#KindnessIsALiteracy is a recurring series on TrekEthicist.com that profiles individual characters and how they magnify and represent the literacy of kindness.
In the first season of Star Trek: Discovery, the Saru we meet more closely resembles a cynical capitalist. However, his distance and appearance of reproach – his stern disposition – comes from a place of loss and heartbreak. A more adroit observation of Saru is that he was astute under pressure, having lost Captain Georgiou and the USS Shenzhou at the Battle of the Binary Stars. Over the course of the series, Saru hides less and less his sensitive nature. One must be exceedingly sensitive to the nuances of compassion and discourse of humanoid ontology to learn 94 languages. Saru expects a solitary perfectionism from himself as he represents the only Kelpien, a pre-warp species, in the Federation.
His self-discipline is, perhaps, perpetually under-appreciated just as it is rarely taken as a macroscopic feature that is reflective of his ability to love. It is painfully poetic that Kelpiens in the mirror universe are servants (“Vaulting Ambition,” 2018). The attempt here is to demonstrate their ability for detailed compassion, to be tender nurturers, and their non-violent nature. However, the generalizations of a people under oppression rarely succeeds in revealing contextualization of the character of those people. We should only see that they are oppressed. What the storyline was getting at was Saru’s compassion and, particularly, Saru’s compassion for Michael. Though Saru at first is certain Michael is a danger for Discovery, it is only his compassion for her that targets such strong emotions. She is, after all, family.
Saru does not box in his examples of emotions singularly or through noble instances, but they are perpetually intertwined in all his actions, his command decisions, and his elemental bravery. Still, that being said, we see his breadth of compassion — which is the discourse of kindness — when he had artificially entered Vahar’ai, a state where Kelpiens are culled by the Ba’ul or they decline into madness (“An Obol for Charon,” 2019). Saru bonds with Michael in such a way that it can be seen she is a mirror of his kindness and compassion for the ordered universe. Michael is his connection to a liberated past. Michael helps to make sense of a universe that does not so readily accept outward compassion, but, still, one in which he is so honored to be participating in as the only Kelpien to escape his homeworld of Kaminar.
The pressure of a selfless existence can be seen when Saru gives into escapism and ecstatic possession with his personal revelatory experiences with the spiritual Pahvans (“Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum,” 2017). A selfless people, Kelpiens endure the pressures of being at the center of the universe’s claim to enforcing a cruel life. It is not a moral question to proclaim that Saru’s constant perception of threat, or the Kelpien way to give their lives at an appointed time, is what manifests such kindness and generosity for life. Contrary to accepted folk tradition, wisdom does not come from suffering. All beings are more than capable of embracing and achieving wisdom without the sacrifices of misery and suffering. Though, this is a poetic tale of how Saru distinguishes himself through discipline. Discipline first of emotive constructs, then intellectual and, furthermore, command undertakings. The Saru we know exists in a bubble of selflessness and in that we can see his targeted kindness in every action he takes.