Is Your Jedi Community Toxic?
Since the beginnings of the Jedi path, the number of Jedi communities has grown. Some are social clubs while others focus on online or even offline training and many offer a bit of both. Where people gather, toxicity can flourish, and chaotic, unsafe, or criminal behaviors by Jedi community leadership or membership can derail your training and lead to unsafe situations for yourself and others. If you are new to a community you are at a disadvantage because it may not be initially apparent that a community is unsafe.
All the indicators in this essay are examples of toxic behavior in the Jedi Community, none of this is from our imagination. We avoided specific call-outs or call-ins because we are addressing the underlying behavior. While some of these situations are extant, they are patterns that have arisen time and time again over the two decades the Jedi community has been in existence.
If your Jedi community allows unsafe behaviors and words, including but not limited to racism, sexism, ageism, classism, transphobia, homophobia, xenophobia, ethnicism, sizeism, ableism, and other prejudicial and discriminatory behaviors, your Jedi community is toxic. Full stop. Do not pass go. Leave. A healthy community does not allow these things, and those that express them in healthy communities are quickly removed. While healthy communities should be welcoming to all, they at the same time do not tolerate intolerance. The intolerant will always drive out members that experience bigotry. If a community allows an Islamaphobe to post their views, Muslims will not feel welcome. If a community allows a homophobe or transphobe to post their views, then LGBTQIA+ people will not feel welcome. Racism will make your space unwelcoming for people of color. And so on for every intersection of oppression and discrimination. A healthy community protects its most vulnerable members at all times.
If your Jedi community doesn't have a written code of conduct explicitly labeled as such and the leadership is reluctant to implement one when asked, this is a sign the community is toxic. You should always ask about a written code of conduct if one is not widely visible and the document should outline unacceptable behaviors, consequences, and expectations for community members. The Jedi Code (any version) is not a suitable replacement or substitute for a code of conduct because it does not explicitly list these things.
If your Jedi community allows member-created content such as discussion forums or an online chat and there is no moderation, the moderator is consistently unavailable, or the moderator allows toxic content such as maintaining views that allow discrimination or oppression, your Jedi community is toxic. Do check with your community's leadership to ensure they are aware of any toxic content and at a minimum ask for a code of conduct and proactive moderation that addresses racism, sexism, ageism, classism, transphobia, homophobia, xenophobia, ethnicism, sizeism, ableism, and other prejudicial and discriminatory behaviors. If they are unwilling to do this, you should leave and encourage others to do so as well. Remember that what the leadership allows is what will continue and their reaction to toxic content reflects their values and indicates how they will treat toxicity outside of these systems as well.
If your Jedi community claims to value free speech but engages in debate and discussion that fails to put the well-being of its community members over those trying to make some ideological point, your community is toxic. When discussions on topics affecting marginalized people take place, a healthy community will center the voices of those marginalized instead of those speaking from a place of privilege. A healthy community will also have enough moderators in place with a consistent moderation policy based on a code of conduct to cover the traffic of discussion. Sometimes a quiet community will blow up or bad actors will take advantage when community moderators are not available. When these situations arise in a healthy community, it is taken care of as soon as humanly possible (everyone needs to sleep sometime) and corrections will be made.
If unsafe people are put in charge of safety, or when complaints about member behavior and harassment are ignored by leadership and/or restorative action is delayed indefinitely, then your community is toxic. Full stop. Do not pass go. Leave. People in leadership or community safety positions above all else should be trustworthy. “Good intentioned” is not enough, they must be capable of protecting the most vulnerable members of your community as well as have the moral and ethical standing and background that gives confidence in their judgment. If previous offenders are put in charge of safety, even as a form of rehabilitation, it undermines community trust and further endangers the membership. A previous offender in a position of leadership or safety can use the role to suppress complaints about their own behavior while also intimidating those affected by their previous actions into not reporting new incidents of any kind or origin.
If your community provides training, but further education or graduation/knighthood depends on providing free labor (outside of assigned homework or other student activities) for the organization or requires monetary compensation, run. These exploitative behaviors are designed to flatter you with titles while taking advantage of your unpaid labor and/or emptying your pockets. The Jedi path is one of world betterment through self-betterment, not enriching the Jedi community with your hard-earned money or volunteer time. Likewise, if the community leadership or organization receives donations or performs other fundraising activities and is not transparent about the use of such funds, the community is toxic and should be avoided. In healthy communities, one should feel free to volunteer without pressure or not at all. Of course, those invested in healthy communities will take on the work to keep their community healthy or benefit it in other ways. So long as this work is not contingent on rank, nor benefits just the leadership, participating in the community like this is fine. But be aware of burnout, and if you need to take a break from your responsibilities healthy communities can fill that gap with little fuss. If your community is not toxic, it should not feel like things will fall apart without your contribution.
When it comes to the topic of titles, if the organization is centered around attaining ranks, take a good look at what is involved. Is the community as a whole a participant in the recognition of one’s growth and work, or is rank handed out by a leader or a cadre in a secret or inconsistent process? Titles or rank should have clear standards of what is expected and what they represent. The attaining of rank or title should be transparent, to avoid the exercise becoming a popularity contest or awarded to only those that curry favor with leadership. When the power to bestow a title lies with an individual or a closed group this can lead to environments where pushback against the leadership, while not explicitly discouraged, is implicitly so. Bad behavior from leadership or the allowance of the same within the community by leadership is often excused or justified in these situations when Jedi fear that “rocking the boat” will endanger their ability to advance in the organization.
Our training is often informed by our environment and those we surround ourselves with. Healthy communities hold us accountable while boosting us up. Toxic ones can derail us and endanger the safety of ourselves and those around us. The question to leave a toxic community or to stay and try to effect change depends on the leadership dynamics. If leadership is the source of toxicity the question becomes easy. Leave. Remember, what they allow is what will continue. If a community's leadership is not open to removing toxic elements from their community, the good people will leave or more likely be driven out, leaving behind a toxic morass of a community. If you see this happening, your training and safety may depend on joining the exodus. However, if leadership shows that they are willing to change with an eye towards community health and hospitality, then perhaps the right influence can be what turns a formerly toxic community onto the path of healing. But understand that if you are not in a position of leadership a community's health is not your responsibility other than your individual contributions. Furthermore, if you are not a direct target of the toxicity your presence may encourage someone else, perhaps someone more vulnerable than you to choose to remain when a better course of action is to go elsewhere.
We do our best work when we are not distracted by people seeking to cause us harm. If you are in a community where toxic behavior is reframed as a training exercise, if you are encouraged to tolerate harmful actions in the name of diplomacy or if you are told that being "Jedi enough" or the Jedi path requires accepting toxicity, then you are harming yourself and participating in the harm of others by remaining. This is because your presence can be viewed as implicit approval even if the toxicity isn't directed solely at you. Healthy communities do not participate in toxicity or tolerate the harm of their membership for the sake of Jedi training or to please or excuse any particular member or leader.
Let’s talk a bit about conflict and how it is handled in toxic and healthy communities. We want to emphasize that conflict will happen in healthy communities as well as in toxic communities, it is how it is handled that makes the difference. Conflict is a natural process, in fact, nature would cease to function without it. However, a view that is prevalent in many Jedi communities is that conflict is something bad and should be avoided. Nothing could be further from the truth. Conflict is part of the path of resolution. Jedi should be comfortable dealing with conflict, and they should train in the skills needed to resolve it. Sometimes we will see community leaders and members valuing peace over justice. While peace is the goal, you cannot achieve it without justice. A healthy community will be open to dialog even when community members disagree. Moderation of disputes will be fair, and everyone will be listened to, and a just, equitable solution will be presented. But if your community squelches disagreement in the name of peace or calls for diplomacy when a member has been wronged without proceeding to resolve the issue, your community is toxic. This is especially insidious in the Jedi community where some value objectivity as part of the Jedi path but use it as a tool of oppression. One should look closely at what is not being said, what is being allowed to slide in the name of objectivity and peace. Now if conflict takes the form of being abusive or touches on the other points in this essay this is more obviously toxic and a sign that one should leave.
If you are a community leader, running a healthy community is your obligation and duty. Being a community leader means taking responsibility for the environment and culture of your group. The tone one sets from the outset is usually the tone that will remain if it is reinforced consistently. This is not a place to get one’s ego involved -- your community must be more important than any accolades you receive for running it. If you are running a Jedi community, people will come to you for their own reasons and have expectations. If you run a person’s first Jedi community your community management may make the difference of setting someone on a path of personal transformation or it may result in them leaving the Jedi community forever and abandoning the path because the toxicity outweighs any benefit.
No matter if you find yourself in a healthy or toxic community or a mixture of both, one thing that you must keep in mind is that the Jedi path is not the Jedi community. Ultimately you are responsible for your training. Communities are made up of people and are therefore imperfect. Trust me, sooner or later the larger Jedi community or even your small intimate corner of it will someday disappoint you. When this happens, it does not invalidate the benefit and utility you have gotten from your training up until that point. People will fail you, but if you train sincerely the path will sustain you, especially during difficult times. It is during these difficult times that our training is tested, but we have seen many Jedi make it through the other side of turmoil because they trained sincerely and the path works.