Joined: 20-October 12









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