Since Spike TV had a Star Wars marathon, I spent the day switching channels from baseball, to golf, to watching Star Wars. As I watched the six episodes presented in the order George Lucas intended them to be viewed I learned something very interesting. The most intriguing character is Darth Vader. From the time he was a young boy and seen as the possible messiah to the fulfillment of a prophecy to the final conclusion, Vader’s exemplifies how absolute power corrupts absolutely. I have written in the past that the final three Chapters were the easier of the set to write and conceive while the first three Chapters told a more complicated story. Vader’s story reflects that complication as we learn that his turn to the dark side began when he couldn’t prevent the death of his mother. All this power that Vader was learning to use as Anakin Skywalker had failed to protect the one closet to him. As he seeks to gain more power to protect those closest to him he begins to also learn that the power has a price, his humanity.
The first three episode shows the dissolution of the Republic into a totalitarian state. And most of the people accept this loss of freedom and go happily along like lambs to the slaughter. The classic line is made by Padme as she observed the reaction of the Senate vote to give all power to the Emperor, “It all ends in applauses.”
Vader viewed the chaos around him and sought order; order that he thought the Dark Side would provide. He learns too late that as Lord Action noted, “Power corrupts, Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Luke, the son, is torn when he is forced to confront Vader, his father, since he knows that only one of them will survive.
As for the Emperor, he is pure evil and needs to destroy any remnants of old Republic before setting up his own Empire. He destroyed the Jedi Knights, the enforcer of the Republican, to ensure justice and he sought to convert Luke to do his evil bidding as he did his father. All that is good must be destroyed and any semblance of good is like an antibody, that can in the end, destroy the disease of evil.
Lea tells Vader in Chapter 4, “More oppressive the Empire becomes, the more star systems will slip away.” An African Historian noted that in the history of pre colonial Africa, the more oppressive an Empire, the quicker it fell. This could be seen in other Empires. Longer lasting Empire allowed semblance of liberty or minimum oppression when contrasted shorter longer Empire. The Roman Empire lasted a thousand year but the Soviet Empire did not last a half century. The Empire in George Lucas saga lasted maybe forty years, give or take a decade.
In the first three chapters, the Republic collapses due to bureaucratic inertia and corruption. The opening chapter featured a war over trade routes and the attempts of the Trade Federation to take over a peaceful planet for its resources. As the first three chapters move forward, the Emperor instigate a Civil War within the Republic, causing massive upheavals. While asking for the power to squelch the rebellion that he started and secretly supports, he plans to use that new gained power to over throw the Republic. Hitler and Mussolini used street violence to intimidate opponents while promising voters they would keep the peace if they had better control of the government and the Emperor does the same thing. With the power of the Jedi all but destroyed, the Emperor manages to convince the Senate to give him ultimate power just as Hitler got his power after he destroyed the Reichstag (while blaming the Communists.)
One Star Wars lesson is that any free society can turn into a totalitarian one just as Weimar Republican morphed into Hitler’s Germany and the short lived Russian democracy collapsed into Communism in a period of one year after the fall of the Czar. Even though critics panned the first three chapters of Star Wars, I thought George Lucas did a respectable job of telling how a Republic can cease to be a Republic with the blessings of it’s people. The Republic collapse began when bureaucracy took control and the rule of law became the rule of men with the powerful holding the cards, through force if needed.
Chapter four through six becomes an easier story since it is about freedom fighters attempting to overthrow the Empire to restore the Republic. Luke begins his quest to become a Jedi Knight in Chapter Four as a bored young farm boy who finally matures as a leader in the Capter Six. His own maturation is marked by an impatience that nearly derails him in Chapter five. But he chooses freedom over the power of the Dark Side when he turns down his fathers offer in their first face to face confrontation. Luke learns from his father’s example how power can corrupt and is often tempted by that power in both Chapter five and six, just as his father was tempted.
Gurchan Das, the author of India Unbound, noted that Democracy is better served by modest men and woman who understand his or her own limitation. Luke’s is consistently reminded by his friends and Yoda that modesty is an important quality for a Jedi Knight.
The one quality often overlooked in a candidate for public office is modesty. The more modest a candidate or a public official, the more reliable he will be in supporting limitation on his own power. Just as an official knows that his own power is limited to do good it is equally understood his power for evil can easily be enhanced with results disastrous for the society. There is a difference between the politician who understands that providing healthcare for all may be a wonderful idea but can also bankrupt the country in the process and one who is willing to use the power of the government to force all to have healthcare….for their own good.
The ability of legislators to do good is limited when it comes to economics but their power to do harm is far greater. Bad policies often produce long term structural damage to society as a whole but a politician can do limited good for a limited group of people without doing any damage at all. The point that modesty matters is shown everyday in our own Congress where proposals to fix every manageable problem are often proposed. Wisdom is often in short supply among politician but it is wisdom that turns a politician into a statesman.
The first three chapters of Star Wars shows what happens when modesty ceases to be a virtue and the final three chapters shows the results when virtue and modesty are replace by evil. At the final of Chapter Six, the Rebellion succeeds in overturning the Emperor’s rule but what Lucas doesn’t tell us is does the Rebellion transferred it’s new found power back to a functioning Republic. While there was suppose to be a chapter seven through nine in which those questions would most likely to answered, it will never be done. And maybe it shouldn’t be. As one critic wrote, “This was the story of Anakin and his son, Luke.”
We can only guess if Luke maintains his modesty in regard to his power and his sister Lea rules with the same wisdom and modesty her mother showed in her reign as the Queen of her planet Naboo. We are only left to imagine and after all isn’t what this is all about.