I finally saw Rogue One, and while there was much to say on this subject, my overwhelming thought leaving was this: I wish there was an obvious way for me to fight a clearly evil empire. Preferably with my awesome kung-fu skills.
It’s one of the great draws of all fantasy/SF books ever. The tales of plucky awesomeness as we rise up, often with our Jedi powers/wizarding skills/prophecised magics, to take down a big bad darkness in the name of good.
And then you look at reality.
And you realise that the things you regard as big bad darknesses are, validly and honestly, regarded as awesome excellences by people as human and valuable as you are. The stormtroopers are your colleagues and your mates. People aren’t eating eat other in the streets while you remain strangely untouched by desperation, violence and poverty; other people in far-away-land-that-you-don’t-really-know-enough-to-care-about-I-mean-you-care-but-it’s-hard-yeah? are being oppressed, sure, but you’re ok. You’re ok right now and maybe you won’t be in a while but who the hell are you – who the hell do you even think you are – to stand up and make a shit-storm about this stuff speculatively?
Because the big badnesses are really hard to point at and go ‘look it’s Darth Vader’. They’re laws that punish human rights whistleblowers, and prevent charities lobbying. They’re laws that protect corporations at the price of worker’s rights, that make it harder, not easier, to protect our very frail, very tottery planet. They’re acts of government that make food more expensive for the skint, and tax breaks better for the banks. These are all things that are very much things that Emperor Palpatine would be down with – but he’d be so much more maniacally cackly while doing it, and that’d help. My God that’s help, because then we could go and use our kung-fu in the name of plucky defiance and the freedom of all and…
… well, actually, there’d probably be guys with guns who can actually shoot straight, and kung-fu only gets you so far, but sobeit.
(On which note if you haven’t watched this:
… you’re missing out.)
On the plus side, if watching these tales and reading these books about triumphant heroes standing up for the oppressed masses leaves you feeling a bit ‘ugh’ about your life choices, look on the bright side! The very act of making these stories, of these things being so deeply a part of our popular culture, is a small step in a good direction. We value these things, we are telling ourselves tales in which big bad powers continue to be Big and Bad, rather than happy stories of how HSBC Is Building A Death Star And Creating Jobs Too, and even if this leads to only small rebellions against narratives in which it’s ok to let things go to shit, well, big rebellions start with people, and stories, and ideas.
So maybe we’re not gonna go out there and do kung-fu. But maybe our kids are gonna grow up with a cry of ‘I wanna be a Jedi’ and if that means protecting those weaker than yourself, and fighting for justice in an injust universe… even if they’re also a lawyer, that idea matters loads.