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March 19, 2012 | by  | in Opinion |
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Surely you’ve seen Star Wars. In the first film, Darth Vader is the epitome of evil. Always the fashionista, shrouded in a metallic black suit, cape and helmet, the Dark Lord roams the Galactic Empire, crushing rebel and jedi alike in their campaign to return peace to the galaxy. He’s a really bad man. And the rebels are really good. Well, that’s how you feel watching the first film. Then, a funny thing happens.

In The Empire Strikes Back it is revealed that Darth Vader is, in fact, the father of our babe-cum-hero Luke Skywalker; how could something so evil spawn something so good? By Return of the Jedi, things become confused. We realise that, not only is Vader the father of our hero, but he is actually a caring guy, somehow misled by a twisted past. Furthermore,

in the prequels we learn that Vader was once considered the chosen one to bring peace to the galaxy; he was a hero turned evil by personal tragedy and the real politik of those in power. By this stage, we have learnt that what—on the face of it—was so fundamentally evil, was really far more complicated than that. All it took was understanding.

Now, perhaps it may seem natural at this point to say, “fine, but that’s only Star Wars. It would be highly tenuous to draw any grand statements about the nature of morality from a piece of outdated science-fiction”. But, oh, that’s where you’d be wrong—and not just because Star Wars isn’t fiction.

We were brought up on similar tales of good versus evil. Many of our grandparents or great grandparents have imparted stories to us of lives lived during war. We are told that then evil certainly did exist. There were the villains—Hitler, Stalin, Tojo—all united under the banner of fascism as the Axis of Evil. And against them were the Allies, championing the cause of freedom, democracy and all things good.

Nowadays, it can seem impossible to call anything evil. In a time where we are submerged in information, we are forced to acknowledge how little we understand about the causes of most things. The world has revealed itself to be a little more complex. Things are more All Quiet on the Western Front than Saving Private Ryan. Coming to terms with this is like watching Return of the Jedi: life- altering, though slightly disappointing.

We can no longer get away with the convenient reductivism of labelling this good and that evil.

And while it’s disconcerting to no longer be able to dismiss certain people or belief systems as evil, what’s far more unsettling is realising that consequently one can’t easily consider themselves good. The tragic truth is we are part of a community that callously exploits foreign labour for our own convenience. We degrade the natural environment knowing that this will cause immense suffering to future generations, simply because we can’t be fucked changing our ways. Inour own peaceful wee city, children live in crippling poverty, while we freak out when a flat white costs $4.

Perhaps we can’t help being this way. But to not even attempt to understand the consequences of one’s actions is the one sure evil, and the ultimate disservice to that object we possess called a brain.

Here’s a fucking revelation: Darth Vader wasn’t evil, and we aren’t good. Let’s not pretend otherwise.

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