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 Cardassians And Centauri
Deranged Nasat
 Posted: Nov 19 2012, 11:31 AM
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The Essay Master


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This is a topic that came up elsewhere, on the Trek BBS. It got a few responses, the longest from myself, but there was little discussion. I thought it was worth re-posting my thoughts here; I don't know how many of our regulars are familiar with Babylon Five's Centauri, but even if you're not, I'd be interested to see if my conclusions regarding Cardassians strike anyone as accurate. smile.gif The two races have similar thematic arcs in their respective shows; being an established part of the political setting with a history of aggression against their neighbours, yet who seem, in earlier seasons, to be slowly mellowing and showing signs of progress - in large part due to a general decline that prompts re-examination of their political values. However, both races then enter into questionable alliances in order to kick off a new round of expansion and aggression, leading to disaster as they end up being pawns of other powers and eventually wind up on the wrong side of a planetary bombardment.

In the original thread, someone had posted the immortal question: who wins in a fight? I gave a rambling reply which I'll reproduce below:

The biggest weakness of both cultures (besides their tendency to piss off neighbouring races with their arrogant aggression and ruthless treatment of other populations) is their apparent lack of capacity for racial unity. Backstabbing power plays and vicious competition between bloodlines, power blocs and individuals are the norm in both Cardassian and Centauri societies, and this endemic in-fighting weakens their ability to wield the influence they otherwise could. Too much of their scheming is channeled into petty retributions and jostling for position within their own hierarchies, rather than the cause of bettering their people.

The Cardassians call themselves a Union, drawing together in mutual discipline and sacrifice to ensure their shared survival, but in practice they're still at each other's throats, seemingly unable to play nice or put the needs of their population above their own ambition. The Centauri are perhaps more honest about their nature but less sympathetic, having a society dedicated to flaunting resources and power for their own sake rather than as a means to survival. That said, they have a system wherein people are supposed to accept their position with grace (nobility loyal to the emperor, lesser nobles respectful of greater houses, commoners and slaves accepting their place in the scheme of things), but in practice they're completely unable to live in the sedentary and structured system they've created, and behind the scenes they're desperately grabbing for power and influence wherever they can.

Both races, I think, have desperately imposed a static, repressive and rigid social structure over their peoples - Cardassians a conformist militant police state, Centauri a class-based hierarchy. They've both further insisted that duty to this system is among a citizen's higest values. In truth, they've both slapped this system over a viciously competitive mindset that is unable to overcome the urge to knock others down in order to climb higher yourself, and it always shows through.

As for who "wins" in a fight, though?

The Centauri are ruthless, but they're also hedonists. They delight in decadence, ostentatious display of impracticality, pointless tradition for the sake of tradition. Excess and waste is practically a requirement for their nobility, and their celebrations are based on an "eat, drink and be merry, because, hey, we're alive and that's great!" mentality. And with the defeat of the Xon, they triumphed over the only real competitor they ever knew. So they believe it's now their birthright to be on top. They're apex predators, at least as I see them, and like all predators they don't expend energy unless they feel they need to. If their status as top dog is threatened, then they "need" to, and they're ruthless and driven (no doubt falling back into Xon War thinking) until the opponent is crushed. The military thoroughness for which they're renowned seems a display of precision and power that points to real dedication...but when the threat is over, then it's time to party again.

Cardassians, though, never party. They believe the supposed needs of Cardassia are justification for militant acquisition of resources, and the ruling parties justify their position through military service history rather than birthright. They're constantly pressured into continuing their militancy, either by the genuine desire to stave off scarcity or the knowledge that they hold on to their power only by seeming to serve the needs of Cardassia. Where Centauri are dedicated and ruthless when they feel their power is threatened or else feel the need to flaunt it and remind everyone who's boss, the Cardassians are dedicated and ruthless pretty much all the time, because they constantly have their backs to the wall, partly due to factors beyond their control, partly due to their own messed-up society and its expectations.

So what it comes down to, I think, is: who has the greater need to win? The old lion fighting to retain leadership of his pride, who would otherwise be lounging about but is NOT going to let anyone challenge him and still knows how to show everyone else who's boss, or the lean, starving lion whose life has been one long battle for survival and who is driven to take that leadership position no matter what? Who wants it more?

(The OP responded to this by pointing out, quite rightly, that "Cardassians never party" wasn't really true, as Dukat and company's behaviour on Terok Nor demonstrates. I offered a reply:

Fair point. Yes, I probably exaggerated there; you're right that we do see indulgence and even displays of luxury and excess among Cardassians. Still, that seems to be a periodic release from the pressures of discipline and duty rather than a lifestyle, and it apparently tends to happens on frontier outposts and colonies; I always got the impression that, like the extramarital affairs with Bajoran women, the drinking and gambling wasn't exactly socially acceptable, only people shrugged and turned a blind eye to it so long as it stayed out in the colonies.)

So, anyone else have thoughts on Cardassians Vs Centauri, or the Cardassian's relative strengths and weaknesses? smile.gif

This post has been edited by Deranged Nasat: Nov 19 2012, 11:32 AM
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Thor Damar
 Posted: Nov 19 2012, 12:37 PM
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Prince of Lakaria


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I have a few (and I was writing a fanfic wherein the Union finds itself in the B5 universe) and at a pinch I believe that Cardassian ruthlessness and cunning would win the day, however, how much more (or less) advanced in Centauri tech in comparison to the Cardassians would be a game changer in an large scale conflict.

The Cardassians are, to my distaste, pained as very technologically weak compared to the other major powers in the AQ/BQ/GQ with the exception of both medical tech and computer coding/surveillance whereas the Centauri Republic is one of the most formidable military powers in that part of the galaxy, albeit one with a history of technical stagnation coupled with cultural decadence and long term aristocratic rule that could effect tactical and strategic planning in a very big way.

So could Cardassian skills at espionage, tactical deception and sheer ruthlessness inflict a defeat upon the Grand Old Lion of the galaxy or could both races see a worthy ally in the other if forced into it?

Or would both sides take in the mutually ridiculous hairstyles and weaken themselves by laughing too hard as was suggested over at the TrekBBS? laugh.gif

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"Worlds turn as much by politics as surely as they do by gravity" Iloja of Prim
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Gul Re'jal
 Posted: Nov 19 2012, 07:40 PM
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I'm after second episode of season 5, so there are still things I don't know that you already do wink.gif but I think that the comparison is quite accurate. I remember that even when I was watching I was thinking that there were some parallels.

As for partying, I think that while the Cardassians party, it's not a cultural tradition. They probably consider big celebrations with lots of food and drinks a waste. So soldiers getting drunk at Quark's is not that much of cultural tradition. It's more like football fans getting drunk in pubs after a match than a great traditional wedding celebration.
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Gul Re'jal
 Posted: Nov 19 2012, 09:19 PM
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Look what you did! biggrin.gif My kids are colouring so I'm a bit bored wink.gif

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Deranged Nasat
 Posted: Nov 20 2012, 03:13 AM
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Nice. laugh.gif
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Gul Re'jal
 Posted: Nov 20 2012, 04:12 AM
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Always a Glinn


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You won't believe it but my student is colouring it now biggrin.gif I'll take a pic after she finishes and will post it too laugh.gif
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Gul Re'jal
 Posted: Nov 20 2012, 04:21 AM
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Always a Glinn


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Inquisitor Re'jal and Ethel's artwork biggrin.gif

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Deranged Nasat
 Posted: Nov 20 2012, 04:37 PM
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The Essay Master


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"I want my peoples to reclaim their rightful place in the fandoms. I want the Cardassians and the Centauri to stretch forth their hands and command the attention they deserve. I want a rebirth of interest in quasi-reptilian totalitarians, a renaissance of poofy-haired monarchists. I want us to be what we used to be! I want...I want it all back the way it was (in the 90s)!
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