Objectivity is a Jedi Misconception
Occasionally when I venture out into Jedi communities I see the word objectivity brought up in casual discussion. Sometimes it’s used as a defense in an argument by asking someone to be more objective and unbiased when considering a different point of view. I’ve also seen it extolled as a virtue while muting or distorting the discussion points of others.
What is objectivity? The ancient Greek philosopher Plato considered objectivity as a form of universal truth that distinguishes scientific observation from opinion. More recently, the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines objectivity as "a lack of favoritism toward one side or another: a freedom from bias".
At first glance, removing bias and favoritism from our everyday thinking and decision making could seem like a good idea. In school, we are often taught that objectivity in science can prevent us from making mistakes. For example, during double-blind medical experiments, neither the researchers nor the subjects know which treatment is being delivered to prevent the results from being influenced by unconscious bias or placebo effect. But human beings are not science experiments or emotionless computers. Attempting to apply objectivity to our practice in everyday life leads to uncompassionate behavior and promotes ignorance and prejudice.
Why is this? How could a philosophy that works in science fail when applied to our personal lives? The answer is simple. The framework of our thoughts, our consciousness, is guided by our biases and preferences. It is the foundation of who we are as people and Jedi. To attempt to be objective by suppressing our biases and preferences is to erode our core being. If we discover through reflective meditation that our internal biases are harmful then we should work to change those biases. As Jedi, it is our duty to train ourselves through listening and education to hone our instincts and preferences towards anti-oppressive and anti-prejudiced behavior. In other words, we should be strongly biased against oppression and prejudice.
Ignoring or suppressing our emotions in the name of objectivity is also harmful. This can be a difficult concept as many societies encourage people from a young age, especially women, to be less emotional in their decision making. Instead, we should embrace and fully feel our emotions so we become skilled at navigating our emotional landscape and experienced at moderating our responses to it. This will allow us to respond as a Jedi of quality when situations become emotionally charged.
Objectivity is also used as a tool of oppression. In the Afrocentric Idea, author Asante notes that what has been considered as objectivity in the social sciences is actually collective subjectivity being used to maintain the status quo. Journalist Candis Callison notes the same effect, describing it as the "View From Nowhere" and that it can cause harm when lived experiences and expertise are dismissed as bias. Compassion is key here. Asking someone who is experiencing oppression and discrimination to be less biased about it or to consider both sides is stressful and discourteous to them and promotes the harmful idea that their oppression has merit.
In the original trilogy, the Jedi were described as the guardians of peace and justice. By doing the work of understanding ourselves, training our biases towards anti-prejudiced and anti-fascist behavior, being compassionate to others, and leaving objectivity in the science lab we can help to make the world a more just and equitable place. The next time you see objectivity used to push someone down, push back, and remind them that compassion and connection are at the heart of what we as Jedi do.