Introduction: by Ghost Writer.
Perhaps at no time in our history since The Civil War have we am an American nation been more divided. With the attacks on media, rampant confirmation bias, and tribal / localized self segregation – we are quickly becoming a society that cannot hold discourse. It is frustrating, as being able to come together on foundational common ground is a necessary component of our continued democracy. My friend, former student and debater, now teacher in his own right, shares my frustration. His answer? Once again appealing to Geek Culture to define those foundations. Previously, Wade has shared his writing talents on Keep the Greasy Side Down with his analysis of the controversial installment, The Last Jedi. Revisit his excellent review HERE !
I have divided his essay into three parts…. this is part 1: which uses Star Wars as a metaphor for this discussion.
A Geek Guide to Politics – Part I
by Wade Crossman
Hideeho there, neighbors and fellow Geeklings!
Today I want to combine the worlds of politics and pop culture to make my own beliefs make sense. Let’s start with the most basic of foundations: Good and Evil.
To best conduct this discussion, let’s talk about value systems. What are things that are
inherently “good” or worthy in fictitious universe- where good and evil are easy to see?
Dark Side Characteristics
Light Side Characteristics
One of the most blatant uses of light and dark in the space opera genre, Star Wars explores the foundations of what makes actions (and people) morally right or wrong. While there is some fiddliness with some of the tenants I placed (how peaceful are warrior monks, anyways?) – I want to give the “Dark Side” a fair shake of things.
George Lucas molded the Jedi philosophy out of religion’s greatest hits – his goal was not to found a new form of worship so much as find a way to touch on universal themes that would resonate with audience members everywhere. There are elements of Christianity (see my post on the Geek Messiah for more on that) – but a hefty chunk of Jedi-ism comes from Buddhist philosophy – that desires can be traps, and that living in harmony with the universe is the pathway to a truer sense of enlightenment.
The Dark Side, then, is the opposite – instead of trying to change yourself, bridling passions and opening your soul up to the promptings of the universe – Sith gather as much power as possible to manhandle the universe, shaping it to their will. Vader’s ability to choke a snide critic of his belief system is something many of us wish we could do – telekinetically make our wills manifest to punish those who wrong us. It speaks to our basest desires for power and control over a seemingly chaotic universe. The Jedi would have us do just the opposite – remove our ego from the situation and live in harmony, even with forces that oppose us.
So – what then, are ramifications of Star Wars political philosophy?
Well, Star Wars would have you say that people who strongly vie for power shouldn’t be trusted. People who cannot control their anger are inevitably corrupted by it. While ambition may seem like a boon – it can be a vice, especially as it leads one to pursue ultimate freedom – a state-of-nature wherein their actions have no moral relevancy in regards to other human beings. This is a bit of a quandary, isn’t it? To quote an entirely different sci-fi author, Douglas Adams:
“The major problem—one of the major problems, for there are several—one of the many major problems with governing people is that of whom you get to do it; or rather of who manages to get people to let them do it to them. To summarize: it is a well-known fact that those people who must want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it. To summarize the summary: anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.”
Who would Star Wars say would be ideal leaders? Interestingly enough – NOT a Jedi! The good guys in Star Wars kind of suck at governing. In fact, the Rebel Alliance’s attempt to restore a democratic republic to the galaxy backfires tremendously, resulting in the rise of the First Order (an even more totalitarian military extremist fascist group than the Empire ever was) and the devastation of several populated planets. Ooof. Star Wars seems to think that democracy is a good thing, and that fascism is bad. Cue sad
Padme: “So this is how liberty dies… with thunderous applause…”
As many issues as I have with the prequels- it is fascinating that George Lucas felt compelled to tell the story of a crumbling Republic (remember, the seed to this political backdrop was mentioned even in 1977’s A New Hope, the line “The last remnants of the Republic are being swept away” #smugTarkin) – showing how, through war, fear, and frustration with bureaucracy, a power-hungry religious extremist with a nasty dark side (literally) can seize power and be lauded for doing so. #hitstooclosetohome
So… what are we to do? What are we to learn? The only powerful political advice I see coming from Star War’s binary duality is that the “good guys” are the ones who come together and work with diverse groups – races, genders, and even species – to fight for to have their voices heard across the galaxy. I would argue, then, that Star Wars would cast its opinion on politics towards a democratic and diverse ideal, where citizens of the galaxy govern themselves, while the “baddies” are faceless, mono-cultural stormtroopers with a fascist leader.
TO BE CONTINUED
Stay Tuned for PART II: THE LORD OF THE RINGS