Topic: How do you see the Alliance?

What is your perception of the Union of Allied Planet as a politico-military force? Do you see them as a totalitarian "Evil Empire" or something a bit different?

I know most us here play former "Browncoats", who are excluded from voting and bitter about the Alliance in general. The Miranda stuff paints a massive stain over the whole thing, but it's not 100% evil. Some of the planets are well-ruled.

I personally think a good comparison would be the Roman Empire. Claiming similar "universal dominance", it needed to rely on puppet rulers (most famously King Herod) and regularly had to put down insurrections.

I feel an even better RL comparison would be Singapore. It's a one-party state, but it does have an elected legislature.

Re: How do you see the Alliance?

I am one of the odd folks that doesn't play a browncoat. At most I've been neutral once (a certain dockmaster back on akers). I tend to think of the Alliance as a good idea gone horribly wrong. Lolyal alliance citizens are good natured, educated folk that think their way of life is the best thing humanity can aspire too. You would have to be a murderous barbarian to reject progress and civlization. My characters look at former browncoats as thugs and terrorists, or at least people with the potential to be that. The independent faction was at its core selfish. They demanded more rights for themselves at the expense of the greater good.

Of course the Alliance is horrifically corrupt and trapped in beuracratic hell, but somewhere in the begining there was a good idea to give a better life to everyone. The Core is a wonderful place with parks, medical care and plenty for all, or at least most.

The question comes up of security over freedom or perhaps, the group or the individual. The Alliance is flawed but how could Inara possibly be wrong?
-Kevin

Re: How do you see the Alliance?

Yeah, I think the essential thing is that it's humanistic utilitarian ethics taken to the logical absurd conclusion. The problem with utopia is that not everyone agrees on what it looks like, and if I try and force my version of utopia on someone who doesn't want it, it's a profound distopia for them. All forms of totalitarianism are, as such, evil, in this broken universe with our flawed human condition and inability to attain perfection.

Ash

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Re: How do you see the Alliance?

I'd just go straight to the TV Show and Movie for my answer, because it's what I feel (as Joss Whedon intended I suppose) that the Alliance is a utopia, but behind every utopia there's an evil side that makes everything work. In this case, Reavers (and the cover up the Alliance attempted), Blue Sun, and the notably obvious neglect for the Border and Rim planets are the underlying evils behind the utopia they attempted to create.

I think I literally took this idea from an interview with Joss Whedon in the special features on Serenity. Not sure, definitely watched all the interviews from the TV Show and the Movie (which btw, I got Serenity for Christmas!) only a few days ago and someone definitely raised all of these points from the conceptual standpoint, definitely made sense in my book and rang true with my core feelings about what I experienced from watching Firefly and Serenity.

~Robert

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Re: How do you see the Alliance?

I agree with most here: the Alliance came forth from the idea to make the worlds better places for everybody. Of course, almost everything went wrong with that idea, because the Alliance believed so holy in this idea that they were convinced that it should be carried out, no matter what. Most of the cover-ups are also because of that: to protect their (idea of a) utopia some things need to be hidden from the people living in it. And apart from that you of course have your numerous corrupt officers and politicians who are in it solely for personal gain.



-Mischa

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Re: How do you see the Alliance?

I think this an issue a lot of atheists (and maybe some theists!) have with the idea of God. Surely he's a totalitarian and is thus morally reprehensible? But the difference is that humans are broken and so every political structure or society or whatever we create will also be broken (if only because it's got us in it) - and thus immoral - whereas God is morality in person and cannot be immoral. Furthermore, he promises to perfect even we broken humans. That's the eschatological idea of the Kingdom which Jesus preached.

I think the Operative captures much of the brokenness of the Alliance. The absolute lengths he can justify going to, even though he knows he's a monster. He believes in what he's doing, apparently no matter the cost. "Malcolm, I'm a monster." He's placed his faith in fallible human enterprises, though, and eventually must face up to the fact that it is fallible, that he's placed his faith in the wrong place, and that the Alliance dream or vision isn't worth the human cost.

This is why I'm cynical of humanism. The Alliance is secular humanism taken to its logical conclusion. Utilitarianism; the greatest good for the greatest number, no matter the cost to anyone else. Take Napoleon's Empire, for instance. Liberty, equality, and fraternity were great things to fight for, but at what cost? How many died because the secularised French Republic wanted to force its 'utopia' on the rest of the world? Or take communism and the horrific civilian death toll in the Russian Revolution and the deaths (e.g. in WWII) which were countenanced by the Party in the interests of the cause. Or any ideological political structure. At what cost?

The Christian answer to utilitarianism, of course, is to place supreme value on the lives of each and every individual. Jesus isn't interested in doing the most good for the largest number of people, he's interested in doing actual good for every person. Because they're valuable creatures, children of the Father. And he empowers us to do likewise; to lovingly serve and bless our neighbours, brothers and sisters all.

Ash

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us, it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

- Nelson Mandela

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Re: How do you see the Alliance?

Ash Leighton Plom wrote:

I think the Operative captures much of the brokenness of the Alliance. The absolute lengths he can justify going to, even though he knows he's a monster. He believes in what he's doing, apparently no matter the cost. "Malcolm, I'm a monster." He's placed his faith in fallible human enterprises, though, and eventually must face up to the fact that it is fallible, that he's placed his faith in the wrong place, and that the Alliance dream or vision isn't worth the human cost.

I think the main problem with the Operative is that he thinks that the ends justify the means. Regardless of whether you agree with the Operative's (and the Alliance's) ideas or not, it's not so much the ideas he believes in that are the greatest threat. It is the fact that he believes so strongly in the absolute truth of his ideas that he will enforce them on others no matter what that is the danger.



-Mischa

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Re: How do you see the Alliance?

I'd rather not get into religious debate, but it is a fallacy to think you can do good for each and every person. This is where Christianity has fallen on its face time after time, and will continue to do so, likely until the extinction of the human race.

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Re: How do you see the Alliance?

Oh, I'm right there with you. Humans can't create utopia, regardless of how high-minded there ideas are. So even (speaking as a born again Christian) 'the most noblest' Christian endeavour will fail because it is, regardless of it's nobility, human.

That's all I meant about placing my faith in God. Part of my becoming a Christian was recognising mankind doesn't have the solutions to its problems (the problems of existence, the problem of pain, the problems of society, the problems inherent in the human condition, the problems we generate, etc.) and that applying even the most optimistic of humanist philosophies nevertheless logically ends in exactly what you say; the extinction of the human race. And so I'm looking to God for the answers.

But Mischa makes a good point. It was the Operative's faith (by which I mean his conviction that he was justified in what he was doing) which made him into a monster; it led him to kill and destroy on the grounds that this was for the greater good. Where would we draw the line if we were to apply such an ethic?? Kill one to save 10 maybe, but what about kill 1,000 to save 10,000? What about killing 10,000? This is mass murder we're talking about, no matter how you spin it. Hence I'd prefer an ethic which emphasises the infinite value of every human life rather than a utilitarian ethic which values 'greater good'.

Ash

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Re: How do you see the Alliance?

It's a difficult question, and one that's been asked and argued over as long as I can remember (lots of scifi addresses this, some falling one way and some another).

One of my faves is from Beyond Thunderdome:
Was Auntie correct in wanting to kill off Blaster for the greater good of Bartertown? If she hadn't done anything, they were on their way to a dictatorship because of the power MasterBlaster had controlling the methane.

"No little man, we've only just begun."

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Re: How do you see the Alliance?

I think you need to be careful about the use of the word "humanist" here, or at least clarify what you mean. As a Humanist, I can categorically state that Humanist philosophy places worth on all people individually, not on the greater good.

~Nick

~Dovie'andi se tovya sagain~

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Re: How do you see the Alliance?

Utilitarian ethic is the one which seeks the greater good, and the one which I see present in the absolutism of the Alliance. I'm cynical of humanism because of its inherent reliance on humans, who are fallible, and I don't see the secular humanistic ideal as borne out as reasonable, based on the experience of the human condition and of human history. But I don't mean to cause offence! So yes, let me clarify I view utilitarianism as dangerous (in the question of where a utilitarian would, ethically, draw the lines in the pursuit of the greater good), but that humanism is of course something different from utilitarianism.

My cynicism towards humanism is my personal position and not one I mean to state as absolute fact. The facts I was looking to state were in defining utilitarianism, but in moving my discussion between utilitarianism and humanism, it looks like I confused the issue. Sorry. :-s

Ash

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Re: How do you see the Alliance?

I don't think (for me, anyway) it's a big deal if you are personally cynical of any religion/ideal/whatever. I'm probably just as (if not more so) cynical of Christianity as you are of Humanism.

My request is that we try to leave these differences off the boards as much as possible, just to avoid causing strife within the membership.

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Re: How do you see the Alliance?

I would tend to agree. We're all adults here and can deal with other people not believing what we believe, without that leading to attacking each other, but it's quite easy to offend without meaning to, and religious beliefs generally provoke a much bigger reaction when we feel they're attacked than things we place less importance on.

But, I know that Ash meant no offence in what he was saying, and thank him for the apology, though it was completely (for me) unnecesary smile

Nick

~Dovie'andi se tovya sagain~

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Re: How do you see the Alliance?

He still hasn't apologized to me, yet. tongue

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Re: How do you see the Alliance?

And he won't until you give him the cake back tongue

Re: How do you see the Alliance?

Wait, there's cake? I want some too!



-Mischa

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Re: How do you see the Alliance?

You'll have to ask Jason, as he stole mine.

*Glares at Jason*

Seriously, though, my apology is extended to any I might have upset. And as for cynicism towards Christianity, I think I'm cynical of Christians in the same way I cynical of all humans, and so by extension I am cynical of the organisation Christianity. The distinction I suppose I'd draw is that I'm not cynical of Christ. ;-)

Incidentally, I'm surprised (and actually encouraged) to see so many philosophical absolutists here, adhering closely to and advocating one philosophy or another, rather than the relativisim which is prevailing in the mainstream (British culture, at least) at present. Anyone who applies an agapeistic calculus (which I think applies for most humanists, as opposed to the hedonistic calculus of the utilitarian) could be said to be fulfilling the Golden Rule, echoed in many schools of thought from around the world:

"Do not to others what ye do not wish
Done to yourself; and wish for others too
What ye desire and long for for yourself
This is the whole of the dharma", Mahabharata (Hindu scriptures)

"Since to others, to each one for himself, the self is dear, therefore let him who desires his own advantage not harm another", Udana-Varqa (Buddhist teaching)

"None of you truly believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself", Hadith (Islamic tradition)

"What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbour,
That is the entire Torah; the rest is commentary", Talmud (Jewish tradition)

"Do for others what you want them to do for you; this is the meaning of the Law of Moses and of the prophets", Gospel of Matthew

Anyone wanting to continue discussing ethics and religion more deeply, email me. I think we've got a good approach here, where topics like politics, philosophy, and religion are open for questioning and light discussion, but we do well to move them to private when they get more probing. It's worth noting that religious beliefs aren't the only topic that can provoke strong reactions - any closely held convictions including, for example, philosophical ones - can illicit the same passion and (in some cases) dogmatic belligerance.

I forget who said it, but there's a quote that runs roughly "We all think our beliefs are the best ones, or we'd get better ones" and that applies as much to the fiduciary statement "I don't believe in God/gods" (i.e. "I believe not God/gods") as it does the equally fiduciary statement "I believe in God/gods", and indeed to any position we may become convinced of on the basis of whatever persuades us (be it evidence, argument, whatever).

Nick, I'll text you, I think, if you're interested in continuing this?

Ash

Last edited by Ash Leighton Plom (2011-01-18 22:47:38)

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Re: How do you see the Alliance?

Indeed, the Golden Rule is found in international law, and one with which all Humanists would agree:

"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood."
- Article 1, Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

I should probably clarify that when I said religious beliefs I included philosophical ones as well. Perhaps I should have phrased it beliefs about religion.

Yes, I am always up for probing the realms of philosophy wink

Nick

~Dovie'andi se tovya sagain~

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Re: How do you see the Alliance?

smile
I'm a strange one, but my beliefs lie in Star Trek. To me life is most important very heavily due to my life. I think the future there is a good one. Less sick people = less sad and angry people. Just my opinion, even if not everybody agrees. I thought like this before I knew about Star Trek. This is MY utopia.

Krista

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Re: How do you see the Alliance?

Star Trek's a good utopia. In fact it may be a sort of secular humanist ideal realised? I don't believe it's possible, given human nature and all of that, but I don't mean to sound like a downer. I have an eschatological hope for the future and my bottom line is fundamentally positive! :-)

I like how Trek sometimes explores teleological ethics vs. deontological ethics, perhaps especially in Section 31 plots. Teleological ethics are the sort which say "what is right is determined by the outcome of an action", whereas deontological ones say "an action is either right or wrong, regardless of outcome." So utilitarian ethics is teleogical, for example, because in it the ends can justify the means, whereas in deontological ethics, certain things are right or wrong no matter what.

The question deontological ethics begs, of course, is on what grounds do we decide what actions are always right and what actions are always wrong? Natural law? Social consensus? Divine revelation? You all know which option I'd trump for. ;-)

Nick, I'll text you soon. The next few days are going to busy for me, to say the least!

Ash

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Re: How do you see the Alliance?

smile

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Re: How do you see the Alliance?

I just want the transporters.

Although the holo decks alone could bring about world peace (and a heavy dose of anti-socialism).

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Re: How do you see the Alliance?

I'd want to use the transporters to move my washing from my basket to the machine. That'd be cool. :-)

Ash

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Re: How do you see the Alliance?

Why not transport the dirt out of your laundry instead? That would save you even more trouble.  big_smile



-Mischa

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