Thursday, April 17, 2008

Where have all the good Jedi gone?

It is funny that often the most powerful archetypes are ones that, while inspired by myth or imagination, have a powerful ability to inspire reality for change. One of those that impacts Gen-X strongly is that of the "Jedi." Many of us were in the waves of movie goers who went to the original "Star Wars" in either 1977-78, since the movie ran for months at the Theatre. We grew up in backyards with sticks imagining them to be light sabers - many of us wanting to be the Jedi, while some wanting to be Darth Vader.

However, for those that know much about the original source of many of the aspects of the story for George Lucas, you know that much of these themes he developed were taken from prior film or mythology - since those archetypes often are classic. For the generation before, it was the Lone Ranger. For the generation before that, it was Elliott Ness and G-Men against Al Capone. Each generation has its own version of these types, whether it was Patriots and Red-coats or some other group. Often the view that inspires the mind is not the actual historical view of these characters, which may be lost, if they were based on true fact, at all, but on the story telling of those facts. The Jedi were probably as much tied to the Musketeers as to modern fantasy.

But when we "grow up," do we have to loose that belief in things greater than ourselves - do those times of our childhood play have to be left completely behind in adulthood? I say no!

What do the adult world think of such a notion? They often buy into it, as well. It was repeatedly said that former Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff of the Texas Senate was its "Obi-Wan Kenobi," by no less reputable source than Texas Monthly. For all the praise that is often heaped onto the story of Sen. Ratliff's efforts there to balance politics for so many years, this one reference by Texas Monthly often conveys the message of his noble approach to politics like no other. Why? because popular culture often underlines the way we see our society, and even how we may see ourselves in that society.

In the current time, at least, our society seems to have lost the belief in heroes and the ability of some to raise up and do great things for noble and self-less reasons. With all the heroic individuals who might be identified in the press, often as quickly the hubris or simply humanity (and failings) of those heroes are the next story lead. If Anakin Skywalker were a real person now, you can imagine the headlines "SKYWALKER GOES DARK, VADER IS BORN" would hit the press - and it would lead the news cycles everywhere.

But just as with that series, maybe it is time for a generation that was raised on the original innocence of Chapter IV to see that "A New Hope" might still be possible. We might still see ourselves not simply as people with faults and foibles, which we are, but also as people who are also capable of greatness and who can champion our own hearts and spirits - to be Jedi again. It was not lost on the Scottish and Irish warriors that often the theatrical would inspire the ferocity of their armies in reality - with War Pipes (bagpipes) playing on the hill. Maybe it is time once again that we allow no less significant an archetype to inspire us also to greatness.

"I want to be a Jedi Knight, like my father before me." Luke Skywalker



David said...


Threaded through from LinkedIn...

Interesting idea but my fear is that those that might be elevated by popular society are *not* those who necessarily meet the definition of 'hero'. What shallowness abounds when real heroes are obviated and passed over in favour of today's minor manufactured celebrity?

I imagine the headline, always assuming AS were 'worthy' of coverage, being more along the lines of: "SKYWALKER GOES DARK, WHO CARES?? YODA WINS X-FACTOR!" :)

Have fun!

David Prior

James T. Parsons said...


I think your point is a valid one but I don't think it necessarily disputes the need to believe in heroes. I think it says we have to be careful who and why we are admiring, and who is truly worthy. Often we are a culture that is attracted to the appearance of courage, rather than true courage. Are we more likely to trumpet some attractive person who does something minor, or someone who doesn't fit the Hollywood view of a "hero" but truly is? Probably! The Hollywood and sports celebrities are a perfect example.

The danger of your view carried too far, though, is that we will discount all as unworthy. That is not the road to hope but to dispair. Granted, heroes can be human, and we have to try to be more observing of who we name as such, but I don't think it discounts the need to believe in great individuals who can inspire hope.

Agree or disagree?

David said...


I think your follow-up neatly cuts through my cynicism and slight sarcasm to the nub of what I was trying to get across. :)

I agree absolutely that we still *need* heroes: I just remain concerned that, in general, we select the wrong ones for the wrong reasons. Or, at least, reasons believed to be correct as part of some wider mass delusion.

My primary concern: that we will lose sight of what makes, and who is, a real hero in favour of 'five minute wonders' manufactured for mass consumption. Moreover, in a world where the 'fmw' is seen as a good thing, what remains to inspire those who would do good works in other fields?

In short, I agree with your perspective but remain uncertain *how* to generate mass support for 'real' heroes.

Thanks for stimulating some thoughts!


James T. Parsons said...

The irony of it all is that often those most well-suited to be the hero or leader are not inclined to be named as such, and often the ones seeking it out are the ones least capable of doing so with honor.

Anyone else want to follow this thread? Thank you, David, or your contributions! Good stuff. jtp.