So, you know how this blog is normally about my collecting misadventures, full of funny anecdotes and witty commentary on the foibles of conspicuous consumption (not to mention a liberal dose of humility and five-dollar words)? Well, prepare to be disappointed. This time out, I have some actual thinking to present. You can thank Joe Taylor (aka Joe2-D2) and his most recent blog (which you can read here). In case you’re too busy to click the link, Joe was pondering Anakin’s place as the Chosen One from the prophecies. I was reminded of Yoda’s assertion that it’s possible that the prophecy was misread. Which lead me to my ramblings this time out.
It’s always struck me as interesting and a bit confounding that George Lucas presented us with a very fallible Jedi order in the prequel trilogy. We saw a group of Jedi who were so entrenched in institutional bureaucracy that they were paralyzed to take any real action without a meeting of the council. They were out of touch with anything ground-level, it seemed, and they even had to admit to themselves that their ability to use the Force had been compromised. I know a lot of this was used to illustrate just how powerful Palpatine was, because I know the shroud around the Force that they couldn’t pierce was partially the darkness surrounding the Emperor, but we are never given a concrete indication of just how much of it is good ol’ Uncle Palpy (as I prefer to call him), and how much of it is a result of complacency and laziness on the part of the Jedi.
I believe it was really less Palpatine and more the Jedi’s spiritual stagnation, or at least a combination of the two. Qui Gon was seen as a rebel for stressing a connection to the Living Force. His insistence on this way of thinking kept him off the council, and yet it was Qui Gon who first discovered how to become truly one with the Force. Keep in mind that when Yoda teaches Luke on Dagobah he is underscoring a lot of the teachings that Qui Gon espouses to Obi Wan and Anakin in Episode I. I’ve always taken this to mean that Yoda realizes the Jedi had lost their way by the time of Palpatine’s rule, and it compromised their effectiveness in defending against the Sith.
In the Original Trilogy, the Jedi are remembered as mythic and powerful. The Prequel Trilogy seems to seek to undermine this by showing us a Jedi order that is incapable of taking any proactive steps, they are reduced to being simply reactionary, and this causes them to make decisions that they ordinarily would never choose to make, like enlisting the help of the Clone army. Keep in mind that this very Clone army was created in secret without the Jedi knowing that one of their own commissioned them. They have become a bloated, inflexible order that is willing to refuse to train a 9-year-old boy because he has already grown beyond their ability to train him. Simply because he didn’t start at birth, he’s on his own, even though he shows a great ability in the Force that should be directed. Misstep after misstep continues for 2 more movies.
I’ve been trying to figure out why GL chose to build the Jedi up, only to tear them down before our very eyes in the Prequels, and I have a theory. GL came of age in the 1960s, which was a time when the old guard was not to be trusted. Like the great Chuck Heston said in Planet of the Apes, you can’t trust anyone over 30. Throughout the ‘60s and ‘70s our institutions were proven to be corrupt, fallible, and generally untrustworthy. I feel like his treatment of the Jedi order was GL’s way of reminding us that, no matter how great an institution has been in the past, we must always be vigilant against that same institution becoming complacent or self-serving. By giving us a vision of the Jedi as great and powerful and seemingly perfect, he allows us to go on the same journey he must have gone on with the government and other social institutions that have failed us since he was a kid. He seems to be warning several generations to avoid putting our faith in institutions, and instead putting our faith in our friends, in ourselves, and in a Force that binds us all together. That sounds like a better recipe for happiness to me.
It will be interesting to see how the new Jedi order is depicted in Episode VII and beyond. Will we see that Luke has heeded the lessons of the past? As George Santayana stated, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Will the new Jedi order stay true to the Living Force, or will they fall victim to the same trap that seems to befall any institution and eventually be brought down by their own hubris? Time will tell, but I’ll be honest, I’m hoping history does NOT repeat itself, because how depressing would that be?
What say you, dearest reader? Do you think this depiction of the Jedi order was a calculated move by Mr. Lucas to show us that the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry, or am I reading WAAAAY too much into all of it? Also, how do you like my new vocabulary? I find that Thesaurus.com makes me sound a lot smarter than I really am.
Maybe next month I will return you to your regularly scheduled buffoonery, but we’ll have to wait and see.
Marvin says hi.
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