Monday, November 12, 2007
We may consider the fictional setting of Star Wars an ultra-futuristic view of the universe; however, the trains of thought and the course of action of the individuals in the film do not appear to be any different from the way people in our society think and behave. Therefore, it became easy to notice parallels between the sociology of the fictional Star Wars universe and of our real world, especially the concept of the opposition between the good and the evil as valued by the people involved. In the movie, the opposing forces are represented by the Jedi Knights and the Sith warriors. However, what makes one or the other good or evil?
In Star Wars, it was necessary for each boy who aspires to be a Jedi to go through different phases of training with increasing levels of difficulty. This required procedure was that which gave stability to the reputation of every Jedi knight, and it was through this structure that all Jedi knights were able to carry on their role as Galactic Republic’s guardians. This was the role of the Jedi knights in their society—to bring peace and justice to their universe. The Jedi knights’ counterparts, the Sith warriors, also had a role to play in their society that is to tap the dark side of The Force in order to unleash its true potential. This philosophy fueled the desire of the Sith Order such that they were willing to employ brutal methods in order to acquire the power they single-mindedly lusted after.
Despite the binary pitting the Jedi against the Sith, they function in such a way as to render each member collaborating in order to promote solidarity and stability of their respective complex social systems. It is a relative stable pattern of behavior for each Jedi Knight to train extensively in order to assume their guardian role as it is for each Sith warrior to use means (no matter how cruel) by which they can further be empowered by the dark side of The Force. These respective social structures of the Jedi and the Sith are to be maintained to effect consequences for the operation of their societies in general.
The roles being played by these opposing orders are not entirely divorced from our own social reality, as each member of the society has an inherent social function which needs to be performed in order to solidify and stabilize the society. From the menial workers up to the heads of states, all have a social duty to consummate for the society to operate soundly. If, say, the garbage collector fails to do to his or her job, it spells social catastrophe since this results to the possibility of jeopardized public health. Meanwhile, if a city mayor falls short of acting in response to the probability of an epidemic resulting from the failure of garbage collection, whether this action involves firing the sanitation administrator or tapping the public health unit, it also spells social disorder. The members of the society are inscribed in a complex network of regular functions which form the structure that every society appear in. This is how our society as well as those of the Jedi and of the Sith looks like.
There was a need for the Jedi to continue to maintain peace and order in their galaxies because the Sith, by resorting to atrocious methods to be empowered by The Force’ dark side, were a competing force trying to do the opposite. These two opposing orders, the Jedi and the Sith, were the very reason why conflicts-turned-war arose in their universe. The epic battles involving the two, however, characterize the society as a site of inequality that engenders conflict but, more importantly, change. The Sith, in particular, take conflict as central to the pursuit of the Sith philosophy. Conflict is believed by the Sith warriors as empowering individuals and civilizations by enjoining them to change, develop and progress. Furthermore, it guaranteed that only the strong are capable of surviving, paving the way of perfection for Sith warriors. With their strength, the strong deserved more than what the weak cannot even protect themselves from. Meanwhile, the Jedi carries opposite principles that are pacifist by nature and, therefore, perceived by the Sith as obstacles to growth since lack of conflict generates stagnation and devolution. The Jedi’s brand of morality prevented the Sith’s capacity to see and grapple opportunities for progress, hence it was considered an obstruction to be hurdled. Whatever side wins in the conflict, there is a corollary change that subverts the status quo. As a worshipper of the dark force said it succinctly: “Without strife, your victory has no meaning. Without strife, you do not have advance. Without strife, there is only stagnation.”
This binary opposition of the Star Wars universe is likewise a feature of the real-rife society, for a confrontation of social powers are being stages in the arena that’s the society. Very much like the Jedi and the Sith who both aspire for acquisition of power, binaries in the society clash against each other in order to gain the upper hand over the other. The rich versus the poor, the male versus the female, the heterosexuals versus the homosexuals, the whites versus people of color, among other social classes, use their power to exploit their less-empowered antagonists. They function as such in order to create a social structure featuring the empowered class in the center while the exploited class, in the margins. As Emperor Palpatine himself puts a semblance of real-life social conflict in view of the Star Wars universe, “It is natural for him to want to destroy me. It is not crude mundane ambition, as it would be in an ordinary man; it is part of his growth. And of course it does not offend me—it is why I chose him. But he needs to grow still further.”
Still in the movie, the two orders were portrayed such that we would see the Jedi as good and the Sith as evil. This was how Anakin Skywalker viewed the two orders before he turned over to the dark side. If I may quote, Anakin said this in a conversation with Palpatine: “The Jedi is good because they are selfless. The Sith wants power.” In his eyes, the Jedi were good people because he grew up with them and believed that they were protecting their universe from the Sith. However (and again, I shall quote), Palpatine answered him: “And the Jedi do not?” These contrasting views are a product of a difference in perspective. When Anakin became desperate to save his wife from dying from delivery, he resorted to cross over to the dark side, and when he did that, his whole perspective of society changed. He then believed the Sith were good and the Jedi were evil.
This change of heart in Anakin is understandable in the light of symbolic interaction, which supports the fundamental principle that humans act toward things based on the meanings ascribed to those things. This meaning of things is derived from or emerges out of the social interaction that, say, Anakin had with the Jedi first and the Sith next. When the meaning multiplied, the produced meanings were handled in and modified through an interpretive process employed by Anakin in dealing with the things he encountered. He acted favorably at the pacifism of the Jedi because this was the way for the Star Wars universe to achieve peace and order. Living all along with the Jedi made him view pacifism as right and, therefore, good. Because the Sith contradicted the Jedi regarding pacifism (after all, “peace is a lie,” according to the Code of the Sith), Anakin viewed the former as bad. But these views were subverted when Anakin started to suffer nightmares involving his pregnant wife, Senator Padme Amidala, dying at childbirth. Having suffered loss when his mother got murdered, Anakin was bent on discovering a means to avoid death using the Force. He eventually got tempted to accept deceitful Palpatine’s offer to become an apprentice of the dark force in favor of the secret he had been to searching for. By switching loyalties, Anakin also switched perception of the opposing sides.
As in the Star Wars universe, the symbolic interactionist views the real-life society as full of meanings arising from who or what interact within it. They are interpreted as good or bad against the standards of encountered things. For instance, a child growing up in a family of thugs views terrorism as a macho thing. In the same vein, a person who constantly deals with drunkards might have a different way of seeing a vice commonly associated with unproductivity. Another thing, a person who interacts with people with criminal tendencies will have a depreciated notion of criminality as an immoral behavior. In which case, society may have relative concepts of good and evil. It may be bad to kill for one society, but if killing someone in the name of honor is justifiable for another society, then it may not occur as evil at all.
The idea of who are good or evil between the Jedi and the Sith, in conclusion, depends on whose side one is on. If one is for the Jedi, then they are deemed as good and the Sith, evil. If one is for the Sith, then they are deemed as good and the Jedi, evil. In the performance of their respective functions as required by a stable social structure, it is inevitable for them to clash against each other, having opposing ideologies. But to call one or the other good or evil will have to be decided by the values held by the society. Values being social constructs, they may change under specific conditions, as attested by the switch made by Anakin from Jedi to Sith. The pacifist priority of the Jedi might have influenced Anakin into going for the Jedi’s pacifist social behavior. Nonetheless, the lust for power valued by the Sith had eventually influenced Anakin into mebracing the dark side of The Force. In our real-life society, people value things and ideas positively and negatively, and they have reasons for making their evaluations. Substance abuse, for example, is valued negatively because of the ill-effects it creates toward the overall well-being of the person involved in it. For a drug user, however, it may be valued positively as it gives a high. As these values are applied, the views will explain the concept of the good and evil across the social world.
The social structure’s stability and order are sustained by all our consolidated functioning, whether valued as good or bad or even oppositional. The very implication of conflict presents the possibility that what is relatively good for one may be bad for the other, contributing to either the stagnation or development in social structure. What is good for one is often evil to one’s enemies. This already dashes the universality of good and evil. It may occur that even the things perceived as most universally good may turn out to be evil to other species or to the environment, perhaps. What works for a society that yields a good outcome, that is good. What works against one in a society that makes it go against the grain, is nothing else but evil. Conflict between good and evil is a symbolic interaction that functions to givev meaning to social structure. Like the Force that binds the galaxy together, the society has a good side and a bad side, and it depends on the members of the society to relate with one or with the enemy.