miércoles, 25 de mayo de 2005

Insane Troll Logic Meets Sith Logic: Thoughts on Star Wars and the Politics of Absolutism

OK, I didn't see Star Wars: The Revenge of the Sith. But I'm already sick of hearing all about how it's an unflattering political allegory for the Bush Administration.

Full disclosure: generally I don't care two whits about the political leanings of artists and their subtle inclusion of political messages in their works. If it's overbearing, that's one thing. But if extremely good anyway or if the politics doesn't scream at you, I'm OK with it. For example, I'm a HUGE Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan, yet its creator, Joss Whedon, is apparently an obnoxious, pointy-headed liberal. Doesn't matter in the least to me—if fact, I interpret Buffy in many ways as supporting my evil conservative ideas—SO THERE.

But back to Lucas and his so-called political allegory in the final SW project. Much of the hullabuloo surrounds the following statement : "only a Sith thinks in absolutes." Apparently, many people see this as a dig at our beloved President Bush and his simplistic tendency to see the world in stark terms of good and evil.

Now there's a big problem to me with seeing this as a slam on Bush:

Instapundit points the problem out nicely—"The political angle is way overblown. In fact, the Kenobi 'Only a Sith thinks in absolutes' line is deeply ironic, since immediately afterward Anakin/Vader plays the moral relativism card, responding that while Obi-Wan may think Palpatine is evil, that's all a matter of opinion: From his point of view the Jedi are evil. The NYT editorial board couldn't have done it better!"

I don't know whether this irony was purposeful or not (I don't have the highest regard for Lucas's intellect and self-awareness), but it nonetheless gets at a profound truth. (I'll wait a moment so that you can retreive a writing utensil and write the profound truth I'm about to tell you down so that you can pass it on to posterity.)

"Everyone is an absolutist, except when there're not."

Yep, that's it. I'll expand on my brilliant insight: "When we're sure about something, we're sure about it. When unclear about something, we're unclear." (Do you need a moment to soak this profundity in?")

Remember when his majesty Gov. Mario Cuomo remarked that liberals don't do well in talk radio because they think in too nuanced terms, they see things in all their complexity, while we conservatives see it in childish black and white, good and evil terms that connect with angry talk radio listeners. Um, OK, condescending much?

Beyond that, dishonest much, Mario? Shall we run down the list of issues on which liberals can't see that there's any nuance, any complexity?—abortion, taxing the rich, school lunches, school vouchers, evil Republicans. Can anyone really say that Howard Dean, for example, sees nuance when he says on Sunday's Meet the Press that he didn't want people with flaws criticizing other people's morals? So, you're either perfect or shut up, eh, Howard?

And, on the other side, conservatives have plenty of areas on which we're plenty conflicted about and see in relativistic terms. I've yet to hear a Christian effectively defend the death penalty in anything but relative terms. Plenty of conservtives play the electoral politics game—well, it's wrong, but the voters support it, so fuck it—that's relativism at its finest/worst.

And even the President doesn't see the world in absolutes, really. If he did, the whole Middle East would be leveled right now. But, he obviously sees the value and necessity of different approaches for different situations. Remember how the liberals screamed "what about North Korea" when we invaded Iraq, the argument being that if you invade one country over a set of issues, then any other country with those same issues must be treated the same way.

Who was thinking in absolutes there? Certainly not Bush, who factored in a lot of complexities into decided on a case by case basis how you handle foreign countries.

So, whether or not Lucas intended to call out Bush's "absolutism" is irrelevent—we're absolutists (except when we're relstivists, that is) and I say that absolutely.

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