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Motivations of the Sith

"At last we will reveal ourselves to the Jedi. At last we will have revenge." -- Darth Maul, TPM

Like what Reagan said after he was shot, "anyone know what that guy's beef was?"

Of the few lines that Maul had, this stuck out the most for me, and it probably did for most fans. As far as we know, Maul's fight with Qui-Gon Jinn on Tatooine was the first time since they went underground that a Sith met the Jedi in armed conflict. Why's he so ticked-off at the Jedi? Was he an orphan in a foundling home run by Jedi and they didn't provide enough dental floss? Did he get that facial tattoo to impress little Adi Gallia on the playground and she jilted him? Probably not, and yet this dude gets more than a little honked off when Jedi are mentioned.

And Darth Sidious, what's biting him? If he's really Palpatine, he's got a nice Senator's job, a cushy office, a REALLY good view of the Coruscant skyline, beautiful alien inter... uhhh, aides to help him out (whew!) He's got everything that anyone could possibly want or ever have use for. Why want more, even the galaxy? As Charlie Sheen's character asked in Wall Street, "how much is enough?"

Under normal circumstances, the Sith don't make much sense. A chain of master-to-apprentice shouldn't hold a grudge for two thousand years. Over time some of them would probably question whether this is right, or if "their day" will really come. They'll wonder why do they have to hang around each other in dark robes instead of getting out and bustin' some chops. But they don't, and yet the Sith hold their anger out longer than the McCoy-Hatfield feud. They hold onto the virtue of patience, waiting for the right time and in no rush to grasp power blindly... because they understand power and its true rationale.

I don't think that the Sith are the only kind of "Dark Jedi" out there, but they are the purest so far as motivation goes. The Sith, we are told in the novelization, was founded by a renegade Jedi who saw the power of the Force not as a tool for service to others, but simply as a tool for power unto itself. Later in the novel, Terry Brooks describes Darth Maul as having a "messianic" hatred of the Jedi: a hatred that stretches back to the Sith who re-founded the order after its initial destruction, Darth Bane.

Why did the Sith wait for over a millennia to strike? Because there was a far greater goal they were reaching for than just to take over the galaxy and wipe out the Jedi. It wasn't enough to just take power: they had to prove to the Jedi that their way was the right way, that the Force was meant for power and not service. Remember in 1984 when O'Brien is explaining to Winston that it can't suffice to merely kill him? The Party had to win against Winston's mind as well as his body. Partial victory isn't enough for power: power has to totally convince others of its right to power, or else it has none. Absolute power allows for no dissent, not even in one person. We can see that in some totalitarian regimes even today that crack down on religious freedom, because the freedom of just one mind is a threat to the power of the state. And nothing provides for more freedom than the belief in a final authority of goodness that supersedes the state's definition of "good".

Watch the scene again in Return of the Jedi sometime, when Luke throws away his lightsaber and refuses to join the Emperor. If the Sith had been waiting for their ultimate triumph against the sole remaining Jedi, then they failed. The Dark Side staked its claim on the last Sith Master: Darth Sidious/Emperor Palpatine. The Light Side now seized the final victory in the last Jedi: Luke Skywalker. It would not be Evil that would convince Good of its strength. Good reached past Evil and touched the heart of the one man who could destroy the Emperor: Anakin Skywalker. Evil didn't convince Good, Good convinced Evil. Good proved itself stronger than Evil. If Palpatine really is Darth Sidious, then that last scene in the throne room suddenly takes on an almost apocalyptic meaning.

One of the most often-asked philosophical questions has been, "if God is a God of love, then why does He allow for bad things to happen in this world?" It's been asked this past century perhaps more than in any other, especially considering the many horrors that took place, whether on the vast scale of the Holocaust or in the library of Columbine High School. It's one of those things that mortals aren't meant to understand, and the last person who asked and got an answer, a guy named Job, had to admit that he was waaay too tiny to comprehend all that was going on in his life.

But look at what was happening to Job in Heaven's eyes: God allowed one man to serve as a cosmic battlefield between Good and Evil. God didn't cause the evils that beset Job, but He did allow for them, on the condition that Job himself would not be killed. At any one time Job could have fallen to temptation and cursed God, but he didn't. He certainly questioned, but who among us wouldn't? It's part of what makes us human. Job didn't know that Satan had challenged God on a point of goodness and that his trials, in the end, were meant to prove that Good was mightier than Evil.

There is a school of thought that teaches that God doesn't make evil things happen, but He does allow for them to. But it's never a choice He makes: He gives others that sovereignty. And when evil does happen, He uses it to illustrate His justice and fairness. Evil is not a force unto itself, though it wants to believe that it is. Evil is merely the absence of Good. But Evil will always tempt Good with its enticements of power. It's not enough for evil that it must exist for the sake of being "evil". Evil has purpose, and it must be chosen, not bestowed. A person always has the choice of following his or her conscience and pursuing what, in their heart, they know is true. Or they can reject it and become evil. But in embracing Evil, their actions will always be proven wrong by Good, however long it takes. That is why God, according to some people, allows for Evil to happen: because if He didn't, He couldn't prove that Good is stronger than Evil. There would be justice, but how would we know justice unless something were weighed against it?

I've started wondering if there really is a Light Side and a Dark Side to the Force. Watching the whole stretch of the Star Wars movies, I can see that there were no coincidences or "luck". That all the while, it was the Force slightly nudging things one way or another until finally it came down between Good in Luke Skywalker, Evil in the Emperor, and the person that Good had to make its point to: Darth Vader. When Luke resisted Evil, Evil fled from him, and Good won out in the end.

Maybe that's what "the balance of the Force" is all about: the Force being about a "force of good", but it can also be used for evil. And when that goodness is corrupted, the Force allows for evil to continue for a season, until the time comes to prove for all why Good is greater than Evil.

Chris Knight for
January 25, 2000


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