By: Dave Bouressa
*Note: I have not studied incredible mental disciplines such as meditation and techniques of that nature, so therefore some of my points may be considered “wrong” by those who have studied such mental disciplines. My point of view is that of an every day college student*
Before I go any further, I would like to clarify that I am in no way saying that Yoda is more evil than Darth Sidious. That would simply be untrue. The Sith as individuals are evil, murderous conquerors bent on controlling the galaxy. However, as an Order, the Jedi teachings and beliefs would be considered unintentionally more harsh, cruel, and in a sense, “evil”.
Let us take a look at the two codes of the Jedi and the Sith.
There is no emotion, there is peace
There is no ignorance, there is knowledge
There is no passion, there is serenity.
There is no chaos, only harmony
There is no death, there is the force.
Peace is a lie, there is only passion
Through passion, I gain strength
Through strength, I gain power
Through power, I gain victory
Through victory, my chains are broken
The force shall free me
For now, let us concentrate on the Jedi code. “There is no emotion, there is peace”. The Jedi are not only encouraged, but taught to detach themselves from individuals because their emotions may interfere in their thinking of what is “right”. It is a very “Vulcan” way of thinking in the sense that they go for what is logical as opposed to what their emotions tell them. They seem to follow the idea of “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few” and that causes much inner conflict. They may have to sacrifice someone they care about deeply to save a group of strangers. As a single Jedi, one may have incredible struggle with this choice and may suffer incredible guilt, but as an Order, the Jedi are forced to keep a “poker face” with their decision, and in turn, detach themselves emotionally from the galaxy they are trying to serve and protect.
The second line of “There is no ignorance, there is knowledge” is a fairly standard line that I tend to agree with, and I’m sure the Sith would agree with as well. Both sides seek knowledge. My only concern with this being in the Jedi code is that although the Jedi seek to gain more knowledge of the force, they also tend to stop others from gaining the same knowledge. As any religion, they are very limited to what their followers learn regarding the past of the Order, the horrible events that the Order has done in the past, and restrict information that is considered “dangerous”, when in most cases, it is simple knowledge that may cause someone to see outside the inner bubble that the Order resides within. In the time of the prequels, the Jedi Temple Library prided itself with having all the knowledge in the galaxy, with it’s librarian, Jocasta Nu, stating; “If an item does not appear in our records, it does not exist”, when in reality, much of their information was tampered with or missing. They are not only lying to the Order, but they are lying to themselves by being in denial. Along with this, a good fraction of the library is restricted to the majority of the Order, with access allowed to only the highest of Masters on the council. I understand WHY they restrict the knowledge, but I still feel it is wrong. The Jedi feel that a quest for knowledge can easily lead to a quest for power, and with power comes the luring of the Dark Side. However, to completely restrict the information to people among your own ranks is possibly more dangerous than having the information available. I didn’t want to compare it to this, but I can’t think of anything else: It is the same as many schools teaching “Abstinence-only” Sex Education. Rather than completely restrict any knowledge, tell them about it, and how to protect themselves from the dangers. Otherwise, the result could be more damaging. So in a way, the entire line of “There is no ignorance, there is knowledge” is completely wrong to begin with, and the opposite is more true.
“There is no passion, there is serenity” is a fairly complicated figure. These two concepts (passion and serenity) are not majorly related. However, if you consider “passion” as chaotic, then these two concepts have very related contrasts. Many people would consider “passion” as something that you love (whether it’s an action, an object, or a person), or a motive to accomplishment, mostly falling into a positive area of thought. However, going back to the Jedi’s detachment from the galaxy, “passion” is viewed as dangerous. In “Revenge of the Sith”, Anakin states; “The Sith rely on their passion for their strength. They think inwards, only about themselves”. Yet passion is but one of the contributors that would lead Anakin to become a Jedi in the first place. He wanted to become a Jedi. Given what “passion” means, look at another quote by Anakin: “Attachment is forbidden. Possession is forbidden. Compassion, which I would define as unconditional love, is essential to a Jedi’s life. So you might say that we are encouraged to love.” Perhaps this is simply due to Anakin’s own conflicted emotions, but he states two beliefs of the Order that are both applied within the order, yet are both contradictions of each other. On one hand, passion is “evil”, while compassion is essential. Aside from the fact that they both have “passion” in the words, they really aren’t too similar, but at the same time, they are both only one step away from “love”. Besides, if there is no passion in being a Jedi, then why are you there? Yes, you are strong in the force, and the Jedi took you as a child into the Order, but as far as I know, a Jedi can leave the Order at any time, yet their numbers seem quite high. Without passion for what you are doing, one is simply no different than a droid, and in a scenario that the Jedi as an Order are in, being monks/keepers of the peace turned generals, that makes the Jedi very dangerous to not only themselves but to the entire galaxy.
“There is no chaos, there is harmony” is a line that can be taken in two ways. One way is outward, trying to keep the galaxy by the same standard. Prevent chaos throughout the galaxy, and keep the peace. However, this can also be taken as internal. As I said previously, the Jedi are to detach themselves from all emotion, and with emotion comes guilt and inner conflict. The Jedi must remove all inner conflict and simply believe that if you remove yourself from this “chaos”, then you will find internal harmony. This is not a point that makes the Jedi more “evil” and cruel, such as the other lines of the code have, but it all goes back to the detachment component. I understand that with meditation and other techniques, people are able to find inner peace, but much like how you cannot have light without dark, you cannot have peace without conflict. Conflict is what drives us, and forces us to better ourselves. For the Jedi to put aside this conflict, even ignore it, seems incredibly counter-productive to any form of growth within their own ranks and is frankly a blind way of looking at things.
“There is no death, there is only the force” is a fairly standard line that I don’t feel needs any in-depth explanation. Much like other religions, the Jedi believe in an afterlife and becoming one with the force after death.
Now we look at the Sith code, and unlike the Jedi code where each statement is completely separate and not directly related to the ones before it, the Sith code builds on itself and grows, much like the person following it. Looking at the actual code, it is very much a contrast to the beliefs of the Jedi, and contrary to the Jedi, the Sith seem more in depth into growth and bettering themselves not only as an Order, but as individuals. In fact, if you take out the very first line and the very last line, the entire code could be taken as a personal mantra that a regular person could use in their every day life to gain success in one’s life.
Now, again, I would like to mention that the Sith as individuals are evil, murderous, power-hungry beings who want to control the galaxy. But that does not mean that everything about them is “wrong” or “evil”. The most prominent quality about the Sith that I find admirable is the fact that they are honest. Yes, they are manipulative, but in a way, so are the Jedi. The Sith have little to hide, and will therefore have no problems being open with the truth. They may only tell half the truth and not the entire story, but very rarely do they actually lie and twist their words around. For example, When Palpatine is telling Anakin about Darth Plagueis “The Wise”, he tells the true story about how Plagueis learned the secrets of the midi-chlorians and how to save people from death. What he didn’t tell Anakin was that the apprentice that killed Plagueis was actually Palpatine. Another Palpatine example would be how he informed Vader about Padme’s death. “It seems in your anger, you killed her” is not entirely untrue. Anakin did not directly kill her, but his actions caused her to die of a broken heart (ugh). Now, before anyone brings it up, I would like to mention Palpatine’s manipulation of the Senate to become emperor. If you watch episodes 1-3, it is clear that he is simply using everyone around him to gain a higher power, but at the same, he very rarely flat-out lies to get what he wants. He will take the truth and tell the Republic Senate the half that he wants them to hear and use reverse-psychology to get to a higher power. Also, Palpatine is a special example because when addressing the senate and other Republic officials, he is not speaking as a Sith Lord. Palpatine is playing the part of a politician, and when he does lie, I feel it is coming more from the political background as opposed to the teachings of the Sith. (I have not read the recently released Darth Plagueis novel, so I may be incorrect in this particular assessment. I am simply speaking from my experience watching the films).
The Jedi, however, lie frequently and rationalize it as speaking from “a different point of view”. When Luke asks “How did my father die?”, Obi-Wan proceeds to tell him that a Jedi named Darth Vader betrayed and murdered Anakin Skywalker, when in truth, Anakin IS Darth Vader. He also tells Luke that his father wanted him to have his lightsaber when he was old enough. Granted, I understand that there is no way Luke would have proceeded on the adventure he did if Obi-Wan had told him that his father was the Emperor’s right hand man and one of the most feared men in the galaxy, and that the lightsaber he holds in his hand was taken as his father lay next to a river of lava, burned and crippled at the hands of Obi-Wan himself. But when Luke discovers this, Obi-Wan says, “What I told you was true, from a certain point of view”, and needless to say, Luke is not too happy about that. There is a fine line between twisting your words, and lying. Saying person A was killed by person B, when they are the same person is a blatant lie. Another example of Jedi manipulation would be from Yoda, while training Luke on Dagobah. Luke simply asks, “Is the Dark Side stronger?” and Yoda replies with a very quick “NO!” followed by a more collected and calm “no”. I know many people take this as Yoda telling Luke to get the idea out of his head because it is wrong, however, I’ve always taken it as Yoda telling him to get the idea out of his head because it is right. The Dark Side is stronger, and he does not want Luke to know that. At this time, there are only 2 known Jedi, and if Luke believes that the Dark Side is stronger, then there is a greater chance that he will join the Dark Side. Yoda again states, “For once you go down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny”. Now, this is simply untrue. Again, I am no expert on the Expanded Universe, but I do know that there have been several Jedi who have turned to the Dark Side and returned to the light. Which means one of two things; either Yoda is lying to Luke and using this as a scare tactic, or Yoda is lying to himself because those are the ideas of the Jedi Order.
A major topic of why I enjoy the prequels (and possibly why many dislike them) is that it shows that the Jedi are flawed. In the Original Trilogy, we have only 2 Jedi to use as reference (Obi-Wan and Yoda) and we are given the idea that the Jedi are an Order of “super-heroes” who can do no wrong, yet in the prequels, they are incredibly flawed, favor questionable methods, and are incredibly untrustworthy. Even in the “Clone Wars” TV series, a recent story arc dubbed the “Bounty Hunters Arc” shows how the Jedi are willing to lie to not only the entire galaxy by “killing” a Jedi to accomplish a simple goal, but will lie to the majority of the Order as well. Only a few select people were in on the plan. The Jedi are not only more untrustworthy than the Sith, but they are sloppy about it. The Sith will either tell you half the truth, or they will not tell you anything at all to hide their true motives, while the Jedi flat-out lie and manipulate with people’s emotions to hide the truth.
To recap, I simply find the views and teachings of the Sith Order more simple to grasp, and more accepted within today’s society. If you were to take “Jedi” and “Sith” out of the equation and simply concentrate on the teachings and ideals, and then survey people about which way they would rather live their lives, I am quite confident that the majority of people would choose the ways of the Sith-not because they are evil, but because in all honesty, the Jedi live harsh lives. Granted, I am a college student living in the age of consumerism, laziness, and questionable values, but going through life without emotional attachment, with limited knowledge, and forcing to serve and protect something you are supposed to be loyal to without actually being passionate for what you’re doing, all for the sake of inner and outer peace seems almost like a physical, mental, and emotional prison sentence and would be considered by most people as a punishment, rather than a civil duty to do good. Yet, I find it interesting how the Jedi are still considered to be the “good guys”, and the Sith are considered the “bad guys”. Perhaps people are too invested in the end goal, and the intentions, rather than the steps that are taken to get there. While the Jedi have good intentions, they take harsh steps to get there, and while the Sith are considered the “bad guys”, they follow the basic steps that the majority of humanity would also follow. Does that make simple humanity and society “bad”? Or is it more a question of morality and what is viewed as “good” in people’s lives? To quote Obi-Wan Kenobi, “The truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of views”, and what may be right or good to someone, may be considered bad or wrong to another. I simply find it interesting that the group that most people would truthfully relate to more, are considered the villains. Whether or not you view the Jedi as the “good guys” or the Sith as the “bad guys”, think about it the next time someone asks if you would rather be a Jedi or a Sith Lord. Truly take a moment to really think about which one you would rather be in that galaxy far, far away…. your own answer may surprise you…