[I have always felt that DS9 more fully shares Roddenberry’s dreams of equality and acceptance and human change than another of the series.]
[I understand that the Cardassians are viewed as monsters due to occupying Bajor, but it only makes sense. Their world is devoid of resources, their surrounding worlds are also devoid of resources, they either have to make something magically trade for things they need, or they need to take over planets.]
I’ve never disagreed with a confession more than this one. I seriously almost deleted it so many times in the queue. I just find it so wrong headed. There is no justification for the occupation. None.
They could have asked for help.
But of course they didn’t because the Cardassians are proud. They think they can work Bajorans to death in the mines and expect gratitude when they’re given a weekend off. They think they can pick a fight with The Federation and eke out a few extra planets because the treaty is just a piece of paper. Then, they think they can harness The Dominion because well, The Dominion signed this other piece of paper, didn’t they?
I do feel bad for the Cardassians. I think what happened to them in the end could be called “justice” and it was directly a consequence of their own actions. It was still an awful thing and I don’t think they deserved it.
I’m not saying that they’re victims. I don’t think it’s just the military that carries the blame for it. Remember that it was the civilian government that called for the pull-out from Bajor, so they apparently had some clout. It was a new civilian government that came to power in “Way of The Warrior” and eventually signed a deal with The Dominion. Sure, Dukat was their frontman, but it was a peaceful transfer of power.
My impression has been the Cardassian citizens were okay with their bloated, ineffective military, out-of-control spy agencies, and corrupt courts putting a foot on the necks of their neighbors. Let the powerful diddle their housekeepers and usher their illegitimate sons into the family business. I imagine that every so often a scandal breaks out and catches the attention of the average Cardassian, so every time Dukat comes to DS9, it’s because he’s trying to get a political enemy onto Cardassia’s version of TMZ.
The average Cardassian citizen can work a hard day, watch “Cardassia’s Most Wanted: Confessions” to know their government is doing the good work of protecting them, then go to bed on a full stomach with government bread bought with Bajoran slave labor.
This has already gone on for too long, but notice that every time one of Garak’s parents dies, it represents an old pillar of Cardassia being destroyed. When Tain “dies” the first time, The Obsidian Order is destroyed. When Tain dies the second time, Cardassia as a sovereign nation is destroyed. Finally, when Mila dies, it heralds The Dominion’s efforts to commit genocide against the Cardassian people. I posit that those events burn away the pillars that supported the corrupt regime; the powerful, their supporters, and the silently complicit.
I’d also like to think that the Cardassia that comes out of The Dominion War is a more sober, reflective Cardassia. They were once, within living memory, a peaceful people. I hope they acknowledge the mistakes of their past. I hope the kids that grow up in the shadow of those cities look to fill more than just their bellies.
Man, I hope they drive old man Elim Garak mad with their “insufferable optimism.” I imagine him on his deathbed now, hearing the news from a young nurse that Cardassia’s started the process of joining The Federation and he just rolls his eyes and says the most sarcastic, dismissive, transparently supportive thing he can thing of and passes away.
But really, I hope that DS9’s eerie ability to predict post-9/11 politics doesn’t extend to militaristic, near-surveillance states with populations oblivious to political corruption and resource depletion.
[When Garak saw Ziyal after she was shot, and said that he “wondered why” she loved him it broke my heart. Into a million pieces that he wouldn’t know how great he is. I absolutely ADORE Garak and if I could i would hug the sad and the non confidence right out of him. 🙁 ]
To be honest, I think one of my favourite things about Garak is that he is completely aware that he is a terrible person who has done terrible things. Honestly if he were any other way, he’d just be another Dukat – you get the same thing with Sloan and I do think it’s the most realistic way for people like them to think and behave: it’s not that they don’t have a moral code, or even that they don’t care about it, it’s just that they don’t have the luxury of sticking to it. Dukat refuses to take responsibility for his own actions or to acknowledge having done anything unjustified – he tries to convince everyone else (and has convinced himself) that having done terrible things with a ‘but it could have been worse’ or ‘what else could i have done?’ clause makes it okay to have done them.
Garak and Sloan don’t do that. They’re fully cognizant of the fact that the things they’ve done are unforgivable – Sloan tells Bashir he sees it as a necessary sacrifice, not just of the lives he takes but of his own morals, and the ‘other’ Sloan we see in his mind who is so relieved to have died proves he’s not just bullshitting, I reckon. And Garak’s issues with guilt (in Afterimage in particular) are also really interesting in that light, because it shows that he does deal with it in a very different way to Dukat – he doesn’t deny responsibility for anything, he entirely accepts the guilt even when he does have the ‘escape’ of ‘it’s for the best’, ‘it has to be done’, ‘I’m saving more lives than I’m ruining’. He just shoves it down and keeps going because ‘it has to be done’ isn’t an excuse or a justification – it’s a reason, but it doesn’t exempt him from the consequences of anything he’s done, from anyone else or from himself.
I think The Wire is the only time he ever asks for forgiveness (and even then we’re not sure what it’s for, given events in By Inferno’s Light it might not be for any actual atrocity, just for ‘betraying’ Tain), and it’s not ‘proper’ forgiveness anyway, it’s just a gesture. And really pretty much every other time the topic even comes up, he more or less invites everyone to understand that he’s a terrible person. In The Wire everyone of his stories has him in the role of the villain – even when he’s done something good (letting the kids go) he doesn’t do it for a good reason (and regrets it!), and when he’s just the victim (when ‘Elim’ frames him) he deserved it (he tried to frame him first). In the first two he’s trying to make Bashir fuck off, so that’s one explanation, but like, these are all stories that you only have his word for, and he doesn’t seem to feel any temptation to paint himself as a martyr – the way Dukat would, for example. There’s no attempt to justify himself, because he knows the things he’s done are not justifiable.
When Ziyal (bless her heart) is once again going on about her twoo wuv for him and how great he is he tells her she’s a poor judge of character and, okay, he’s being a little flippant, but again he’s really not on board with this. In fact, most of their ‘relationship’ (debates about whether it was one and who felt what about whom and how strongly are to be left aside for this) consists of her waxing lyrical about his virtues and him trying to convince her she’s got the wrong end of the stick about him – because he knows he’s not a good person, not in a sort of angsty self-pity way, not even in an actively self-loathing way, it’s just a fact. In Empok Nor (before anything goes wrong) he tells O’Brien that he’s not comfortable with everyone seeming to trust/like him (again flippant, but with Garak that’s a given), and at the end when Garak asks O’Brien a favour and he promises to explain that it wasn’t Garak’s fault, he goes ‘oh— no, I didn’t mean that, I wanted you to express my regrets to Amaro’s widow’ (paraphrased, my memory’s not what it used to be). In Favor The Bold he sits there complaining about Starfleet Intelligence’s nefarious plans and he drops lines like ‘It’s a lot more fun asking the questions’ and my personal favourite, ‘When I was in the Obsidian Order, I did a lot worse’ (to which Bashir chuckles fondly and goes ‘I’m sure you did’, which… what? What kind of response is that? Aren’t you supposed to be Mr Moral High Ground, buddy?)
…so maybe that was too many examples. My point is that any time people start sympathising with him (or heaven forbid start liking him) he always takes great pains to remind everyone that while he is on their side, he is the bad guy in many many other people’s stories. He actively discourages any attempts to sympathise with him, and while he doesn’t mope about being a terrible person, he does totally accept it and he’s really not comfortable with people glossing over that if they do know about it – kinda funny really, since forgiveness is kind of one of the things that gets associated with him (in The Wire and By Inferno’s Light in particular, but also in his friendships with Odo and Dr Parmak), that he really doesn’t want it, at least for not any of the really bad things. I mean, if anything, he has a tendency to cast himself as an even worse person than he actually is. Dukat comes at it from the opposite direction, which is what makes it such an interesting pair of characters to have as the ‘main’ Cardassians on the show.
tl;dr: it’s not so much a ‘self-esteem’ thing as a ‘being fully aware that he’s a terrible person and not understanding why so many people are willing to overlook that’ thing. Which, er, potentially just as tragic, but tbh it’s integral to why he’s such an engaging character (and, kind of ironically, it makes him a lot more sympathetic than if he were to actually think of himself as sympathetic :P)
Let’s be friends.
[I’ve grown really fond of DS9 and it’s now one of my favorite Star Trek series. It tackles storylines that the other series wouldn’t dare to. It’s a much darker side of the Federation and I want another series like DS9 showing the more dangerous side of Star Trek.]
I’ll tell you one thing, nephew. If the Federation had listened to the Ferengi Alliance there never would have been a war. We would have reached an accommodation. We would have sat across the negotiation table and hammered out a peace treaty. One that both sides could live with.
Rule of Acquisition one twenty five. You can’t make a deal if you’re dead.
These two scenes remind me of each other because they boldly illustrate how disparate TNG and DS9 were when it came to morality. In TNG, there was often a right answer, and the lines separating what was good and bad were often clear. While in DS9, the best thing to do was not always the “right” thing to do. DS9 gave you scenarios where you could not judge whether decisions were moral or immoral, leaving you conflicted because they did not fit in those boxes.
Also, I find these scenes are remarkable because they showed how the principles that Starfleet claimed it was built on went out the window when it itself was threatened.
DS9 is my Fav.
Or how the principles of Trek went out the window when Gene Roddenberry was no longer in charge and was replaced by Rick Berman.
Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing — DS9 had exceptionally good writing an storylines, in part because they stopped looking at things in so black-and-white a manner and began to reveal/explore those shades of grey.
So I lied. I cheated. I bribed men to cover the crimes of other men. I am an accessory to murder.