Screw the Jedi!

(before we get into this I should specify immediately that this post will contain spoilers for Star Wars: The Last Jedi)

Recently I went to see the newest installment of the Star Wars films, titled Star Wars: The Last Jedi. On the whole, the film was a mess, with no shortage of plot armor to cover for how incompetent the heroes (and the villains) tend to be within the events of the story (PS: LEIA SHOULD NOT HAVE SURVIVED BEING LEFT FOR DEAD IN A FUCKING VACUUM. WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT?), on top of what seems to be an implicit and pallid “women rule” message. But what stuck out for me the most was how undermined as a concept the Jedi are in the film.

Putting aside the fact that they’re nearly wiped out in the events before the previous film, The Force Awakens, and how in the current film the Resistance seems to be undermined, despite the First Order’s own incompetence during the films events, let’s draw attention to the fact that when Rey asks Luke to train her to become a real Jedi, he chucks his own lightsaber to the side and repeatedly refuses Rey’s request. He points out that when the Jedi took control during the age of the Republic, the Jedi constantly failed because of their arrogance and hubris, and due to certain intrinsic flaws within the Jedi teachings, and that this allowed the rise of the Sith, who damn near destroyed the Jedi Order, and the fall of the Republic. It is somewhat vague within in the film, but there seems to be the suggestion that the Jedi Order had specific defects and flaws that the Jedi Order never resolved because they were too full of themselves to do it.

And then things take a rather juicy turn, when it’s revealed that when Luke tried to murder Kylo Ren (one of the main antagonists), back when he was known as Ben Solo, during his Jedi training because he thought that his heart was already lost to the Sith via the influence of Snoke, the alien the runs the First Order, and that it was too late to bring him out of this influence –  an idea that would later be undermined by the fact that, later in the film, Kylo suddenly kills Snoke by turning on Rey’s lightsaber, which just so happened to be conveniently placed next to Snoke’s body, through force manipulation. Luke didn’t go through with killing Ben, in fact he stopped in the middle of it because he realized it was a dumb idea, but he was still dumb enough to not turn off his lightsaber before Ben woke up to see what he was doing and come to the conclusion that Luke was trying to kill him. But even then, just consider the fact that killing Ben was the first option that crossed his mind. Because Luke was unconvinced that Ben could be reformed, despite supposedly being a master Jedi and all who you’d think would try to find a way of changing his mind, you have a situation where Luke is basically an attempted murdered – likely child murderer at that, considering Ben was pretty much just a kid. That’s not discrediting the Jedi way at all, surely?

After all that, you begin to see why Luke is so pessimistic towards the Jedi in the film, to the point that he decides to just burn the old Jedi texts. At this point the ghost of Yoda, Luke’s former teacher, appears before him for some unexplained reason, and tells him that Luke had become too attached to the old Jedi texts, which he basically describes as boring. He then pointed out that Rey, in keeping with her Mary Sue archetype as established in The Force Awakens, pretty much learned all of the essential components of the Jedi doctrine and teachings regarding the Force much faster than Luke did because for some reason Rey is fucking Jesus, and because of that the Jedi texts that Luke attached himself to were essentially useless, all before before he casually summons some lightning to strike the old Jedi Tree in order to burn it to the ground, so as to effectively destroy the former continuity of the Jedi order. I have seen much commentary on this scene, with many people taking it as a symbol of the value of letting go of the past. But honestly, if I take anything from this, it’s that if Yoda is right, the masters of the Jedi religion overestimated the value of their teachings, given that it could all be mastered be someone who is, literally, nobody. I’m not kidding. What is Rey’s personality exactly beyond “I’m inexplicably good at everything because that’s what the plot says”? Why does she do the things that she does? She’s just a blank slate. She’s nobody, as Kylo Ren accurately points out when he tried to convince her to join his side as the new ruler of the galaxy after Snoke’s death. And that’s presumably the person bearing the torch of the Jedi flame after Luke dies (which he does at the end of the movie). That’s the person who learned all of the Jedi teachings faster than Luke did.

To be honest, the way Luke explains The Force to me is pretty intriguing: as something between life and death and all those other opposites. It also kind of makes me think that the conception of the light and dark side of The Force in the Star Wars universe is pretty much pointless, a point that Luke himself admits to when he says that the idea that the Force does not exist without the light as a vanity. Though this is probably a broader point, if The Force is this thing that’s between all things and all opposites as explained by Luke, what’s the point of the light side and the dark side? The Jedi religion is a joke.

The Jedi tree on the planet Ahch-To, which is eventually destroyed by Yoda

My problem with the Star Wars movies

It’s been implied yesterday that I may be encouraged to watch one of the Star Wars films next year (I presume it’s the original Star Wars) as part of a narrative assignment. Because of this, I felt like writing about my personal problems with the story of the Star Wars films. Specifically, the narrative centering around the concept of the Force.

Oh look, one side’s going left and the other’s going right. Just like…

The Force, in the Star Wars universe, refers to a field of energy that binds all life and the galaxy together. Obi Wan Kenobi also described such energy being created by all beings, and surrounding and penetrating all beings. In the Star Wars films, there is the light side of the Force and the dark side of the Force. The dark side of the Force as used by the Sith is universally depicted as the evil source of power. The Force as used by the Jedi, meanwhile, is seen as the good or proper source of power. Supposedly, the light side of the force is aligned with enlightenment, selflessness, compassion, healing, and benevolence, while the dark side of the force is aligned with hatred, aggression, jealousy, fear, and malevolence. And therein lies my personal problem with this narrative.

The narrative surrounding the Force in these movies seems designed to teach us that goodness is based on harmony, peace, and an idealized light side, while evil is based on passion, personal power, and the “dark” side. This is not only a regurgitation of Christian and Zoroastrian cosmology but it also reflects the Buddhist view on suffering and desire. The Buddhists view suffering as being caused by desires, passions, craving, and attachment, and consequently desire and passion are viewed negatively. It also reminds me of the distinction between “white” magic and “black” magic as espoused by popular culture, New Age types, and so many flawed magicians. It tries to teach that the force of harmony is good, the force of passion is evil, and you can’t use passion for good or harmony for evil because one is exclusively good and the other is bad. I find it be a warped logic.

As I understand it, the light side of the force espoused by the Jedi seems to be focused on peace and harmony while the dark side of the force espoused by the Sith seems to be based on passion and desire. And outside the films, the nature of the light and dark sides of the force are expanded upon, and the nature of the philosophies behind them are revealed. I’m sure the Sith are still basically the villains, but the philosophy behind them can’t be dismissed as evil entirely, nor can the Jedi philosophy be exalted as purely good. I feel that the “dark” and “light” sides of the force are things that can be used for any purpose, that can be used for good or bad depending on the motives of the individual. Much like magic, it’s not necessarily about attributes, but how you relate to them and what your intention is. The problem with the Star Wars conception of the Force is that it takes something so broad, but limits it significantly as to how people can use it.

Balance, the Neutral path, and inspiration from Star Wars

OK I’ll admit, I’m not the biggest fan of Star Wars here in that I don’t particularly care about the franchise, but I have found some things about the Star Wars universe interesting. For instance, I have on separate occasions been shown the Sith code and the Grey Jedi code by my friend Tadashi. First let me show you all the codes. First, the code of the Jedis.

“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.”

Next, 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 Jedi code obviously reeks of denialism, as in it ignores both vital components of existence and flaws in human nature, but it strangely reminds me of Buddhism and Hinduism. The Sith code seems very likeable and appealing to me but looking back it feels like it’s incomplete and missing things because of the apparent absence of peace, harmony, and order (which is actually hypocritical because of how a Sith regime operates when it is dominant). Yes, I like passion in life, but there’s no way that can be all there is. It actually reminds me of Satanism cranked up a couple notches to a kind of military level. But then, there’s the code of the Grey Jedis.

There is no Dark side, nor a Light side There is only the Force I will do what I must to keep the balance The balance is what keeps me together There is no good without evil, but evil cannot be allowed to flourish There is passion, yet peace Serenity, yet emotion Chaos, yet order I am the wielder of the flame, the protector of balance I am the holder of the torch, lighting the way I am the keeper of the flame, soldier of balance I am a guardian of balance I am a Grey Jedi”

The Grey Jedi idea fascinated me, mainly because I did not think something like that was found in Star Wars (though I’m personally not entirely sure if it’s actually fan-written given). The philosophy behind it is apparently that the Grey Jedi believe the force is neutral and any notion of alignment was an attribute of the user. Their most imprtant tenet is balance, they do what they must to preserve it above all else, even if it means letting some evil come to pass or destroying a whole planet, but they would not allow evil to flourish and thought good must always cancel out evil and keep it in check. They needed passion and emotion to fuel their power, but also needed peace and serenity to remain in control. It’s all very Taoist.

Red lightsaber, blue lightsaber

When I was shown the Grey code, I felt that while I would never fully identify with Grey, I think the much of the words of the Grey code offer a great picture of the nature of the universe, as well as human nature. In particular, the idea that there is Chaos and yet harmony or serenity. That actually sounds like a great application of the colours red and black, which are both traditionally the colors of Chaos (at least in my MegaTen-influenced books anyway). Together they could express Chaos in a strangely serene and harmonious way, and to think, what a beautiful thing that would be. Of course the down side is that this combination is still always dark and leaves little room for the light element, unless red happens to count as that element. Speaking of light and dark, thinking about it, this new way of applying the red and black combination can also be a great reference to Taoism and by extension Eastern philosophy (which is good for my sake since I frequently worry that I’m losing touch with the Eastern culture that so inspired in the first place). I often see depictions of the yin and yang symbol where the yin half is black but the yang half is red instead of white.

Like this one, though it’s not a very old depiction I must say.

It might not be a very traditional depiction, but it still depicts yin and yang very clearly, red obviously being yang and black obviously being yin. Not to mention, I’ve talked before about energy and void being red and black respectively, and that still fits with all my previous ideas about the universe in a reasonably cozy fashion. Really red and black tied in with Taoism can incorporate all manner of ideas. It still has a Satanic flair to it, and let’s not forget that Baphomet, now commonly linked with Satanism, is essentially similar to the Taoist principle of yin and yang. Also, that part about the Grey Jedi being the wielder of the flame and protector of the balance reminds me of own alter ego character and the role I ascribe to him within his own universe. He utilizes the fire element (albeit in two forms; the traditional flame and the demonic flame), and one of his roles is to protect his world, which also means protecting the balance of the world by destroying evil and defeating the ambitions of all manner of evil beings whether they’re human, demon, or divine. Because of all that, I refer back to Shin Megami Tensei and become very tempted to align myself as Neutral, since not only does the Grey Jedi code kinda remind me of Neutral, it presents a good warrior framework for Neutral. But I can’t settle on just Neutrality. Aside from me having criticized before for canonically accomplishing almost nothing, Neutrality on its own is rather bland if done for its own sake. I also don’t believe there is a middle ground for absolutely everything or can be, certainly not a middle ground for freedom and slavery, the individual and the collective, or strength and weakness. And while light ad dark can be balanced, good and evil cannot, since good and evil are a matter of ethics, morality, and/or subjective judgement. My alter ego character can’t be a total neutral either, as he is meant to be a hero, and his ideas of heroism are based on mine, and actions are based on the same. However, this is one case where Neutral should be mixed with Chaos here. In a MegaTen sense, I couldd be effectively Neutral but from a Chaos perspective, or perhaps the other way around. If I’m Neutral, then that Neutrality would have to be guided by my own nature, my spiritual ideas, my basically libertarian philosophy, all of them influenced by being aligned with Chaos, and my tastes would remain pretty much unchanged. And finally, who knows, maybe Order/Harmony and Chaos really could be treated as different forces, and the fire I seek to live by as the Fire of Spirit, or perhaps, at least something more encompassing then the Fires of Chaos. Perhaps, recalling the inner flame I once described more frequently a few years ago.