The Sith Are Not Free
Had a discussion with a young person the other day about the nature of the Sith. I tend to look at the Star Wars saga as far more than just a fairy tale or a piece of fluff fiction. This is a piece of cultural dogma now and it must be looked at as more than just what it seems it is on the surface. Challenging those who adore these stories to reach beyond what they know about the meaning and symbolism inherent through the series has been eye opening. They aren’t really interested in asking questions or understanding what they are seeing.
The strange thing is about this discussion I had with this youth was that he completely misunderstood free will versus freedom. The idea he tossed out there was the Sith are free to do whatever they wish. That is not freedom. Freedom is the exact opposite. Freedom is the right to do what one must. It is that fundamental right that people have fought for over the centuries. The right to be an individual, an autonomous adult human being capable of finding his or her own way and being responsible for his or her own actions. The Sith are in no way free. Why? Because once they give into their hate, their emotions and fears they become slaves to evil.
How is Darth Vader free? We see him kneel before Palpatine asking “What is thy bidding, my master.” Does a man in control of his own fate and living in freedom call anyone master? No, he does not. There is nothing free about Vader’s movements from the moment he buys into Palpatine's lies. He becomes the twisted evil slave that Obi Wan describes to Luke in Return of the Jedi. Of course he is free to do as he wishes to anyone who crosses him and that takes him on a road of genocide, murder, torture. This is a man who tortured his own daughter for hours. He tortured his son in law for hours. He murdered little kids at the behest of Palpatine. There is no excuse for these actions. Anakin Skywalker knew the road to the Dark Side was fast and slick and he took it. He became what he should have fought against because he embraced emotions without rationality and chose to hold onto hate and that hate lead to his ultimate ruination.
Kylo Ren is an even more disturbing example of free will being the road to doom. This is a gifted young man who for whatever reason chose to believe lies about his own family and his parents. He embraces his grandfather who let’s face it is the poster child of self-inflicted slavery and believes lies being whispered to him by Snoke. He could have chosen to stand back and weigh what he knew of his parents and family and what the history of Vader was to what Snoke was throwing at him but he did not. He of his own free will chose the chains of the Dark Side out of resentment we are still not sure of for reasons we haven’t been told yet. He committed genocide, murder, patricide and who knows what else out of his own free will and that did not make him a free man it made him a servant.
The story is about where you are in life and how you choose to escape from whatever it is that is holding you back. Think about it, Skywalker chooses to go back to the Lars farm because his respect for his uncle is too great for him to abandon the family but when he see’s Storm Troopers have destroyed the farm and killed his Aunt and Uncle he chooses the right course and goes with Obi Wan. Han Solo leaves Yavin 4 with what he owes Jabba and yet shows up of his own free will to take the responsible course as a free man to save Luke from becoming target practice for Vader and the Alliance from being destroyed by the Death Star. They are both examples of freedom. They took responsibility for their actions and how they would affect others. That is the essence of freedom and the point at which adulthood begins.
So the question is why do people admire evil doers like Vader and Ren? I suspect some project themselves onto the characters which is strange. Why would anyone project their own needs onto a character that has done horrible things? Maybe it’s their feelings of powerlessness? Who knows but there is something psychological in that theory. When I see Ren, and Vader I understand the symbolism behind their costumes and see the echoes of actual real events in their actions. Was it a coincidence that Lucas chose a skull with a German helmet for Vader’s costume and German field grey and black SS type uniforms for Imperial officers? No, of course not. It was the intention of George Lucas because it made us in the audience realize these guys were not just the bad guys, they were capable of horrors on a scale only seen in the 20th century. Nothing Vader or Ren does that is evil in the extreme seems to cause these kids to stop and pause. Its not real they say. Of course not, but, things like that did occur in real life from the Armenian genocide during WWI to the present.
Culture is upstream from society and society is upstream from culture. It is a circular stream. In some ways the relationship Ren has with his parents is something we see every day in kids coming from broken homes or kids who have gone wrong and the parents are helpless to help. There is a certain point where you give up and walk away because if you don’t as the adult you will get sucked into their self-inflicted suffering to. There is nothing admirable about Ren's unfortunate motives or choices. He is almost worthy of pity but then you remember what he is capable of and realize this is a lost cause. He has embraced his own chains. Sometimes it comes right down to education and the ideas of right versus wrong and good versus evil. Kids today are fed nihilistic garbage about morals and virtues and have no clear understanding of the nature of evil and the nature of being on the right side of morality. That does not mean that everyone who does not fall for evil is perfect. Far from that. It means that as adult human beings we accept our flaws and do our best for ourselves and our fellow man.
So this debate which this young kid mistook free will for freedom was interesting and enlightening. He clearly did not understand the chasm of meaning between both words. The fact is freedom does not and never has meant doing whatever one wants to do. It literally means becoming that individual who is the master of his or her own life and a slave to no one. So I ask how are the Sith truly free when every one of them is a slave to a master?