The UN’s Prime Directive:

Fact Sheet No 9 of the Office of the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights begins with the following –

“An objective of the Decade is the promotion and protection of the rights of indigenous people and their empowerment to make choices which enable them to retain their cultural identity while participating in political, economic and social life, with full respect for their cultural values, languages, traditions and forms of social organization.”

Star Trek’s is somewhat more biased – probably an inevitable result of the culture it came from. Take the second sentence of the directive – Such interference includes the introduction of superior knowledge, strength, or technology to a world whose society is incapable of handling such advantages wisely. It doesn’t take much study to see the obvious Western cultural biases in the words ‘superior’, ‘incapable’, and ‘wisely’. The discrimination underlies the well intended words. Anyone judged to have lesser abilities than those with ‘superior’ ones must be protected not just from the Star Fleet but from their own ‘incapable’ selves.

The UN fact sheet offers a more modern perspective – “In 1971, Mr. José R. Martínez Cobo (Ecuador) was appointed Special Rapporteur for the study, which was to suggest national and international measures for eliminating such discrimination. His final report(1) was submitted to the Sub-Commission during the years 1981-1984.

The Special Rapporteur addressed a wide range of human rights issues. They included a definition of indigenous peoples, the role of intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, the elimination of discrimination, and basic human rights principles, as well as special areas of action in fields such as health, housing, education, language, culture, social and legal institutions, employment, land, political rights, religious rights and practices, and equality in the administration of justice. His conclusions, proposals and recommendations are an important milestone in United Nations consideration of the human rights problems facing indigenous peoples; many are still under consideration and others have been incorporated in resolutions of the Sub-Commission.”

Its language is also somewhat susceptible to value judgements, however. One has to wonder how ‘equality in the administration of justice’ stacks up against the determination of Islamic fundamentalists to increase the scope of Sharia law. This seems to be one of the problems I referred to in my original discussion – that the Iskanders are initiating the progression to a host of modern problems that we haven’t solved.

It is evident that no Prime Directive is applicable to every situation that arises. Perhaps that is why the Star Trek episodes were frequently concerned with situations where it was not observed.

The purport of the UN recommendation is to ensure that the newly discovered culture (on Earth, but extended off-world in a Star Trek or Retrofuturist universe) is not taken advantage of by outside forces. It does not prohibit intrusive contact, as long as the intruders hold to honourable intentions and results. This, I believe, is the broad intention of my Iskanders – always accepting that any enemy action against them results in their striking back. The series also recognizes that the existence of power structures inimical to the good intentions of the Iskanders (or the UN for that matter) will inevitably exist and have to be countered. The UN charter includes the provision for police and peacekeeping actions, but in practice every form of action (eg Kosovo, Korea) except nuclear destruction seems permissible.


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