When I was a teenager, it seemed that there was more certainty about life. Maybe it is just me, but looking back it seemed like there was an expectation that things like living standards, life expectancy, social mobility were gradually getting better. In relation to modes of government, we were taught the ideas of Francis Fukuyama that post-Cold War, we were moving towards the end of history, towards “the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government”. Political debate was certain – James Carville kept Clinton on message with the mantra “it’s the Economy stupid!” – and even the scandals back then nowadays look quaint.
Time has moved on (and Fukuyama has had to qualify his theories). Since 2001, we have increasingly been living in a very uncertain global environment. We have the War on Terror entering its sixteenth year, economies are still, almost ten years on, rebounding from the financial crisis that we were plunged into in 2008, political discourse is polarised to the extreme that we are uncertain whom to believe. We have news that is fake news, and fake news that is news. For those living in Europe we have the uncertainty of what life will be like post-Brexit. There is little job security and the housing market is unaffordable, meaning that home life is increasingly rented and transient. Jobs have little degree of permanence, retirement ages keep getting put back.
Anyone who even flicks past news channels will have heard the mantra that modern economies “require certainty”. Well, certainty is in short supply at the minute in the economy and elsewhere. As a result, I find myself reverting to the illusion of security provided by the entertainment of my youth. What can Star Wars tell us about managing uncertainty?
Surely Force-users can gain certainty? The concept of the Force seems to suggest an element of pre-determined fate in how events pan out. Take some comfort though; even the most powerful of Force-users cannot gain certainty as to how future events unfold.
The most salient point that Star Wars has to offer, as ever, comes from Master Yoda. In his exchange with Luke on Dagobah, Yoda speaks to Luke regarding the latter’s Force vision, “it is the future you see…difficult to see. Always in motion is the future.” I find these words comforting. Even Yoda with his great ability could not accurately chart out the future, or assure Luke of what will happen. The motion that he speaks of provides only one absolute that we can carry away with us: the only certainty in life is uncertainty. In the times we live in, it does us good to remember uncertainty is a constant, despite what experts on rolling news coverage say.
Grasping the illusion of certainty can also lead to demise and ruin. Supreme certainty was held by Palpatine in his arrogance until the very end. He was actually at the nadir of his power at the time of the events on Endor. Despite this, he failed to see the switch in approach as Luke turned to alter events by throwing away his lightsaber, and Vader was ultimately redeemed by turning on Palpatine. Palpatine failed to factor in Luke’s internal faith in his assessment of Vader’s ultimate character.
Luke was correct in his assessment that there was still good in Vader. Palpatine was certain (as were others, such as Obi-Wan) that Vader was beyond any shred of redemption. Palpatine’s supreme certainty was his failure. Yoda’s uncertainty won the day.
This is a post for the Partisan Cantina. Save the dream, save the Rebellion.
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