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Recently, I took the liberty of re-watching the original Star Wars trilogy and the prequels without any preconceived plan to rethink the series. Indeed, I had not seen the films in a long time and a certain nostalgia compelled me to return to that galaxy far, far away. My re-watch, however, led me to a fundamental re-evaluation of the franchise: the Sith are the good guys; the Jedi are the bad guys. By extension, the Galactic Empire is the "good team" and the Galactic Republic/Rebel Alliance is the "bad team."
Before I outline the reasons for this re-evaluation, a caveat is necessary: the truth value of a claim is impervious to one's preferences. X is true or false irrespective of one's personal feelings. The charge that in the Star Wars universe it is the Sith, and not the Jedi, who are morally superior will no doubt shock many and perhaps enrage a few. But shock and fury do not alter the analysis, much less determine its truthfulness. In fact, for critics of my argument to appeal to shock and fury would be to use the very tactics of the Sith, who celebrate the expression of human emotion.
In the interest of convenience, "the Sith are the good guys and the Jedi are the bad guys" argument will henceforth be referred to as the "Star Wars Re-evaluation Theory", or SWRT for short.
SWRT has two main components: a political/legal component and a moral component. Both are crucial to the argument but ultimately it is the latter that hammers the last nail in the coffin of that over-esteemed institution — the Jedi Temple.
First, the political component: the Jedi Council constitute a religiously fanatic sect whose anti-democratic nature by definition constitutes a threat to the stability of the Galactic Republic the Jedi are pledged to defend.
Members of the Jedi Council are not elected by members of the general populace and therefore they can make no claim to democratic legitimacy, unlike members of the Senate and the Chancellor. This makes Obi-Wan Kenobi's defence of ''democracy'' in Episode III all the more laughable. Indeed, the Jedi claim to be bastions of democracy yet they are the very people who, in Episode III, organize a coup against a democratically elected politician — Palpatine. Moreover, the films show that the Jedi had scant respect for the rule of law: Is it not Mace Windu who attempted an extra-judicial execution of the Chancellor? Evidently, the Jedi are all in favour of democracy and the law, so long as it works in their favour. Theirs is a creed woven by the twin evils of hypocrisy and pretence.
There is no doubt that the political arrangement of the Galactic Republic, as portrayed in the prequels, was inherently unsustainable. Frequent references are made to the Republic's being overly regulative and bureaucratic. This very culture of incompetence seems to seriously inhibit the Republic's ability to defeat the Confederacy of Independent Systems (CIS), also known as the Separatist Alliance.
And on the topic of the CIS. The CIS was born out of the very incompetency of the Galactic Republic. Indeed, thousands of star systems wilfully seceded from the Republic in response to the excessive corruption and taxation that the Republic embodied. The very fact that Chancellor Palpatine managed to bribe the Senate and the judicial courts, as suggested by Mace Windu in Episode III, testifies to the dire political state that the Republic found itself in.
Second, the moral component: the Jedi Council perpetuate a system of anti-Nietzschean slave morality that compels its adherents to deny self-worth, self-improvement, ambition and, in so doing, enforce a negation of life itself. By contrast, the Sith embrace self-worth, self-improvement and ambition as all being innately human instincts; theirs is a philosophy that does not negate life but, instead, embraces it.
Those who claim that the Star Wars Galaxy is a secular, atheistic system are sorely mistaken. Star Wars has a religion. It is called the Force. Jedi are its priests. Jedi Temples are its churches. But theirs is not a religion of universal franchise. To the contrary, theirs is a religion that is inherently hierarchical and therefore elitist: only those with a sufficient Midichlorian quantum can be counted as true members and receive a proper education in the art of the Force. By definition, therefore, theirs is a system that is structurally biased in favour of insiders and structurally biased against outsiders, who hold no hope of advancing through the ranks. The Sith are much the the same but, in their defence, they do not make pretences to being morally righteous knights of the Galaxy, as the Jedi so often claim throughout the films.
The moral bankruptcy of the Jedi is epitomized in their treatment of the Chosen One, Anakin Skywalker. From a young age he is effectively snatched by his mouther and indoctrinated on planet Coruscant in the arcane ways of the Jedi. It is quite telling that the planet that Anakin was taken from, Tatooine, was built on a system of slavery; something the Jedi and, by extension, the Republic, seem to have done nothing to alter. So much for democracy and freedom. Throughout Episode III we witness Anakin Skywalker's ambition and internal drive to improve himself being continuously castigated by the Jedi Council. His love affair with Padme has to occur in the utmost secrecy because, of course, the Jedi disapprove of the expression of emotion, something that is innately human. The contrast with the Sith could not be more striking. Theirs is the call to embrace emotion, whether it be intense love or intense anger. Either way, as the Sith appreciate, emotion is the very expression of the human condition. Therefore, the Jedi oppress that which it means to be human, and this is their gravest moral crime.
Returning to the aforementioned issue of the CIS, the Clone Wars exemplify the moral degeneracy of the Republic. Whereas the CIS waged war on the reliance of lifeless automatons in the form of droids, the Republic enslaved entire generation of "clones" to do its dirty work. Unlike their droid counterparts, the clones were not lifeless. But they were mindless all the same. The prequels demonstrate that they time and time again obey and execute order after order without question, most prominently in the case of Order 66. In terms of historical parallels, then, arguably a comparison can be drawn between the Galactic Republic of the Star Wars universe and the Confederate armies of 19th-century America: both fought to uphold a system of slavery.
However, SWRT would be incomplete without addressing counter-arguments.
First, it may be countered that the Sith are just as bad as the Jedi in that they too are a religiously motivated sect built on elitism and operating beyond the confines of democracy. True. But, as said before, at least the Sith do not make pretences to moral virtue and justice.
Second, it may be countered that the Sith are worse than the Jedi because they commit a number of obscene acts throughout the films, most prominently the use of the Death Star to destroy planets during the Galactic Civil War in Episode IV. Two points in response to this. First, it effectively amounts to a "what-abouttery" argument; an informal fallacy. The Jedi are moral degenerates regardless of what the Sith do or do not do. Second, the use of the Death Star can be likened to the use of the atomic bombs by the Allied forces during the Second World War; it simply constituted the latest military technology whose deployment, it was believed, would bring about a swift end to a bloody conflict, saving more lives in the long-term than it deprived in the short-term. And, for the record, the films suggest that the Death Star was directly operated by Admiral Wilhuff Tarkin, not the Emperor (previously the Chancellor).
Third, it may be countered that the Galactic Empire is "evil" in comparison to the Galactic Republic. Nonsense. As seen in the prequels, the Galactic Republic is a system built on systemic corruption, civil war, and slavery. By contrast, the Galactic Empire brings back order and stability to the galaxy and, as seen for example in Episode VI, leaves planetary systems with a great deal of autonomy; the Ewoks on Endor live happily next to an Imperial military outpost, their way of life intact. In comparison, as seen in Episode III, the native Wookies of Kashyyyk are exploited as pawns in the chessboard of the Clone Wars by the Jedi. Wookie huts get blown up by droids? Too bad. The sequels would suggest that the Rebel Alliance is a minority movement struggling against a Galactic Empire whose members overwhelmingly favour the status quo. If this were not true, we would expect the Rebels to constitute a much larger and, indeed, more populist force.
Finally, it may be countered that the Jedi only use the light side of the force, and therefore are good, whereas the Sith only use the dark side of the force, and therefore are bad. This is an argument not of reality but of word connotations. Simply put, there is no logical reason to hold that ''light'' equates to goodness and ''dark'' equates to badness. Crucially, both light and dark are equal sides of the Force; they have to exist, as is often said in the films, in a "balance." Pretending that one side of the Force doesn't exist isn't going to make it go away (as much as the Jedi seem to wish this).
To conclude, the Jedi make grand claims to being paragons of moral virtue and democratic legitimacy but in reality they are anything but: theirs is a dogmatic cult built on a self-perpetuating system of hierarchical elitism whose underlying philosophy is one that does not embrace life but negates it altogether.
Thank goodness for the Sith.