Posts tagged with: star wars

Chirrut Îmwe

The newest Star Wars film, ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,’ has enjoyed a box office success of more than $700 million since its release and generally positive reviews from fans and critics alike. The film series has a mythic quality for many, offering stories of heroism, betrayal, virtue, pride, and even spirituality.

At First Things this week, Marc Barnes offers a decent analysis of the different developments of how the Force in particular — the main religious element of the films — is depicted throughout the different Star Wars movies. He’s particularly critical of the prequel trilogy for their “secularization of the Force,” offering a naturalistic explanation (the much-maligned “midi-chlorians”) and treating it like technology or magic.

By contrast, he praises the new films, especially Rogue One, for restoring religious reverence the Force: “If the prequels scooped the sacred from the Force by biologizing and technologizing it, Rogue One returns it by spiritualizing and refusing to use the Force.”

All this has merit, but I actually thought that Rogue One in particular represents a third depiction of the Force, in some ways equally contradictory to the original trilogy or Episode VII. (more…)

Yesterday was both Star Wars Day (May the Fourth) and the day that Donald Trump became the presumptive presidential nominee for the Republican party. I reflected on the confluence of these two phenomena in a short essay on what Mr. Trump might learn from Emperor Palpatine. It is not well-known, perhaps, but Palpatine was instrumental in creating the so-called Book of Sith, which includes a treatise by him on “Absolute Power.” I draw a couple of lessons for Mr. Trump from Darth Sidious’ work, but there’s another element that I want to highlight briefly as well.

At one point Sidious reflects on his rise to prominence, his control of the Galactic Senate, and eventual consolidation of power under the Empire. “Fear is the spark that drove my march to power. Even now it fuels the engine of my Empire,” he writes. “The weak must be trained to fear the consequences of betrayal. They must dread that their neighbor’s loyalty is greater than their own. The anxious will whip themselves into hysterical nationalism without further prompting” (emphasis added).

13174032_848140198624580_2869438526186601064_nHere Sidious provides a key insight into the nature of despotic tyranny and it’s corruption of human relationships. Such tyranny isolates individuals from one another, making sure that they no longer relate to anyone except as mediated by the despot or his machinery. Or as Tocqueville put it, “A despot readily pardons the governed for not loving him, provided that they do not love each other.” Love having been excluded, fear is left alone to reign.

Blog author: jballor
Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Light Side CodeSome people will try to tell you that the Star Wars saga is about the conflict between the light and the dark sides of the force, between the Jedi and the Sith. Some will defend the Jedi as virtuous warrior monks. Others will try to tell you that the whole story is about bad parenting.

Star Wars is really about family, but it is too easy to blame the parents and the Skywalkers in particular. The films in fact illustrate how the main factions of Force-users, both light and dark, break apart the natural family. I make the extended case in an essay for the Public Discourse, “The Family and the Force.”

Here’s a teaser:

When we identify the mutual disdain for the family that is characteristic of users of both the light and the dark sides of the Force, we can begin to understand the revolutionary depth the Skywalker family represents in the Star Wars universe. Contrary to both the Sith and the Jedi, the Skywalkers are deeply committed to their familial bonds.

Only the bonds of love forged in the natural family can bring true balance to the Force. There are big spoilers in the piece itself for those of you who haven’t yet seen “The Force Awakens.” And below the break (and below this line), I’ll discuss a few more spoiler-ish items that I didn’t have space to treat in the larger essay.

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, January 13, 2016

templarThe new Star Wars film embodies that ancient human striving for virtue and a higher spiritual order, says Dylan Pahman in this week’s Acton Commentary.

The most recent installment in the Star Wars franchise, Episode VII “The Force Awakens” has blasted box-office records like the Death Star destroying Alderan, so far grossing over $1.7 billion. Clearly, the series has massively broad appeal. Much of the draw seems to be the allure of the Jedi, the mystical guardians of the Star Wars galaxy who were based, in part, upon a medieval Christian monastic order: the Knights Templar. While there are surely other reasons for its popularity, my view is that that Star Wars’ focus on the importance of devotion to virtue and a higher spiritual order, embodied in the Jedi and illustrated in ”The Force Awakens” resounds with a universal human hope for people who embody that same vocation in our world today.

The full text of the essay can be found here (Warning: contains spoilers). Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.

noun_283226_ccIn today’s Acton Commentary, I have some further reflections on the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. The basic thrust of the piece is to encourage institutional thinking. We should expect that humans are going to institutionalize their goals because humans are natural institution builders, or culture makers.

This is one of the animating concerns behind the forthcoming volume The Church’s Social Responsibility as well. Even if younger generations now are more skeptical about “organized religion,” they will necessarily and eventually codify their views in some institutional form. In the context of religion, this means some understanding of “church,” which may look far different than previous incarnations.

As David Brooks puts it, “Most poverty and suffering — whether in a country, a family or a person — flows from disorganization. A stable social order is an artificial accomplishment, the result of an accumulation of habits, hectoring, moral stricture and physical coercion. Once order is dissolved, it takes hard measures to restore it.”

Of course institutions, being created by flawed human beings, have their flaws, and are prone to corruption of various kinds. So scrutiny of institutional structures as well as individual behavior is necessary. But I further argue that the level of public scrutiny should be commensurate with social power, particularly in economic and political forms. So by all means, let’s worry about what Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan are going to do with $50 billion. But let’s worry that much more about what the federal government does with that amount of money in a work week.

Let’s talk about The Force Awakens, which is tracking to smash global revenue records as it passes $1.5 billion. But let’s also not forget that the federal government spends a billion dollars in less time than it takes to sit down for a screening of the latest Star Wars episode!

Happy Star Wars day!

The new Star Wars, Episode VII: The Force Awakens, opened across the US and worldwide today, and I can’t tell you anything about how well it’s doing. I’ve been avoiding Googling it because I’m a huge nerd and I don’t want to accidentally uncover any spoilers. (I haven’t seen it yet.) But I do know that the presales were over $100 million. So even if people end up hating it, it’s already done pretty well.

(Not that kind of spoiler.)

Eric Boehm, who is the national regulatory reporter for and who I had the pleasure to meet at a conference last April, read my post this past Monday on Lando Calrissian as a Star Wars entrepreneur, and asked me to join him for a Star Wars-themed discussion of freedom and virtue for their regular podcast.

The podcast is up today. My interview comes up in the second half, but the whole show is worth your time. You can find it here.

And — okay, okay, I’ll say it — may the force be with you.

Note: Don’t take this guy’s ship. It didn’t work out well for the last guy.

With the newest installment in the Star Wars universe, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, releasing this Friday, I figured we need more Star Wars posts here at the PowerBlog. (Does the Force tend to corrupt?)

Because I’ve completely failed to maintain a cautious optimism and am now totally geeked for the new film, I recently re-watched the original trilogy (not that other one, oh no). Among other insights, I noticed that at least one major character is a small business owner: Lando Calrissian.

Lando explains his business philosophy in the clip from The Empire Strikes Back below … right before he sells out Han and Leia to Darth Vader and Boba Fett.

If you keep watching, you get see what is perhaps the worst first meeting with a girlfriend’s dad ever.

Now, notice: Lando’s gas mining operation on Cloud City has done well because he’s managed to keep the government, the Empire, out of his business as well as stay out of the mining guild. Doing so is “advantageous to everybody.” It attracts a certain clientele that would either be under-served or not served at all by larger businesses under a different regulatory climate.

No doubt, operating under the radar (or tractor beam, as the case may be) also allows Lando to charge lower prices, as he presumably wasn’t paying taxes to the Empire or dues to the mining guild.

However, (more…)