Wednesday, April 14, 2010

STAR WARS: Republican Incompetence in Space

A number of people have asked me to comment on this subject but I must admit it is a chore. The primary reason is that the recent ‘prequel’ Star Wars movies are just bad -brain meltingly bad with only occasional entertainment value based on making fun of them. However, after being repeatedly asked to look at the Star Wars movies in terms of the republic vs. the empire I have decided to give it a shot. First of all though, I have to point out that the republic in Star Wars is not much like any republic most people today would recognize. It seems like a cross between the UN and an African country like Uganda. After all, despite being a republic we do see characters that are “knights” and we have people with names like Princess Laid-ya, Count Doodoo and Queen Dalai Lama -so it is a republic with some monarchial elements at least. However, that being said, it seems to me the republic in Star Wars was a huge, embarrassing failure and not really the sort of thing most would consider worth fighting to restore. The empire, on the other hand, did a much better job if one can get past the occasional planet being blown up.

I don’t recall much important stuff happening in the “Phantom Menace” movie but I do recall that it involved some sort of giant union called the Trade Federation that put a blockade around this planet and this caused a crisis (what exactly that planet needed from outer space that was so vital to their existence was never explained) and this in itself demonstrates how dysfunctional this sci-fi republic was. This would be like a union in a country becoming powerful enough to blockade an entire state -let’s say Hawaii even though I don’t recall any explanation given as to why a trade federation would be trying to stop trade but oh well. If the U.S. government could not stop someone like SEIU from blockading Hawaii, I would say that the government had become so impotent as to be worthless. And what sort of government would allow a trade union to become so powerful it had its own army and navy? Would you trust Andy Stern with his own military?

What is worse, when these SEIU guys invade the planet the Senate wants to send in like the FBI or something to see if it really happened. How ineffectual is your government if someone can invade Hawaii and Washington DC knows nothing about it? Never happened with the empire -they were on top of things. Even when the rebels were on a remote ice planet, killing endangered species, exploiting animals and probably causing global warming with all their spaceships and stuff the empire found them right away and sent their military in to take care of business. Not the republic; one of their planets is invaded without the government even being aware of it and they want to send a committee. It seems that the word of the noble police-knights they sent to settle the whole problem was not to be believed by the government. You would think if they were that important they could have taken their word for it. The empire got a partial message from a robot about the rebels on Dairy Queen and they immediately took action.

Another important thing I remember is that the great guardians of this republic, the noble Jedi knights did not seem all that noble and, as the movies progressed, seemed more and more creepy to me. How would you feel if the elite law enforcement agency in the universe was made up of a bunch of celibate monks with supernatural powers who could read your mind, manipulate your thoughts, influence your actions and who were all apparently given over to this life by their parents by the time they could barely walk. Seems a little weird to me. Moreover we see the knight ‘We Got Gin’ guy telling lies and using his psychic powers to cheat a native chieftain out of a spaceship, cheat a bug-alien out of flying saucer parts and cheat at a game of chance he has a wager on. The empire on the other hand paid the bounty hunter that found Hand Solo just as promised and even offered to pay compensation if the guy died. The only guy they cheated was Rambo Calcium who was cheating them the whole time anyway. And how come if these knights were such good guys they didn’t go back to sand planet to buy the slave mother of little orphan Annie her freedom?

This brings up another point. If the republic was so great and benevolent and all, how come slavery is legal?! I assume it is legal and not just some hidden little secret because they found out about the slave mother and son, won the freedom of the son (or paid for him I don’t remember) but never went back for the mother or even reported to the authorities that there was a flying bug-alien that was keeping slaves. They also treat their robots like slaves, and that may sound unfair but when you consider that these robots think, worry, can be happy, sad and form emotional attachments to friends and be afraid of their enemies, buying and selling them as property certainly sounds like slavery to me. Then at the end of the movie we see something that we will see again in Star Wars: the republicans using a primitive native people fighting with sticks and stones, slings and catapults, as canon fodder against a massive modern army with ray guns. Can I be the only one who finds that a little callous? How is that whole “we’re peaceful and have no weapons or armies” philosophy working out for you?

The first and perhaps most paramount duty of any government is to defend its people, yet no one in the republic seems to have a professional army except the SEIU guys who use it to terrorize people. The republic has no army, the Booboo planet has no army, in the original Star Wars movie the planet that the “Happy Fun Star” blows up has no weapons -I mean, at some point isn’t that just asking for trouble? At some point trying to be peaceful crosses the line into criminal neglect and incompetence. Then they have to recruit rabbit people or little teddy bears to get shot full of lasers while they go handle some secret mission. How many rabbit people and teddy bears died because the republic was too self-righteous to provide for the common defense of its own people? It seems rather heinous to me, especially when you consider that the empire did not seem to be harming or in any way bothering with the little teddy bear people in “Return of the Gemini” until the rebels convinced them to be their human shields and fight the empire (that has huge ray guns that can blow up whole planets) with little sticks and stones. Aside from hiring a handful of mercenaries once you never see the empire getting primitive native people to do their dirty work for them. They’ve taken care of the whole national defense thing and can generally deal with any crisis.

In all of these movies, ‘Phantom Furnace’ and ‘Attack of the Clowns’ and so on we see some evidence as to why the republic is so ineffective. Apparently there are no rules for choosing a senator. Evidently anyone can be a senator from queens, to body doubles to a retarded rabbit alien who can’t even speak proper English. We are given to believe that the chancellor is elected and they are really bummed when he is voted emergency powers but, again, if they had taken even the most basic responsibility for the defense of their republic none of it could have ever happened. This also leads to why the empire in Star Wars is not a traditional empire either; more like a Napoleonic empire. The Emperor was elected, not born to rule and if they had been a monarchy instead of a republic to begin with the whole crisis never would have happened. One of the benefits of a monarchy over a republic is that you cannot cheat your way into the top job; you’re either born a prince or you’re not. And for all the implications about freedom in tyranny it seems it was the republic that was so totalitarian as to make laws against romance (no love for Gemini knights or senators) while the empire didn’t seem to have any problem with it.

So, lets recap what we have learned about the Star Wars republic. It is governed by a massive, top heavy talking shop that has no idea whole secret armies are being built, blockading and invading a planet nor do they have any means of dealing with the problem. Senators and security personnel are not allowed to love. Their elite security force is a bunch of knights with mutant DNA or something who use psychic powers to steal and cheat at dice, slavery is legal and when one of their planets is invaded all they can do is form a committee and then use a bunch of rabbit people with sling-shots as bait while they take out Andy Stern. And we’re all supposed to believe that the fall of the chancellor was a bad thing because the evil future emperor will take his place. Call me mad if you like but if all that stuff was going on under the very nose of the government -sounds like he was a pretty crap chancellor anyway who should have been replaced. I had expected to go on, but I think that the point has been well made by the above. The chin-less wonder (George Lucas) doesn’t seem to know anymore about politics than he does about things like story and plot when it comes to filmmaking these days.

11 comments:

  1. ahahahahahahahaha.

    you should do this kind of things more often.

    i totally agree with you. i'm joining the dark side right now.

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  2. The Star Wars movies are politically a poor joke. The Jedi and the Sith are such strict dichotomies that any sane person would renounce their commission in the Order (as Count Dooku did, apparently).

    I would, however, think that a better comparison of the Old Republic would be to the modern day EU, since both are top-heavy bureaucratic nightmares that, no matter one's intention, cannot be easily reformed.

    The EU also has no military (though they are working to change that). But out of curiousity, why would one technically need an "army" if there were no external threats? The republic was the only galactic government, and everyone was a member. Only pirates were a threat, and thus the trade unions were able to build navies to stop them (when that got out of hand though, the fact that no one stopped them demonstrates how broken the republic was).

    Also, on the matter of said trade unions, they were probably better compared to East India Companies, though tinged with a bit of the 1980s anti-corporationist feel. Also, the Trade Federation blockaded Naboo (though how that would really affect the planet, I couldn't tell you either) in order to protest increased taxation (which reminds you of which little tea party?).

    When one actually stands back and has a look at his reign, Palpatine probably did the galaxy a favour by wiping away the Old Republic. As you point out, the system was broken beyond repair, and since the galaxy has split in the expanded universe into Imperial and New Republican factions (with the latter eventually stabilising into a proper monarchy, and even permitting Jedi to serve as Imperial Guards), it's actually all the better for it.

    Still, I'm definitely in the Trekkie camp. Mr Sulu, make it so (I won't ask you to look at the Federation... or anything else there. Everyone knows it's an impossible situation to actually achieve).

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  3. I still don't understand the whole trade side of it (and *really* don't want to watch and pay closer attention -ugh!) but the taxes on the American colonies were to the benefit of the West India Company which, even with them, was still selling tea at lower prices than the competition, the Yanks just didn't like buying it because it was British.

    It just seems odd to me that the evil Emperor guy was able to manipulate the system to attain power and yet the rebels were fighting in the old three movies to put the very system that allowed him to do that back into place.

    I'm in rather the same camp with Star Trek, I thought the old show & movies were good but it all really went to crap after that. However, I will say that at least the Star Trek UN had sense enough to actually have a military (primary role was peace and exploration but they all had weapons too). After a while though it did seem kind of odd that whenever there was a major crisis the USS Shatner was always the only ship in range -every time!

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  4. On slavery, it may be best to make a smallish Correction. Not all Planets were part of the Galactic Republic, and Tatooine was outside of its Boarders. THey do specifically state that Slavery was abolished in the Republic, but the Republic had no real say on Tatooine. Flying Bug Guy (Really Watu) actually refused Republic Credits.

    So thats not a Valid Critisism.

    The rest is, and Ive pointed this out numerous tiems. I think he Rebels werre fightign for the Ideal of the Republic, not the Reality. Much like how Americans fight for an Ideal Republic which never existed in War then complain about how rotten the Politicians are when they get back. Of coruse the SYstem as horrific, but they were the Rebels and Oppsed Palpatine.

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  5. Eh- still sounds like a cop-out to me. And even then, they still could have gone back for the mother, either by buying her or just taking her if it had no government. Little orphan annie goes back later and goes Roman on the people who killed his mum -why didn't they go back immediately or at least as soon as the crisis had passed?

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  6. On that I agree, the Jedi were cold hearted and cruel in the prequels. I certainly think that the Republic was horrible. On that note, if you watched "Clones" you'd also have to ask what kind of incredibley Incompetant Government allows a Huge Clone Army to be constructed presumably using Government funds and not be aware of it? Then, without invesitigation, uses Said Army.

    Gosh, are we surprised at the end when they turn on their Jedi Masters!

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  7. I'm going to borrow from Mark Twain (and also make him role in his grave). Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a politician/Jedi/Republican. But I repeat myself.

    [For the record, there was little Mr Clemens despised more than monarchy. Thus, while I happily quote him on other matters, I am far more pleased to amend (or otherwise misquote) his comments with regards to monarchy and tradition]

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  8. There was probably no royal Twain loathed more than King Leopold II of the Belgians and he often used him as the "face" of monarchy. Of course, the King would not be a shining example under any circumstances but it infuriates me because Twain was just using Leopold to take a cheap shot at a system of government he already despised.

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  9. To Zarove:
    Exactly, including the clones and the robots there were two secret armies, evidently massive enough to be a threat to the whole republic, being built under their very nose and no one knew about it. You also have to start wondering about the Gemini knights when they're supposed to be so good and righteous and yet in practically every movie the main villain is one that's 'gone bad'. Maybe being robbed of their childhood and not allowed to date drove them over the edge...

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  10. The historical links of Starwars are evident. The Trade Union is the hanseatic League, a true powerforce in medieval Europe. The Republic is the Holy Roman Empire, the combats between the Imperial Diet and the Imperial power was very important in theese times. The Rise of the Empire is what we in Europe calls the Absolutist age. The Knights could be the Electoral Knights, or Jesuits or whatever. So the links to European History is quite clear and i would say that Starwars is European History, and the Empire-Republic is the Holy Roman Empire. More links can be done. The Holy Roman Emperor of course had good info but could not foresee everything. And in order to stop actions from hostile powers all to often it took to long time to ge the Electorates on his side so the Imperial Power (or the "Federation power") sent out whatever they had.

    I doubt George Lucas had this in mind but one can see the paralells quite clearly. The Holy roman Empire was weak, various families fought for Imperial Power, but then around 1490 more or less the Diet more or less accepted that they needed stability, a firm leadership and since then the Habsburgs where the Emperors. So the links are many, but i doubht George Lucas and others thought of that.

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  11. Although I agree with most of what you said, I disagree with your take on the Jedi order. I agree that it isn't at all 'noble' to be manipulating peoples' thoughts and be cheating at games of chance, but other than that, I think the Jedi are pretty cool.

    I have always seen the Jedi as a metaphor for the Catholic Church - celibate, they believe in the force, they have their hierarchy. As you said, no one listened to the Jedis but then listened without hesitation when the Queen brings something up. Sounds alot like what the Catholic Church (or any religion these days) is treated like when it has a say in politics.

    Then at the end of it, the Empire betrays the Jedi Order and kills all their members - reminds me of a few anti-clerical communist regimes.

    And in regard to the kids being given up when they are young to be trained as Jedi, I believe there was a similar practice in medieval europe, where parents would give their son (in addition to a pretty hefty fee, so it was a sacrifice, not just getting rid of excess children) to a monastery to be raised as a monk. I don't really think this practice should be revived, but I'm just saying.

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