Lesson 091: Unacceptable traditions and customs
TV Series: Star Trek - The Next Generation
Season/Episode: 5/16 ('Ethics')


Worf, a Klingon warrior, is injured severely, resulting in a spinal injury that paralyzes both his legs.

By Klingon tradition, a warrior who can no longer walk is unable to fight, and must therefore, kill himself. The Klingon suicide must be performed with the aid of a friend.

In this case, Worf reaches out to Riker to help him in the ritual.

Riker is aghast at the thought of Worf killing himself. Worf tries his best to convince Riker to respect the Klingon way of life and, as his friend, to help him to die the way of the warrior.

Riker leaves and returns to Worf carrying the ritualistic Klingon blade used to end the warrior's life.

Pleased at first with Riker's reappearance, Worf is quickly dismayed and shocked as Riker explains his further findings on the Klingon ritual.

With precise descriptive clarity Riker wields the blade showing how the suicide aide must first stab the blade deep into the heart of the warrior, then pull out the blade and wipe the blood from the blade on the aide's own sleeve.

However, as Riker found out in his research of Klingon tradition, the duty of the suicide aide must fall on the eldest son of the warrior. Worf's son, who is only a pre-teen child, just happens to be on board and is acceptable as the suicide aide.

Unable to ever accept his very young son ever doing such a nefarious act as kill his own father, Worf decides to not commit suicide.


There is always place for maintaining tradition and customs in our human lives. Our tradition gives us a link to our ancestors and our respective cultures. We abide by these older customs almost instinctively, for to be without tradition and culture is to be without any foundation. We nurture our young with the knowledge of our heritage, much as the tree nourishes its leaves from the strength of its roots.

While our traditions do give us the building blocks upon which we grow, there are times when we must question some of the practices maintained within the culture.

Any custom, which deprives the individual of their in-born rights as human beings to flourish and practice their own way of life, must be opposed. The individual's right to maintain their own traditions and customs should always be permitted, as long as they in no way diminish the quality of the individual's own life and does not negatively impact the lives of others.

As technology continues to bring the common man closer to his fellow man around the world, we find it easier to recognize some of the vast differences in our respective traditions and cultures. From simple dietary restrictions to performing surgeries on new born to deadly rituals celebrating key passages in life, we find there is an abundance of cultural practices heaped upon us by our past.

As humans in charge of our own destinies, we always reserve the right to break with our traditions if the consequence improves our quality of life.

Just as the horrendously ugly thought of Worf's pre-teen son wiping the blood off the blade on his own sleeve, after having stabbed his father through the heart with the same knife, caused Worf to reject his Klingon custom of suicide, hopefully, we humans can recognize the ugliness in some of our more ritualistic customs and abandon them just as promptly.

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