Star Trek Canon Database

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Database started: 1999-07-27
Page generated: 2017-10-19

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TNG Season 1, Ep# 9: "Justice"

TASHA: I've listed my report on their customs and laws, sir. Fairly simple, common sense things.

GEORDI: Wild in some ways, puritanical in others. Neat as pins, ultra-lawful, and making love at the drop of a hat.

TASHA: Any hat.

PICARD: But even the happiest report has its negatives. Let's start with them.

RIKER: There are none, sir. Not that any of us can find.

...

PICARD: Wesley, if we go, you will join the away team to evaluate this world as a place for young people to relax.

WESLEY: Yes, sir. (looks to his mother for approval, and she smiles).

Culture: breathlessly envious description of the planet of the "Edo", where the family structure seems to be nonexistent. Communal relationships and pure hedonism are the order of the day. Starfleet's finest seem to approve.

This in itself may offend modern societal norms but it's not necessarily scandalous (I imagine that a modern military vessel's crew might enjoy the idea of shore leave in such a place). However, it is interesting that no one, not even his own mother, has any problem with the idea of sending prepubescent Wesley down into this environment. It's one thing to expose children to the knowledge of sex, but when there's a real possibility that they might experience the sex act itself (years before they're mature enough to deal with it), shouldn't a parent show at least some vague hint of concern?

TNG Season 1, Ep# 9: "Justice"

RIVAN: We are a people of law. They do sometimes bring us sadness, but we have learned to adjust to that. Perhaps your laws work as well ...

PICARD: They haven't always, but they do now.

LIATOR: Do you execute criminals?

PICARD: No... not any longer, that is.

RIVAN: You did once?

PICARD: Unfortunately, yes. But since then-

RIVAN: And when you did, was it believed necessary to do so?

PICARD: Can we please get to the facts concerning our crewmember? (pauses a moment) Yes, some people then felt it was necessary. But we've learned how to detect the seeds of criminal behavior... Capital punishment is no longer justified in our world as a deterrent.

Culture: apparently, the Federation justice system no longer uses the death penalty because they can "detect the seeds of criminal behaviour" early.

So what does this mean? One disquieting possibility is that children are psychologically screened for possible future misdeeds, and then "corrected" at a young age. Unless an alternative explanation exists, it would seem that they are so confident in their psychological profiling that they can effectively declare people guilty of crimes before they commit them, and then they can sentence them to imprisonment, mandatory psychiatric treatment, or who knows what "rehabilitation techniques" they might deem appropriate!

Such confidence in psychological profiling is disturbing because psychology is, at best, an unreliable science, and at worst, a pure pseudoscience. The nature of the subject matter makes truly controlled, repeatable experimentation a pipe dream. Worse yet, any observations are, by necessity, incomplete, obscured by the statistical noise of uncontrolled variables, and riddled with subjectivism, thus rendering the resulting conclusions highly suspect.

However, the larger problem is simply that they feel they can find people guilty of crimes and force them to undergo "preventive" treatment before they commit these crimes, which is so far removed from any reasonable concept of justice that it absolutely boggles the mind. Even if they did have some foolproof method of determining that someone had psychological leanings toward criminal behaviour (a questionable idea, to say the very least), the fact would remain that he hadn't committed a crime, so he's being charged with improper thoughts rather than illegal actions. When you think about it, this is nothing less than the Star Trek version of George Orwell's "thought police"!

Roy Cowan submits that Picard's claim about detecting the seeds of criminal behaviour early is laughable in light of the many crimes committed by Federation citizens. Not only did Tasha Yar's entire homeworld (formerly a Federation world) become inundated with violent crime, but we also had the high-level cases of Admiral Pressman in "The Pegasus", Admiral Kennellyin in "Ensign Ro", Admiral Jameson in "Too Short a Season", Admiral Leyton in "Paradise Lost", Doctor Bashir's parents in "Doctor Bashir, I Presume", and of course, Captain Picard himself, who repeatedly violated the Prime Directive.

Moreover, the very concept of psychological seeds for criminal behaviour (never mind their detection) is highly suspect. We must remember that "criminal" and "unethical" are not necessarily synonymous. One can be a criminal without necessarily being evil, and one can be evil without necessarily being a criminal. Blacks who violated municipal race segregation bylaws and trespassed on whites-only property in the 1960s were criminals, but they were fighting for racial equality. Police officers who beat and arrested them were acting within the law so they were not criminals, but they were fighting to sustain a profoundly unethical system of racial discrimination.

The seeds of evil are different from the seeds of criminal behaviour, and the "seeds" which the Federation seeks to find are apparently the seeds of civil disobedience. How did all the aforementioned people sneak through the Federation's screening process? It's obvious; they were all loyal to the state. Each of them may or may not be ethical, but all of them were loyal to the state, often committing their crimes out of an honest belief that they were acting in the best interests of the state, and that is quite clearly the only criterion the Federation is interested in.

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