This is a work-in-progress preview of the upcoming book, Social Justice Jedi by L. Christopher Bird. The final published chapter may differ greatly.
What is the path, and is it political?
This book is for members of the Jedi community. People all over the world who finding inspiration from the mythic archetypes of Star Wars have codified guiding principles based on the mythical Jedi Knights. Over decades, we as a community have shaped this path of world betterment through self-betterment, and as a fairly young movement, as movements go, we are still finding our footing and figuring things out.
When we choose to live our life by emulating a fictional archetype, some caution is warranted. First off, we live in a real world, not something Yoda or Obi-Wan Kenobi can say. We cannot emulate something seen on a movie screen or in the pages of a comic or novel because a fictional Jedi in a fictional universe did it. We must remain in the real world, and live in one and so our inspiration, if we are to put it into practice must have real-world application, practicability, benefit, and a positive effect.
We generally all start in the same place, a love for Star Wars that inspires us to be a force that helps the world rather than hinders it. Though I must admit this is not universal. The Jedi Path is approached by many for personal reasons, and every Jedi must ask themselves sooner or later, “will I go where the path leads, or just go in any direction I want and label it as Jedi?” We must all realize that there will be things we want to do that are not aligned with the principles of the Jedi Path. While we do not emulate everything the fictional Jedi do, we also do not want to take the path in a direction that runs contrary to the principles which inspire us.
More useful than emulating a specific fictional character is for us to create in our mind our own “ideal Jedi”. This ideal Jedi is one that embodies the principles we wish to emulate; they embody the things that attracted us to the path in the first place. They may have the wisdom of Yoda, the patience of Obi-Wan Kenobi, the mysticism of Qui-Gon Jinn, the power of Mace Windu, the compassion of Leia Organa, the tenacity of Rey Skywalker, or the bravery of Ahsoka Tano. Our ideal Jedi will be selfless and compassionate as all the fictional Jedi strived to be, and they will be a guardian of peace and justice.
Spend enough time in the Jedi community, and you will find voices that say real-life Jedi should not be political. Voices that say that in the interest of being objective, we should take a stance of neutrality. But if we value justice, we cannot be neutral. Neutrality never favors justice, and it is a place of privilege that allows collective subjectivity to be mistaken for objectivity. Likewise saying one has no pollical stance is in itself a political stance. Saying one is apolitical is merely saying one’s politics are implicit rather than explicit. It is these implicit politics that allow injustice to take root in our society and are almost universally held by those that benefit from the status quo. For marginalized people everywhere, they do not have the privilege or the ability to not be political as their very existence is politicized by those who wish to oppress them. If you have never had the highest court in your land hear a case to determine if you have the same rights as other people in your country, then maybe you can afford to have your politics be implicit, but if you are to be a defender, someone who wants justice for all, and understands that there can be no peace without it, then this is not a fight one can sit out on. The Jedi’s place is not on the sidelines while injustice flourishes. An apolitical stance if you hold one is a stance of indifference. It is the opposite of Jedi Compassion to be indifferent to the suffering of others and indeed suffering that our position as Jedi in the real world have a stake in lessening. Far from the hero archetype that inspires us is one that sits out of the fight just because it takes a form that is uncomfortable.
While real-life Jedi draw their inspiration from the myths in a fantasy world, we must live and operate in the real world. We must understand what as well our role as Jedi in the real world entails and where to draw inspiration. Many think we should emulate the Jedi in the cautionary tale of the prequels, where Jedi were at their height, working openly and working for the Senate of the Republic. They had a structured order as well as the means and support of their government for their work. But our role as Jedi and the realities of living in the 21st century Earth are far from this. Instead, we are more like the characters of the Original Trilogy era where Jedi mostly operated on their own, doing what they could to help others and fight a fascist government. The good guys in Star Wars no matter the era have always been antifascist.
Being a real-life Jedi in the third decade of the 21st century reminds me of the struggle we see with the characters Kanan Jarrus and Ezra Bridger in the animated series Star Wars Rebels. It was often pointed out in that series that during the clone war there were 10,000 Jedi and during the rebellion as far as they knew it was just them. Despite what is reported on census forms, those of us who call themselves Jedi and are doing the work to build a more just and equitable society are very few in number. But that being said, neither are we alone. We can do the work and build community interested in bettering the world through bettering ourselves. But it is this mission of world betterment through self-betterment that drives a Jedi of Quality. Because what good is being a Jedi if we are not making a positive impact within our sphere of influence? If we only think of the Jedi Path as an inward path not influencing outward, then this is being selfish and not being a Jedi at all. In the Star Wars mythos, the Sith only thought of themselves, they accumulated power to serve their own interests of selfishness and greed. I have been told by Sith realists (those that follow the Sith Way in the real world just as we follow the Jedi Path) that the Jedi Path and the Sith Way are almost identical, the difference being mainly the Jedi view of looking out for and helping others, while the Sith improve themselves for their own personal power. So, I challenge you, dear reader, if you are going to be indifferent and apolitical, why Jedi? Or are you going to go where the path leads and become political? If you want to sit out, there is no judgment, but consider why you call yourself a Jedi and what that means. The Jedi Path is political.