0

On MANY episodes of TNG, DS9 and VOY, we are shown that The Federation has great respect for other cultures and their traditions.

I could list off dozens of examples but I'll go with one that seems fitting. In Half a Life, the majority of the crew stands by and does nothing about a pending ritual suicide until Lwaxanna Troi forces their hand.

There seems to be a limit to cultural acceptance when it comes to Klingons though. On the surface, they accept the harshness of Klingon culture. Riker trains with Worf on the Holodeck, Picard serves as arbiter of succession for Gowron, Dax has a long history with the Klingons and even marries Worf, Pulaski performs the Tea Ceremony with Worf etc...

HOWEVER, in Ethics (TNG), when Klingon culture/honor demands Worf take his own life, the whole ship comes to a halt (metaphorically) and they try to explain that he can live with a disability. In Sons of Mogh (DS9), Dax (of all people) stops Worf from restoring Kurn's honor (by killing him) and Sisko convinces him that it would have been murder.

So, why the relative lack of acceptance for Klingon cultural traditions when other cultures are respected, even if they require a death?

closed as too broad by Valorum, Politank-Z, Ward, Paulie_D, Molag Bal Jan 8 '17 at 18:54

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 1
    You seem to be asking a general question about TNG TOS, DS9 and Voyager but then referring to a specific incident in TNG: Ethics. This question would be better cast as a question about just the episode. – Valorum Jan 8 '17 at 16:17
  • I also referred to a specific incident on a DS9 episode. There may be others but those are the ones that came to mind before coffee. – geewhiz Jan 8 '17 at 16:33
  • When you ask a question that's unfocused, you often get unfocused answers. Caveat emptor. – Valorum Jan 8 '17 at 16:43
  • Fair enough. My overall point is that we're beaten over the head with cultural acceptance except when Worf wants to do something Klingon that involves death. – geewhiz Jan 8 '17 at 16:45
  • May I ask why you keep rollbacking? – Mithrandir Jan 8 '17 at 16:45
5

1) Worf is different, because he's a member of Starfleet.

Take Nog, for example. In Ferengi culture, it might be perfectly respectable, even laudable, to cheat on a business deal (with a non-Ferengi, at least). But if he was negotiating a settlement and went back on his side after the Federation got what they wanted, he'd be punished, not because they don't (officially) respect Ferengi culture, but because he's representing Starfleet.

Worf is a member of the Federation and bound by Federation laws. So if he kills someone to restore their honor, that's still murder by the Federation law. Even if he resigned his commission temporarily, he's still a citizen of the Federation which may well have certain rules.

From "Sons of Mogh":

WORF: Captain, I do not have an answer. Sir, I realise my actions were in violation of Starfleet regulations, but

SISKO: Regulations? We're not talking about some obscure technicality, Mister Worf. You tried to commit premeditated murder.

DAX: Benjamin, it wasn't murder. Worf and Kurn were performing a Mauk-to'Vor ritual. It's part of Klingon belief that when

SISKO: At the moment, I don't give a damn about Klingon beliefs, rituals or custom. Now I have given you both a lot of leeway when it comes to following Klingon traditions, but in case you haven't noticed, this is not a Klingon station, and those are not Klingon uniforms you're wearing. There is a limit to how far I'll go to accommodate cultural diversity among my officers and you've just reached it. When your brother is released from the infirmary, you better find another way to settle your family problems. Is that clear?

2) Where everybody involved is willing, and not in Starfleet, generally speaking the Federation will not intervene. When it's a single culture, they may well not intervene no matter what unless there's a formal request for asylum.

This is the case in "Half a Life," and in many other episodes focused on the Prime Directive... yes, the culture might be unfair, but everyone involved is part of it and okay with it. Even if it was absolutely forced (a death squad kills you when you hit 40), the Federation might disapprove, might withdraw contact, but would not interfere with their internal affairs any more than they would if a convicted prisoner was about to be executed (which some might feel is equally abhorrent)... at least, unless someone is asking formally for asylum. It then potentially becomes a diplomatic mess, but they have an opportunity to interfere.

If multiple cultures are involved, or it takes place on Federation property, it's another matter. The Federation would probably intervene if, say, a Klingon attempted to enforce a Klingon ritual which made legal lethal retribution because of the actions of a non-Federation Tellarite (I'm using them because they hardly ever get mentioned) who offended them in some way. Within Klingon culture, that might be the way they did things, but once it crosses the boundaries, it's a diplomatic incident. Yet, if the Tellarite was really fond of Klingon culture and respected an honorable death for some reason from some Klingons on a non-Federation world, they probably wouldn't interfere (though friends and family might, see below).

3) People always care more when their friends are involved.

If I encountered a culture where say everyone was randomly selected a partner that they must marry, and everyone's okay with it, nobody's forced except for some social consequences, I'd respect that culture. But if my friend was randomly selected to go to their mate, and I KNOW that they're miserable, that they really love someone else, even if they're "willing" because that's what their culture says they must do, then I'm more likely to speak up, say something about how stupid the tradition is, even if it's not officially Federation policy. Even more when death is involved, like in "Ethics" when Worf felt he might need to commit suicide.

It also goes the other way... there may be times where, in following a Klingon tradition, Worf violated Starfleet regs/Federation law in a way that should cost him his freedom or career, but because they know him, his superior officers didn't make a big deal out of it.

Dax, sort of played both sides in "Sons of Mogh", she tried to stop the killing of Worf's brother, but then defended the practice before Sisko, because she abstractly respects the culture, but when someone she cares about and knows is involved, she didn't want to let it happen, she knew it would affect him negatively the rest of his life.

4

I think in Ethics and Sons of Mogh we see Worf’s friends and colleagues trying to convince him that he doesn’t have to follow Klingon cultural traditions that demand the taking of a life. I don’t think that implies a general lack of respect for Klingon traditions from the Federation; they just don’t want their friend — who was primarily raised by humans, after all — to kill himself or his brother if he doesn’t have to.

By contrast, in Half a Life the crew of the Enterprise don’t have a close personal relationship with Doctor Timicin. They likely don’t have the same personal desire to prevent his suicide, and given the lack of a personal/collegiate relationship, trying to talk him out of it could look very much like Starfleet officers attempting to interfere in the internal workings of another society, which goes against the Prime Directive. It’s Ambassador Troi, who’s fallen in love with him, who’s trying to talk him out of following his culture’s norms.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.