Literary Challenge #56 : Academy Teachings
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Join Date: Jul 2012
01-08-2014, 01:12 AM
Transcript of lecture to Starfleet Academy junior class (2415), from guest lecturer Captain Grunt, UFP Starfleet. Topic: multicultural acceptance.
GRUNT: Good afternoon, Cadets. I am Captain Grunt, commander of the starship
. Professor Zdarsky has requested my presence today to speak to you on a topic that's probably going to bore you to tears, because of
there's no discrimination in Starfleet. All personnel are accepted as they are, and no one is ever judged because of their species or planet of origin.
Certainly, things seem decorous enough on the bridge of a starship; no one is going to make jokes about my chief engineer, even though he
a Pakled. [pause] Ah, that's what I thought. A small bit of laughter, there in the upper left quadrant of the audience. [Grunt taps one ear] These things aren't just for show, you know. There's no shame in acknowledging differences in physical abilities, and Ferengi tend to have quite good hearing. However, those of you on the Engineering track may be familiar with the name of Commander Vovonek. You, there. I saw your expression change. You've heard of Vovonek? [Grunt points at Cadet Terence McCreary. McCreary stands.]
MCCREARY: Aye, sir. Commander Vovonek was responsible for the integration of major systems from three different classes of starship to build a rescue craft when you were adrift in the Gamma Quadrant. Our instructor in field repairs had us study his work.
GRUNT: Well done, mister. Except it was four classes - I don't know if your instructor forgot about the computer system from the 29th-century timeship we found, or the parts we had to cannibalize from what was left of the
. Suffice it to say, without Vovonek, there's a fair chance we'd never have made it back from there. Of course, given the quality of the
, there's a fair chance we'd never have made it more than a few weeks out of Spacedock, so there's that. Some of you are going to be assigned to ships that aren't exactly top line - we need every ship we can fly out there, even those antique Mirandas. And you can't dismiss good officers just because everyone assumes that, say, Pakled aren't smart, or Vulcans are passive, or my personal favorite, Ferengi are cowards. It's a problem that exists in a number of species. An ancient Terran philosopher called it the "planet of hats" syndrome - a tendency to assume that everyone from a given world acts exactly the same. He called it "wearing the same hat". A Pakled's hat is being slow and clumsy - an image they cultivate, because it's easier to take advantage of someone who's underestimating you. Vovonek plays with the image sometimes, but the hat doesn't fit him well. For another example, Klingons are all bloodthirsty but honorable warriors; no scientists, no poets, no artists, just fighters. Except that if this were true, there wouldn't be Klingon cruisers flying through two quadrants of this galaxy, and controlling almost as much space as the Federation. My science officer is a Klingon, and if there's anything about his discipline he doesn't know, I haven't caught him out yet. As for their poetry, I know Klingon opera can sound like two Ferasans in a fight to the death, but get a translation of the lyrics - say,
The Song of Kahless and Lukara
, from the
. Then try to tell me there aren't any Klingon poets. They may not get the press, but they're there.
And it's a problem that persists today. Anybody here from Risa? No? Then you probably think of Risa as a resort planet, inhabited exclusively by sybarites who are only there to make your stay more pleasant. And there are a lot of people working their butts off every day to keep you thinking that, because luxury is their world's sole export. Before the locals perfected weather and seismic control, and someone started a resort on their smaller continent, Risa was primarily known as a massive swamp with a good supply of dilithium. And if their control systems were turned off for more than a local day, which actually happened about forty years ago or so, the world would barely be class-M. If you get a Risan engineer on your crew, you do what you can to keep them there - their children are raised knowing how to repair almost anything. But if you just go by what "everyone knows", you'd never guess they had such depths.
And then there are my own people. Yes, I know the stereotypes. We're cheap, greedy, cowardly, and cruel, and we run everything like the most cutthroat business ever. And yes, there's quite a lot of that in our society, especially the cheap and greedy parts. But not every Ferengi you meet is going to fit that template. There are a lot of us who just don't fit in at home, because we're the engineers, the builders, the artists, the mathematicians, the underpinning every society needs to exist but sometimes don't want to acknowledge. Some of us come to Starfleet because since the dual-citizenship program began, we can find a new home here. Only we often find that new home rejects us just as much as the old one did, although for the opposite reason - here, we're rejected because we're expected to act like the "hat" we've been given. And you'll find that even the most supposedly "venal" of Ferengi, once he's given his word, will stick to at least the letter of it - after all, as the Rules of Acquisition say, "If that's what's written, then that's what's written."
For that matter, let's look at the dominant culture of the Federation, the one that forms most Starfleet traditions - the Humans. Human society is, of course, free of greed or want; people no longer desire material possessions; and you've evolved beyond the need for religion or the use of violence.
You're here, you're in Starfleet, and you've been at this academy for three years, so you know that's bat puckey too. If you were "beyond the use of violence", your starships wouldn't be heavily-armed enough to face off against a Klingon Mogh or a Romulan Scimitar. You've evolved beyond the tendency your people used to have of resorting to violence
, and that's commendable, but sometimes the need to be violent is still there. You've mostly channeled it into more productive ways than war, that's all. As for the greed and possessions issue, well, again, if this were true our jobs would be a lot simpler. If only Orions were the only pirates, Nausicaans the only thieves, how much simpler things would be! But then you run across the privateer, bought or stolen from the Klingons, with a Human crew, who rob Orions and feel justified because everyone knows all Orions are really pirates anyway. And they don't even see the contradiction in their own statement as you're hauling them off to face a court at the nearest starbase. Here on Earth, of course, there's no want, because replicators are everywhere and cheap fusion and solar power mean that it's not even worth it to monitor their use. There are a few other worlds of the Federation like that - Vulcan, say, or Deneva. But you get out toward the fringes, out by the Cardassian border or the far end of Eta Eridani sector, and it's not always so easy and clear-cut. That's why Federation credits exist, because there are still a lot of worlds that need to use trade to survive.
So you see, even you Humans, or "Hew-mons" as some of you probably expected me to say, have your "hat" that you've been assigned. And a lot of you are from out there, and know how poorly the hat fits you. I just want you to remember, as you go through your careers, to look at the
under your command - not the Pakleds, or the Caitians, or the Vulcans, or the Humans, or the Bolians, or even the Ferengi, but the individual Starfleet officers you're serving with. Don't assume they're all going to be exactly the same, and don't assume they're going to be even vaguely like whatever preconception you have floating around in your head. Treat them like individuals, learn from them like individuals, and you'll be able to succeed - as a group of individuals.
Oh, there is precisely one group you can treat as a single monolithic entity - because the Borg
a single monolithic entity. Hive-minds with FTL connections are the exception to the rule.
Thank you for your time, and I'll see some of you - out there. [gestures toward sky]
"Science teaches us to expect -- demand -- more than just eerie mysteries. What use is a puzzle that can't be solved? Patience is fine, but I'm not going to stop asking the universe to make sense!" - David Brin,
Last edited by jonsills; 01-08-2014 at