Friday, July 29, 2011

16364--Wait, the Jedi weren't the good guys?

Those of us who enjoyed George Lucas' little space sagas thrilled at the highs and lows of their conflict and drama, the politics and warfare, and the mystical struggle between the Sith and the Jedi.  We cheered for the Jedi when they won and felt sorrow for them when they fell.  I imagine most people did.  We were supposed to, after all, since they're the heroes of the stories.  They were the heroes, weren't they?

Somewhere along the way, the noble Jedi began to lose their footing on the straight and narrow.  I guess Yoda noticed it when he realized that the Jedi were having difficulty being prescient.  When your psychic levels of awareness are suddenly all cloudy, it only makes sense that you'd want to know why.  Blaming the Sith seemed reasonable.  A sneak attack is so like them.  It made sense to send Qui-Gon Jin and Obi-Wan Kenobi to find Darth Maul for questioning.  When they found him, though, all they did was fight him.  What happened to "Only for defense.  Never for attack."?  I know Yoda drilled that in to those mavericks, but they never asked that snarly guy a single question.  It just didn't seem to be the Jedi way.

When the Separatist Movement began and an organized faction tried to split away from the Galactic Republic, the Jedi kept themselves out of the politics of the situation.  Good for them.  When pressed into fighting, though, they didn't seem to have any issues with putting a slave force of clones out on the front lines.  Maybe they were desensitized by the fact that the soldiers seemed to have less personality than most droids and were clad in robot-face armor, but let's face facts: the clone army was composed entirely of living men who were bred and trained to serve as soldiers.  They were never offered any other options for how they might choose to live and die and no one seemed to care.  Obi-Wan was told quite clearly that the clones were genetically modified to possess diminished will, making them quite pliant to having orders barked at them, and he didn't even pause to question it.  I suppose these legions of duplicates were never expected to have any sort of lives in the great republic beyond military service.  Assuming their survival beyond fighting separatists, being part of a standing army was all anyone ever intended for them.  Weren't the Jedi supposed to be fighting for everyone or maybe the Old Republic only advocated Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness for people who weren't test tube babies.  Come on, human trafficking and slavery? 

People may have raised many debates over the merits of Star Trek versus Star Wars, but the Federation certainly never condoned abuses like that.  The Federation actually takes things in the opposite direction by banning genetic modification and such, but they had that whole history with Khan Noonian Singh and the Eugenics Wars.  You can't really fault them for trying to learn from their history.  I don't even have a guess at how many people Kirk and Spock helped free from those sorts of oppressions.

Contrasted against another champion of the oppressed, a quick "What would Superman do?" should easily produce an answer of "Not send a hundred thousand slave soldiers into a war they know nothing about simply because it's convenient to the side I support."  Barring occasional encounters with red kryptonite, when you lose your way, Superman typically makes a fantastically unerring moral compass.  WWSD?  This particular issue would hold special meaning for him since among the many accounts of life on lost Krypton, one intriguing timeline (John Byrne's post-Crisis reboot) includes a society-changing war that was the culmination of a dispute over the rights of clones created solely to provide spare parts for citizens.  With the clones as an integral part of their life insurance system, the people were provided a buffer against the rigors of time, injury, etc.  Lucas' Galactic Republic used a variation of protecting the people with a buffer of clones by just sending them out to fight rather than letting them sleep and harvesting pieces from them.

We may find ourselves faced with such considerations soon as we advance from couples having second and third children to provide replacement parts for first child in need to growing new organs to bolster our own quality of life.  This leads to the ultimate debate of sparing our children and theirs the horrors of war and new parts by just sending clones to fight and suffer in their stead.  Strict adherance to economic theory says that first child is priceless and every one after is worth less, so what does that say about originals and clone meat?  Are we willing to risk our souls to save our lives?  When the mass production of military clones makes the whole thing cheap and easy, how long will it take for people to stop considering war to be horrible?  Without strict regulation, how long will it take for cheap and easy cloning to make its way into the civilian market, changing the face of labor and human trafficking?  We'll pay a steep price to descend into a mire of devalued life and overpopulation.  Some will say it's a complicated mess.  I say it's as clear as the Bill of Rights and refer to the aforementioned "WWSD?".

Back in a galaxy far, far away, with all that moral ambiguity Mr. Lucas has unleashed, who are we supposed to cheer for?  It's hard to support the protagonists when you're thinking that maybe they deserved what they got.

So for Anakin going to the Dark Side, the fall of the Jedi Order and the collapse of the Republic into a soul-sucking imperial power, the Jedi may have to accept a charge of contributory negligence.  Maybe we can have another set of movies where the clones develop individual personalities, assert Free Will and rise up against their oppressors...all of them.  Ah, sweet Freedom.  Long live the Clone Rights Movement!

It's something to think about.  WWSD?

Did you notice any other ways that the Jedi might have pushed themselves out of balance with the Force?


  1. Yeah, the Jedi kniggits on the attack is just another flaw of the poopy prequels. "Strike them down now, ask questions later. That's the Quigon way!" We must keep in mind this all took place a long time ago. I guess "Miranda vs. Alderaan" has yet to make it to trial.

    I think its yet another example of the dangers of extremists. Find balance. Live moderately.

  2. I guess it's like our bumper stickers that warn us how the government hates competition. Apparently, Palpatine felt the same way about the Jedi. With the courts under his control and the senate disbanded, those pesky human rights issues may never see the inside of a courtroom.