The point cannot be stressed enough that whether or not you like the Dominion, as far as the upper leadership is concerned, what citizens of the Dominion are doing is helping everyone. Absolutely nothing the Dominion has ever done has been done out of malice. It's always justified by the needs of the galaxy as a whole, even if sometimes that means being nasty in the short term.
Look at the Granok. They were offered a place in the Dominion, and how did they respond? Violently. Can you imagine what would have happened if they were allowed to roam the galaxy? They would be criminals, mercenaries, thugs for hire, dangerous to everyone, quite probably in league with terrorists and pirates. You know, exactly what happened with the exiled Granok.
Look at the Mordesh. How communicable was their plague? How could you pick out the infected? How was there any way to know that Lazarin didn't plan on this the whole time? No, it's best to block off the planet and make sure that the illness is contained rather than hurting anyone else. And the Aurin? Aiding known terrorists. You can't let that sort of thing go without retribution; that just encourages more terrorist behavior, doesn't it?
No one would argue that any of this was nice, but you don't always get to operate based on nice. When you're trying to build a stable galactic empire that makes the galaxy better for everyone, you're going to occasionally wind up excising some parts. It's unpleasant, maybe even heartbreaking, but it's the necessity.
This is why it's so easy to say that the Dominion is evil or villainous: It's a faction willing to go to extremes. The Dominion is Ozymandias, Lex Luthor, the Borg, SHODAN, Garrosh Hellscream -- any character or group willing to go to any length for what is perceived as the greater good. What's missing is the fact that it's also the faction of martyrdom, of self-sacrifice, of giving up everything in pursuit of an ideal bigger than yourself.
Remember, the idea that holds together the Exiles is just "we hate the Dominion." If you want to go for classic alignments, the Dominion is the Lawful end of the spectrum. Yes, that includes Lawful Evil, but it also includes Lawful Good.
It would be wrong to say that the Dominion aren't hunting the Exiles, but they're doing so because the Exiles have attacked the Dominion. Do you want to wager how many of those attacks were against civilian targets? And the Dominion as a whole does not spend all of its time and effort trying to kill as many Exiles as possible. It's a duty that must be fulfilled, but it comes only as part and parcel of a much larger task handed down by the Eldan. The Cassians are there to cultivate the galaxy for their benefactors.
We don't know how well they're doing, on a whole, but it can be assumed that it goes reasonably well. I imagine that for the vast majority of Dominion members, life is comfortable. It's comfortable both morally and physically; after all, you know you have the higher powers on your side, so why fuss over moral questions? You are right.
The Dominion has religion, it has rituals, it has a drive to do better, always. The Cassians aren't meant to be the lords ruling over the lesser races like the Draken from on high; they're meant to embody the ideals that they claim the Dominion stands for. Being a Cassian isn't a matter of being inherently better; it's a call to better yourself and others in the name of improving the entire galaxy.
Except you have to wonder whether or not you are making the galaxy a better place.
Herein lies the central conflict of the Cassians. As a species, as a culture, as a race, the Cassians have marched on under the banner of what they are relatively certain needs to be done to fulfill orders given out several generations before. And it's difficult. It's required the Cassians to sacrifice a great deal, including some of their own people (the Exiles are as good as sacrificed, at least). And all of this has been in service to an ideal.
What if the Eldan don't live up to that ideal? Worse yet, what if they don't actually care? Let's return to that that thought experiment from the beginning of the column: What if it turns out that all those people telling you that you were awesome really just wanted your cat and to see how badly you'd screw things up if you were in charge?
If you believe you have a moral imperative, what do you do when you have to start questioning whether or not that imperative is valid?
As always, feedback is welcome in both the comments or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next week, I'm tackling an elephant sitting right in the middle of the living room. The week after that? Exiles, obviously.
Here's how it is: The world of Nexus can be a dangerous place for a tourist or a resident. If you're going to venture into WildStar, you want to be prepared. That's why Eliot Lefebvre brings you a shiny new installment of The Nexus Telegraph every week, giving you a good idea of what to expect from both the people and the environment. Keep your eyes peeled, and we'll get you where you need to go.