Tough Traveling is an interesting and thought-provoking meme started by Nathan @ Fantasy Review Barn: each week Nathan chooses a topic from The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, by Diana Wynn Jones, and challenges everyone to come up with a list of books featuring that trope.
Come join the fun!
This week’s topic: Enforcers
Some people are made to give orders; others are made to make sure they are carried out. Be it through muscle or guile there are just some people you don’t want to hear are looking for you.
My examples for this week’s topic come from two TV shows I love, Farscape and Babylon5.
In Farscape, the epitome of the enforcer is embodied by the Peacekeepers: originally conceived as a peacekeeping force (hence the name) by an alien race that raised them from primitive conditions and trained them to be protectors of the weak and defenders of the oppressed, they lost sight of this original purpose once their masters disappeared and turned into a brutal military organization. Peacekeepers don’t belong to a single world, since they live and die on huge space carriers where they are trained to be soldiers everyone fears, an army of ruthless, cold-blooded fighters who know no compassion or humanity.
Much of this attitude comes from the way they are raised: the concept of family is unknown – children are born to “replenish the ranks” and reared in communal crèches, unless they are forcibly “harvested” at a young age from planetary settlements; pregnancies are assigned as a duty to be performed, and any emotional attachment is frowned upon at best and punished as a crime in the worst cases. Peacekeepers are taught that their only loyalty goes to the unit they belong to, coached to subsume their own individuality into that of the group: any deviation from this norm, any evidence of softer feelings is labeled as “irreversible contamination” and punished with death. Given such a grim environment it’s not surprising that Peacekeeper are feared and hated and that the name alone can inspire both dread and loathing.
In Babylon5 we first encounter the Psi Cops: they are the enforcing arm of the Psi Corps and also the telepaths with the higher level of psi ability, therefore able to move past other telepaths’ mental barriers and, if necessary, control them. In an organization born from the fear of non-telepaths (or mundanes) for those individuals exhibiting such extraordinary talent, the Psi Cops represent the ultimate barrier between the world and gifted people: the uniform and the badge telepaths must wear, the gloves that prevent accidental reading through occasional contact, are the outward signs of that fear. Telepaths recognized as such must join the Corps or undergo chemical suppression of their talent, a choice that in the long run leads to depression and suicidal tendencies – that’s why the Psi Cops’ main task is to find telepaths who are hiding their talents to avoid being enrolled into the Corps against their will, or to bring rogue telepaths back into the Corps’ cold bosom. Feared by their own kind, they stop at nothing to impose such merciless rules on others but are not exempt from a worrisome question: who controls the controllers?
The Night Watch is an organization born out of the corrupt Earth government’s idea of control carried out through clever manipulation of the general feeling of unrest present on Earth and its outposts. Their goal is to put an end to any activity that’s deemed “subversive” and that includes any open criticism of the Earth Government: to this goal they start recruiting people employed in law enforcement or security, promising them some extra pay and then progressively deepening the scope of their intervention to the point where the Night Watch’s duty becomes that of spying on the general population. The great freedom enjoyed by the Watch’s militant in enforced through Earth’s Ministry of Peace (a name with intentional Orwellian overtones) and its ultimate purpose is to do away with due process and civil liberties. A scenario that’s beyond chilling…