|Posted on September 12, 2012 at 7:25 AM|
When you hear the phrase “peace negotiations,” what naturally pops into your head? Do you think of sitting down and rationally talking through the issues, and coming to a solution beneficial to both sides? This would be the ideal. Unfortunately, peace negotiations in the world usually means bickering, backbiting, slanderous accusations, and a war of words that ultimately amounts to … nothing.
In The Next Generation’s “Loud as a Whisper,” Riva has a great track record for resolving conflicts between races. So great that Starfleet wants him to negotiate between two races on Solais V, even if he is deaf. His secret? To “turn disadvantage into advantage.”
To do this, he relies on a mindreading Chorus to communicate with others, a trio of two men and a woman who each represent a part of his psyche. Presumably everyone in his family is born without hearing, so each member is assigned his or her own Chorus. Can you imagine what a crowded household this must be? Can you imagine feeding and housing four times as many people?
When he meets Geordi LaForge and notices his VISOR, Riva is especially intrigued. I like what the woman of the Chorus, representing sensitivity, says: “It’s a blessing to understand we are special, each in his own way.”
The man in the Chorus who wears a white hat is the scholar, the educated part of Riva. He says, “The portfolio will indicate that the conflict is over a piece of land or wealth or some other tangible asset. But we both know that is not the case.”
Riker nods. “They have been at war for so long, it has become personal.”
“Exactly. The basis for peace must also be personal.”
This sounds a lot like the Middle East crisis between Israel and Muslim nations. Calling themselves “Palestinians”—with no actual right to the land—the Muslims try to muscle Israel out. But though on the surface the war seems to involve land, the real motivation is to destroy Israel altogether, because they are God’s Chosen.
Well, Riva and his Chorus beam down with Riker and Worf at the predetermined place, but one hothead blasts at Riva. Riker pulls him out of the way, and instead all three of the Chorus disintegrate in the beam.
Back on board, Riva flashes one sign after another, talking way too fast and too jerkily for anyone to read him—even the Betazoid, Deanna Troi. Finally Lieutenant Commander Data learns sign and stands in place of the Chorus to explain Riva’s feelings.
“It was my fault. I am responsible for their deaths. In my arrogance I thought, No one can possibly harm the great Riva. … They were more than my interpreters; they were also my friends.”
Nevertheless, Deanna encourages him to take his own advice, to turn his disadvantage (losing his Chorus) into an advantage (conducting negotiations without them). So Riva pays a second visit to Solais, this time to teach the combatants sign language as a common ground to begin the peace process.
Learning sign will be a part of their process of learning how to live together in peace,” says Data, interpreting for Riva.
Troi happily says, “While they're learning how to communicate with Riva, they'll be learning how to communicate with each other.”
“And that is the first and most important aspect of any relationship.”
Well, yes, any normal relationship. If one Solasian tribe is like the Arabs, though, they won’t want to understand each other. They simply want their own way, and insist on it.
Turning disadvantages into advantages appears to be a theme in original Trek’s “Journey to Babel,” too. Only instead of dividing nations as in the real Babel, when foolish man decided to build a ziggarat to keep them together, this planet is meant to reunite them. Yet division is all we see during the voyage. Here, for the first time, we meet Spock’s parents: a full-blooded man named Sarek and his Earthian wife, Amanda.
The primary point of contention: the admission of Coridan into the Federation system of planets. It’s a valuable source of dilithium crystals, and several different races would like to monopolize the find. Including the porcine Tellarites and the blue-skinned Andorians, with white hair and two antennae.
Sarek is the ambassador from Vulcan who tries to turn a disadvantage into an advantage, but Tav the Tellarite only wants to argue. After the two have words, Tav is found upside-down in a Jeffries tube, dead, and Sarek is the most likely suspect.
Amanda has said, “Vulcans believe that peace should not depend on force.” I agree—yet Sarek looks guilty because of the way Tav was killed.
In describing the Vulcans’ ways, Spock says they “adopt a philosophy, a way of life, which is logical and beneficial. We cannot disregard that philosophy merely for personal gain, no matter how important that gain might be.”
Funny, this sound a lot like the Christian life, too. We also adopt a way of life that’s logical and beneficial. We can’t disregard our faith for personal gain, no matter how important the gain might seem.
God through Isaiah said, “'Come now, let us reason together [i.e., let's be logical],' says the Lord. 'Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool" (Isaiah 1:18 ).
The only difference is, Christianity is not man-inspired, but God-inspired. We adopt Jesus’ philosophy of love for everyone, as expressed when He boiled the Ten Commandments into their basic formulas: “'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. ... Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these" (Mark 12:30-31).
Back to “Journey to Babel.” The real murderer turns out to be Thelev the Andorian, who keeps a radio device in one antenna to stay in touch with pirates from Orion, who also have an interest in Coridan.
Side note: The animated Trek did three things for this story. The Orion pirates are only a mention in “Babel,” but show up in the episode named after them: “The Pirates of Orion.” Spock’s mother teases him about having a teddy bear called a sehlat. When Dr. McCoy shows salacious interest, Spock says, “On Vulcan, the teddy bears are alive, and they have six-inch fangs.” In the animated episode “Yesteryear,” we see a sehlat for ourselves. The same episode also showed Spock being harassed by other children, as did the 2009 Trek movie. This too was only mentioned in “Babel.”
Do peace negotiations stop war? They’re certainly supposed to. But humans being what they are, all too often they get bogged down in side issues and nothing gets resolved. A few negotiations have succeeded, but not often enough.
When we make peace with ourselves and our God, however, we’re yielded to His will, not insistent in following our own will. “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy” (Hebrews 12:14a). We are also to settle with our brothers and sisters in the same way, and forgive each other for any wrongs done.