Cultural Evaluation

Author: underground aspergian

Post-TOS, Spock, rated PG.

Summary: Spock evaluates a planet’s application for Federation membership.


Final Report of Special Envoy Spock, submitted to the Federation Cultural Evaluation Bureau on Stardate 38162.4, regarding the application of Niente for Federation membership.

As indicated in the preliminary cultural reports, the intelligence, logic, and industrious habits of the Nientese people are most commendable. They are a technologically advanced race, strongly motivated toward learning and innovation. Nientese children typically begin reading fluently and using computers as toddlers. Almost without exception, they possess a boundless curiosity and fascination with the natural world.

Nientese society is structured in such a way as to allow every individual, even the youngest child, to pursue his or her studies and projects without distraction or interruption. A sophisticated system of computer networks provides instant access to detailed data on many topics. Schooling in the early years consists of online educational modules that are heavily customized to accommodate each child’s particular interests. Changes to a young child’s physical environment are believed to be psychologically unhealthy and are carefully avoided. A Nientese child rarely leaves the family’s home until he or she learns to speak, which typically occurs at about age 6.

Although Niente considers itself a republic, its political structure can be more accurately described as a highly organized form of anarchy. Its elected officials have few duties other than monitoring the condition of Niente’s infrastructure and compiling reports. The application for Federation membership, although it purported to be a governmental act, was in fact prepared by a business association analogous to a chamber of commerce. Because Niente is a wealthy and peaceful planet, the need for social welfare programs is quite minimal indeed, and military expenditures are nonexistent. The merchant fleet is equipped with sophisticated weaponry for protection against space pirates and can be called upon at need to form a militia to defend the homeworld.

Violent crime is very rare on Niente and is regarded as a form of mental illness. A violent individual’s family is expected to pay for his or her care at a treatment facility and to make restitution to the victim. Petty offenses, most of which are computer-related, are dealt with through an informal counseling process that involves the miscreant, his or her family, and an individual known as a Mentor, whose position is similar to that of a probation officer or a social worker. Mentors are employed by computer service providers. If a Mentor finds that an offender has been uncooperative, the offender’s computer use may be temporarily restricted, which the Nientese view as a very unpleasant penalty. There is an administrative appeal process, but no jury or criminal justice system.

Civil legal disputes are customarily submitted to arbitrators who have experience in the particular area of the dispute. The arbitrators’ decisions form a body of case law on which the Nientese population relies. Niente has no legislature and no official lawmaking process. Divorcing couples are counseled by mediators, and it is rare that an amicable arrangement is not reached.

Although the Nientese may appear emotionless and extremely literal in spoken conversation, this impression is to some extent misleading, as it results from the translation of their visually oriented thought processes into the less fluent “second language” of speech. Unlike Vulcans, they do not seek to suppress their emotions. Many Nientese enjoy art, music, and other creative pursuits and are capable, upon occasion, of being moved to great depths of emotion.

At first glance, racial prejudice and other forms of intolerance appear to be entirely absent. The planet’s population originally consisted of three ethnic groups, which by now have intermarried for so many generations that their distinctive racial features are no longer noticeable in most individuals. The Nientese pride themselves on their tolerance for diversity. Sensory differences are common among them, and extensive accommodations are routinely made for those who are unusually sensitive to bright lights, loud noises, strong odors, or other problematical sensory issues.

Further investigation of less public aspects of Nientese society indicates, however, that this tolerance for diversity does not necessarily extend to individuals with significant neurological differences. Particular cause for concern exists regarding the treatment of a small segment of the population that has been classified as developmentally disabled because of social and communication differences. As children, these individuals are often slow in learning to read and are less likely to possess a natural aptitude for computers and other technology. They may not be able to read and obey the simplest instructions on a computer screen until age 5 or 6.

Substantial behavioral differences are also found in this group. Their most noticeable trait is an unusually strong need for companionship and social interaction, manifested in various ways, which significantly impairs their ability to spend time alone productively. As a result, they are diagnosed as suffering from Oversocialization Spectrum Disorder (OSD), which is regarded as a severe and pervasive mental disability. The cause of OSD is unknown, but it is thought to be of genetic origin.

Although precocious speech is not unusual in OSD children, who may learn to talk as early as age 2, they are nevertheless viewed as mentally impaired because of their penchant for chattering to family members and household visitors, which is seen as an annoyance and an embarrassment. OSD children are often placed on medication to suppress their excessive socializing. Parents of OSD children are pitied for the tragic misfortune that has befallen their family. A recent increase in the number of diagnosed OSD cases, coinciding with an expansion of the diagnostic criteria, has been popularly described as a “plague” and as an “epidemic.”

Desperate parents often contribute to research organizations seeking a cure for OSD and, believing early intervention to be vital, are willing to pay large sums for intensive behavioral treatments. In most cases, behavioral intervention consists of locking an OSD child in a “playroom” for lengthy periods and forcing the child to engage in solitary activities. Although OSD children find isolation to be extremely distressing, such treatment is regarded as a therapeutic method of correcting social maladjustment and improving the child’s ability to conform to behavioral expectations. Sound scientific research with control-group comparisons is lacking, however, and there is considerable anecdotal evidence suggesting that OSD children may develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress after being subjected to prolonged isolation.

Educational opportunities for OSD children are often limited. Because of their difficulties in reading and using computers, they may not be able to participate fully in conventional schooling. Moreover, their lack of the intense focus and obsessive intellectual curiosity that characterize most Nientese children handicaps them further. They are likely to be placed in special-needs programs where their assignments are simple and unchallenging. This is deemed adequate because no one expects them to be able to hold jobs and be self-supporting. Even if an OSD applicant met the criteria for an available job, the obvious differences in speech and body language would almost certainly cause the applicant to be disqualified during the initial interview.

In what amounts to a civil rights movement, a number of “Socies,” as they often call themselves, have been arguing that they are just different, not defective, and that they would be able to lead productive lives if their differences were accepted. This argument has met with very little sympathy from the majority population. Most Nientese are convinced that OSD sufferers, because of their mental deficits, are incapable of understanding the extent of the sacrifices made by their parents and communities to ensure that they receive the best care and treatment for their disorder. In addition, the activist groups are often perceived as consisting of higher-functioning individuals who do not comprehend the tragic affliction of severe OSD.

Recommendation: Deny. Although the Nientese possess many admirable and fascinating qualities, the conclusion is inescapable that their cultural practices do not meet Federation Charter requirements concerning the treatment of minorities. It is regrettable that the Federation must be deprived of the unique talents and perspectives of the Nientese people for this reason, and it is even more regrettable that they have chosen to deprive themselves of the potential social and economic contributions of a segment of their own population. Perhaps, in another generation, the Nientese will have developed a greater appreciation of the value of neurological diversity in an advanced society, and their application can then be reconsidered.