Posted by: rebeccajrobare | April 29, 2018

Social Graces: “Haven”

Blog note: So that messy, distracting life thing that keeps happening… Well. We have a working furnace, a new sewer pipe, I have a day job, the car has been repaired, and no one is in the hospital! I’d like to say I’m re-committing to this blog and will post routinely, but the truth is that I’m writing what I can one day at a time, and sometimes a day’s writing amounts to a text message or grocery list. If I want to do more, I have to start where I am, and where I am is right here, with a life structured to prioritize all the important things in it — except writing! At least I have a post for you to read while I see if I can restructure…

Mission Summary: En route to the pristine planet of Haven, the Enterprise unexpectedly receives a chest of gems. It is a betrothal gift for Counselor Troi, who is being summoned to the wedding arranged for her when she was a child. The groom, Wyatt, is surprised by Troi’s appearance. For years, he has been drawing portraits of a beautiful woman, and assumed it was Troi. Troi’s mother boards the Enterprise. She flirts outrageously with Picard and feuds with Wyatt’s parents about every aspect of the upcoming ceremony.

A plague ship carrying the last survivors of a devastated world approaches Haven. They say they want to live out their remaining days as a sort of leper colony on the beautiful world. Haven, fearful of contagion, demands that the Enterprise destroy the vessel, though Picard obviously has no intention of doing so. Wyatt is on the bridge with Troi when the ship makes contact and discovers that the woman in his artistic visions is one of the plague carriers.

The conclusion is foregone. Wyatt, a doctor, joins the plague ship, which has really come in search of him. He and Troi part ways with only the slightest regrets, and the Enterprise gets back to its routine.

On Leadership: From the Federation’s perspective, this mission is mostly about the plague ship. As they didn’t actually want to land on Haven, Picard was not forced to negotiate between their wishes and those of Haven’s government. Instead, the thing we learn from Captain Picard during this mission is how to show grace under considerable social pressures. Lwaxana Troi, who is a person of importance on her planet Betazed, freely says what she claims other people are thinking – whether flattering or not, and regardless of whether the thinker would have voiced it. This habit of radical openness exacerbates her long-standing feud with Wyatt’s parents.

Picard handles everything with aplomb. He expresses regret at the impending loss of his ship’s counselor (though as a student of Starfleet leadership practices I fail to see why Wyatt couldn’t have come to live aboard the Enterprise, which carries the civilian families of its crew) but offers Troi warm congratulations. He shows no irritation when Lwaxana proclaims that he is attracted to her, and even carries her heavy suitcase without a qualm. At the wedding party’s dinner, he offers only smiles and grace, attempting to keep the peace between Wyatt’s parents, who want a human-style wedding, and Lwaxana, who insists on a traditional Betazed wedding (in the nude).

I find the lesson of Picard’s example here particularly difficult to put into practice – but that makes it all the more important. Smile and be gracious, no matter how awkward or contentious the situation. It reminds me of the rule that you can only control your own behavior. Picard’s grace under social pressure may have helped make things a little easier for the other participants, and it ensured that he and the Enterprise were remembered as good hosts. Sometimes the leader’s job is to set an example of civility, be a gracious host, and help – to the degree possible – the event to run smoothly. It is not a job I envy, but it is one I can hope to emulate when required.

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