Skip to comments.Happy Empire Day!
Posted on 05/22/2005 10:57:37 PM PDT by LibertarianInExile
It is arguable that the most famous line in Revenge of the Sith comes from Padme Amidala. When Palpatine announces to a rapturous Senate that the Republic is to be re-organised as the first Galactic Empire, she says: "So this is how liberty dies. With thunderous applause.
We are supposed to infer from this statement that freedom has been traded for security, and democracy traded for a dictatorship. As such, it is supposed to be a dark day, a tragedy, one which will take 20 years and the original three films to remedy. However the question that no one asks is, what was so wonderful about the Republic? If one digs into the literature and looks at the issues of the Republic prior to the Clone Wars, one can see that it was an anarchic, violent mess that desperately needed to be reformed, if not knocked over entirely.
Our first clue comes from an unlikely source. The Revenge of the Sith Visual Dictionary is mostly intended for children and intense fans to get close-ups and schematics of the people, places, droids, weapons and vehicles used in the film. However under the Separatist Ground Forces section, one finds a couple of interesting descriptions. The NR-N99 Tank Droid fearsome and heavily armed is described as having been ..once employed to persuade corporations of the wisdom of being acquired by the Corporate Alliance. On the same page, the Hailfire Droid, capable of launching a devastating barrage of missiles, is described as having been used by the Intergalactic Banking Clan for debt collection.
While these descriptions are small, almost throwaway lines, their implications are much larger: the fact that the Intergalactic Banking Clan had to use violence to get people to pay their debts, indicates that the Republic had no enforceable contract law. The Corporate Alliances tank droid indicates that there is no anti-trust law enforcement to speak of; justice and commerce are merely the good of the strong. The fact that these groupings within the Republic had armed forces which could be used with minimal reference to the Senate, speaks of a situation of incredible lawlessness and anarchy. The Republic then is much less a democracy and more of a group of squabbling, violent factions. It is also worth noting that far from being the guardians of peace and justice, apparently the Jedi did nothing or could do nothing to prevent these factions from having these armed forces.
The point is further reinforced by the Trade Federations blockade of Naboo. When the Jedi ambassadors approach the blockade, the first message from Nute Gunray says that the blockade is perfectly legal. Yet, the blockade is supposed to starve the planet into submission. If indeed the Republics laws are so flexible as to conceivably allow factions to starve poorly armed planets into submission, then the laws can hardly be said to exist.
The Republic also was not a structure that was willing to tackle organised crime. It is clear that the Hutts were so unmolested in their rule of Tatooine that it can be said to have been the mob hideout of the galaxy. Worse, these outposts of criminality contained vices like slavery, something which the Republic lacked the will or the energy to stamp out.
Those still in favour of the Republic might wish to argue at this point that at least people had a vote in the running of their affairs. This might be true in the case of planets like Alderaan and Naboo, but obviously democracy is not a consistent feature of the Republic. There are still hereditary titles of position and privilege, for example, Dookus title of Count of Serenno. Also, it does not appear that the Neimodians could vote for the leader of the Trade Federation, nor are there any apparent term limits for the Viceroy. Democracy at best is inconsistent.
All in all, the Republic comes across as patchy at best in the implementation of the rule of law, providing peace, security and justice, and even granting democratic rights. In contrast, the Empire comes across as a great improvement.
Destroying the factional nature of the Republic was part and parcel of Palpatines plan to establish a secure Empire: by pushing the likes of the Corporate Alliance and the Trade Federation onto the wrong side of the Clone Wars, he managed to wipe them out entirely. No longer would debtors to the Banking Clan, for example, have to worry about tank droids dropping in. The Empire established one set of laws, and only one military force for the entire galaxy. Extralegal blockades such as the one done by the Trade Federation became a thing of the past.
Organised crime felt the heat as well. It was clear from Han Solos exploits that the Empire was vigorous about using its armed forces to stop smuggling and thus diminish the power and influence of the Hutts and their ilk.
As for specious arguments about democracy, it is not clear that the Empire was entirely a bad thing for those planets that were democratic. For example, Bail Organa remained a person of importance on Alderaan, Princess Leia was a member of the Imperial Senate. There is nothing to suggest right up until its destruction that Alderaan did not at least have some degree of autonomy, to the extent it could pick leaders who could likely offend the Emperor to some degree. A further example is provided by Bespin: as the Empire Strikes Back shows, the Empire was content to let Cloud City operate independently until Han Solos arrival. The Empire only acted against these systems when it was reacting to the Rebel Alliances plans for violent revolution or to secure a hiding place.
In light of these facts, Padme Amidalas line about liberty dying to thunderous applause seems to be less appropriate than the thunderous applause itself. The Senators could conceivably be applauding the Empire, not because out of being venal, corrupt, or misguided, though certainly many of them were, but also out of the realisation that the Republic could not have carried on as before, and it was time to try something new. It could have been applause which came from relief that the days of violence and lawlessness had finally come to the end. Perhaps it also came from the knowledge that Palpatine was just the man to make it happen, for indeed he was.
Thought y'all would enjoy this thread.
hey, you have a partisan in support!
I love these movies, except the ones I don't love, and in the end I think they create a healthy skepticism of authority. I also think this latest one seems to be trying to be harshly partisan.
But kids don't learn these lessons the way their creators seem to think. In the end, these movies promote loyalty to friends, adventure, and fighting evil, all good stuff. And the visuals are without equal.
I completely agree. The "Galactic Senate" or whatever it was called was the total embodiment of the United Nations - hypocritical, inefficient and bloodly stinkin' useless.
When Padme's planet was being brought to its knees in Episode I, what did the Senate do? Not one thing except form a committee.
Anakin Skywalker was a SLAVE. His mother was a SLAVE. Pretty much every civilization that we encountered in THREE MOVIES was some sort of dictatorship. Where's all this "democracy"?
Is there ANY more elitist group in the history of the universe than the Jedi Council? They got what they had coming.
I agree wholeheartedly with your comments, and I have to think that Lucas intended that partisan crap to be an appeal to the Hollywood overlords for a special Oscar for the series. I really do believe that was his suckup intention. Not that he's not a leftist, but he's never been noisy about it until recently.
And I like movies that seem bent to make kids reflexively question concentration of power. It's certainly better than propagandizing them to applaud it.
"Is there ANY more elitist group in the history of the universe than the Jedi Council?"
Well, maybe the U.S. Senate, or the CFR, or the Trilateral Commission...
But then those groups only try to run ONE planet. : )
I don't believe that. It's too Machiavellian: Adding political angles to movies doesn't win special Oscars. I also think he doesn't really care about Oscars anymore.
Plus, he's already won a special Oscar for his producing, so he won't be winning another one.
'More along the lines of "I like the Empire better than the new-agey wuss Rebels of Episodes I-III and VI."'
Glad to know there wasn't anything wrong with me years ago, when I wore a Darth Vader T-shirt & rooted for the "bad guys."
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