The Jedi Response to Oppression
In this world there are those with power, and some people more power than others. It is a Jedi truism that we use our power to defend and protect. This is related to the concept of our sphere of influence, that is the area around us in which we can affect change. A Jedi must understand not only their place in the world, but their role within it. This role is driven by compassion. Not just the feeling of compassion, but rather the ability to put compassion in action.
It has been my experience that compassionate actions are the most worthwhile. Where attitudes of the Dark Side (such as fear, anger, hate, and greed), lead to suffering, the attitudes of the Force (such as non-attachment, calmness, selflessness, and compassion), lead to the cessation of suffering. It is this desire to lessen the suffering in others that is the root of Jedi compassion.
It is said that Jedi respect all life. Respect for other people can be expressed by accepting them just the way they are. We do not seek to mitigate or erase aspects of others that are part of their identity, especially if they are not aspects which we ourselves share. We respect that the experiences of others may be quite different than our own experiences, even if we find ourselves in the same environment. The insistence that we are alike where it counts is an attitude that only comes from a place of privilege, and it is something that Jedi should be mindful of. The experience of a person that is subject to oppression is often due to a trait that matters very much to them, perhaps an immutable aspect of their make-up which they cannot walk away from, and puts themselves in a stark contrast from the people around them.
Respect is based on a tolerance and advocacy of human rights. As Jedi, we will want the best possible outcome for the greatest number of people, and this often happens by advocating for those that are being oppressed by those in power. The attitude we employ while working as a Jedi is that of service. As Jedi, we do not rule over other people, by that we mean that we do not tell them how they should behave and act, or worse, making them act the way we think we should. Rather, the attitude of a Jedi can be summed up by asking the question, “how can I help?
It is listening to those who experience oppression that is the first step to understanding their experiences. Asking them how we can be of help instead of insisting on our own ideas of how things should be done allows us to act in such a way where we can offer real service and real help. If we are acting from a place of privilege, we must seek not to deny or defend our privilege but rather seek out how we can best use it in the service of others, while mitigating any unfair advantage it gives us.
I am reminded of a photograph. It is a picture of three women of color protesting and they are holding a sign with a quote by Desmond Tutu that reads, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” How very true this can be in the Jedi community. Some will advocate for not taking sides, not getting political saying that it does not apply to the Jedi path. However, if we are going to play more than lip-service to the concept of justice, it most certainly does belong in the Jedi Path, and it may place Jedi in a minority position, but opposition to oppression in all its forms is the side of history a Jedi should find themselves on.
Sometimes there really is a political position that is more aligned with the Jedi ideals than its counterpart. I am not saying there is all the time, but when it is, we should have the wisdom and discernment to put our Jedi attitude into action and create a Jedi outcome. An outcome that is just. An outcome that defends others. An outcome that demonstrates respect, an outcome that shows, a Jedi was here. A Jedi did this thing. Through making themselves better, the world is a better place.