Power and Humanness — what the Jedi got wrong, Part 1.

[5 minute read]

“He’s a powerful figure in political circles”
“She holds a lot of power in this industry”

What sort of person do we picture, hearing these statements? Is “power” here a compliment? Does it make a difference if we hear it from a mate of ours, versus a mainstream media source?

Of course, I’m talking only about socio-political power here. Power as it might relate to rocketry, electrical cables, or weigh-lifting, is a separate matter. As far as humans are concerned, more of this sort of power is usually a good thing.

But power as a human being – is there too much of a good thing?

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A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, the most powerful dude was pretty bad. He marginalised minority groups, had a militaristic foreign policy, and wore a lot of black. But there’s not a lot more to say about Darth Vader that seems objectively bad. In fact, there’s some pretty persuasive arguments suggesting “We All Thought The Sith Were Pure Evil, But What If We Were Wrong?”

More than just an amusing read for Star Wars fans, Coovadia’s article is a brief, but interesting investigation into power and the condition of being human (or Dathomirian or Twi’Lek or…), and a good base for self-investigation for any budding young padawan/apprentice.

The Jedi Code:

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.

A pretty good critique of this is given in the article mentioned earlier. But to summarise, it appears as though the Jedi Order is in denial of the essences of being human.

So, imagine I came to your grandma’s funeral to show you some idiotic internet memes that I found amusing. You admonish “have you no idea what I’m going through?!” I respond “of course I do — I’m not ignorant…of anything! Whatever your deal is, it’s not emotion.” I go home to my doting, neglected wife. She’s set out a romantic meal for us, “how was your day? Are you ready for me to give you some dessert?” batting her eyes suggestively to me. In a flat, passionless tone answer “meh,” and go meditate upon my memes until she goes to bed frustrated.census2011jedi.jpg

Pretty antisocial. For those of you who wrote “Jedi” as your religion in the last national census, you might want to convert.

In contrast, the Sith Code is very much rooted in passion. Passion is used as a vehicle for personal development, to foster strength and power, with power then used to liberate the spirit.

 

Power In and/or Power Out

Power is often regarded as something like leverage over other humans and control. Power in this sense may be seen as dangerous — something to be wary of, maybe even avoid. When someone is described as having a lot of power, it is often cause to treat them with caution. It’s just a small step away to put “abuse of” in front of the word. Ironically, it is perfectly ok to strive for analogous concepts of “greatness” and “elitism” in individualistic cultures. [but check later for a comparison of individualistic- versus collectivist-oriented culture]

Power, as asserted by an individual, is perhaps misjudged. Power can also be self-assurance, esteem. Power which comes from within and extends to our immediacy is surely a good thing. It is necessary for a healthy, strong individual; Nietzsche’s Übermenschen, who strive toward perfection, excellence, creative improvement and collective superiority.

Nietzsche may have killed God, but the godless Jedi Order is as strong as ever.

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Low power is indeed something to be wary of. A depleted esteem, or broken self-worth can push an individual towards all manner of undesirable or even socially reprehensible actions. In this sense, this individual-centred power is is closely connected to control. Self-control.

In considering these concepts, a great difference becomes clear to me — power directed inward, over oneself, is very different to power directed outward, over others. Self-control, versus controlling others.

 

Vote #1 The Empire!

Coovadia goes the next step, and discusses if power and control over others can be a good thing. The early Star Wars Republic is a showcase model of ineffective governance. Clunky bureaucratic machinery steered by a governing organ that’s seemingly detached from reality. This lands the governance in perpetual stalemate, rendering it ineffective, redundant even — perfect breeding grounds for factioning and civil dissatisfaction. The Republic is seemingly in-line with the Jedi Code’s denial of human affect, yet ironically promotes the very “chaos” that Jedis deny.

This is in stark contrast to the taut, streamlined hierarchy of The Empire.SW-Propaganda-5-500-x-750.jpg

The Republic’s sloppy, unresponsive leadership and dissipated accountability sees a lot of parallel in modern governance, as well as some private business hierarchies. One might say that such ineffective use of leadership is in itself an abuse of power. A true leader, indeed any up-standing individual, will acknowledge his short-falls and do something to deal with them. If no solution is to be found, a true leader will concede his ineffectualness and step-down, giving the job to someone who can get it done. It’s only fair to the people he leads that they have an effective leader.

In this last example, we see someone with great personal power, in a position of great power, but who actually lacks power to fulfil his role. But making use of this personal power, his lack of “vocational power”, if we may call it that, is quickly remedied. Whereas the autocrat who clings to his position in defiance of all his subjects (employees/followers/students) wishing that he’d leave would appear to be very low in personal power. He lacks the self-control to admit weaknesses, and is too powerless to respond properly to circumstance.

 

A final, and extremely important concept Coovadia investigates gets to the very core of good and evil. Please check back tomorrow for Part 2 of What the Jedi Got Wrong.

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