David Brin: Star Wars’ Dubious Lessons Live On – Nautilus

CK MacLeod

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27 Responses

  1. Oscar Gordon says:

    I don’t know if Yoda was evil, but he was clearly incompetent as a military and political leader. Which is not uncommon among leaders selected for some quality unrelated to leadership.Report

    • Glyph in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

      Second time in two days I’ve had occasion to reference this comic.

      “Only the Jedi use the Force, and they only use it for good. If Anakin was supposed to ‘bring balance to the Force’, logically he’d have to be tremendously evil. Yoda should have killed him on sight.”

      “Then they wouldn’t have had two more movies”

      “I didn’t say Yoda should’ve killed him quickly.”

      I definitely think the Jedi need to evaluate their mentoring system. After seeing SW:TFA, it appears their process goes terribly wrong about every other generation. A 50% success rate in producing tremendously-evil Sith Lords is nothing to be proud of.Report

  2. Doctor Jay says:

    Well, I mostly ignore Episode 2, because there’s so much there that doesn’t make any sense. (Also Episode 1). But my best memory of Yoda is that he was teaching the younglings in beginning light saber.

    That is a job that invests him with tremendous responsibility, and if we imagine, as I do, that he has taught beginning light saber to every single student at the Jedi Temple for the last, oh, 500 years, we can maybe get a sense of his value.

    I reject the idea that if someone has failed, it means they are incompetent and useless. I think the film rejects that idea, too.

    I am far more receptive to David Brin’s criticism since I think he, at least, watches the film and pays attention, unlike some other fluff out there. But I think he doesn’t get Yoda because the only teach he’s done is academic and at the college level. As someone who’s taught both college classes and martial arts to kids and adults, I’m here to tell you those are very different countries.

    There isn’t a kid in our program who hasn’t cried at some point. It’s not something we seek, I hasten to add, but it does happen. What we do is akin to exposure therapy for failure. Students succeed, and students fail, whether we are practicing kata or playing games. We want them to attach less meaning to failure, to not think “I’m such a loser” but rather “Oh well, get ’em next time”, or perhaps “Hmm, I need to do something different”.

    But to do that, the students need to experience failure – a failure of the sort where one tried one’s best and it didn’t work. All too often when a student says, “I’ll try” they are holding the activity at arm’s length. But the correct response to uncertainty is not half-speed

    This is the meaning to “Do, or do not. There is no try.” Brin finds this statement abusive and offensive. In one sense this is correct. It is rude, very rude. It is also valuable – valuable to the student.Report

    • Oscar Gordon in reply to Doctor Jay says:

      All true, but can we agree that perhaps the guy teaching intro to lightsaber is perhaps not the best guy to be commanding troops in battle?

      Actually, I think the bigger issue is that the Jedi we’re WARRIOR monks, not soldiers. You might find warriors effective during some element of a battle, but you don’t let them run the war.Report

      • Morat20 in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        Well, when teaching things like mediation or martial arts, it’s not exactly unknown for the wisest/most skilled/whatever master to teach the fundamentals.

        Because, you know, “fundamental”, So “Yoda being the most skilled with the sword” is not incompatible with “Yoda teaching intro to lightsabers”. Same with “Yoda being the best at Jedi Magic” with “teaching Jedi Magic for Toddlers”.

        Why they made the Jedi commanders and not, oh, special ops or something is admittedly puzzling. Unless the Jedi have this huge sideline in military tactics, strategy, logistics, and basically have a Military Academy on the side no one talks about.

        That would explain why the war drug on and on. Amateurs officers with no formal training on both sides? Dead god.Report

      • Doctor Jay in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        I can sign off on this as a general statement, but I do so like the visual of Yoda in the drop ship surrounded by clone troopers. Or Yoda with the Wookies in battle.

        But no, it doesn’t really make sense – leading armies is a very different skill than personal combat.Report

        • Oscar Gordon in reply to Doctor Jay says:

          That imagery would work just as well with Jedi as Special Ops, instead of default military command.Report

          • Morat20 in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

            I’m pretty sure if you have a cadre of magic space ninjas, even if like 1 in 100 is a fighter, that there is no designation BUT special ops.

            Teach them to use explosives and then let professionals explain what (or who) needs to be blown up.Report

  3. Michael Cain says:

    It’s not just Lucas. In SF generally, if the form of government is somewhat important to the story, well-functioning democracies or republics are few and far between.Report

    • Kolohe in reply to Michael Cain says:

      To be fair, in the real world, well functioning democracies and republics are few and far between.Report

    • Doctor Jay in reply to Michael Cain says:

      And I think Brin has a very good point about this. He puts his money where his mouth is when it comes to his own novels, too.Report

    • North in reply to Michael Cain says:

      Well, come on, let’s be stark. The problem with Democracies and Republics in fiction is that they are brutally boring to write about. How many committee and oversight authorities do you really expect an author to narrate on? Monarchies, dictatorships and dystopian governments are so much easier to write.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to North says:

        You beat me to it. Democratic or at least representative governments are designed to produce average politicians that do a tolerably good job under most circumstances. When you have an extraordinarily bad or good politicians than signs are things are going terribly wrong. The entire point is to use the law of averages to avoid the extremes produced by less representative systems.

        I actually think that there is one science fiction movie that deals with civic government doing its job under extraordinary circumstances. Its called Independence Day. I’m serious about this. Evil, scary aliens attempt to destroy earth and the United States government with the help of other governments and morse code manages to save the day.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Michael Cain says:

      In fantasy novels set in medieval settings, representative institutions are a lot less common than they were in our history. The medieval world did not have any democracies but representative bodies like parliaments, estate-generals, city councils, and guilds were common. So were republics in the form of the Italian-city states or the Most Serene Republics of Venice and Genoa. You rarely if ever see this reality reflected in fantasy novels even if government is important.

      A good part of this is lazy writing. Its easier to depict a hierarchical monarchy or military dictatorship. Writing convincing representative government is hard because all the intricate working parts and competing groups and personalities. Plus even a semi-competent representative government tends to be less exciting in practice than any monarchy. When civil institutions function even at average competence, the need for people to take things in their own hands or require heroes decreases.Report

      • Michael Cain in reply to LeeEsq says:

        I very carefully wrote SF rather than SF/F, just for that reason. My bad for not saying that more directly.

        Yes on lazy writing. If you need one side or the other to make some stupid strategic blunder, it’s easier to write if you can pin it on one character.

        In the last 150 years, when we have had much higher tech, there’s no question in my mind that democracies and republics have functioned reasonably well overall and won the important fights. Some of that might be biased by the US and Canada being able to hide behind two broad oceans and generate vast resources (even in the US Civil War, most of the North’s industrial might was never at serious risk). As more than one historian has argued, the Allies won WWII on the basis of the East Texas oil fields.Report

        • LeeEsq in reply to Michael Cain says:

          Its also that the USSR and China were willing to be meat grinders for the European and Pacific theaters respectively. China bogged down the Japanese Empire and prevented them from allocating significant resources to fight the United States. We would have won eventually but the fact that they were in a quagmire in China helped. The Soviets were the ones that did the brutal grunt fighting against the Nazis.Report

          • notme in reply to LeeEsq says:

            “China bogged down the Japanese Empire and prevented them from allocating significant resources to fight the United States.”

            According to whom? How many Japanese ships did the Chinese navy sink.Report

            • LeeEsq in reply to notme says:


              China might have downed any Japanese ships but they kept Japanese ground troops busy and that led to preventing even more Japanese exploitation of the resources in their control.Report

              • notme in reply to LeeEsq says:

                Just citing this book doesn’t prove your point. Maybe you could tell us exactly how this books proves that point.

                Besides, those troops weren’t much use once there wasn’t any shipping to move or supply them; or any naval vessels to protect them.Report

            • greginak in reply to notme says:

              From what i remember there were more Japanese troops in China then anyplace else. They had hundreds of thousands or over a million there. China was a major theater of war for the them while it was only a minor theater for us.Report

              • Kolohe in reply to greginak says:

                Imperial Japanese Army soldiers traveled lighter than any other combatants in any other theater of the war. Yeah, it’s literally the classic blunder, but the commitment of land forces to the continent wasn’t as big of a logistical sinkhole as it would be for anyone else. Moreover, it didn’t divert the resources the IJN needed to actually win the war (that is, get the empire in a place where a poltical resolution was achievable with the USA sometime in ’43)Report

              • Kolohe in reply to Kolohe says:

                (That should be ‘lighter than any nation state combatants’, the partisans in France and China had practically no logistic chain whatsoever.)Report

              • greginak in reply to Kolohe says:

                That may be, but China was still a major effort for the Japanese. That was troops, ammo, guns, supplies etc that didn’t face us in the pacific. It split their war effort which they couldn’t afford. Mostly their army and air force, but it was still a serious problem for them.Report