Minbari caste proportions?

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Minbari caste proportions?

Postby warmachine » Sat Feb 14, 2004 2:40 am

One of the arguments I have with my friends is the relative populations of the three castes. I fail to believe that it's one-third of the population each. Military forces, particularly modern ones, require a huge array of premium-grade equipment that needs to be maintained. That requires a hug industrial base. And the warrior caste, being a profressional, standing army, spends all it's time training and contributing nothing to the economy. Manpower and training is not enough in industrial warfare: a superior army quickly collapses without a constant supply of munitions, vehicles, food and spare parts.

Even with industrial automation, I doubt any economy could support a military population of 5%. Imagine the US with a standing army of 20 million.

I'd like to hear your thoughts.
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Postby Jal » Sat Feb 14, 2004 6:10 am

the only mention on the amount of population per caste is in the movie "in the beginning" when the EA general says that fully one third of the race is devoted to war.

i`ll have to watch that bit again, as i don`t exactly remember Londo Mollari`s reply to it. :roll:

he did disagree with the above statement though.
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Postby Dag'Nabbit » Sat Feb 14, 2004 8:34 am

Actually, at the time it was more likely 99.9% devoted to war as "they all went mad with grief." However, I know where you are going with that and I think it implied that the warriors and those worker caste supporting them made up one third of the Minbari population. Also consider that the tech advances the Minbari enjoy enable them to spend far less of their time repairing their infrastructure as it could be that much more durable.
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Postby Enlightened Bystander » Sat Feb 14, 2004 12:19 pm

The scene is from before the start of the war, so they're not all mad with grief.

Lodo's response is "They have a Warrior caste, it is not the same" (or something similar)
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Postby warmachine » Sat Feb 14, 2004 7:36 pm

Dag'Nabbit wrote:Also consider that the tech advances the Minbari enjoy enable them to spend far less of their time repairing their infrastructure as it could be that much more durable.
Durable industrial machines will relieve some manpower requirements but there's one thing you can guarantee in war. Stuff will get destroyed, lost or captured. Even if stuff is not destroyed, half of its armour plating and moving parts need replacing otherwise it won't survive the next battle. In the Human-Minbari war, EarthForce were losing but Minbari ships were still taking damage. Even if a one-third worker caste is sufficient against young races, it won't be enough against older, technologically advanced races with more efficient economies.
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Postby Dag'Nabbit » Sat Feb 14, 2004 9:06 pm

I can't argue with you there, against any "mature" enemy the Minbari will have the same problems of supply and maintenance that all the younger races have.

The problem of what it takes Minbari to repair their vessels is something that we can pull from the rulebook, at least for the purposes of this discussion. The other point here is that we don't really know how BIG the Minbari fleet really is. <Has anyone heard any numbers on this?> If it were large enough they could just cycle damaged vessels from the front and replace them with ships from their reserve. Also, the war did take three years for the Minbari to finally close on Earth.

But all this is off topic. :oops:

There is one thing we need to remember. The Minbari are ALIEN, and we have to understand that they may very well accept a lower level of personal fulfillment due to demands of the wartime economy.
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Postby warmachine » Sun Feb 15, 2004 12:00 am

Dag'Nabbit wrote:I can't argue with you there, against any "mature" enemy the Minbari will have the same problems of supply and maintenance that all the younger races have.
So, the Minbari can't afford to run a massively inefficient economy, even one that could still beat up the Humans, in case they fight a total war with a mature race. Such as the Centauri. That the imperialistic Centauri stick to the mutual border means the Minbari industry is vibrant and the Centauri know it. I contend that an economy manned by only a third of the population, even with heavy automation, simply can't gear up for a total war. A nation that doesn't prepare for a fight to the death gets eaten whole sooner or later.

If the Minbari had sentient machines to do a lot of the work, that'd be different.
Dag'Nabbit wrote:The problem of what it takes Minbari to repair their vessels is something that we can pull from the rulebook, at least for the purposes of this discussion. The other point here is that we don't really know how BIG the Minbari fleet really is. <Has anyone heard any numbers on this?> If it were large enough they could just cycle damaged vessels from the front and replace them with ships from their reserve. Also, the war did take three years for the Minbari to finally close on Earth.

But all this is off topic. :oops:
I don't have the Minbari source book but it isn't difficult to envisage something plausible. Minbari ships are constructed, mechanical vehicles in the same way that present day warships are constructed, mechanical vehicles. Hence, it's reasonable that Minbari soldier/factory worker ratios will not be wildly different to present day. Space-borne bots exist in Babylon 5 but only seem to help with some aspects of assembly. If Minbari used radically different construction such as the mysterious, Vorlon, organic technology, that would be different.

The Minbari fleet and army has to be on the same order of magnitude as the Humans. Minbari ships are more powerful than but not invulnerable to Human ships. If the Human fleet was 20 times the Minbari, the Humans would win by attrition.
Dag'Nabbit wrote:There is one thing we need to remember. The Minbari are ALIEN, and we have to understand that they may very well accept a lower level of personal fulfillment due to demands of the wartime economy.
Do you mean 'personnel'? I'm not sure what you mean. I can accept one-third population in the armed forces during war time but a war time economy can't be sustained for long. Equal size castes can't be the Minbari peace time economy.
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Postby Dag'Nabbit » Sun Feb 15, 2004 6:49 am

warmachine wrote:I contend that an economy manned by only a third of the population, even with heavy automation, simply can't gear up for a total war. A nation that doesn't prepare for a fight to the death gets eaten whole sooner or later.
My contention here was that 1/3 of the Minbari, before the war started, war in support of the military machine. After the war started I completely agree that the rest of their population would gear up to support the "total war."
warmachine wrote:...Hence, it's reasonable that Minbari soldier/factory worker ratios will not be wildly different to present day. Space-borne bots exist in Babylon 5 but only seem to help with some aspects of assembly. If Minbari used radically different construction such as the mysterious, Vorlon, organic technology, that would be different.
I don't think we can assume the same ratio here. The Minbari have had millenia to get a head start on the humans. Our support ratio is nothing compared to what it used to be 2000 or even 1000 years ago. Carry on the same line of thought with the Minbari and you get an idea of what I am thinking. As to Vorlon technology, how long have the Vorlons been letting them experiment with "white star" type technology? Was it just before the Shadow War or has it been longer than that?
warmachine wrote:Do you mean 'personnel'? I'm not sure what you mean. I can accept one-third population in the armed forces during war time but a war time economy can't be sustained for long. Equal size castes can't be the Minbari peace time economy.
My thinking here is a little confused so bear with me...The Minbari have shown that they regularly have a level of commitment in their daily life that goes beyond what we accept as the human norm. I guess I'm saying that their inherent work ethic is better than the average humans, and as such their base productivity will be higher. Now, once the war got under way, every humand had a reason to put all the effort they could muster into defeating the Minbari advance. So, I'm not sure if this difference mattered except that as the human productivity levels increased, their production capabilities were drastically decreased by battle losses.
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Postby frobisher » Sun Feb 15, 2004 3:27 pm

jal wrote:the only mention on the amount of population per caste is in the movie "in the beginning" when the EA general says that fully one third of the race is devoted to war.

i`ll have to watch that bit again, as i don`t exactly remember Londo Mollari`s reply to it. :roll:

he did disagree with the above statement though.
To paraphrase, it was something like "They have a Warrior Caste, that's not the same thing at all".

The statement by General Lefcourt really just showed the depth of human ignorance concerning the Minbari.
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Postby babakganoosh » Sun Feb 15, 2004 4:39 pm

My thought on the subject would be that not all the warrior caste are front line soldiers. I figure many of them actually pull maintanace on the ships the same as soldiers work on planes and tanmks in modern armies. Also there must be many of them in supply, administrative and other support roles.
This is how I would figure it at least.
Also don't forget that it is mentioned that the worker and religious castes contro, 2/3 of the fleet (Severed Dreams, I believe).
Which, I guess really makes you think. If this is true, and 1/3 of the population is warrior caste. What do they all do?
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Postby El Cid » Sun Feb 15, 2004 9:40 pm

I think of the Warrior Caste like the Samurai class of Japan or the medieval knights.

Professional warriors.

I just can’t see a full third of their population warrior caste.

The quote noted by Londo shows this.
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Postby warmachine » Sun Feb 15, 2004 10:27 pm

Dag'Nabbit wrote:
warmachine wrote:...Hence, it's reasonable that Minbari soldier/factory worker ratios will not be wildly different to present day. Space-borne bots exist in Babylon 5 but only seem to help with some aspects of assembly. If Minbari used radically different construction such as the mysterious, Vorlon, organic technology, that would be different.
I don't think we can assume the same ratio here. The Minbari have had millenia to get a head start on the humans. Our support ratio is nothing compared to what it used to be 2000 or even 1000 years ago. Carry on the same line of thought with the Minbari and you get an idea of what I am thinking. As to Vorlon technology, how long have the Vorlons been letting them experiment with "white star" type technology? Was it just before the Shadow War or has it been longer than that?
This is a good point. A little research shows the Roman empire had a standing army of 170,000 from a population of 60 million whilst the US has over 2 million from 292 million. However, a rise of 0.3% to 1% in 2000 years doesn't suggest a rise from 1% to 33% in the next 1000. Minbari worker productivity would have to be fantastic to account for the change, even taking Minbari non-individualistic culture into account.
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Postby Natxomann » Mon Feb 16, 2004 1:11 am

Aaaah... the old argument about Minbari castes and forces .
First and foremost , it is implied at In The Beginning , the the conception of three castes , with an equal share of population in every caste can only be described as a deranged idea . More to the point , if 1/3rd of the total Minbari population were warrior caste , the E/M war wouldn't last 2 years , it would last 2 weeks . And the Minbari would not suffer casualties at all .
What it is clearly stated in the series is that every caste controls 1/3rd of the fleet , and when Delenn dissolves the Grey Council and summons both the religious and the worker castes to the shadow war , only the 1/3rd share commanded by the warriors remains behind .
One impression that I received from the show , is that the vast majority of the Minbari population is composed by "normal" people (i.e. workers & religious) , as most members of other races , and another one , is that the workers are given control of the Grey Council after the civil war , because the majority of Minbari are workers .
One thing that I always did think about the castes is that their naming descriptions are somewhat deceptive .
The workers are clearly the normal people , that performs the vast array of functions (construction , services , maintenance) needed to make function an industrialized society with a high living standard . In this case , the worker caste designation is very straightforward .
The warrior caste would be a trickier one , because , as some people pointed , this is basically an alien culture , that could consider as warriors not only the actual combatants , but also their families and dependables (mates , children...), as well as other people tied to this caste by familiar relation , but that never would come near to serve in the actual military .
The most deceptive naming is that of the religious caste , from which most people tend to assume that they are all priests , but people like Delenn , Lennier , Ashan and the majority of Minbari crewing the Whitestar fleet during the Shadow war are religious caste , and they are clearly not priests .
My own take on this caste (one of the several that differs from Mongoose's line) is that the religious caste is composed not only by priests/priestesses (although they also exist to take care of the Minbari religious and philosophical needs), but mainly by scholars, healers, teachers , government officials , bureaucrats , diplomats ... the people charged with making those elements responsible of every day's working of any society function normally .
So , what are the proportions of the Minbari population that belong to every caste ?
Well , as JMS never stated anything about this , except that Workers are the majority (as it should be), while the warriors are not 1/3rd of this same population , so my personal guess would be this :
- Workers : 85-90%?
- Religious : 10-12%?
- Warriors : 3-5%?
Just my 0.02 Euro
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Postby Sundog » Tue Feb 17, 2004 8:37 pm

Natzomann, the series is pretty clear that the warrior caste is one third of the Minbari race.

But that doesn't mean they are all warriors.

Consider the last surviving caste system on earth, that of the Hindu religion. All Brahmans need not be rulers, all soldier caste (cannot think of the name) need not be soldiers, but all people must have a job APPROPRIATE to their standing. (And yes, I know that the caste system is no longer practiced in India. I am talking about prior to the British invasion and unification.)

Warrior caste members would be responsible for teaching warrior caste children, hunting, police duties, exploration, logistics control...

So, I have no problem with it being 1/3rd of the species.
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Caste economic ownership?

Postby warmachine » Wed Feb 18, 2004 12:59 am

Sundog wrote:Natzomann, the series is pretty clear that the warrior caste is one third of the Minbari race.

But that doesn't mean they are all warriors.

[deleted]

Warrior caste members would be responsible for teaching warrior caste children, hunting, police duties, exploration, logistics control...

So, I have no problem with it being 1/3rd of the species.
Not all of the present-day armed forces are soldiers either. A lot of them are technicians, trainers, logistics clerks, administrators, military police etc. Unlike present-day armed forces, the Minbari warrior caste probably includes civilian police. 33% of the population to do this is hideously bloated when present-day USA uses 1%.

Now, if the warrior caste controlled the vertical cross-section of the economy that they need, including farming, mining, steel production, energy production, munitions, component manufacture, component assembly, ship assembly etc, this would make sense as military budgets are large. Similar ownership by the religious caste would explain how they could manufacture White Star ships. But this a confederation of factions, not a caste system. (And an awful way to run an economy).

This leads to the question: what is the caste ownership of the various economic sectors?
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Postby redlaco » Wed Feb 18, 2004 2:54 pm

Right, this is a good question, although it is hard to compare their ways (economy or sociology) with humans since they are quite "alien". And being a highly spiritual people, I'm not sure they manage their economy as we do, certainly not in a capitalist way, I would guess.
As for the proportions, it should fall (IMHO of course) somewhere in between Sundog (1/3 each caste) and Natxomann (Workers : 85-90% Religious : 10-12% Warriors : 3-5%).
When Delenn formed the new Grey Council, she selected 5 workers, 2 Warriors and 2 Religious. Maybe that's more representative of the caste's populations. Also, I think the religious caste did not include only priests, but also many scholars. As for the Warrior caste, a rather large proportion of them could be there for administration and support role, although all members would be expected to fight if the need arise.

But again, I am not sure if any comparison with human behaviour is adequate... :?
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Postby ThatOneGuy » Sat Feb 21, 2004 12:38 am

I think it likely that about a third of the Minbari populace is of the Warrior Cast. I also think that there are a lot of jobs that they fill that are probably considered ‘neutral ground’ between the casts. The focus of the Religious Cast is prophecy and spirituality. The focus of the Worker Cast is building. They represent those ideals more like political parties and less like true casts. I think a merchant can be of any cast. A farmer can be of any cast. If they build a Pizza Hut on Minbar it would probably be an equal opportunity employer cast-wise. These are just my assumptions.

I think I have some backup though. In Lines of Communication it is stated that the Warrior cast has control over the necessary resources to live in one of their cities, but that until that point they had shared them with the Religious Cast and were presumably were still sharing them with the Worker Cast. Just as the Worker and Religious Cast ships had been crewed by members of the Warrior Cast (one of JMS’s posts). They share a lot. So the Warrior Cast probably has farmers and merchants, as would the other two. At least that’s my analysis.
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Postby Guest » Sat Feb 21, 2004 1:02 am

Sorry Sundog , but when Gen. Lefcourt is discussing the Minbari warrior caste with Londo (In the Beginning) , and he says that they are 1/3rd of the Minbari population , Mollari responds "no , they are 1 of three castes , not 1/3rd of the population" .
What you are saying about non-combatats of the warrior caste , and actual members of the military , is exactly what I was trying to say , because in my opinion , the vast majority of the warrior caste in composed by non-combatants and people that has (and never will have)no actual experience at all as REAL warriors .
We know that workers are the majority of the Minbari population because JMS stated so when he explained the composition of the new , post civil war Grey Council .
Due to several things that can be extrapolated from the series (and a lot from "To Dream In The City Of Sorrows" , the only canonical b5 novel)many people (myself included) thinks that both the warrior and religious castes see themselves as the dominant (aristocratic ?) elements of the Minbari society , and they have little or not regard for the worker caste , competing almost continuously between the two of them for being at the top of the political power . It seems that this is a long time custom , preceding the days of Valen , when the workers (most of Minbari) were more or less indentured servants .
However , if any of you think that a 3-5% of the TOTAL Minbari population (several Billions , so we are talking here about a few HUNDRED MILLIONS) is a too small number , you should be aware that even a small proportion of those millions make for a HUGE military force , not counting the forces of the other castes .
It was for this that I said that if the warrior caste were composed by 1/3rd of the Minbari population , the Earth/Minbari war would have lasted a few weeks instead of 2 years , and the Earthforce soldiers , crewmembers (like Sheridan) and fighter jockeys (like Sinclair) would have no opportunity at all against them , but they clearly were able of "making the Minbari pay for every inch of space" (Londo words) , and even if most battles were bloody defeats , the best warriors of Earthforce were capable not only of survival , but also of inflicting heavy damage on the boneheads (according to Neroon at To Dream... , Sinclair shot down 33 Minbari fighters , and Sheridan not only destroyed the Drala Fi , but seems that also had a distinguished war career , and should be a lot of other good EA soldiers with similar records) . Remember that for all their vaunted sense of honor , the Minbari (specially the warriors) have what could be considered as a very peculiar idea of a fair fight , and they have a lot of resentment against those like Sheridan and Sinclair that were able to defeat them one way or another , using vastly inferior technology .
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Postby Natxomann » Sat Feb 21, 2004 1:04 am

Heck , I forgot to log in before posting .
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Postby Sundog » Sat Feb 21, 2004 6:23 pm

It seems you are right, Natxomann, I reviewed the movie yesterday and saw that I had misremembered.
Even so, I would still expect a greater quantity than 3-5%, perhaps more like 15% for each of the non-worker castes. That would leave 70% for the Workers.

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