The new Star Wars (don’t worry, no spoilers!) is an interesting reflection on the modern era, about a villain becoming a villain through his choices, and heroes becoming heroes by facing similar choices and selecting the moral path.
The Jedi are a myth; the next generation grew up without them. Kylo Ren believes returning to the roots of the Empire will build a stronger future. He believes killing Luke Skywalker will shift the balance of the Force to the Dark Side. His journey into darkness is paralleled by Finn, a Stormtrooper who defects from the Dark Side and must overcome fear of being targeted to do what is right. Then there is Rey, a scavenger surprised to find the Jedi, the Force, and Han Solo actually exist; she thought them legends. Each looks to the leaders of the last generation for inspiration; Kylo idolizes Darth Vader, the heroes idolize Luke Skywalker and Han Solo.
When questioned about the motives of Kylo, actor Adam Driver said Kylo doesn’t believe he is a villain; he believes he’s on the right side. He truly believes the Light Side of the Force is evil and resists it. To him, evil is good, good is evil. He believes he is a hero and his actions are justified for the greater cause. He tries to fight his compassion and eliminate it, so he can be given over to the power of the Dark Side.
The characters are young… misguided, finding their way in spite of a lack of leadership, either seeking mentorship and guidance (Kylo, Rey) or rebelling against a corrupt system (Finn). They are kids, in way over their heads, a generation struggling to improve the world. However deceived, Kylo does want to change the world. Each of the main characters feels a need to be part of a greater cause… and Kylo chooses the wrong cause. How true to life. The greatest atrocities in human history are committed in the belief they’re justified.
Never has there been a more apt parallel to modern times. In a desperate desire to be part of a greater cause, young men and women are becoming violent religious fanatics… rebelling against a system they see as unjust/amoral… questioning the morality of war… some are embracing the hatred that leads to the Dark Side, others are trying to connect to the Light, but all want to be part of something greater than themselves, to establish a world superior to the one they are living in. To some it means respect for life; to others it means violence.
Kylo has no fixed moral beliefs to guide him and is driven by emotion and fear. He seeks stability and security through a power that demands he sacrifice compassion for hatred. His back story reveals feeling abandoned by, and disappointed in, his father. He struggles between Light and Dark, his transition into militant fanaticism similar to that of many violent, morally misguided youths today.
The absence of the Jedi in society as a positive force for good is similar to the modern view of Christianity: old, antiquated, largely absent myth no longer influencing decisions, with nothing to offer. In the eyes of the current generation, the last generation has let them down, failed them… promised them if they had enough schooling, they could make a difference. Many college graduates live in their parents’ basement. Many are out of work. A huge number have divorced parents, or absent fathers. They are disillusioned. They are angry. They have no faith in politicians. The old ideologies seem as outdated to them as the Millennium Falcon.
Yet, they keep searching for a cause larger than themselves, and in this restlessness lies potential for change for the better. Never has there been more wannabe “do-gooders” than in the present; they are capable of changing the world if they can find a cause. Never has there been more concern for human life or the planet’s welfare, or such a hunger for truth. This Force can be used for good or evil; which side will this generation choose? How can it know if the choice is right?
The answer is simple. “Treat others as you want to be treated.” If choices cause pain or suffering, devalue life, force you to abandon compassion, are full of bigotry or rooted in anger, they are from the Dark Side. ♥
Written by Charity for an offline print publication. Reprinted with permission.