Hedonists in a Galaxy Far, Far Away
*Cue Star Wars Main Theme Song*
Star Wars takes place in a galaxy ravaged by a war between two different groups of people: the Jedi, and the Sith. These two groups are often respectively seen as representative of the light and dark sides of the force. The Sith are treated as the obvious bad guys and the Jedi are treated as the obvious good guys.
Of course, that is all the very simple version.
The Sith may be power hungry and Kratocratic (they believe that “might makes right”), but they are not all bad. They do not shun their emotions, whether they be ones of joy or of anger or grief; they recognize their basic nature as living beings and seek to embrace it. The Sith seek always to better themselves and are deeply in tune with they want.
By comparison, the Jedi order is all about renouncing attachment and shunning emotion. The Jedi order believes that relational love for another being leads to the dark side, and therefore do not permit their members the potential for romantic or sexual relationships. They more or less aren’t allowed to stay in contact with their families and are not allowed to start families either.
We aren’t trying to say that the universe is flipped and the bad guys are really the good guys. Rather, we wish to express our belief that the Jedi and Sith are outdated modes of thinking, and it is time for something better to be developed.
When we experience any work of fiction, we always ask ourselves how a Hedonist might act if they were presented the same issues as the characters in the story. This is a really fun game and is easy to apply to any story because there is no setting that makes Hedonism obsolete. Pleasure becomes no less important when faced with upset dragons, rule-breaking artificial intelligence or warriors wielding light sabers (no matter what color).
There are a couple themes that both the Jedi and Sith share that don’t really jive with Real Hedonism. Here they are:
1) No room for love? Really?
It is easy to argue that the downfall of the Jedi comes as a direct result from the fact that they shun love. Anakin has to deal with his emotions, both for his mother and for Padme, without support from any of his mentors. We believe that it is this lack of support, rather than the love itself, which leads him to become Darth Vader and nearly destroy the Jedi order.
Of course, the Sith are no better on this front. They may not make rules against romantic, sexual or familial love, but they don’t do a very good job of cultivating it either. There really isn’t any opportunity for love when you are constantly ready for betrayal (which is an important part of Sith culture). Dominating the galaxy and caring for those around you, let alone anyone else, don’t really go together.
Hedonists recognize that very little gives us as much pleasure as giving pleasure to those we love. We recognize that diminishing the suffering of others reduces our suffering, usually more than if we were to simply focus on ourselves.
We see how well Obi-Wan and Anakin learn to work together, but the Jedi fail to recognize how much this is because of their love for each other. They need each other and it makes them much safer together than they would be with anyone else. The love that Han and Leia have for each other keeps them alive through many a space battle, and the love that Anakin has for Luke turns him away from the Sith altogether. Love is a necessary component of the strength of humans, and this doesn’t seem to change in galaxies far, far away.
A Hedonist organization would recommend people delve into their relationships with others and would actively guide them in regard to how the force affects a loving relationship. This would be no more apparent than in the Hedonist pillar of consent, which leads us to the next thing that is all fucked up in the Star Wars universe.
2) Ummmm consent? Anybody? No?
Maybe this just comes with the territory of Star WARS, but why is it that no one seems to have much of a regard for consent? Perhaps this is why healthy loving relationships seem so hard to come by in the series.
The Sith I can understand. They are power hungry AF and are constantly trying to dominate everyone, including each other. Their philosophy is built around utter domination and they use abuse and betrayal in pursuit of that complete control, so it makes sense that they don’t care about consent.
But what about the Jedi?
The Jedi gain a lot of moral superiority from their use of the light side of the force, but upon further inspection, the light side of the force might not be so morally superior. One of the most well-known light side force powers is the Jedi “mind-trick”, which is a very tricky name for mind control.
The Jedi mind trick is fairly simple: a Jedi merely waves their hand and tells another creature to perform an action that they wouldn’t choose to do otherwise, and they do it. They use a force power to make people do things without getting their consent; not only is this a breach of consent, it is a breach of consent that penetrates the mind and violates a person's very sense of self. It might not get much worse than that.
It is arguably one of the most frightening and violent force powers shown in the Star Wars universe, and it is used exclusively by the people who are supposed to be the good guys.
Sadly, it doesn't stop there. The Jedi are almost wiped out by the clone army that they created when these soldiers are given executive order 66. The clones follow through with the order to kill all Jedi who were supposedly their friends up until that point, without a second thought, because they don’t have the ability to say no. The Jedi always knew this; they wage an entire war with soldiers who are not able to give consent to fight. This almost destroys them, and maybe that isn’t such a bad thing.
We like to imagine that Hedonists, in the context of the Star Wars universe, would find peaceful resolutions to conflict. The war between the Jedi and the Sith has been unending for thousands of years, and this simply isn’t acceptable. It is not acceptable for the bickering of two religions to result in the collateral damage of millions of life forms over thousands of years.
The Sith and the Jedi are interdependently built. One cannot exist without the other to make war with. Hedonic force users would recognize the need to create a stronger organization to upkeep balance in the universe, so that the creation of a social system where consent is upheld, is possible. Creating such an organization would be easy by exploiting a weakness that neither the Jedi nor the Sith can distill from their organizations.
3) Power Consolidation
One of the most serious issues with both the Sith and the Jedi is their elitism.
With the Sith, this is obvious. They believe that only the strongest are fit to rule. Hierarchy is built into the fiber of their organization. Beyond all that is the rule of two; this rule only ever allows for two Sith to exist, an apprentice and a master. This is necessary because the Sith culture is naturally chaotic and unstable, and the more of them there are, the more likely there will be infighting. The Sith realize that they can only become powerful enough to fight the orderly and united Jedi by consolidating their power.
When it comes to power consolidation, the Jedi are just as bad. Their order functions as a peacekeeping force for the Republic which often puts them on the front lines, but they also get the privilege of advising the Chancellor and high ranking Senators of the Republic. They are not democratically elected, and yet hold an immense amount of power over a supposedly democratic government.
Furthermore, rising in the ranks to the prestigious Jedi high council is a process controlled entirely by the high council, which allows for entrenched thinking and, at times, a lack of organizational growth. What is further problematic is that there is a huge taboo on even studying the dark side of the force.
It is arguable that this is because they are afraid of the violence that will ensue if they allow the potential for the dark side to take hold in one of their knights, but there is a functional side to this (that is far more important considering the huge amount of violence caused by the Jedi, even without the dark side). If the Jedi allow their people to study the dark side, they invite knowledge that is incompatible with their religious teaching. Learning about the dark side could turn some of their members away from the Jedi path and threaten the Jedi hold on power (as happens with Anakin).
Both groups are afraid that they could lose their power and do everything they can to consolidate it, but there is one thing they do that perhaps eclipses all of the other attempts at power consolidation.
Emissaries are sent around the universe in search of children with high midichlorian counts. The Jedi bring them back to the temple in Coruscant to teach them the Jedi way of the force. The Sith enlist them as expendable assassins and inquisitors, or kill them. The interesting part here is not how they differ in their enlistment strategies, but how they are exactly the same.
Both only seek out those who are “strong in the force”. They both fetishize the magical powers that are possible with the force and focus all their energy on teaching these skills to the next generation. What they fail to realize is that everyone can utilize the force, even if they fail to do so in a magical sort of way.
The victories that we see in the Star Wars universe are often built around the actions of a few magical force users, but these victories are carried on the backs of everyone else. Whether we look at Leia or Han, Padme or R2, we see the force present in their actions. They may not use space magic, but they use the force nonetheless.
Both Rogue One and Solo are movies centered around characters who have no ability to use the more magical parts of the force. That said, it is clear that the force guides their actions, whether it is a blind man fighting better than anyone else in the movie without ever doing a force push, or the fact that every action that any member of the Rogue One group takes is in perfect synchronization with the rest of the group.
Han’s ability to get out of tricky situations and Padme’s diplomatic skills might be significantly enhanced if they had a better understanding of the force and how it works.
We wonder what would happen if the Jedi opened their school to everyone. What would happen if knowledge about the force was democratized? What if people didn’t see the Jedi as peacekeeping warriors, but as wise librarians who spend their energies disseminating knowledge of the force to all who care to listen?
It would go counter to their need to consolidate power because it would make it impossible to control who has knowledge of the force and what knowledge they have, but this is not something that Hedonists would fear. Ignorance is one of the main things that lead to breaches of consent. Availability of knowledge allows people to be more curious.
A force aware, Hedonist organization would take the knowledge of the force and use it in conjunction with devotion to pleasure to create paradise all throughout the galaxy. The first step would be to teach the knowledge of the force to anyone who is curious.
We believe that the creation of a Hedonist organization within the context of the Star Wars universe is the best way to move beyond endless war. We also believe it is the best way to empower the masses and allow them to move beyond being controlled by small minorities of magical force users, whether they be the Sith in the Empire or the Jedi in the Republic.
Ultimately, we wrote this article because we love Star Wars and think that it is easier to grok philosophy when put in context of fiction. It isn’t always easy to understand how Hedonism would tangibly affect our world, but when we talk about it in context of the Star Wars universe we think it is pretty easy to see the value of Hedonism.
Was this a useful way to better understand Real Hedonism? When you imagine yourself in the context of the Star Wars universe, do you imagine yourself joining the Sith, the Jedi, the Hedonists, or do you think they all fall short?
Let us know in the comments!
May the Force be with you.