Selfishness, Survival and the Sith Empire

Note: While this post uses a question of personal theology as a jumping off point, at its core it is not a theological post and I hope that everyone will find it worth reading regardless of their personal belief system.

I’ve been thinking a bit about God’s plan for humanity lately. I firmly believe that our purpose here on Earth is self-improvement, both as individuals and as a species. That belief does raise something of a question, though, in that, is there another path towards perfection? Could a species develop along individualist lines, rather than communal ones, and attain the same goal? The more I think about it, the less I think that’s possible, and my primary example of why comes from Star Wars.

There’s something of a truism in fiction that good is hampered by its need to be good, while evil can exist without the restraints of needing to worry about collateral damage. This is a trope frequently found in superhero fiction, where the villain will often set up a situations where the hero must choose between saving innocents and catching the villain. Usually this ends with the hero choosing the former, leaving the villain free to raise havoc another day and provide the writers loose ends to write new narratives with. But that’s a very individual narrative–a single or small group of villains versus a single or small group of heroes. The Sith Empire of the Star Wars extended universe provides something of a different tale. The Sith creed is based on personal pursuit of power, selfishness, and the idea that the strong survive. And in terms of pure power, the Empire is probably much stronger than the Republic. If they ever brought the full force of their military might against the Republic, they’d most likely win quite easily.

The problem is that the siths’ strength as individuals is their weakness as a collective. Much of their strategy and power is turned not against their enemies but each other, as various sith jockey for power and position. A lack of ability to work together is the least of their problems–much time and care needs to be taken to both shore up one’s own position as well as to undermine the position of others, much to the chagrin of the regular military who see their strength wasted, weakened, or outright destroyed as a result of the political machinations of the sith. The weak suffer under this system, being lucky to simply survive, but the strong are hampered as well. A dishonest individual in a group of honest ones can easily work things to hir advantage, but a group of dishonest individuals act as checks on each other, holding both individuals and the group back as effort that could be used in constructive ways is redirected against other members of the group.

I’ve written about my issues with the ‘rugged individualist’ philosophy before. A large part of my problems with it comes from how it ignores those without power, hurting most those who can do the least about it. But it also holds us back collectively. While the Sith Empire is something of an extreme example, with individuals constantly undermining each other, even passively not working together is a hindrance. When security is not assured, one must spend extra effort to provide it for oneself. Instead of building structures that help everyone rise to their potential, individuals are forced to put in extra effort to build the supports that are lacking, without those supports even being available to the next person. Social supports help individuals, but it also helps society by shifting focus away from avoiding the worst to attaining the best.


One response to this post.

  1. I find a lot of parallel between the rugged individualist notions and the general anarchist notions. I think your focus on the ability to preform collective good is what is lost most with anarchistic ideal’s. and it is that reason why ultimately I can’t buy into anarchism, or rugged individualism


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