Luke Skywalker understands one truth in the trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and it’s an important one: It’s time for the Jedi to end.
Luke’s not a misguided outcast who needs to be shown the error of his ways; he’s a wise teacher who knows there is no place for an order of religious zealots with next to no legislative oversight in a functional democracy.
You can talk about the balance of the Force as much as you’d like. No one is saying that you shouldn’t be able to meditate and build your own lightsaber. We’ve seen enough blasters to know that there is some galactic version of the Second Amendment in play here. If you want to carry a laser sword and be at peace with the galaxy? That’s fine.
The problem is when the government gives you what seems to be nearly unlimited authority to enact policy, with the implicit threat of cutting your hand off, reading your mind and using your own thoughts against you.
The presence of the Jedi will always be a threat
The issue here isn’t that the Jedi exist, but the fact that they were made the religiously bound, official peacekeepers of a secular government, with the power to change the course of history itself. The wars that we see on-screen, the battles that cost untold carnage across space, are often the result of the actions of Jedi who are acting in the best interests of their beliefs, not the will of the people.
It’s important to remember that Qui-Gon Jinn was acting as an ambassador investigating a trade dispute at the beginning of A Phantom Menace. But you don’t send a Jedi to look into something without sending the clear message that the muscle is here. The presence of the Jedi themselves, even before they speak, is seen as a threat and escalates the situation.
Imagine what it’s like be going about your day, only to encounter a Jedi during your travels. You have heard stories that they can read your mind and force you to do things you don’t want to do. Blasters are worthless, because the Jedi can swat the bolts away with their laser swords. They have been given the blessing of the government to go where they’d like and kill if they feel the situation warrants it.
I’d be scared too.
And there is the grimmer reality that the Jedi don’t care about the great good of the people, but act unilaterally in service of their religious beliefs at the expense of law itself. Consider Qui-Gon’s discovery of slavery on Tatooine, a practice that is illegal and creates much human suffering as living souls are bought and sold like cattle.
But Qui-Gon also sensed a young slave named Anakin Skywalker may be important to his religious order, and ignored everything else in order to kidnap him from his home and mother. As the video below shows, Qui-Gon could have saved both Anakin and his mother from slavery, but it would have complicated both the immediate mission and Anakin’s later training.
Remember, Qui-Gon wanted Anakin not as a point of law, but because his religion indicated the child could be of some use. If Anakin’s mother had been part of the deal, his training would have been complicated by the attachment. Qui-Gon made the decision to leave her to a life of slavery and later murder after being resold in order to add another child to the ranks of his order. It’s repugnant.
The decision to leave the mother — not to mention the rest of the slave population of Tatooine — behind in order to begin Anakin’s training was based on cruel calculation, not empathy or justice. The end result in the short term was an escalation of conflict in the trade dispute, but ultimately Qui-Gon’s poor judgment led to the creation of Darth Vader himself.
When belief trumps logic, the entire galaxy suffers. Qui-Gon could have sent Jedi, or even just a battalion of soldiers, back to Tatooine to end the slave trade and free Anakin’s mother. This would have freed Anakin from the trauma of knowing his mother was still suffering, which was ultimately what pushed him to the Dark Side.
Attachment isn’t always a bad thing. Alderaan would probably agree that things would have been better if Anakin could have visited his mother on the weekends to avoid the creation of a planet-destroying despot.
It gets worse
This isn’t even getting into the “Jedi Mind Trick,” which robs people of their agency and allows the Jedi to control others directly, nor the strange mixture of Jedi and traditional soldiers throughout the Clone Wars.
What is the chain of command in the situation? If a Jedi were to commit a war crime, would the Senate have oversight to punish them, or would it be left to the Jedi Council? The idea that it’s possible to hold soldiers to one standard and super-powered true believers to another is absurd. These are children who were taken from their homes at a young age and taught deadly arts and a belief system before being given ultimate power over the lives of those they are supposed to serve.
The Jedi impacted the political climate of the entire galaxy, and at great cost to everyone else living there who don’t see the world in terms of Jedi vs. Sith. The Emperor didn’t rise to power because the Jedi trusted their religion, it happened because the Jedi were both powerful and open to manipulation.
The Jedi were damaged men and women who are tasked with executing official government policy, and in the Clone Wars fought with the government to maintain control of the systems that wanted to pull out. The line between keeping the peace and keeping people in line became blurry.
Life is about love and longing. It’s about experience and emotion. You can’t deprive a child of these things, teach them that their hearts are filled with dangerous attachments to those they love, and then indoctrinate them into your religion in order to act as “peacekeepers.” It’s a corrupt system that ended in ruin, and for good reason.
I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but the Jedi belong where they are right now: as legend.
The author of this piece would like you to know that while he agrees with these arguments politically, he still thinks the Jedi are completely badass and hopes that Rey and Luke spend two hours in The Last Jedi kicking 10 kinds of butt.