When Do We Fight?
There are some Jedi that say and teach that if one has to resort to fighting, it is a failure. I am not one of those Jedi. The Jedi archetype is one of a diplomat-warrior and ignoring the warrior aspect (or concentrating solely on warriorship) is not taking the entire width and breadth of what it means to be a Jedi and is doing a disservice to why we find the archetype so appealing, and the spiritual roots created by George Lucas when creating what we now know as the Jedi Knights in Star Wars media.
Fighting, it must be said is not always our go-to response. A Jedi must be able to have many ways to resolve conflict besides direct confrontation. But direct confrontation, or colloquially, “fighting” must be something in our arsenal for conflict resolution. There is a reason why Yoda, arguably one of the most powerful Jedi of all time carried a lightsaber and would not hesitate to use it when the situation warranted. Some will point out that in the original trilogy, Yoda had no lightsaber having given it up after losing it with his fight with Emperor Palpatine, however when he trained Luke, he did not instruct him to likewise forgo his weapon. In cut scenes, (which I first saw as panels in the 1980 Marvel Comics adaption) Yoda even instructed Luke Skywalker in the use of a lightsaber.
So, if fighting is not always our go-to response, when do we as Jedi use direct confrontation? The answer is the reason why we fight: We fight when we can effect change.
It is vitally important that we forgo direct confrontation when there is no opportunity to effect change. To discern when a scenario fits this criterion and when it does not, takes insight and wisdom. Unfortunately, the way I learned this is through my success and failures in direct confrontation. I will be the first to admit that there were very many fights that I participated in that I should not have. Yet on the other side of the coin, there were also many fights that I participated in that were necessary and did indeed result in change, though not necessarily change in the person or organizations I was fighting against. But this is a nuance of choosing when to fight, sometimes the change we wish to effect is in those who witness the conflagration, not those we are fighting against. I have had Jedi I once respected tell me that confronting certain people was pointless because “they will never change” as if the things they were doing should be accepted (and participated in) because of this. But my experience has shown that my direct confrontation has effected change, not in the entrenched toxic leadership, but in how they are perceived, and by (now ex) members who were able to look past the sunk cost fallacy and leave the toxicity behind. My experience was hard-won, and it is my hope that Jedi following me will not repeat my mistakes but instead learn to discern when to fight, and when to use other means to resolve conflict.
Conflict resolution in my opinion should be a skill set that every Jedi of quality should have. While we should not make a habit of instigating conflict unnecessarily, neither should we shy away from it when it is necessary. When a Jedi, especially a Jedi in a leadership capacity is conflict-adverse it can lead to all sorts of toxicity in the communities they are responsible for. In situations of injustice, it is also the responsibility of a Jedi of quality to wade in and defend those that need defending. When someone is marginalized or vulnerable, we cannot allow attacks on their sovereignty to go unanswered. Remember, when we use direct confrontation, we are not just helping those we can see, but any of those like the ones I we are directly defending. Silence and inaction in the face of injustice steal the hope from those that are affected by that injustice, whether we know if they are witnessing it or not. If an attack on a vulnerable or marginalized person goes unanswered, the oppressed see it as assent, and the oppressors see it as agreement. This is something nó Jedi of quality should allow to stand, much less contribute to.
There are many in the Jedi community that are so conflict-averse, that if a statement is not couched in a passive way, it is seen as “aggressive”. Many believe that indirect communication is more polite, more politic, and more “diplomatic”. However direct communication and plain speaking is often what is called for. Instead of passively approaching a troublesome attitude so as not to appear something they believe to be the serene Jedi archetype, it should be clear that direct communication is not an attack. Nor is being direct overly passionate or lacking serenity. Direct communication can cut through misunderstandings, and giving someone being toxic or oppressive an “out” where things do not seem so bad because it has been couched in a passive voice. Especially in online confrontations, people often read emotions that are not there in direct communication and try to deflect saying an argument is “too emotional” when it is nothing of the kind. Not that emotions need be absent in direct confrontation. Compassion for the oppressed and suffering should illicit emotion when harm is done to them.
I would suggest that if you do not already, start practicing direct communication and see the results. See what happens when you leave out qualifiers for bad behavior, therefore, giving them the benefit of the doubt. Which approach actually results in more direct change? Passive communication or direct communication? I have the experience that tells mé one works more often than the other, but I will leave the conclusion to be an exercise for the reader.
Remember, we use direct confrontation to effect change, not to have a winner and a loser, and not to feel good about giving someone a good trouncing (online or offline). We must learn to pick our battles (but not allow this to leave battles that need fighting unfought) and we must learn to discern the time to fight when the potential for change is at its greatest or at a time when the chance of success is highest. This takes the study of strategy and human nature. But that is a topic for another essay.
A Jedi of quality does not look for a fight, but we neither shy away from one either. There are good fights to have, and we should run towards those. Every great change in history came about through conflict, and how we as Jedi of quality perform in conflict can better the world.