Having been a big Star Wars fan (movies and the now obsolete extended universe, of course), I kept finding deep anti-democratic, anti-liberty, anti-individualist sentiment within the Jedi order – I saw this attitude so often within the original, prequel, and books, it seems almost like a theme for the Jedi. When one sees the immoral, irrational Jedi within this light, I think it brings more rationality to Anakin’s fall away from the Order and more beauty to Luke’s own reformation to the Order.
It is not long after one begins the Star Wars trilogy, either in the films or the books, does one face the dark side of the force, the dreaded Sith Lords. Consistently the antagonists throughout the epic story, the Siths are users of the force just like the Jedi and yet the Siths are seen as being ‘the bad guys’ always hidden in the shadows in defiance against the Jedi’s fight for peace and justice in the galaxy. Because it is easy to label the Jedi as the heroes they appear to be, I run the obvious risk of sounding like a crazy contrarian seeking to critique any aspect of popular opinion. That maybe the case, but I aim to dissect the Jedi order in comparison to the Sith in order to reveal that even the Jedi and Sith cannot be taken at face value. Bear with me as I daringly seek to shine new light on the Dark Side of the force.
As any novice Star Wars fan knows, there is the Force controlling and guiding every living thing in the universe, “it’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together” as Obi Wan so poetically puts it in Star Wars: A New Hope. Throughout the galaxy there are some who possess the ability to control and manipulate the Force, and based on the individual’s character, intentions, and emotions they use either the light side or the dark side of the force. Almost immediately, as if run by a totalitarian censorship, the two sides of control is painted as good and bad – please remain skeptical of this assumption (but if you don’t, I will do that work for you). The light side of the force is how the Jedi are supposed to use it and is routinely characterized as being compassionate, mindful, and just. The dark side of the force however, is reserved for passion, hate, and fear; characteristics we associate with evil actions but – may I remind the reader – these characteristics are all too human. They are built within us and are a part of any emotional human being.
I must digress. The Jedi have helped the galaxy keep peace for over 50,000 years by using these powers. It isn’t until a rogue Jedi, leaving the order to collect followers and colonizes natives of Korriban, who from the inhabitants name sake, coined the phrase “Sith”. These Force manipulators, with an imbedded hatred for the Jedi, spark many wars and because of their short lived passion, lacks of numbers, and lack of unity, are beaten by the Jedi. The main actors in these first encounters with the Jedi order are not important up until 1,000 B.B.Y. as far as the Sith philosophy goes. I am putting myself in an uncomfortable firing zone with the Sith lore fans, so I must clarify: these Sith Lords, between the time they left the Jedi and until 1000 years before A New Hope, are interesting in their own respects while they pave the way for the most recent Siths and they deserve investigation from those truly interested in them. But, for the sake of reviewing the core Sith philosophy, they can be ignored for now.
In the movies, there is a prophecy continuously, yet vaguely, brought up by the Jedi that someone from their ranks are supposed to rise up and bring balance to the force; the character in question in Anakin Skywalker who, after becoming frustrated with the Jedi Order, is lead to the dark side where he assists Darth Sidious in exterminating the Jedi. An unimaginable and dramatic feat leads the Jedi survivors to believe Anakin was not the person in the prophecy. Just as Greek mythology is based on assumptions and misunderstandings, so is the Jedi interpretation of their fate. It is revealed to the audience in Return of the Jedi, that Anakin really is the one who balances the force by killing Darth Sidious. A point that seems to be missed is that Anakin whipped out the Jedi and the Sith parties. The importance of the actions of Anakin is not just to purge the Jedi (which the audience sees as a great tragedy), but to destroy both parties from the galaxy and thus balancing the force. The Force, constantly and unbiasly guiding the universe, could not have balanced itself out without first purging the Jedi in genocide; which leads to my main argument: the Jedi were tainted by backwards hypocritical dogma in which a balanced force could not be realized.
Little known to moviegoers, the Sith also have their own prophesy that is much more honest and brutal than the Jedi one. The prophecy says that there will be a Sith (titled Sith’ari), who will be so strong they will purge the ranks of the Sith and through the strongest will continue to rule the galaxy. Again, this prophecy is sometimes misinterpreted as being false. But young Darth Bane, rising through the Sith Academy in a Jedi-Sith war 1,000 B.B.Y., destroys the Sith Lords in battle and begins his reign with the Rule of Two, which sets the rule for the Siths from then on: only two Sith could exist at any given time. A Dark Lord of the Sith to embody power, and an apprentice to crave it. For the next 1,000 years, the Siths remained in hiding following this rule while also gaining power, money, and knowledge all without the attention of the aloof Jedi.
The successful completion of the Sith prophecy is needed in order for the completion of the Jedi prophecy. Both – and I mean both – factions must be eliminated to balance the galaxy. Some may ask why the Jedi needed to be purged, and I am glad they asked. The Jedi, even when compared to the Sith are a force for evil in that galaxy while hiding behind an ever distorted mask of morality and justice. To continue, a comparison must be made between the two parties philosophy. Luckily, we have been given two “codes” for the Sith and Jedi. The Jedi Code is as follows:
There is no emotion, there is peace
There is no ignorance, there is knowledge
There is no passion, there is serenity
There is no chaos, there is harmony
There is no death, there is the Force
The common Star Wars fan should have no problem with this code as it reflects exactly what is intended. Meek and mild Jedi: out to save the day in a peaceful and mindful way. The skeptic of readers should be able to pick out one or two contradictions in this code as well as in the Jedi actions including but absolutely not limited to the restriction of knowledge, eager war mongering, and child abduction to name a few. Before I get started ranting about the Jedi order and risk losing myself, let me now present the Sith code:
Peace is a lie, there is only passion
Through passion, I gain strength
Through strength, I gain power
Through power, I gain victory
Through victory, my chains are broken
The Force shall free me.
The Sith code, being modeled purposely after the Jedi code, states more clearly that the Sith realize that human passion guides decision making and actions. This passion, whether it be hatred, fear, love, or even happiness will bring about strength to obtain the power that is their victory. My first argument in defense of the Sith is that they are human. They realize that they must use their unrelenting human emotions that are undeniably part of everyone in every way the Jedi code is not.
As the code suggests, the Jedi are supposed to be protectors of peace and justice throughout the galaxy and just like the guards in Plato’s The Republic are supposed to be humble protectors of the Republic, the Jedi are to be examples of morality. It is this sense of morality the Jedi use to cling to the ledge of power within the galaxy. The Galactic Republic seems to be able to hold their own against the various wars and yet the Jedi are always there ready to attack. Wars such as the Mandalorian wars, in which the Jedi provoked and slaughter the Mandalorian race, and in The Clone Wars the Jedi’s were all too ready to abandon their sense of peace to send their Jedi into battle. If the Jedi were as peaceful as their code suggests, they may have given into some debate as to if they should involve themselves. Maybe the authoritarian Jedi Counsel may have attempted more diplomacy before the genocide they have committed.
Almost just as war hungry, Yoda and Mace Windu, in their Clone Wars, show that the Order has not changed and will not change when their power is threatened. Instead, they have undemocratically sealed their fate by throwing all Jedi into the fray forcing their fighters (and child soldiers) to fight in a war that does not involve them. If more democracy was used to make decisions, there would be no doubt to think Anakin would have sided with the Jedi. The same hypocritical peacefulness can be seen throughout history with figures like Gandhi and Muhammad who seem peaceful, lead their numbers to death for their own selfish cause.
Another crime with which the Jedi Order fortunately escapes scrutiny is their African war lord-like child abduction. Throughout the tens of thousands of years, the Jedi have no problem exclusively recruiting child warriors with or without the consent of the parents. The children are taken at such a young age for the express purpose of not remember their family lest they grow attachment to them which is against the Jedi Code. It should be noted that children where frequently separated from their parents at a young age during the slavery era as to not form attachments to their parents. Yoda seems to attribute Anakin’s falling away to his relationship with his mother – he was taken away when he was nine and was still described as being too old. It becomes harder to remember, the Jedi are the good guys. Whether or not the child agrees to be brainwashed and mercilessly trained and molded into the perfect Jedi warrior, they are expected to learn the ways of the Force day in and day out. All for the sake of peace and justice in the Galaxy, these child warriors may die for their moral cause. Child army leaders like those of Koni must have idolized this use of child warriors if he had seen it.
Luke Skywalker is a huge agent for the Jedi cause, but the same train of thought should be focused on his actions in respect to the Force as a whole. Remember, both the Jedi and Sith had to be purged and in the time of Luke, there were only two Jedi masters left: Obi Wan Kenobi and Yoda both of whom Luke seemed to constantly butt heads with. Usually attributed to the master-apprentice relationship, the frustration grows. In the book, Luke completes a very difficult day-long task while Yoda narrates and criticizes. Finally, Luke, filled with joy, completed the task but is soon let down to hear from Yoda that yes, he completed the task, but he used his frustration to complete it. A backhanded remark that reminds us the outdated Jedi mind set is still with the remaining Jedi.
The Empire Strikes Back is usually proclaimed as the best film in the franchise. For Luke, it is the most important as he begins his more serious Jedi training but also begins the path away from the Jedi ways. First, when worried for his friends and in a storm of loyalty, passion, and urgency tells Yoda and Kenobi he has to pause his training save his friends. The old masters, worried for his safety and the future of their ways, strongly advised against it. Not only are they opposed to Luke’s sense of loyalty and compassion, are also spiteful towards his free spirited individualism. These are of the dark side! We may quickly be reminded that the dark side is the human side and respects loyalty and compassion. But Yoda and Kenobi abandon this moral attribute for the sake of their philosophy (which, it has to be said, the only ones who truly want the Jedi order to return are the two surviving Jedi. If their plan to train Luke and pitch him against the Sith Lords fails, no one would know or care). The final objection to Luke’s journey is from Obi Wan who threatens to not assist Luke if Luke gets into trouble. A life threatening claim is fulfilled when, faced with death, had to be saved in return by his friends. Kenobi would rather let Luke die than to put aside his Jedi code. Seems like even the Jedi trophy boy cannot trust in the Jedi assistance – only in himself and his friends. This is seen in comparison where the Sith are seen to stop at nothing to step in to help friends and loved ones. Who would have thought the dark side has such a soft side. Please remember that Anakin’s flight to the dark side was to save his wife and Reven’s excommunication from the Jedi order was so that he could get married.
Luke stays vigilant to his own sense of morality by allowing marriage, free access to library archives, and a choice to join the order or not. It is out of the very idea of liberty and free thought that Luke integrated the best aspects of love, loyalty, and knowledge into his new Jedi order. Knowledge, being the biggest ideal in their code having been listed second, was ignored before Luke. The vast library the Jedi possessed was not available to everyone – and more seriously – not available to the lesser Jedi members. The oligarchy of the high Jedi masters reserves the right to restrict certain books and monitor the user’s browsing. This is obviously another hypocritical condition of the Jedi and provides little room for any moral argument.
The Jedi, then, finishes the stripping of any individuality but outlawing emotions. How totalitarian can one get and still be the protagonists in a series? It would seem Mussolini and Franco have some work to do to catch up to the Jedi in that respect. The only thing the Order is missing is thought crime – but ha! Mind control. Who else but the Jedi would be able to read and control minds? Maybe the definition of knowledge isn’t the spread of knowledge but the control of it. Rightly parallel to the Sith, who have no mention of knowledge in their code, strive for knowledge. It is widely known that the Sith Lords, in an attempt to escape death, create hollocrons which are used to store all that they have learned. The quest is dangerous and is always shared with their apprentice, and in the case of the early Sith, shared with the students of the Jedi order.
In respects to liberty, love, emotions altogether, loyalty, censorship, and knowledge the Jedi stand with those such as Kim Jun-il, Joseph Stalin, and Adolf Hitler (especially in regards to genocide). Some readers may be reduced to the last argument to be made of the Jedi: that the Sith are obviously bad, why not just side with the Jedi? The last speck of the irrational mind pulls the viewer to think “at least they are trying to do what’s best”. Maybe one can see where I’m headed. The noble actions of many who appear or proclaim to be just have always doomed human history. Can we be reminded of the Nazi SS in this case? If I could dissect what little emotion the SS have, then we could begin seeing the foundation of the Jedi. Holy missions, such as the crusades and the Spanish Inquisition, have also used these arguments to justify their backward thinking. I beg you to always be vigilant when you meet a faction who claims to have all the answers, because the Jedi looms behind this fantastic idea of a utopia. At least the Sith actually follow up with their promises.
It is absolutely silly to use this much effort and to encumber this much time to analyzing a fictional order like the Jedi, but I strongly believe that, out of human nature, we assume too much in people’s’ characteristics. We jump to conclusions and assume the Jedi are ideal. This cannot be further from the case! It is of a healthy mind to question these things, for fun or for the protection of the truth. I challenge the reader the exercise and appeal to this natural contrarian thought process.