Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Jedi Wisdom [?] and Secular Inanity

Today was a friend's birthday and she had the day off [just as did the PP], and so we took advantage of this by seeing a matinee showing of the latest Star Wars film.

Despite the hoopla and the huge fan base for this film, a Tuesday matinee is still a good deal: tickets were $5.75 and there were only about 20 or so people in attendance, which is good in that the number of interruptions due to clueless clods failing to turn off their cell phones was greatly diminished. [Another good feature was that one gets to put his feet up on the seats in front of him.]

The film was pretty entertaining, and, if the goal was to tie Episode III into the beginning of the original Episode IV from 1977, the film succeeded quite well. There was one notable plot hole where it was hard to suspend disbelief, but, all in all, the movie was well done, happily focusing on plot development instead of mindless diplays of computer-graphical special effects prowess that by now are a cliche.

To get to the point, there was one scene that made me chuckle. Near the end of the film, when Obi-Wan confronts Anakin on some volcano planet whose name has since escaped from my memory, a classic lightsaber battle ensues with Obi-Wan, representative of the [Jedi] Light Side doing battle with his former disciple Anakin, who has since turned to the [Sith] Dark Side.

At one lull in the fight, the combatants have a brief dialogue where Anakin attempts to justify his changing sides. Obi-Wan states something to the effect that "Only a Sith believes in absolutes." [These may not be the very words, but they convey the gist of what Obi-Wan stated to Anakin.]

This is a precarious example of Jedi wisdom, for we have a Jedi making an absolute statement about his ideological foe --- a foe he considers evil and worthy of destruction. What is the absolute statement of the Jedi? That a property of the Sith [or Siths, not sure of the plural form here], a property that makes them the bad guys, is absoluteness. An absolute statement about how those supposedly evil Sith are absolute! The PP was lucky that he remembered to turn off his self-stultification detector off before entering the theater, as the loud and furious beeps that would emanate from that device would doubtless draw hisses and "Sssshhh!" catcalls from the few other people in the theater. O Wise Jedi! Still, it was rather humorous.

When the PP decided to indefatigably fight the inanities posing as modern and progressive thought, both inside and outside the Christian Church, little did he know that his divine calling would lead him "long ago in a galaxy far far away." Yet, Obi-Wan is immortalized here in the annals of PP-dom for his self-refuting error. [But we come to ultimately praise Obi-Wan, and not to bury him, as he does believe in good versus evil, and he does wield a mean lightsaber.]

The above is all said with a grin and a wink, but what follows has the doubly-depressing status of being both sad and true, dealing instead with real people and not merely the words of characters of a well-loved film franchise.

The sad and true fact is that in today's modern stream of thinking, having absolutes is a sign of an anachronistic mind that has refused to ante up in the modern poker game. Thinking that there is an immutable God whose attributes can not [and must not] change --- lest God be something other than what He must be --- is an action that if advertised will earn one all sorts of negative titles: logocentrist, religious nut, too-sure-of-himself, intolerant, etc etc etc.

A studied and practiced reticence towards absolutes is one of the marks of modern sophistication. Let a man do has he pleases, just so long as he does not think that the justification for his actions is grounded in timeless truth. In respect to the Christian faith, my experience has been that people are not opposed to it [but neither do they support it] as long as they can view the faith and my selection of it as essentially the same as deciding to get the shrimp egg rolls over the szechuan chicken from the Chinese buffet nearby. The moment I assert that the faith is true, or at least has enough supporting reason and evidence to demand a response, the seculars don the wisdom of Obi-Wan: We don't think in terms of black and white, but in terms of shades of grey. Tolerance trumps truth! Only benighted Bible-thumpers and people who don't support X make such audacious claims, where X stands for any item the secularist supports.

Upon making the triumphalistic claim for a certain degree of relativism and epistemological tolerance, the enlightened modern man feels proud of himself --- he has defended the secular faith with a broadside polemic that is guaranteed to work at the latest faculty tea or upscale cocktail party.

However, a teenage medieval can see the fatal flaw at once: the secularist has made a rather absolute statement and assumed an absolute standard of comparison. It is objectively better to be nonjudgemental. It is objectively good to pour invective on the man who asserts a worldview and attempts to live consistently by it. It is better to be broad-minded and tolerant than it is to be like those people in that absolute-thinking group. In the end, therefore, the secularist has acted just as dogmatically as those whose dogmatism he excoriates.

The Pedantic Protestant works in the midst of the vortex of such inanity, and can assure all readers that these silly hare-brained sorts of self-refutational nuggets of wisdom that are offered by our academic elites are ubiquitous. Furthermore, this sort of inanity is what guides much of the ecumaniacal pursuits as well. If I'm not willing to compromise the deity of Christ, I'm intolerant. If I take my side with St John and say that Jesus is the way, truth, and life, I'm intolerant. If I point out that certain behaviors stand in clear defiance of scripture, I'm an absolutist. And so it goes with those in the liberal wings of the visible [and not necessarily the true] church.

But, in the end, Obi-Wan trumps the liberals and the spineless ecumenicals, for he does square off evil and call it as such [what an absolutist!], his above silly statement notwithstanding. On the other hand, the liberals and ecumenicals would merely pass some sort of statement about how the Jedi and Sith need to talk through their differences and embrace each other, equivocating between the Light Side an the Dark Side, and generally adding confusion to the whole matter, just as they do in the church today.

********************* [Total Change of Topic Now]

Turning back to the movie, I had heard that the movie contained several little jabs thrown at President Bush. Now the PP loathes big government, wealth redistribution, attacks on private property and individual responsibility, and the notion that the "Religious Right" somehow owes the Republican Party their votes, so that any jabs thrown at Bush by Lucas or the writers would have no emotional effect on the PP, but would merely be observed to be yet another little childish attempt by those in the Left to express their sour grapes. But, not being able to read the mind of those who made the film, there were but three references immediately recallable, all of them questionable relative to their Bush-bashing status due to this aforementioned inability to mind-read:

(1) Padme makes a reference to the Senate applauding "as they lose their liberty" [or something like that].
(2) Anakin states that who is not with him is an enemy.
(3) Reference is made to increasing the centralization under Palpatine for security and peace.

Now for (1), I suppose this could be a reference to Bush, but I don't specifically see how. (2) may be a jab at what is called the "Bush Doctrine," but again, this idea or statement did not originate with Bush, and is well-preceded by the megalomanical totalitarian tyrants of the 20th century and well before that.
The reference in (3) again is seen by the PP as a general phenomenon of governments. If (3) is a dig at Bush, the shoe fits, but this shoe fits many other governments as well. [I find it interesting that while leftists support every expansion of big government, they suddenly find a federalist instinct when they discuss Bush.]

Maybe these are digs at Bush, but they seem general enough, based on the lack of any other information beyond seeing the movie, to not necessarily be directed at Bush. If they are or if they're not, oh well. The PP is unmoved either way. But the film doesn't seem to be an anti-Bush piece of work as a small number of people have stated to me personally. If anything, I don't mind the surface level of the political thrust within the film --- centralization of power leads to evil and increases the potential evil that can be inflicted by ambitious [and evil] men. What a true concept both in theory and in actual human history!

1 Comments:

Anonymous Diane said...

I didn't see overt Bush-bashing either. As a matter of fact, since Palpatine started his career as a senator shouldn't the movie be seen as senator-bashing? Or, at least bashing of those who stay in power far longer than they should (since that was the charge that some characters made about Palpatine).

And, in my opinion, the Senate (and press) was far more docile under Clinton than it ever has been under Bush. Rubber-stamping his decisions and nominees appealed more to the Senate in the '90s than it does now. I do remember hearing something about repealing that nasty amendment that limits presidents to two terms during Clinton's presidency. That, of course, was due to Clinton's popularity and was 'what the people want.' That could certainly lead to a Palpatine-type taking control and never letting go.

But, this is just my opinion and I'm sure that others might see it differently.

Thursday, May 26, 2005 3:41:00 PM  

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