Council of Fools
A Guest Blog by Imani Caradonna
Obi-Wan Kenobi: “I have failed you Anakin. I have failed you.” ~Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
For years we have been made aware of the dynamic and complex nature of the Jedi and the Sith. It's not difficult to see flaws in the purity of the Jedi and the humanity in the darkness of the Sith. For Anakin Skywalker, this hazy cross-section of morality is where he found himself. There, juxtaposed between two force-wielding sects, he encountered his frailty. In Episode III, his master, Obi-Wan, admits that he failed his vexed padawan. However, the blame was not Obi-Wan's alone. The Jedi council in its entirety had gone astray and led Anakin down the dark path while making a weak attempt to prevent its collapse. As difficult as it seems, the council could not protect Anakin from himself. Instead, they fueled their own destruction with hypocrisy and a lack of integrity.
Anakin never felt welcome in the Jedi order. It goes without saying that his ego was a problem and it might have been inflated by the talk of prophecy. However, this young boy was not nurtured at all. His recruitment by Qui-Gon was against the recommendation of the council. This created tension among the ranks of the Jedi, and the disagreement wasn’t kept hidden from the young boys ears. He was present when the council refused him. Later in Anakin’s life he loses the only people who show him love (Shmi, Qui-Gon, Padme). The Jedi order doesn’t necessarily provide a sense of belonging. On the contrary, it continues to push the “detachment” agenda onto him, which isolates him even more.
The council pushed Anakin away even further when they offered him a seat but not the title of Master. This action was not only isolating and offensive. It was against the orthodox protocols of the Jedi order itself. The reasons behind this did not support their visage of nobility and honor either. So many decisions that the council made neglected the ever-growing confusion of Anakin and failed to nurture the light within him.
During Anakin’s time in the order, the example that the Jedi council set was not as infallible and pure as people like Obi-Wan would like to think. Beside the fact that most Jedi are accused of arrogance, the majority of the antagonists they face are created by the Jedi order itself. (i.e. Count Dooku, Vader, etc.) Moreover, the representation of the council by certain members like Mace Windu was undoubtedly hypocritical to Anakin. The fact that Mace decided in an instance that Palpatine did not deserve a trial and instead death, was the worst possible example for Anakin. This would be frustrating for anyone let alone a lost soul being manipulated by a Sith Lord.
Unanchored to any values or commitment to integrity, Anakin naturally decided to covet the only thing he knew best – himself (and in turn his future family). In so many ways, the council forced him down this path by constantly giving him nowhere to stand and call home (in terms of a foundation of values and truth). The only refuge he could grasp onto was Palpatine and the dark side. The need to let go of what he feared to lose the most was more of a “do as I say not as I do” demand as opposed to something that was demonstrated and fostered. In fact, the Jedi council failed to let go of their old ways and their place in this “democracy.”
Growing up with Episodes IV-VI it took an adjustment to see the Jedi in such a diplomatic position. It was difficult to go from such a sagest and deep philosophy in the swamps of Dagobah to a democratic and just stance in the plush temple on Coruscant. While many fans might have marveled at seeing so many Jedi with their different colored light sabers and acrobatic moves, I was disappointed with their lack of insight. It’s clear that something is clouding the instincts of the Jedi order. Not even grand master Yoda, with his experience and connection with the force could foresee the Sith’s plot and protect Anakin from his dark road. A small amount of tact and good parenting could have gone a long way with Anakin. Instead, he was continually fed restrictions and limits that perpetuated his isolation.
In the book, Aftermath: Life Debt, ex-imperial loyalty officer Sinjir Rath Velus ponders the fundamental difference between the Empire and the New Republic:
“In the Empire, you didn’t turn down an order…Here [The New Republic], though, individuality rules for the roost…You get to think you own thoughts. Do your own good.”
Assuming that the Jedi supported the Republic and democracy, I would personally challenge this façade of individuality within the order itself. Clearly, Anakin was unique in many ways. This originality was unaccepted by the council. This is, in fact, what led me to a very important question no one in the fandom of Star Wars seems to have an answer for – Who politicized the Jedi? Who was responsible for taking these once monk-like characters and turned them into blind clone-like generals that follow political orders?
This act (however long ago it was) led to their demise. The minute a Jedi philosophy mixes with a governmental agenda things get very cloudy. This cloudiness is what Darth Sidious thrived on and this is also where Anakin lost his way. The council could not help him because the council itself was lost. Therefore, while Palpatine reaped the fruits of the evil seeds he had planted in the order, Anakin remained untethered to any feeling of belonging. His allegiance to the Empire was ulterior from its conception. Anakin wanted to take the whole galaxy into his own hands and build that sense of home and oneness that he continually failed to receive from his so-called mentors.
Like anyone with the feeling of “their back against the wall,” Anakin did anything and everything he needed to in order to survive. He was a product of his environment. He was given the choice between the lesser of two evils. The Dark Side: fear, hate, anger, jealousy, or the path of the Jedi: arrogance, ignorance, stubbornness. Are the Jedi and Sith truly opposite ends of the spectrum? This is why I believe the politicization of the Jedi is a notable point in history. This is the moment the whole order stepped off the path of light and into the hands of their enemy. Therefore, the Jedicide that we think is completely on the conscience (if there is any left) of Anakin/Vader is truly shared if not mostly owned by the very individuals sworn to uphold and lead the Jedi order.Powered by Sidelines