04 May 2015

Us VS Them (Part I, the Star Wars analogy)

"There are heroes on both sides. Evil is everywhere. "

So says the opening crawl of Star Wars Episode III (Revenge of the Sith)

Yet this message gets lost and forgotten as soon as it is off the screen.
As a viewer of any of the Star Wars movies, it goes without saying that the Jedi represent Good, and those who practice the "Dark" side of the force are Evil.
The Jedi and their allies say as much explicitly, at every opportunity.

Paying slightly more attention to the politics behind the action, though, it appears the reality is much more complicated than that.

In this Universe, roughly 50 thousand planets have agreed to a broad alliance, the Galactic Republic, roughly equivalent to the UN - each member state retains some degree of autonomy, and each sends its own representative to be a part of the Senate.The Senate is headed up by a Chancellor who gets elected by the Senate.  Each planet's government picks their Senator - if the planet happens to be a democracy, the inhabitants may vote on the senator, but if the planetary government is a monarchy, then it may unilaterally decide who will be the planets representative.  
The roughly 50 thousand planets are divided into groups of 50 (called sectors), with the senate floor consisting of 1000 chairs - some of which are taken by representatives of extra-planetary organizations such as trade federations.
That leaves one not-necessarily-democratically-elected individual to represent on average more than 50 entire planets.

(Much like the US), although they preach Democratic values consistently, the Republic makes no particular effort to practice them in actuality.

The Jedi were originally meant to be a security force that answered to the senate and the Chancellor (much like the CIA answers to the president).  They protected the Republic government (like the secret service), and enforced senate decrees (like Federal police), since the Republic did not originally have any military force of its own.  They were also considered a "moral authority", making them in some ways akin to Mutaween, the religious police that enforce Sharia law in some Islamic nations.  
Being both a military force, and a religion/philosophy, Jedi can be thought of as sort of space samurai.

In the first 3 movies the Jedi are (still) on the side of the Republic, and are employed to fight against a separatist movement that has arisen in a sector in the far reaches of the galaxy.  
Here already we should be questioning the moral high ground they claim to have - the modern day equivalent to the Republic, the UN, makes no claim to being its own state or government:
"The United Nations is neither a State nor a Government, and therefore does not possess any authority to recognize either a State or a Government."

As a federation of independent states, it allows individual governments to apply for membership, and leaves it up to individual members to accept or reject acknowledgment of sovereignty.
By the same token, one can reasonably assume they claim no authority to force another to join - nor to remain as members if any member wanted to leave the alliance.

The Galactic Republic, on the other hand, attempts to use military force (by way of their special police) to compel those planets wishing to end their ties to it to stay as members.
In fact, in response to this, Senate votes to create a Galactic Republic Army for the first time in history (only to have it come to light that an army had already been assembled in secret).  The elected Chancellor is soon given emergency powers to facilitate more efficient action in what soon becomes all out war between the Republic and the Separatists.

As the war continues and intensifies, the Jedi begin to become uncomfortable with how much power the Senate has granted the Chancellor, and their own internal council begins acting more and more unilaterally, answering neither to the Chancellor nor the Senate.  The CIA has gone rouge.  Meanwhile some Senators are rumored to be corrupt (which seems to mean "supportive of the Chancellor"), while others begin meeting secretly to discuss options for actions to take in case the chancellor fails to revoke his war-time powers after the war has ended; they choose to keep this agenda secret from the Jedi as well.

"[Jedi knight] ANAKIN: I know the [Jedi] Council has grown wary of the Chancellor's power, mine also for that matter. Aren't we all working together to save the Republic? Why all this distrust? 
[Jedi knight] OBI-WAN: The Force grows dark, Anakin, and we are all affected by it. Be wary of your feelings."
"[Chancellor] PALPATINE: I fear the Jedi. The Council keeps pushing for more control. They're shrouded in secrecy and obsessed with maintaining their autonomy; ideals I find simply incomprehensible in a democracy. 
[Jedi] ANAKIN: I can assure you that the Jedi are dedicated to the values of the Republic, sir. 
PALPATINE: Nevertheless, their actions will speak more loudly than their words."
"OBI-WAN: (takes a deep breath) The [Jedi] Council wants you to report on all of the Chancellor's dealings. They want to know what he's up to. 
ANAKIN: They want me to spy on the Chancellor? That's treason! 
OBI-WAN: We are at war, Anakin. The Jedi Council is sworn to uphold the principles of the Republic, even if the Chancellor does not. 
ANAKIN: Why didn't the Council give me this assignment when we were in session? 
OBI-WAN: This assignment is not to be on record. The Council asked me to approach you on this personally. "
"PALPATINE: You must sense what I have come to suspect . . . the Jedi Council want control of the Republic . . . they're planning to betray me. 
ANAKIN: I don't think . . . 
PALPATINE: Anakin, search your feelings. You know, don't you? 
ANAKIN: I know they don't trust you . . . 
PALPATINE: Or the Senate . . . or the Republic . . . or democracy for that matter. 
ANAKIN: I have to admit my trust in them has been shaken. 
PALPATINE: Why? They asked you to do something that made you feel dishonest, didn't they? "
"ANAKIN: Sometimes, I wonder what's happening to the Jedi Order . . . I think this war is destroying the principles of the Republic. 
[Senator, and Anakin's wife] PADME: Have you ever considered that we may be on the wrong side? 
ANAKIN: (suspicious) What do you mean? 
PADME: What if the democracy we thought we were serving no longer exists, and the Republic has become the very evil we have been fighting to destroy? 
ANAKIN: I don't believe that. And you're sounding like a Separatist! "
"[Jedi] MACE WINDU: I sense a plot to destroy the Jedi. The dark side of the Force surrounds the Chancellor. 
[Jedi] Kl-ADI-MUNDI: If he does not give up his emergency powers after the destruction of [Separatist General] Grievous, then he should be removed from office. 
MACE WINDU: That could be a dangerous move ... the Jedi Council would have to take control of the Senate in order to secure a peaceful transition . . . 
Kl-ADI-MUNDI: . . . and replace the Congress with Senators who are not filled with greed and corruption. "

In short, while what is essentially a civil war is underway, each branch of government, as well as the proto-military / special-police force, is each acting autonomously and in secret, each wary of the power the other has - which essentially means each is concerned with maintaining or increasing their own balance of power.  
The Jedi, in fact, are even considering a military coop.

In parallel with the political complications, the Jedi Order also has religious significance.  The schism between them and the Sith is analogous to that between Christians and Muslims - both believe in the same basic thing (monotheism and the Bible in one case, and the Force in the other), but have slightly different interpretations of it which makes them hate each other even more than they hate those who are completely uninvolved in either.  
As religious fanatics tend to do, the Jedi have labeled the Sith as "evil" and make absolute judgments on the sort of person who practices "Dark Side" Force.

Just as the general of the Separatist Army is assassinated (by a Jedi), it comes to light that the Chancellor is of the Wrong Religion.

Just days before we (the viewer) were reminded of how "evil" the Chancellor was when he encouraged a Jedi knight to execute the separatist leader.
PALPATINE [the Chancellor]:  I knew you could do it. Kill him. Kill him now! 
ANAKIN [Jedi knight]: I shouldn't . . . 
ANAKIN cuts off COUNT DOOKU's head.
PALPATINE: You did well, Anakin. He was too dangerous to be kept alive.
ANAKIN: Yes, but he was an unarmed prisoner.  I shouldn't have done that, Chancellor. It's not the Jedi way.  "

But as soon as the Jedi council learns that the Chancellor holds the wrong religion, that immediately becomes "the Jedi way" after all:

"[Jedi] MACE WINDU: You are under arrest, My Lord. 
PALPATINE: Anakin! I told you it would come to this. I was right. The Jedi are taking over...
PALPATINE: He is a traitor, Anakin. 
MACE WlNDU: He's the traitor. Stop him! 
PALPATINE: Come to your senses, boy. The Jedi are in revolt. They will betray you, just as they betrayed me...
PALPATINE: Help me! Don't let him kill me. I can't hold on any longer. Ahhhhhhh . . . ahhhhhhh . . . ahhhhhhh . . .  ... I can't ... I give up. Help me. I am weak ... I am too weak. Don't kill me. I give up. I'm dying. I can't hold on any longer. 
MACE WlNDU: You Sith disease. I am going to end this once and for all. 
ANAKIN: You can't kill him, Master. He must stand trial. 
MACE WlNDU: He has too much control of the Senate and the Courts. He is too dangerous to be kept alive. 
PALPATINE: I'm too weak. Don't kill me. Please. 
ANAKIN: It is not the Jedi way . . . 
MACE raises his sword to kill the CHANCELLOR. 
ANAKIN: (continuing) He must live . . . 
PALPATINE: Please don't, please don't . . .   "

As Master Windu attempts to execute the (democratically elected) Chancellor without a trial, Anakin steps in at the last second and prevents it, and the Chancellor takes that opportunity to kill the Jedi that tried to kill him.  Recognizing that the Jedi have gone rouge, he then orders the Republic Army to kill the rest of the Jedi, causing those that survive to sever all ties to the Republic.  
In the latter 3 movies, the Jedi are the enemy of the State, and are in-line with the rebel Alliance, which seeks to overthrow the republic (now called the Galactic Empire) and restore it to the semi-democratic Old Republic - the one in which the Jedi council held considerable political power and influence themselves.

As the viewer, it is understood that Chancellor Palpatine is the Antagonist - the villian - while the Jedi are the "good guys".
But when Palpatine first discloses to his personal assistant and friend, Jedi Anakin Skywalker, that he is not only a member of the Sith, but their current high leader, he raises some potentially valid points which no one ever makes any effort to counter.

PALPATINE: Remember back to your early teachings, Anakin. "All those who gain power are afraid to lose it." Even the Jedi. 
ANAKIN: The Jedi use their power for good. 
PALPATINE: Good is a point of view, Anakin. And the Jedi point of view is not the only valid one. The Dark Lords of the Sith believe in security and justice also, yet they are considered by the Jedi to be. . . 
ANAKIN: . . . evil. 
PALPATINE: . . . from a Jedi's point of view. The Sith and the Jedi are similar in almost every way, including their quest for greater power. The difference between the two is the Sith are not afraid of the dark side of the Force. That is why they are more powerful. 
ANAKIN: The Sith rely on their passion for their strength. They think inward, only about themselves. 
PALPATINE: And the Jedi don't? 
ANAKIN: The Jedi are selfless . . . they only care about others. 
PALPATINE [smiles]: Or so you've been trained to believe. Why is it, then, that they have asked you to do something you feel is wrong? 
ANAKIN: I'm not sure it's wrong. 
PALPATINE: Have they asked you to betray the Jedi code? The Constitution? A friendship? Your own values? Think. Consider their motives. Keep your mind clear of assumptions. The fear of losing power is a weakness of both the Jedi and the Sith. "

"PALPATINE: Anakin, if one is to understand the great mystery, one must study all its aspects, not just the dogmatic, narrow view of the Jedi. If you wish to become a complete and wise leader, you must embrace a larger view of the Force. "

"ANAKIN: I am going to turn you over to the Jedi Council. 
PALPATINE: Of course you should. But you're not sure of their intentions, are you? What if I am right and they are plotting to take over the Republic? "

Well, it turns out they were!

When Anakin protects the Chancellor from an execution without trial, therefor (unintentionally) assisting in the killing of a Master Jedi, this is supposed to be seen as a turning point, he has chosen to join the "Dark Side", and accepts the title Darth Vader.  But is it really his allegiance or principals which have changed?
"ANAKIN: The situation is not good. The Jedi have tried to overthrow the Republic . . . 
PADME: I can't believe that! 
ANAKIN: I couldn't either at first, but it's true. I saw Master Windu attempt to assassinate the Chancellor myself. "
"ANAKIN: I will not betray the Republic . . . my loyalties lie with the Chancellor and with the Senate . . . "

Since Anakin has chosen to support the "wrong" religion, now his own mentor and closest friend Obi-Wan Kenobi heads out despite Padme Amidala's objections to attempt to find and kill Anakin / Vader.  Again, of course, with no attempt to capture, no trial, no authorization from the Senate or any other government body.

When they meet, they discuss this turn of events at the ends of their light sabers:

"ANAKIN: I should have known the Jedi were plotting to take over . 
OBI-WAN: From the Sith!!! Anakin, Chancellor Palpatine is evil. 
ANAKIN: From the Jedi point of view! From my point of view, the Jedi are evil. 
OBI-WAN: Well, then you are lost!

When you have a dogmatic ideological conviction, it is enough to make an unqualified, absolute, categorical statement like that.  Obviously a military coop is morally justified if the elected leader holds the wrong religion!

OBI-WAN: (continuing) . . . You were the Chosen One! It was said that you would, destroy the Sith, not join them. It was you who would bring balance to the Force, not leave it in Darkness.  "

But of course, Anakin did bring "balance" to the force.  The Jedi had considerable power, and it was increasing.  Anakin attempted to bridge the divide between the two factions, as well as providing a bridge between the two and the senate (by being a Jedi, having direct personal ties to a Sith lord, and marrying a Senator), but the Jedi rejected that attempt, essentially exiling themselves.
Obi-Wan and the council's mistake was, of course, in assuming that "balance" somehow meant "absolute power to the Light side of the Force".

All of this, of course, is a fictional story...

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