Date: 28 Feb 2011 23:27 Title: Inhuman
A superb story, Nerys.
Rotmensen made a brazen and unjustified assumption when he implied that Spirodopoulos would abuse the power at his disposal and interfere with the culture on planet 892-IV. He assumed that Spirodopolous could not stop himself from taking up sides with the Children of the Son/Sun because of his affiliation to Christianity. Even if Rotmensen were teaching “Prime Directive 101” he’s way overstepping his bounds. His ridiculous assertion would make him instant enemies on both sides of the secular divide and for a while I thought the story was headed in the direction of a ‘professorial breakdown.’
That’s what struck me about your story. There was evidence aplenty of well-researched depth that included references to what I would consider logical & respectful additions to canon (e.g. Federation Standard) – it all felt so Starfleet Academy – and then you pull a nutjob like Rotmensen out of the bag. He’s a brilliant creation. I’m not sure if he is new to your stories or not, but I think we could give this character a fair bit of employment. He’s ridiculous and yet strangely believable; a veritable poster boy of Aristotelian vices.
Educational institutes are not democracies. Professors stand atop their podiums and deliver sermons and, if you want to pass, you’d better agree with all of it. I once had a prof fail a friend of mine because she submitted her lab assignment early – one that counted for 60% of the course mark. The trouble was the TA accidentally posted the wrong lab, but she didn’t know that because she had to attend a religious sabbatical so never found out that the assignment had changed. I went in with her to see the prof but he turned us down. He admitted it was 100% the fault of the TA but she still got an F for a semesters’ work. (The prof’s last name even rhymed with Rot.)
With a character like Rotmensen your illustration of prejudice was vivid and very, very real. I hope Spirodopolous, at the end of the story, was steaming directly to the Academy President’s office to formally file a complaint! ~ Sam
Thank you so much for reading...always glad to see new readers. :-)
Rotmensen thought that the imperative to share Christianity is akin to putting an Omega Particle in front of a Borg cube--assimilate at all costs. What he didn't understand is that there are certain things that are unacceptable to Spirodopoulos, that he considers wrong ways to share.
Rotmensen was based on some of the outrageous figures that have appeared in real life universities like Ward Churchill. The whack-job you hope you never get for your classes, but doesn't get fired (and in Rotmensen's case, since he probably doesn't have tenure the way a private university instructor would, has been too smart in the past to get caught in something). Thankfully I have never encountered someone like him in school...rather the opposite: a professor who stopped a political discussion despite agreeing with the left-wing content because he felt it was detrimental to the learning environment, and a labor-relations professor who gave me a good grade in part because I had the courage to disagree openly with him.
But I did have a professor that promised one thing and then did another, kind of like what your professor did.
Rotmensen is also Jean-Luc Picard pushed to the extreme that could come from being in an academic "ivory tower" rather than being out and about. That's the other precedent I used to create him.
I'm not 100% sure what Spirodopoulos did at the end. I know his mind was whirling by the end, that's for sure!
Date: 28 Feb 2011 21:12 Title: Inhuman
Like a few of the other entries into the challenge, what I particularly liked about this instalment was how it turned the conception of prejudice on its head - by having it be a prejudice from a surprising perspective and setting. A very interesting piece, Nerys. Well done.
Thanks for reading. One thing I firmly believe is that those who fool themselves into believing they are prejudice-free are often the ones who are the most blind of anyone.
Date: 27 Feb 2011 10:47 Title: Inhuman
A thought-provoking story, Nerys, and one that evokes a strong emotional response in the reader. Rotmensen is certainly a self-serving man whose own arrogant adherence to his personal view of the universe has so poisoned him that he cannot extend the same cultural neutrality he would offer an ‘alien’ cadet to a young man from his own planet.
Kudos to Spirodopoulos for keeping his cool under circumstances that would have tested the strongest of individuals. Had he reacted otherwise, he would only have provided Rotmensen the ammunition the man needed to terminate Spirodopoulos’ Starfleet career before it had even begun.
Repost from TrekBBS comments:
Thank you for reading.
Rotmensen is suffering from Ivory Tower Syndrome, I think--he has a little fiefdom, like some academics get, but he's definitely like some of the worst and most flagrant examples we've had in our world (some of whom make Rotmensen look like nothing). I'm not sure even Professor Shalwa could fix him.Honestly, I have no idea what kept Spirodopoulos from snapping completely. He definitely raised his voice, for sure, but I'm not sure what really held back the flood of curse words, and as I was writing it, I could feel him fighting against a VERY strong desire to just let loose.
I do think that however "calm" he was (at least, compared to what he could've done), this incident made a real mark on him. He has his cynical moments, and I think this is probably where it got started.
I'd pay to see Rotmensen's face if he could see Lieutenant Commander Spirodopoulos in 2375. Considering that one thing Cadet Spirodopoulos said...
Date: 27 Feb 2011 02:43 Title: Inhuman
Spirodopoulos showed a lot or restrain and patience with this man. I'm glad he didn't do anything out of anger that would kick him out of the academy, but I wouldn't be surprised if he weren't able to listen to this utter nonsense. I don't find Rotmensen's "arguments" convincing at all and even if he has something to back them up, I doubt I would find them explaining anything.
To call Spirodopoulos all those words...do that again, Commander, this time looking in the mirror; that's were you'd find a valid target to address them.
Great story. And great ending--that's what I like: leaving me with tough questions to find answers on my own ;) Personally, I wouldn't dare to report Rotmensen, I would fear no one would believe me or that I might meet with another wall of prejudice.
Spirodopoulos definitely walked the line in his response...as I wrote, I could feel him getting on the knife's edge of committing himself to something so rash, so mean, that he easily could have gotten himself kicked out. No doubt--he was furious.
There are reasons from Earth's history, why Rotmensen's so angry...but this cadet--this boy--didn't do any of it.
I'm glad you liked it. :-)
Date: 26 Feb 2011 22:19 Title: Inhuman
Wow! Excellent, excellent job Nerys.
I think you hit the nail on the head. Racism, and prejudice take many forms, and while we as humans are slowly learning to overcome some of those - most obviously the physical, visible differences between people and cultures, personally I think the intellectual differences - morals, values, religious ideology, political doctrine, caste systems, etc. - are/will be the most difficult to overcome, because they deal with such tenuous, nebulous things. Like it or not, each culture, each religion, has a different, unique way of looking at the world, and until we are able to embrace and accept these differing views as easily as we now embrace differences in appearance, we, as the human race, really haven't made the progress we think we have.
No worries. I think you tackled this issue with grace, compassion and most of all understanding - a lesson Rotmensen could certainly benefit from learning.
Just as an aside, I positively love the explanation you came up with for the parallel societies on 892 IV, Miri's planet and the Omega planet. It's something that never occurred to me before, but sure makes a helluva lotta sense. :D
Overall, very well-done piece. Now if I can only find a way to tell the story I wanted to do for this challenge with such empathy and understanding. Who knows, maybe someday I'll find the correct way to present it.
Thank you so much for reading and commenting. :-)
I thought that Hodgkin's Law explanation was stupid (only seemed to me like it should fit convergent PHYSICAL evolution, the way the law was used on ENT)--but I figured that since Federation territory was not as far-flung in the 23rd century when it happened, that it might well fit if those worlds were in or near the area "deranged" by the Sphere Builders back in the 22nd century. In Sigils continuity, I think that the thin area may have healed a bit and not be so accessible by the 24th century. Not too sure about that.
The reason I think intellectual differences will be the hardest to overcome is because, unlike physical, which CLEARLY has no bearing on a person, some do believe that intellectual disagreement falls under "the content of your character." Not to mention the fact that liberal ideology can become its own sort of dogma. At least, it does for Rotmensen. For Shalwa, who is liberal in a different way, it's not. Shalwa just likes different people. And as a telepath, their thoughts are interesting and exciting. (I can SO see it now, at one of those parties she throws: "It feels like that dish is making you hungry! Please please please PLEASE can I have some? Please?" ;-) )
The way I see events having played out for humanity--I think the combination of World War III taking place in the way I believe it actually could in real life, coupled with the Vulcan influence immediately thereafter (and we know the Vulcans of the 22nd century were even more intolerant than the 23rd-24th-century ones), did a real number on humanity's ability to tolerate intellectual dissent. There are other, even darker secrets in Earth's past that I didn't get into here, though. But this is the first "official" hint of it.
And please, do write your piece and shoot me a PM when you get it posted! I'm not always the best at keeping up with new stories, so that will be the best way to let me know.
Date: 26 Feb 2011 17:43 Title: Inhuman
What a jackass this Rotmensen is! Was he seriously considering reporting Spiro for cheating just because of one of his reports didn't jibe with his limited understanding of Christianity? That Spiro didn't give in to the urge to punch his lights out probably blew his mind. His faith has taught him not to sit in judgment.
It was hard for Spirodopoulos not to start yelling even worse than he did--especially as an 18-year-old boy. I can tell you his face would've looked to Rotmensen like "I want to punch your lights out." Coming from Thessaloniki, he wasn't exposed to a lot of this attitude since in Sigils Thessaloniki is a traditional city. He had bad culture shock in Haight-Ashbury land, for sure. Spirodopoulos knew that a lot of people outside of Thessaloniki held different views but this caught him off guard.
I think Rotmensen may have truly believed what he was saying...I'm not quite sure with that guy.
Date: 26 Feb 2011 16:28 Title: Inhuman
Wow. Kudos for tackling such a sensitive issue with class and intensity. It's all the more visceral because of the contemporary relevance of the story. I think you captured well that tolerance and diversity has limits (depending on who decides what to tolerate) whereas liberty (ideally) is for all. Very well done!
Until prejudice is recognized as a human problem--one that we all suffer from regardless of where our "starting point" is--then I don't think we're going to get anywhere. That said, I will also say there's a difference between prejudice (holding an opinion in your head) and bigotry (acting like a jerk because of it). The former is annoying, but it's the action I have real problems with.
But when it comes to diversity--I would say that there is also an alternate approach that we hear about, from Professor Shalwa. As I told another friend of mine, I get the feeling little Shalwa was the kid that went to the spaceport for the first time and got really excited about all the pretty aliens and their foreign foods and clothing. And then when her telepathy developed, I think that instead of judging their thought patterns like Lwaxana Troi did, she thought that was another neat extra "spice" in the recipe, too. I see Shalwa as conveying that excitement to her students. Celebrating them and letting them celebrate others and themselves. :-)
Date: 26 Feb 2011 15:43 Title: Inhuman
Nicely done. I can easily imagine a professor or two at Starfleet Academy having exactly this sort of attitude. Heck, there are professors in our universities today who have this attitude. Spiro handled himself well. Great entry.
Thanks...as I said in a previous comment, I suspect that Rotmensen let his power over his students go to his head. The funny thing is to notice that the students (including the human students) as a rule behaved more maturely about the whole thing than he did! If a few people decided they weren't comfortable talking to Cadet Spirodopoulos again...fine; they didn't take it out on him. A much better way to handle it than Rotmensen used.
Date: 26 Feb 2011 14:47 Title: Inhuman
Very good. The Trek franchise, for all its talk about diversity, always had a hard time accepting viewpoints that didn't fall into a secularist worldview.
Thank you for reading.
I suspect it was not all Starfleet officers--I cannot see Professor Shalwa, the way I imagine her, ever acting like Rotmensen (or Picard) did. Kirk, Sisko, and even Janeway didn't strike me as that "hardline," and Archer may pre-date some of the most "hardline" attitudes (or at least their being so ubiquitous). Picard was the one hardliner we saw.
I think Rotmensen let his power over his students go to his head.