Welcome back! This week, I will be trying to make some improvements to my normal content. I will be hyperlinking a lot more, for ease of understanding when the use of Star Wars jargon is unavoidable, or where I think the reader may crave further reading, and I will be making context specific spoiler alerts from now on, i.e. instead of a post just headed [spoiler] (unhelpful if the question doesn't refer specifically to any given text), it may say, for instance, [Spoilers: Star Wars Episode IV, Star Wars Red Harvest] or whatever is applicable.
T.X. Watson asks:
"Why do we always assume that the Jedi are the good guys? Is it really that straight-forward?"
The reason people automatically assume the Jedi are good is a matter of presentation: Jedi are portrayed in the movies (and books) as the protagonists. Instant good guys. Of course, there is much more to it than that when it comes down to whether or not we as readers should just take such a claim at face value.
For instance, Luke becomes one of the biggest mass murderers after Grand Moff Tarkin when he blows up the first Death Star. About 1.7 million people died at that moment. You might even say it was as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.
Now, that was one action of one man, albeit the one who would become the Grand Master of the New Jedi Order. Still, there are two levels of evaluation I think should be considered before casting a good or bad light on any group, so let's apply them here to the Jedi and the Sith.
Philosophy: The Jedi are a group of religious zealots[1. From a certain point of view.], as are the Sith. An oversimplification of both groups yields the following cores to their religious philosophies: the Jedi believe in selflessness, stoicism, and submitting their wills to the Force; the Sith believe in selfishness, passion, and submitting the Force to their will. This central difference immediately shows why the Jedi are portrayed as the protagonists: selflessness and calm logic are considered virtues in Western society, where we tell our children selfishness is wrong, and to not act on emotion and impulse.
Of course, capitalism is founded on notions of selfishness and greed. The most successful people in Western society are precisely those who are willing to put themselves above the rest and do what it takes to make it to the top. Exactly like the Sith.
That also plays into the good v. evil dichotomy: we most hate in others what we hate in ourselves. We were told to hate selfishness but must be selfish to survive and even thrive, so we look at others with extreme suspect if they are being selfish.
Now, the Force aspect is about power: the Jedi find power by giving up their own will to a greater one, the Sith find power by sheer domineering of will. But both are driven by power. Though the Jedi claim they do nothing for their selves, they still are acting in a way which allows them to access the greatest power available to them, exactly like the Sith.
And what do they do with that power?
Actions: The Jedi, with the fanaticism of any extremist organization, seek a religious genocide against any and all Sith. The Sith, like any splinter sect of a religion[2. The Sith as we know them were formed when a bunch of Jedi left the order and found the species of the Sith, and adopted their world view and taught them some of their ways as well.] equally seek the destruction of the Jedi. Members of both are caught in a 5000+ year war of extermination, with big gains made on both sides, time and time again.
The Sith are also known for being evil in their survival of the fittest training, where potential Sith are encouraged to constantly backstab (literally) their way up through the ranks to gain power and personal glory. Unlike those Jedi, who allow their students to die in the Trials....
Yeah. As I covered last week, the Jedi Trials were quite dangerous, and it was not unheard of that a padawan would die in them while trying to achieve knighthood. Of course, one of the trials involves a physical or spiritual maiming, the Trial of the Flesh, so there's that one too.
Of course, if you're a Padawan who isn't too keen to roll that die, if you kill a Sith you get to take a pass on the Trials. Even the Sith don't offer Jedi killing as a way to advance[3. Don't get me wrong, they love that. But just because you kill a Jedi isn't an instant promotion.]
I would suggest, however, the New Jedi Order series and the books that follow for the most ambiguity concerning the good v. evil dichotomy in relation to the Jedi, Sith, and the use of the Force in general.
Blake P. asks [SPOILERS: Star Wars Crosscurrent, Legacy of the Force Series, Fate of the Jedi Series]:
"Does time travel or travel to other dimensions exist in SW?"
If you had asked this a couple of years ago, the answer would've been a flat, "no." How lucky for you, the reader in the here and now.
Time travel does in fact exist and shows up in a couple of places in the Cannon. The more traditional sort of time travel happens in the novel Crosscurrent, in which a Sith battle ship tries to jump to hyperspace with a broken hyperdrive, and doesn't enter into the hyperspatial dimension (I'll get to that), but travels at relativistic speed for a while, which, following the law's set by Einstein, causes time to dilate for the crew of the ship, so what was hours to them was over 5000 years to the rest of the galaxy.
That is the only instance of straight-up time warping I can point to. However, the Aing-Tii monks, a Force using sect affiliated with neither Sith nor Jedi, created a Force technique called "flow walking", which is essentially Force time travel. The person pushes their presence through time, able to travel back and view events which happened in the past.
Jacen Solo (at that point Darth Caedus) learns this technique, and uses it with Tahiri Veila while seducing her to the dark side. He has her go back in time and see her lost love. However, the danger to going back in time is that while you can't actually change anything, while flow walking you can "interact" with the past, and excessive meddling will cause people to remember something akin to a Force ghost of the flow walker at that time, which they will know is a strange thing to remember.
Flow walking to the future is either supposed to be extremely difficult or nigh impossible, though Jacen manages that one as well, which fixes a point in the future, much to Luke's distrubment.
As far as dimensions are concerned, this also happens here and there. The most common breach of dimension is hyperspace, which is kind of an alternate dimension which space ships jump through while they surpass light speed, and thereby allows them to avoid the aforementioned relativistic effects of such travel.
Furthermore, Luke discovers while retracing Jacen's path of Force sabbatical a way to enter a sort of extra dimension which is similar to flow walking, though keeps the user in the present. It is a state of becoming a Force ghost while alive and visiting certain locations. The technique is dangerous though, as it is very tempting to remain in that state while your body withers away to nothing.
I love answering these sort of questions, which cause me to both rack my vast databanks of Star Wars lore and also to use my critical thinking and interpretation skills, so I thank you both for giving me a pleasurable writing experience (though so far I've loved writing every one of these.)
If all goes according to plan[4. Which it will, because I have a PhD in horribleness.], then tune in tomorrow for a special Ask a SW Geek, "How'd you like that book?" where I review the most recent SW fiction to pass under my nose. This week I've just finished Star Wars: Red Harvest, the second ever Star Wars horror novel, written by the author of both, Joe Schreiber.
See you tomorrow!
If you have a question in dire need of answering, send it along to firstname.lastname@example.org, and I'll see what I can do.
May the Force be with you, -Michael DiTommaso, the Star Wars Geek
**EDIT: PS - Next weekend I'll be at ReaderCon 23! I'll try to make sure it doesn't interrupt my normal scheduled content, and to any of you who might be there, may we bump into each other under pleasant circumstances!