No, I don't buy it

Lord Crimson

Prophet of Darkness
Validated User
My response is more to what you wrote about the Jedi's "Middle Road morality". Again, you may be using the term "Middle Road" as informed by your understanding of Taoism, and as I don't share it I may be missing what you're getting at. But to me, the Jedi Order of the prequels doesn't occupy a middle road either. They've tried so hard to avoid falling to the dark side that they've swung straight past the point of balance - the middle road, to my mind - and on to the other end of the scale: abstinence.

etc.
I think you have some good evidence to support such a read of the full saga (it's a point that my compatriot Myca, who often posts on these forums, was actually making while I wrote my original post).

I think my take on it was that it was a result of lazy, inconsistent writing in the Prequels that lumped all monastic traditions into the common western conception that has heavily Christian leanings (hence the abstinence) instead of drawing on the actual source culture. Another example of it being lazy/sloppy writing being Obi-Wan telling Anakin in Ep 2 that "they're only dreams" when we know that Jedi regularly have visions, even in the days of the Republic (in fact, that seems to be the source of concern for the Jedi... they seem to be having a harder time having visions... yet Anakin's visions are just dreams). Yet another would be the Emperor's use of Force Lightning turning him instantly into "wrinkly emperor" all at once, but it doesn't have that effect when he uses those powers on Luke later.

Other general examples of the sloppy writing would be the standard complaints, though, too: midichlorians, emo Anakin, 8 yr old Anakin hitting on Amidala/Padme, Padme dying even though Leia remembers her, Obi Wan having interacted with R2 and C-3PO for a decade and yet not remembering them come Ep 4, and Jar Jar Binks.

But since it is the only story we have "from the horse's mouth," so to speak, we do have to rely upon what actually takes place on the screen. So it's definitely a valid take on what had begun to happen with the Jedi (it might even be WHY they had started to lose access to some of their powers... like the visions).

Devin Parker said:
The fact that the Jedi considered love to be something they shouldn't allow into their lives troubled me greatly. Your explanation as to why the Jedi would have promoted such a philosophy - one which ultimately is proven to be in error - really makes sense of that "Balance of the Force" prophecy.
Again, from an Eastern perspective, "Love" is seen as this troublesome thing that gets in the way of happiness and duty. It causes people to abandon their arranged marriages, break vows to their comrades and superiors, and tends towards obsession when denied. So, if this is the paradigm that the Force is based upon, love really is a danger if the Dark Side is a real concern (which, in SW, it really is). Even in some Western stories, too much love is a bad thing (some literary scholars claim that this was the "tragic flaw" suffered by Romeo and Juliet... they did not love moderately like the priest recommended). And it's nice to see a story where this idea is covered: Love = Bad... Love = Good has become such a trite plot device that it just isn't interesting anymore.

And with the Jedi, Love doesn't equal anything. It just is, but it tends to lead to the Dark Side Emotions when an padawan doesn't "mind his feelings", which then destroy a Jedi (just like it did Anakin).

On the other hand, Luke does seem to use Love to save his friends, and then later his father, in the original trilogy, which does grant support for your reading as well.
 

FatR

Powergamer-in-training
Validated User
I think you're onto something, IMAGinES. One of the ways in which I tried to reconcile things in my mind after seeing the Prequels was to reason that the Jedi Order had become stagnant, too confident in its own authority and too steeped in its flawed understanding of the Force to the degree that it had left behind the true vitality of the Force (which, as you point out, Luke re-establishes by the end of the Original Trilogy) and was no longer able to see that. It had fallen into error but refused to acknowledge it, giving the Sith the opportunity to take advantage of the dissatisfaction and dissent that had formed in the Republic as a result.
I think, that movies give more support for "Palpatine was just too powerful and devious" line of reasoning. And, if anything, Jedi became not too confident, but too cautious, sticking to tried and proven ways, which, despite being beneficial in the short and middle term, harmed them in the perspective. Take the issue about training Anakin, for example. Yoda was absolutely right, refusing to accept him on the grounds of his potential psychological instability, as Anakin indeed proved to be selfish and ruled by emotions, wasn't he? However, although corrupting Anakin certainly helped Palpatine in his grand scheme, he most likely would have toppled Jedi Order anyway. By the time Anakin was found, Darh Sidious was already firmly on the way to victory, with key chess pieces in place. And, ironically, in the long term Darth Vader became the Emperor's sole fatal weakness. So, in the end, Qui Gon, with his insight and intuition, happened to be right, and Yoda, with his reason, was wrong.

It then makes sense to me that Yoda would spend his post-Republic days hiding out in seclusion and contemplation rather than attempting an active role in the Rebellion. He might sense somewhere in his conscience that his Jedi Order played a significant role in the downfall of the Old Republic, but ultimately Yoda was too stubbornly set in his ways and too easily able to justify his take on Jedi philosophy to abandon his monastic abstinence...
Screwing up with defense of the Republic is the most obvious reason to retreat from the frontline, until you can identify the flaws within yourself and the Order that caused defeat.
 
Last edited:

FatR

Powergamer-in-training
Validated User
Thanks, Devin. You know, something I thought of last night after writing that post is that the Jedi were themselves afraid. Whenever Yoda and Obi-Wan say something about the dark side, it's usually to the effect that "Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny." Basically, the reason why the Old Jedi Order were so keen on ensuring their Padawans, Knights and Masters had no ties that could tempt them to the dark side was because they honestly thought that any being sensitive to the Force who fell to the dark side stayed fallen forever, and while Luke in the end proved them wrong, you can see how that belief motivated practically everything the Order did, including telling Luke that the only thing he could do for his Dad was kill him.

Only the Sith deal in absolutes?
Going by the movies, there was no precendents of returning from the Dark Side, before Anakin. Note, that Darth Sidious was equally sure in its grip on Vader (and that happened to be his undoing). Ep3 shows why. Once Anakin succumbed, it took him just a few hours at most to began perceiving utter atrocity as something perfectly acceptable, and about a day to begin making plans about ruling the Galaxy. It is obvious, that the Dark Side twists and rewrites its follower's personality, erasing his conscience and ability to restrain his own burning desires and raging ambitions. No wonder, that Yoda considered Anakin effectively dead and consumed from the moment of its fall.

Oh, and about the original article. I find it initial criticism mostly undeserved. In my opinion, the author's solution, is the viewpoint of the movies. The Dark Side is cancer in the Force, growing out of selfish desires and uncontrolled wants, and, in turn, magnifying them. Sith are evil because they are completely ruled by their own ambitions, desires or ideals, and think nothing about imposing their will on others. Note, how crucial to the Anakin's fall was the fact, that he never ever attempted to ask Padme what she thinks about his desire to save her at any cost. Of course, Jedi also aren't free from mistakes and bad judgement - but they, at least, try to find the correct way, instead of thinking that they are always right (OT Yoda allowing Luke to make his own choices comes to mind.)
 
Last edited:

FatR

Powergamer-in-training
Validated User
The Jedi judged the danger of any sincere human (or whichever Star Wars species you prefer) attachment leading to the dark side so great that they encouraged families to give their Force-sensitive children over to the Order forever and trained those children to abstain from any further contract with their own kin in case they were corrupted. And when presented with a human being with an honest-to-Force human problem - twice - the best the head of the Order had to offer was "fear is the path to the Dark Side" and "Attachment leads to jealousy... let go of everything you fear to lose." Mace Windu knows he doesn't trust Anakin but doesn't do anything about it, and even Anakin's best friend Obi-Wan has no clue how to deal with his friend's visions of his mother - allowing Palpatine, the only person who demonstrates some empathy and understanding of the human condition, to play him like a Stradivarius.
Also Yoda also was absolutely damn right in his advice, while Palpatine demonstrated his understanding of the human condition primarily by understanding Anakin's unability to restrain his desires. You see, if Anakin just had a little, tiny bit of temperance and restraint, or, I don't know, ability to listen for the opinion of people, who do not flatter him blatantly, he would have had everything he ever desired - both the glory of the galaxy's savior and Padme (remember, Jedi can quit the Order, if they want, so, the celibacy practice is not that much of an issue). Well, you all know, that instead he ruined himself, and everything he ever cared for. "Problems with anger managemen"? Don't make me laugh. Anakin's final fall had nothing to do with anger, and everything to do with selfishness, irresponsibility, unability to say "no" to himself and to be honest with his friends.

You may say that the Jedi had the right of it - but if they did, I think Return of the Jedi would have ended with Luke saying, "Well, my work here is done, now I must leave you all to re-found the Jedi Order at a distant monastery." Instead, the very last shot of the film is of Luke, Leia, Han, Lando, Chewie, Threepio and Artoo in celebration - together.
How that is different from Ep1 ending, however?
 

Lord Crimson

Prophet of Darkness
Validated User
FatR said:
Anakin's final fall had nothing to do with anger, and everything to do with selfishness, irresponsibility, unability to say "no" to himself and to be honest with his friends.
No, I think it had everything to do with anger. But it was anger fueled by all of these things you mention. He was so self-righteous and self-obsessed that any evidence contrary to his self delusion drove him to fits of murder and betrayal.

But I definitely agree with you more than those that just want to sling around a pop-psych term like "anger management issues" and use it to write off discussion of the character. But the problem for many (myself included, to some degree) is that shoddy writing and terrible acting make it all but impossible to actually feel any sympathy for the Anakin that we see in the prequels.
 

Phlophouse

Retired User
What a good thread, once the gamist left the building.

What is really going on here? We as individuals must grapple with our awareness of self and our affect on the world around us. That is part of what stories do. They reflect one minor aspect of behavior and consequence. I started questioning the same issues about the Force presented in this article, but stopped because I realized that I had already grappled with them, personally, in life. This thread has moved away from gaming into philosophy, where there are no right answers although some are more equal than others. I think it is wonderful. If you want to understand the Force, you have to answer your own questions of right and wrong.
 

GM Radio Rob

Voice for radio, face for GMing!
Validated User
Also Yoda also was absolutely damn right in his advice, while Palpatine demonstrated his understanding of the human condition primarily by understanding Anakin's unability to restrain his desires. You see, if Anakin just had a little, tiny bit of temperance and restraint, or, I don't know, ability to listen for the opinion of people, who do not flatter him blatantly, he would have had everything he ever desired - both the glory of the galaxy's savior and Padme (remember, Jedi can quit the Order, if they want, so, the celibacy practice is not that much of an issue). Well, you all know, that instead he ruined himself, and everything he ever cared for. "Problems with anger managemen"? Don't make me laugh. Anakin's final fall had nothing to do with anger, and everything to do with selfishness, irresponsibility, unability to say "no" to himself and to be honest with his friends.
Hmm. I agree and disagree. I don't argue that Anakin trod his own path to the Dark Side step by step, but I do think Yoda's advice - give it all up for the sake of the greater good - was an extreme viewpoint. Sure, the Jedi didn't contribute to Anakin's fall, but I really don't think they helped him stop in any real way.

How that is different from Ep1 ending, however?
Mainly as the ending of Ep1 is more a direct parallel to Episode IV. Both are less celebration and more ceremony, both give the impression that while the current battle has been won, the Big Story isn't over yet. The end of Episode VI is The End, the writer's final judgment on the fate of his characters: "And they all lived happily ever after."
 

Lord Lycanthrope

New member
Banned
I see the dark side of the force as basically stemming from willing blindness to the moral facts. Anger and fear are not inherently bad. They’re bad because they make you ignore the reality of what you’re doing and your moral responsibility for doing it. The Dark Side is the side of sociopaths, always willing to handwave away the implications of what they’re doing in return for whatever good feeling they’re feeling now. When Anakin slaughters dozens of sandmen he doesn’t consider which of them were actually guilty, whether they had a reason to do what they did (maybe it’s their land and the Skywalkers are trespassers who took it by force or received it from those that did?) or what harm he could cause to other people (what if it caused a general Sandman retaliation?). Someone acting to satisfy his own feelings, regardless of reality is deliberately ignoring reality, his path is not seen (dark) not because he can’t see because won’t.
Even Palpatine, the greatest dark force user in the galaxy, makes a fatal and childish mistake in crowing about Luke going to the dark side which causes Luke to wake up to what is happening and reject the dark path. Someone of emotional maturity, who accepted that he was not a God and that the universe didn’t owe him victory probably wouldn’t have made that mistake. Notice that the empire always refers to the rebels as “scum”, “insignificant” (even after they destroyed the biggest piece of military equipment ever constructed) and similar things.
Under this analysis only sentient things can go to the dark side because only they have the option to ignore facts rather than act on them automatically.
The real reason that there are so many moral/religious contradictions in Star Wars and particularly the prequels is that the Jedi order and many of the “good guys” are willing to ignore reality in small ways, which start the corruption that leads to the empire and the triumph (however temporary) of evil. The Jedi council know they need the one prophesied, but when someone appears who fits the bill they ignore him because he’s not what they’re used to in a recruit. They turn their eyes away from someone they themselves think is dangerous, as though that were a safe thing to do. Clearly given his levels of power Anakin’s training should be handled by the most competent people avialible, but it ends up in the hands of a relative newcomer. All that it would have taken to avoid this outcome is for the council, or someone on it to say “Well I think we screwed up, let’s train this guy after all.”.
They’re told that there is corruption at the heart of the Senate and they refuse to take it seriously. This despite the fact that they’re told it by someone who took corruption to the heart of the Jedi order and library, which is orders of magnitude harder to corrupt than the Senate. I mean who can’t corrupt the Senate? They do this for political expediency. They need the Republic to routinely test billions of people to find thousands of potential Jedi and to provide shiny spaceships. Therefore it’s flaws are ignored, even after they are plainly stated by Amidala “the Republic no longer functions.” and her statements are proved correct. Even she ignores her own advice and tries to keep the Republic together, despite the fact that it was less than useless in dealing with her planets problems. Let’s face it when you have to make an alliance with a non-Republic state and Jedi acting outside their orders (and arguably illegally) to solve a problem with an entity the Republic supports it’s no longer worth being in it. So why does she try to stop other planets leaving? Is the chancellor’s chair really that comfortable that it’s worth going directly against your own knowledge?
So don’t be so hard on the morality of Star Wars not making sense. It’s primarily due to the people advancing it ignoring the finer points for their own advantage. In other words it’s no more screwed up than real life explanations for morality.
:(
 

Lord Lycanthrope

New member
Banned
FatR said:
Anakin's final fall had nothing to do with anger, and everything to do with selfishness, irresponsibility, unability to say "no" to himself and to be honest with his friends.
No, I think it had everything to do with anger. But it was anger fueled by all of these things you mention. He was so self-righteous and self-obsessed that any evidence contrary to his self delusion drove him to fits of murder and betrayal.

But I definitely agree with you more than those that just want to sling around a pop-psych term like "anger management issues" and use it to write off discussion of the character. But the problem for many (myself included, to some degree) is that shoddy writing and terrible acting make it all but impossible to actually feel any sympathy for the Anakin that we see in the prequels.
I think the anger is the feul for the selfishness, irresponsibility, inability to say "no" to himself and to be honest with his friends. Then again maybe you're right and it goes in the other direction. Or they're mutaully reinforcing. Yeah that's it. :)
 

Lord Lycanthrope

New member
Banned
One of the things I'm kind of surprised that no one ever really considers with the SW universe is that "The Force" is really Taoism's "the Way." Sure it's a pop-cultural two-fisted pulp version of Taoism, but it's clearly the inspiration and guiding example. Yet every one keeps trying to cram "The Force" into this western religious worldview of right vs. wrong and punishing the wicked as opposed to the Taoist religious worldview of avoiding extremism and working with the Force/Way for the betterment of all (or, at least, "good, honest folk").

It's not that the Light Side is on the right while the Dark Side is on the left; it's not that kind of opposition. It's moderation of spirit and reasonable action (what some call a "Middle Road" world view) as opposed to extreme emotion and extreme reaction. So when it comes to the Jedi and the Force, "GOOD" is moderation and reason. "BAD" is extremism.

The examples we have in the movies, specifically, imply that action motivated by extreme emotions are "of the Dark Side." Hate, Fear, Anger. These emotions result invariably in extreme reactions. The reason certain powers (specifically all Sith powers) are purely "Dark Side" is that they can only be used by tapping those extremes. Sure the extreme emotions give you a boost... On the other hand, you fall into a never ending cycle of extremism because it makes you powerful. It also lays waste to your body, but hey, no one said great power didn't come with great sacrifices, right? (Only that justification is, itself, a Dark Side justification).

"Be mindful of your feelings, my padawan" is what Obi-Wan constantly warns his apprentice. Not "don't feel" but "don't act", at least when it comes to those negative emotions.

Anakin's problem is that he is NEVER mindful of his feelings. He ONLY acts from extremes of emotion. Fear of losing his lover. Hatred over the death of his mother. Anger over being "held back"/hurt pride.

The intention is for the Jedi to always act in a middle-road fashion, to never fall prey to extremism. They can FEEL Hate, Anger, Fear, but they must not allow those feelings to influence their actions and decisions. They must not let feeling become OBSESSION. They can also FEEL Love, but allowing fear or anger over losing that love or hatred for those who take it from you to motivate your actions... That is the Dark Side (and why the Jedi bar their membership from Love, because that emotion leads too easily into the trap of the DS emotions... Honestly, someone kills YOUR S.O., even accidentally, how are you going to react? Probably in a way motivated by Anger and Hatred). Motivation is very important (Are you killing that Imperial because he shot your best friend? Or because he's a continuing threat to "good, honest folk"?), but so is the extremity of the action you choose to take (Why did you kill that Imperial when you could have just taken him prisoner? Why did you Force Choke him into unconsciousness when you could have just pulled Force TK'd his blaster out of his hand?)... And even the "good guys" occasionally choose the less Light Side choice (their only human... or alien... which is why PCs get a range of 6 Dark Side points to move back and forth along the scale).
As I see it the Jedi in the prequels are trapped by their inability to act and feel. They spend so much effort trying to avoid emotion that when they encounter it they just don't have the skills to deal with it. That's why they take the emotionally disasterous decision to not love. Someone who doesn't love is going to make themselves emotionally and probably physically ill. But they have to avoid it to avoid extremes of emotion. The problem is you can't avoid extremes of emotion when extreme things happen, like a boy turning up that could change everything your religion does and a lot of what it stands for. So when he does turn up they act entirely unreasonably and from fear. Yoda claimed that he could feel fear and "fear leads to anger" etc. But I saw no sign of fear in Anakin, could it be the council was projecting their own insecurities on Anakin?
Luke's triumph is that he confronts the ultimate in emotional extremes, every thing and person loves and risked his life for is being destroyed out of pure power lust and malice by a traitor and a dictator. He goes into an understandable homicidal rage. Personally if it had been me I would have gone right on slashing that lightsabre until you could mail Vader anywhere in the universe using only standard sized envelopes. But Luke (being a hero) is made of sterner stuff. He is capable of feeling the emotion fully and then deciding not to act on it. In future no matter what the provocation he will be able to respond in a reasonable and reasoning manner. After all if you can keep control when you're best friend and sister are being murdered and the galaxy plunged into more decades of tyranny what can't you handle?

Now, I don't particularly care for the prequels. But in maintaining THIS view of the Force they are NOT contradicting the original trilogy (at least as far as pulp space adventure is concerned).

Now, the beauty of the SW Universe is that we get to handwave a lot of the philosophy of it BECAUSE it's pulpy space opera. I mean, we're still getting the cut-and-dried line of Light vs. Dark. But how extreme is Dark Side extreme?

The Empire and anyone willingly a part of it is, by its very definition, the "bad guy." They are constantly acting in extremes. Their every reaction is one of violence and intimidation. No diplomacy. No conversation. No moderation.

And because it's pulpy space opera goodness, there are certain actions/abilities that are objectively "of the Dark Side." Ruthless mind control (as opposed to the occasional Jedi Mind Trick). Killing "innocents" (as opposed to killing bad guys/threats). Using Force Lightning or Force Choke (as opposed to most other Force powers).

It also allows the GM and his players to DECIDE how important or strict the Middle Road morality of the Jedi is integral to their game. In my games, Force Choke and Force Lightning = Dark Side stuff no matter what. Rebel suicide bombers would be Dark Side characters. Blowing up planets is always bad. Using Force Points to up damage AT ALL gives you a DS point, but using a Force Point to shoot the blaster from the guy's hand or disable his engines does not.

But maybe in your game, you decide you want more grey. Maybe Force Lightning ISN'T purely from the Dark Side. Maybe Luke got a DS point for blowing up the Death Star. That's up to you and your players... though if you or your players want it to fit with the movies, you're going to have to grant some leeway or explain to your players that this ISN'T the Star Wars they may be expecting.

Take it for what you will.
I don't think blowing up the Death Star gets you a DS point. After all it's the minimum use of force to prevent the death of innocents. If you could disable it and force it to surrender then sure, killing thousands of people, most of them probably conscripts and dupes of imperial propaganda would be evil. But you can't. Similarly Force Choke is allowable if it's the least harmful way to do something. You can fight a hundred warrior and kill dozens of them or you can FC their leader until he tells them to lower their weapons. Which is the reasonable and responsible choice?
 
Last edited:
Top Bottom