Location: Executive Officer's Office, USS Nimitz
Ravi had attempted arguments with Vulcans before. They never seemed to get anywhere. Probably because Vulcans had an obnoxious tendency toward calm, logical debate. That wasn't really the Cardassian diplomat's style. Not that she wasn't capable of that style, she just preferred someone who could think with their hearts, someone with strong beliefs, even of they were the wrong ones (at least to her mind).
Despite her utter failures at evoking emotion in arguments with Vulcans, she had had considerably more success with half Vulcans. With the XO being half Bajoran she seemed like a perfect candidate. Bajorans, in general, seemed to have strong beliefs and the conviction to back them up. She just hoped that T'Vel had some of that. Ravi couldn't stand working under someone who didn't stand up for their beliefs.
It wasn't surprising to Ravi that she found the half Bajoran in her office. "Good morning Commander," the diplomat said as she walked into the room, "I was wondering if you were available for a bit of a conversation."
Having looked up from her terminal the moment the doors to her office had parted unexpectedly, the chime having never sounded, T'Vel's eyes locked on the Cardassian. "Lieutenant Ravi," she greeted, immediately recognising the woman from brief meetings and her personnel record.
Although she rose, she maintained a stoic demeanour, but decided to let the formality of a door knock slide from this particular incident in the hopes it would better facilitate a positive relationship with the fellow senior officer. It had been something she was attempting to succeed in with each of her comrades given her position, knowing interpersonal skills were a personal weakness of hers - and one she was determined to conquer with this new assignment.
"I am available," she replied simply, gesturing towards the chair, "please, take a seat." Reclaiming her own, T'Vel quickly looked Ravi up and down, sizing up what she could based on her physical presence, having already done what she could to recall her official biography. As things were, she always had a lingering suspicion when in the presence of Cardassians; her father had campaigned against and died because of Cardassian oppression, her aunt had suffered long through the Occupation, and the last vessel T'Vel had served on had been destroyed by a Cardassian militant group, advocating a return to the 'True Way'.
Experience advised caution, but logic and understanding dictated that not all Cardassians were responsible for the actions with others, as is true of many cultures and peoples across the galaxy - it would not do to judge one purely on the actions of his or her kin. In moments such as these, she was thankful for her Vulcan teachings - to put aside bigotry - as well as knowing full well many Cardassians had suffered greatly and bled for similar ideals as her father.
Knowing what little she did of Ravi, she was aware the woman had suffered herself, and so then hazarded, "What is it you wish to speak about, Lieutenant?"
"I wondered if we would have any problems," said the Cardassian with her usual blunt force. "I know you're half Vulcan, but that's no guarantee of a lack of prejudice."
"Just as suggesting being Vulcan to any degree necessitates the absence of it," T'Vel said pointedly but calmly. "But I see no reason why you and I should suffer any difficulties. You were not, after all, responsible for the orchestration of any of the atrocities committed by Cardassians during the Occupation - just as I am not for those the Bajoran Resistance committed in turn - nor are you a member of the True Way."
The commander reached forward to pick up the mug of tea that had steadily grown colder as time had slipped by and took a sip, before placing it down and looking at Ravi. "Has this been a common occurrence for you then, Lieutenant?" She then asked. "Have there been any issues since your assignment on board?" She also added.
Ravi shook her head, "Not yet. There have been issues in my previous postings, however. There are still a lot of hard feelings against my people, even a decade later." She looked directly at the woman on the other side of the desk. "Somehow they think that my people are evil."
T'Vel nodded. "I see the basis for their reasoning, but their logic is flawed: being a Cardassian does not make you a war criminal. But what is your standing on your species?" She then decided to ask, genuinely curious whilst also keen to see if she could learn more of this particular officer. "Have these past incidents been as a result purely of your race, or has there ever been antagonistic behaviour on your part, perhaps because of others' incorrect assumptions or comments?"
The first officer knew she may be treading delicate ground here, but it had never been in her nature to shy away from asking questions she deemed necessary. Getting to know other officers on a more personal basis, however, was rarely an intention. T'Vel feared such a line of questioning may endanger that goal.
The Cardassian looked at her superior officer with an incredulous look. "Of course there has been, I do not take insults passively. My species is more evolved than any other, but that does not mean we are flawless. Our method for conquering lesser species, for example, was flawed. The Federation's methods or humanity's methods, rather, are much more effective."
The way she claimed Cardassian superiority wasn't the haughty overbearing way that most people would think a Cardassian would act. It was simply a fact of her life and she didn't hold it against anyone that they were inferior to her species.
At that, T'Vel's eyebrow arched, and the slight hint of amusement in her look was plain to see, and odd on such a Vulcan visage. "There is, of course, a time and a place for war over diplomacy," she said to the lieutenant, "but we may find ourselves at disagreement over the supposed superiority of your race above others. Of course, it would be foolish for myself to also make such a sweeping statement, so tell me: by what criteria do you judge a species' worth and 'rank', as it were?"
There was no tone of aggression in the commander's voice, but interest was most certainly spliced with her very Vulcan and impassive tone. Looking the Cardassian up and down, she found herself facing someone of exceedingly high interest; clearly, she must be an incredibly well-versed and intelligent individual to rise within the Diplomatic Corps with such an attitude - a woman worth interacting with.
Ravi couldn't help but think that this was very nearly a typical Vulcan response. Next the woman would start picking apart every argument the diplomat made. She decided to change tack.
"I judge based on physical merit and adaptive strategies. What you likely do not understand is that diplomacy is war. I believe that most of your Federation lacks that understanding. Just because humanity has conquered you all with your consent does not mean that they have not conquered you."
She could tell that the point did not come across as clearly as she had hoped. "Look at the Federation. 'Federation Standard' as we call it is nothing but an adaptation of old Earth english. Earth is the home of the Federation as well as Starfleet. More humans occupy positions of power within Starfleet and the Federation than any other species can claim. Human ideals and values are the most important to the Federation. New inductees are not even allowed entrance to the Federation without discarding time honored and culturally significant practices because they do not conform to the Federation's - that is humanity's - ideals."
The young Cardassian had written an undergraduate paper on the innate inequalities extant within the Federation and Starfleet. While she was only summarizing some of the more damning points, she was prepared to back them up.
T'Vel nodded, genuinely admiring the points made by the Cardassian. "A very fair and logical assessment," she declared, making a mental note to delve more into the woman's profile and past work when given the time, "and I must agree with your general appraisal. It has long been a point of contention within many of the more diverse species within the Federation, what you discuss, including with myself. Nevertheless, it is, I believe, merely a grander scale of something that typically occurs on every standard planet as it develops into a unified (and later space-faring) society: globalisation. Gradually, the various nation-states of a world are brought together through a common reason - whether it be through an emperor's military might, economic purposes, or a diplomat's silver tongue - which inevitably leads to a blending of cultures to facilitate that cooperation."
The commander had found such subjects highly interesting since she was a youth, and especially as she had looked into learning more of her own mixed heritage, having an ancestry of two worlds with a rich background, deeply entrenched in the typical developments of such worlds. "Certainly, whilst many customs continue to exist in a weaker and more simplified way, they are typically held very dear to the individual whilst the overriding 'mega-culture' exists above, permeating all. This is true of the Federation, just as it is with any interstellar state with a diverse population. What is somewhat different about the UFP, however, is that a planet may leave if it so desires. Whilst it is true they must meet very human standards for entry, history details it is rarely to the detriment of the member worlds. I have found it is only the extreme traditionalists who fail to merge and therefore cause difficulty with the other members of the society, attempting to radicalise in the name of autonomy and tradition."
Rising, the half-Bajoran stepped over to her replicator and placed the mug within it, ordering a fresh mug at the same time. "For the most part, I find the large number of people within the Federation and even on their homeworlds tend to retain a major cultural identity alongside the 'mega' one. They want to be called Tellarites and have their foibles, but are happy to be within the Federation." T'Vel now gestured to the replicator. "Would you care for a drink, Lieutenant?"
Ravi shook her head, "No, commander." She did stand and lean against the desk while the Vulcan moved to the replicator. "You see, that's exactly my point. It's called cultural colonization. The Federation, so Humanity, conquers people through economic and cultural means. The genius of this system is that the subjected peoples don't realize they have been conquered. They have the illusion that they can leave at any time, but that is all it is."
The purple-collared woman moved back to her chair as her superior officer moved back to her own. "There is no escape because by the time they realize that they have been conquered, if they ever do, their entire economic and cultural system is dependent on commodities provided only to worlds who have gained Federation membership."
"As do they also become reliant on them as a means of defence from other greater nations that occupy surrounding space," T'Vel replied evenly, "and so many that may deign to leave still find themselves as protectorates of the Federation." And with that, T'Vel brought the mug close to her mouth, knowing the temperature to be exactly as she had requested, and so perfectly safe to drink.
"Are you really not insulted by my beliefs?" Ravi asked seriously. "Every time I talk with anyone, they argue and refuse to see what is staring them in the face," she paused and then continued with a smile, "Not that I don't enjoy the shouting matches, but one of humanity's conceits is that volume is related to irrationality."
Unable to restrict herself from permitting the barest hint of a smile to shadow one corner of her mouth, T'Vel looked over her mug at Ravi and said, "It is a 'conceit' shared by the Vulcans, and any species that does not find loudness synonymous with righteousness. Nevertheless, I find your point highly interesting, logical and agreeable. Whilst we can both agree nothing is as simple as we may say here, your points are ultimately valid - but ones that others may find uncomfortable. To ironically prove your main point by using a human idiom, it is a 'home truth'."
Ravi was impressed with how accepting T'Vel was of her philosophy. Most Vulcans, as intellectual as they were, refused to see the true situation. They, like humans, became emotionally invested in believing that the Federation is not a conquering entity. After all, they were one of the three founding species, and one of the first to succumb to humanity's demands.
"I suspect, Lieutenant Ravi," the commander now said, leaning back slightly in her chair yet retaining her air of aloof formality, "that you and I will come to find we have a great many interesting things to discuss in the months to come; I look forward to serving with you."
"And I you," Ravi replied. To her surprise it was actually true. Finding someone to discuss with was enjoyable. It wasn't as fun as a good shouting match, but it was certainly more relaxing. "Next time we will have to discuss whether this phenomenon is necessarily bad. I suspect you know my view."
At that, T'Vel gave a curt nod. "I imagine that shall be a rather engaging conversation, and I anticipate it eagerly," she said with certainty, herself now buoyed and surprised by her discovery of a somewhat kindred spirit, especially one in a form she had never expected.
More than that, it seemed that - in contrast to her suspicions of how she would be in her new role - she had genuinely begun to build the bridges of a more personal relationship. Whilst reservations of course remained, the prospects of command were beginning to seem less daunting.