Monday, May 2, 2011

The Psychology of Revenge: Why We Should Stop Celebrating Darth Vader's Death

Re-blogged from The Huffington Post with slight edits. Original can be found here.

The Psychology of Revenge: Why We Should Stop Celebrating Darth Vader's Death

While the killing of Darth Vader is being enthusiastically celebrated throughout Rebel bases and parts of the galaxy, to say that such merriment is out of order will surely be considered heresy. Nonetheless, I'm saying it -- because it needs to be said. What I am tempted to say is this: Get a grip, celebrators. Have you so little decency?

I do understand how those who have suffered from the events of Alderaan may feel relieved, even happy, to have "closure" after years of waiting for "justice to be done" -- and I don't quarrel with such feelings. Closure is a natural yearning and can certainly help people move on from serious trauma. And feelings are feelings. If you feel joyful, you feel joyful.
But celebration is not in order, no matter what your feelings of elation. Here's why.
"Celebrating" the killing of any member of our species -- for example, by chanting "Rebel Alliance! Rebel Alliance!" and singing "Yub Nub" outside the Rebel base on Yavin IV or jubilantly demonstrating in the streets of Coruscant -- is a violation of human dignity. Regardless of the perceived degree of "Jedi" or "Sith" in any of us, we are all, each of us, human. To celebrate the killing of a life, any life, is a failure to honor life's inherent sanctity.
Plenty of people will argue that Darth Vader did not respect the sanctity of others' lives. But I say, "So what?" What makes us human is our ability to choose our own behavior. More specifically, it is our capacity to return good for evil, love for hate, dignity for indignity. While some consider Darth Vader to have been the personification of evil, he was nonetheless a human being. A more appropriate response to his killing would be to mourn the many tragedies that led up to his violent death, as well as the violent deaths of thousands in the attempt to eliminate him from the galaxy; to feel compassion for anyone who, because of their role in the Rebel forces, citizen or senator, Jedi or otherwise, has had to play any role in killing another.

We are not a peaceful species. Nor are we a peaceful galaxy. The celebrations of this killing throughout the galaxy draw attention to these facts.

The death of Darth Vader gives us an opportunity to ask ourselves: What kind of galaxy and what kind of species do we want to be? Do we want to become a species that honors life? Do want to become a species that embodies peace? If that is what we want, then we need to start now to examine our own hearts and actions, and begin to consciously evolve in that direction. We could start by not celebrating the killing of another.

It is hard not to think that some of the impulse to celebrate "justice being done" may also contain a certain pleasure in revenge -- not just "closure" but "getting even." The galaxy is not safer with Darth Vader's violent demise (threat levels are going up, not down), so no cause for celebration there; The Dark Side has not been finally removed from the galaxy, so no reason for jubilation on that count. The War on The Empire goes on, so there is no closure in that regard. The truth is that "celebrating justice" when one person is killed -- as happens regularly in the gang wars of Coruscant cities -- only incites further desire for revenge, which, from "the other side's" viewpoint, is usually called "justice."

Think of it. If a leader on our planet were killed by another government in the manner in which Darth Vader was killed, as "justice" for his acts of aggression in the War on The Empire -- and people from that other planet were shown proudly chanting the planet’s name, singing their national anthem, and demonstrating in the streets -- we would likely feel more sickened than joyful, don't you think? The impulse to celebrate a death depends on what side you're on.
We will only have peace when we stop the cycle of jubilation over acts of violence.
Who will stop the cycle? If not us, who? If not you and I, who will it be?

"Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering."

1 comment:

James said...

Ha! I actually read the Star Wars version all the way through unlike original. The Russians are right...we are a culture addicted to entertainment.