My anti-Jedi sentiments just reached critical mass.
From The Path of the Jedi, by Daniel Wallace (emphasis mine):
Misperceptions of the Jedi
The job of a Jedi recruiter can be thankless. While many families are proud to have their offspring chosen by the Force, the practical reality of…
I can half-way see why the Jedi get characterized like this - it’s pretty typical in fantasy that all mage-type people get training in their mage-type powers. But the Jedi take things really damn far for the “good” side of the Force, to the point that they sometimes behave exactly like their opposite numbers. This is one of those instances.
Some of the people who write the Jedi like this are doing intentional critique, either akin to how the Federation of Planets gets thoroughly dissected in some Star Trek stuff (nothing so good can be possible! or wait, aren’t there some flaws here?). But sometimes it seems like there’s just this huge inability to think things through. It’s like how half the time in Clone Wars, I felt like the awful things the “good” side was doing were intentional on the part of the writers and the whole thing was meant to be dark gray vs black…and half the time I felt like the writers were suffering from lack of writing comprehension and had completely missed the unfortunate implications of what they’d done.
On an individual Force Sensitive level, it seems like you don’t want either the Jedi or Sith to have any power. Either way, you will utterly lose control of your life. (Obviously, the Sith are worse, since suffering and dying at the hands of your masters is par for the course with them.) On a galactic level for non-Force Sensitives, you’re much more definitely better off with the Jedi having power. But they’re still pretty damn arrogant and you’d better hope you don’t have any Force Sensitive kids or other people you care about.
I think most of the things written like this are intended as in-universe critiques — what depizan was saying. One of the things with the EU especially (and the Prequels to some extent) is a bit of viewing the Jedi as not the good romantic heroes that the OT insinuated. This is just one of those ways.
While I’m not the Jedi’s biggest fan I am definitely even less a fan of the Sith so I mean lesser of two evils situation here imho
It’s the inconsistency that bothers me. One minute the Jedi are paragons of virtue; the next, they’re child-stealing slavery-condoning creeps. I guess this kind of conflicting characterization is inevitable in a setting as big and complicated and long-running as Star Wars—forty years of different writers putting their own spin on the Jedi concept? Yeah, that is definitely going to be a mess.
But then you get to projects like TCW, when you have episodes set on Kamino that show exactly what the clones went through, and how there were Jedi Masters present during their training who KNEW about it but didn’t change it or protest against it. And that’s just twisted. (Unless it’s meant to be an extremely subtle commentary on the dehumanizing way that Jedi and trooper training treats its subjects, not as individuals with a right to self-determine their goals and careers and beliefs but as entities “meant” for a specific path, or narrow set of paths, regardless of what they actually wanted or could have wanted if they’d been given other options, but wherein one group is left in a position of power over the other and therefore is complicit in the continuance of their dehumanizing treatment because they don’t see it as a problem …??? *wheeze*)
The Jedi are fucked up and the Sith are absolute monsters. And the conflict between them routinely draws the entire galaxy into war. Yet the narrative rarely if ever focuses on people who find this problematic, or on people who are Force-sensitive but outright reject both philosophies. It’s almost always Jedi Good, Sith Bad, and the only people I can think of off the top of my head who are like “wait just a damn minute” are the Star Cabal (who want to murder a bunch of people for reasons, afaik (haven’t gotten to that bit in the IA story)) and Kreia (who is … y’know. Kreia.).
I don’t even know where I’m going with this. Just. Aaaagh. *faceplants into pillow and screams quietly for a while*
*excited squeal* are we talking about Force orders (minor Imperial Agent spoilers below, because somehow I always wind up back there.)
The reason why Star Wars appeals to me is because the longer you examine the expanded universe, it becomes less of a battle between good and evil and more of a cautionary tale about power. Everyone is morally at their best when they’re the underdog, or recovering from hardship. (The Rebel Alliance never resorted to torture, the Jedi are at their most accepting and socially productive whenever they’re restored, etc.) But once the tables are turned and the dynamic changes, the Republic and the Jedi become complacent and even corrupt. Without challenges to put things in perspective, they fall back on old habits.
I actually think that, in the Old Republic era at least, the Jedi are better suited to the Empire and the Sith to the Republic. Much of the Jedi’s more asshole-ish activities stem from the values dissonance between the Order and the Republic. My impression of most incarnations of the Republic is that it’s similar to a Western democracy (specifically, America) - federal and state/galactic and planetary government, capitalist, all about freedom and eagles and shit. The public emphasis is on personal liberty.
Whereas the Jedi are expected to be restrained, be mostly pragmatic, and selflessly give themselves to an abstract concept of the greater good. (In fact, the clash between them is uncannily similar to real-world Western vs. Eastern morality - think of when Mako has to tell Raleigh “it’s not about obedience, it’s about respect” in Pacific Rim.) Jedi aren’t supposed to challenge authority, even oppressive authority, provided that said authority doesn’t physically harm people - the Jedi’s primary function is to maintain harmony, not to protect individuals or individuals’ rights. That doesn’t make them evil, but their priorities are different from those of the very people whom they serve, which is problematic in the long run.
Sith aside, Imperial society tends to be hierarchical, disciplined, and revolves around duty. If you aren’t Force-sensitive, then advancement is based on how you contribute. Watcher Two makes a critical comment about Nar Shaddaa, saying “that’s the problem with free markets…another reason to bring them under control”, so I assume the TOR-era Empire operates as more of a planned economy. This is all extremely at odds with the actual Sith philosophy, which is individualistic, encourages competition, and is supposedly self-regulating…sound familiar?
The Jedi are attempting to preserve uniformity and peace in a system that runs on pluralism and perpetual change. The Sith stir up widespread conflict in a system that relies on cohesiveness and self-sacrifice. Obviously, switching Force-orders is waaay out of the question, but it’s interesting to note that both manifestations of both philosophical extremes need aspects of each other to even remotely work. (The Republic needs the Jedi’s rationality and occasional altruism; the Jedi need the Republic’s citizens and ideals to defend, to have a sense of purpose; the Imperials need the Sith’s strength of will to lead them and their scariness to keep them in line; the Sith need the Imperials’ non-self-sabotaging nature and dedication to actually get anything done.)
Like any organisation based on ideology, the Jedi become political tools. In the CW era especially, it’s very easy to paint the Jedi as tyrants because their perception of what’s right is so foreign to the Republic’s general populace - I’m surprised one of Palpatine’s arguments about the Jedi being evil wasn’t that the use of clones was inhumane and not in line with the Republic’s core values. Conversely, the Jedi don’t know any better because they were raised that way, and their rigid rules make it difficult for new ideas to be introduced.
The Imperial Agent storyline is my favourite because it seems straightforward at first: the Sith are keeping you from doing your job properly; the Sith suck; the Jedi kind of suck too. But come chapter three, when the Star Cabal is revealed, you realise that the galaxy is fucked anyway. There’s money and politics involved, and the worst part is that the conspiracy started out genuinely trying to protect people but ended up being just as corrupt as (or worse than) what it opposed. (And even then, some members like the Prince and probably Hunter still believe in the original goal, for whatever good that does.)
The implication of the Star Cabal’s existence is that Kreia was wrong, and that’s terrifying. Maybe the Force isn’t dictating sapient life - maybe sapient life is dictating the Force. In general, ‘ordinary’ people are only victims because they aren’t the ones currently doing the oppressing. If there wasn’t a metaphysical entity controlling society, then they would find more ways to control each other. That’s the Big Moral I draw from all of Star Wars - systems and beliefs aren’t inherently destructive, but people are. (Definitely not what Lucas intended, but whatevs.) They’re also capable of selflessness and heroism, which just makes it harder to break the cycle, because no one knows how to deal with stability. It’s all fine and well when you have to overthrow the status quo, but you also have to replace it with something. Over time, causes get eroded, people become greedy, and it’s back to square one.
So, hypothetically, removing Jedi and Sith from the equation just opens up a power vacuum to be filled by corporations or ineffective government or what have you. Even if someone benevolent managed to take charge, they would have to be dictators, and the whole thing would likely fall apart once they die. If they don’t intend to ever die, then they would become the Emperor. Everyone is screwed. Everything is awful.
Personally, I lean slightly more towards the Jedi, but only because their philosophy is harder to warp on a massive scale than the Sith’s. The Sith’s philosophy on an individual level appeals to me more in theory, but it’s so often taken to the logical extreme of ultra-violent-objectivist “fuck everyone fuck you fuck me” so the end result is a disaster. Its real-world equivalent is people skimming through Nietzsche and deciding to become skinheads. Sith philosophy itself doesn’t suggest that you obtain power by actively hurting other people, but most of its followers seem to jump to that conclusion right away, probably because they’re subconsciously seeking justification for their wrongdoings. (As pointed out by the Sith Inquisitor, the Code is a guideline, not a doctrine - there’s more wiggle room for interpretation than the Jedi Code.)
Luke’s Jedi were one of the better versions because they weren’t horribly out of touch with the average citizen. (I think…I’m not very familiar with post-ROTJ EU.) In fact, Luke probably took one look at all that information about the recruiters and noped the fuck out. He had the in-universe book. He could have followed the Jedi’s traditions to the letter, but instead, he learned from the past and adapted the Order appropriately. Which goes to show that people shouldn’t mold themselves to fit an ideology, people should try to shape it themselves. Which is a very Sith-like conclusion. Well, shit.