“Do not defy the Council, Master – not again.”
“I shall do what I must, Obi-Wan.”
– Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn
The Jedi serve the Force, yet the Jedi also serve the Republic. Often, these two masters cannot be served simultaneously. This undoubtedly contributed – if not directly caused – the fall of the Republic, and the rise of the Empire.
There’s simply too much information – both canonical and non-canonical – to sift through to prove legally where a Jedi’s loyalty should lie. Instead, let’s examine instances where individual Jedi had to make their own decisions, and where hypothetical real-world “Jedi” may have the same difficult choices.
Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn is perhaps the most obvious example of a Jedi who chose to follow the Force. As the quote above shows, Jinn frequently acted in a manner that was out of the ordinary. He made it clear to the Jedi Council that he intended to train young Anakin Skywalker, whether they wanted him to or not. Qui-Gon most likely would have had serious problems with the direction the Council was headed, had he lived. Speculation, of course, but I firmly believe that Jinn would have spoken out against the Order’s deep involvement in the Clone Wars
“Qui-Gon Jinn would never join you.” – Obi-Wan to Count Dooku
Far later in the saga, Qui-Gon’s dedication to the “Living Force” and open mind allowed him to defy spiritual death and live on as a Force ghost. Even Yoda had believed this to be impossible. Qui-Gon didn’t follow the Republic nor the Council unless he felt that their edicts were in agreement with the Force.
“… I’ve come to realize what many people in the Republic have come to realize – that the Jedi are the ones responsible for this war. That we’ve so lost our way that we have become villains in this conflict – that we are the ones that should be put on trial – all of us!”
Towards the end of the Clone Wars, Jedi Padawan Barriss Offee became so disenchanted with the violence that she rejected not only her duty to the Republic and the Order, but to the Force itself. Her terrorist bombing and murder of an accomplice took lives in a most un-Jedi-like fashion. We can commend Barriss for seeing that the war wasn’t exactly what it seemed to be, and certainly her distaste for continued slaughter is understandable. In two Legends books, Barriss spends considerable time working as a healer at the Star Wars version of a M*A*S*H hospital right in the thick of the fight against the Separatists, so she truly saw the carnage up close.
Barriss had options, as she was inside the Republic war machine. The padawan could have “voted with her feet” by leaving the Jedi Order. She could have voiced her disagreement and tried to convince the Order and the Republic to find a peaceful end to the conflict. She could have led protests. Her choice to end violence with more violence, against her own, without attempting nonviolent alternatives was a poor one.
So, theoretically speaking, what is right for Jedi in the Star Wars universe – or our own?
If Jedi are truly meant to follow the Force, and the Force alone, then they should do so without any thought whatsoever on what the Republic government asks of them. To limit any sort of political indoctrination that would cause a Jedi’s Force-delivered feelings to be biased towards the Republic, Jedi either have to be in a political vacuum or so in tune with the Force that they can truly divine its pure essence.
What of the Jedi Code? Jedi wrote the Code – it was not a gift from the Force. Those Jedi may have had biases of their own, and it went through several revisions. If hypothetical Jedi feel that what the Force requires of them is not condoned by the Code, what to do? Quinlan Vos was in such a situation when the Council tasked him to assassinate Dooku. Many of his fellow Masters felt that they were entering murky waters by even entertaining such a strategy.
And the Republic? Personally, I believe that the Jedi should never have aligned so rigidly with the Republic. Throughout the prequel trilogy and Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Jedi often spoke derisively of politicians. They also made it clear that they served the Senate. Clearly, the Jedi Order was in the unfortunate position of knowing that it was being used in a manner incongruent with the Force. However, they chose not to take any action to correct the problem.
How does this affect those of us in the real world, with no Force to guide anyone? For many, religious faith, personal values, and family influence play a valuable role in helping calibrate the moral compass. For others, it’s education and experience. Political and national indoctrination also play their parts. We live in a world with political boundaries on the map. These boundaries don’t always align with tribal, religious, or cultural boundaries, of course, which further complicates issues.
“He’s got to follow his own path.” – Princess Leia, speaking to Luke about Han
Each person — Force-user or not — is a unique soul who must determine what is right for them. For many, it’s not too difficult to judge each situation on its own merits. For others, the decision is more complex. Consider people who have sworn oaths that might put them at odds with the law or the state. To link it back to Star Wars, let’s consider a hypothetical example. What if the Republic begins to go down a path that might ask Jedi to take action which is against the Jedi Code or the will of the Force?
Remember Barriss’ options. Clearly, terrorist action is illegal any way one looks at it. Some Jedi might choose to exercise their right to step down from their positions, if that is a possibility. Others may choose to remain within the system, and do their best to ensure that the Republic stays or gets back on track. It’s a tough call to make, indeed, inspiring a lot of soul-searching – hypothetically speaking, of course.
If you find yourself in this difficult position, consider your duty, your morals, and what is right. To quote Qui-Gon, “… training to become a Jedi is not an easy challenge, and even if you succeed, it’s a hard life.”
Until next time, thank you for reading, may the Force be with you, and remember –
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