Tag Archives: revolution

Thoughts on Rogue One A #StarWars Story

No spoilers ahead, so no spoiler warnings.

After the results of the 2016 Presidential election, liberals, progressives, radicals, and reasonable (anti-Trump) conservatives alike were searching for symbols  to invoke their outrage and disappointment. It was a bit of a coincidence that less than a month later a stand-alone film from the Star Wars franchise would debut.  The story of Star Wars has always been political, and in these partisan times, even more so. The idea behind Rogue One was to tell the backstory about how the Rebel Alliance were able to steal away the blueprint for the Death Star, and therefore know of its weakness in the final battle of Episode IV: A New Hope.  It was a prequel that takes place in between the prequel trilogy, after Revenge of the Sith and before A New Hope. 

In a funny way, members on the right and the left can identify with “The” resistance, seeing themselves in a story about a great struggle against the evil empire. The “white working class ” (according to the media’s narrative) is The Resistance having had to defeated the proponents of internationalism, the North Atlantic Treat Organization, and NAFTA. Disaffected democratic socialists and angry Hillary Clinton voters are now teaming up as the new “Resistance” against Orange Mussolini’s regime. Like the Rebel Alliance that is portrayed in the Star Wars canon, this alliance (the one of radicals and mainstream liberals) historically has been fragile in nature.

Rogue One provided a very helpful image of this relationship.  It took place during a discussion between Jyn Urso, the strong white feminist protagonist of the story and Saw Guerrera, the radical black freedom fighter.  Saw is angry because he has witnessed the transformation of the Republic into an evil Empire.  Saw (played by an African American man) tells Jyn of how disgusted he is with having to look at the empire’s flag everyday he wakes up.  Jyn (played by a white British woman) provides some simple advice, “Do not raise your head up.” The message is: keep your head down, keep quiet, and you won’t get into any trouble with your oppressors. For Saw Guerrera, that obviously would not suffice.  Jyn’s words ring eerily similar to the current controversy surrounding #theResistance to organizations like the Women’s March in Portland which said that signs mentioning #BlackLivesMatter were “too political.”  If you’re black, step back. Blackness, having black skin, participating in black culture and black institutions, is always seen as something Other, that any mention of Blackness as seen as going too far, too radical.

Was Rogue One a good movie? Of course, there’s no doubt that it’s a fine addition to the Star Wars canon, and in comparison to the other prequels, it was very well received. The feminist spirit of Rogue One was also comparable to the Hunger Games  and its dystopian world. I found the movie enjoyable, but going back to the issue of blackness.  The heroic tale of a loose band of goody-two shoe rebels adorned in white against a powerful group of dark-hooded men and women in black reads like a recapitulation of the American revolution.  Space fantasies and science fictions are never too off from historical events from which they find their inspirations. Good guys wear white, bad guys wear black.  Good guys are intuitive and make their decisions in the spur of the moment. The Bad guys are well organized, they have a plan, and often times they have a strict hierarchy. There was a point in my life when I found the Star Wars world to be uninteresting, but ever since I decided that what appealed to me were the Sith, it became much more intriguing.  If one thinks about the Sith Code as opposed to the Jedi, it’s actually the Sith values that save the world in Episode VI: Return of the Jedi.   It is a blend of passion and the deep knowledge of the powers that be that helps the Rebels to triumph.  Stoicism and objectivity have no place in the Emperor’s fall.

The other part of the problem with Star Wars   as a whole is its reception by the average fan.  Everyone wants to be a Jedi sort of like every three year old child wants to be a police officer when they grow up.  The very weapons that the Jedi forge (lightsabers) are powered by the same crystal responsible for powering the Death Star: the kyber crytals.  The Jedi police the galaxy with the power of the Death Star in their hands.  Think about it. The Star Wars Animated Universe (Clone WarsRebels) is particularly adept at showing just how the Jedi and the Sith, the Dark Side and the Light Side are but two sides of the same coin.  Of course there is such thing as right and wrong, but these labels are not due to which ever side of the Force one chooses, Jedi or Sith, but rather what one chooses to do with the Force, or in the case of “The Resistance,” our choices as it relates to power and power differential.  Many aspiring Rebels in today’s politics want us to follow the way of “Occupy” (a term that rests on settler colonialist assumptions), marching for the sake of marching, demonstration to DEMONSTRATE that someone doesn’t like what’s going on, politicking on our intuitions and feelings in the moment. Yet this is EXACTLY how the opponents keep winning.  They are counting on the Resistance remain deluded with their Rebel logos and Safety Pin [TM] entrepreneurial endeavors as distractions.

The Alt Right, like the conservative movements before it, the Moral Majority, the Reagan Revolution, Nixon’s Southern Strategy,  knows that in order for them to remain in power they need to divide and conquer (in this case, the poor, liberals, progressives, radical academics, People of Color, moderates) and so far, so good. The Alt Right white supremacists have a plan, they have specific policy goals, and they have both well-oiled corporate media outlets as well as popular independent fake news sites to get their message out there. In other words, they have a Death Star. The major challenge for Rebels in 2017 isn’t knowing what we are up against or what’s the best way to resist; the major challenge is planning what type of country/ Death Star are we going to replace Orange Mussolini’s regime with.

 

(Photo: The picture is of the Death Star from Star Wars.  It is a space ship shaped like the moon.  The sky is black. Found on Flickr. Taken by Mirek and Coop)

the master's tools #AnaBlacktivism

“Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as you obey Christ; not only while being watched, and in order to please them, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. Render service with enthusiasm, as to the Lord and not to men and women, knowing that whatever good we do, we will receive the same again from the Lord, whether we are slaves or free. And, masters, do the same to them. Stop threatening them, for you know that both of you have the same Master in heaven, and with him there is no partiality.-the Apostle Paul Ephesians 5:5-9(NRSV)”

“Those of us who stand outside the circle of this society’s definition of acceptable women;
those of us who have been forged in the crucibles of difference — those of us who are
poor, who are lesbians, who are Black, who are older — know that survival is not an
academic skill. It is learning how to take our differences and make them strengths. For
the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us
temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about
genuine change. And this fact is only threatening to those women who still define the
master’s house as their only source of support.”- Audre Lorde, “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle The Master’s House

Whenever discussions of social injustice take place, I normally see a shorter version of Audre Lorde’s quote appear, with the phrase itself taken completely out of context. The bumper sticker version “The master’s tool will never dismantle the master’s house” is invoked whenever some revolutionary purist wants to score points for quoting a woman of color and sexual minority (bonus points! LEVEL UP!)

Level up scott pilgrim

In context, Audre Lorde is describing her situation, and critiquing white feminism that centers the Academy and the middle class, and straight. The event she critiqued which took place almost thirty years ago was one in which “difference was merely tolerated.” For Lorde, “Difference is that raw and powerful connection from which our
personal power is forged.” It is the exclusion of this difference by white feminism that is exactly the way that it (white feminism) reinscribes White Supremacist Kyriarchy. One of the interesting questions that Lorde asks in this essay/speech,

“Why weren’t other women of Color found to participate in this conference? Why were
two phone calls to me considered a consultation? Am I the only possible source of names
of Black feminists? And although the Black panelist’s paper ends on an important and
powerful connection of love between women, what about interracial cooperation between
feminists who don’t love each other?”

Or for in a different context, why isn’t there any discussion for People of Color who desire for racial justice at Christian conferences? One of my friends a few months ago received a few phone calls as “a consultation,” and his voice was further devalued. The problem with the bumper sticker version of “the master’s tools” is that these discussion still center “the masters,” the dominant culture with its male supremacy. Even when members of the dominant culture find themselves wanting to discuss issues of white supremacy, privilege, classism and sexism, the starting point unfortunately seems to focus on the perspective from those at the top.

Then, there is this “demand” for marginalized people to “supply” privileged persons with education to be better allies. The choice by those from the margins to take the lead and inform the dominant culture of its wrongs should be a free, noncompulsory choice, on the terms determined by the marginated. Dialogues such as the Southern Baptist Convention partaking in the LORD’S Supper with members of the LGBTQIA community is a start, but again, it was on the SBC’s homefield. The calls by the majority, those in power, for the minorities to educate them, are, as Lorde argues, diversion tactics that lead to a repetition of white supremacist kyriarchy.

The way to decenter these discussions is to #1, stay focused on the margins, #2, not stray away from the topic of structural oppressions which can get derailed by persons who wish to make it “all about the individual,” and #3, recognize that whatever our visions of liberation are, whether they are religious or political, that these transcend as “the master’s tools.”

The Umbrella Revolution, #FergusonOctober, & the Social Order

I was revolutionary, before it was cool

I was revolutionary, before it was cool

Over the past couple of months, Ben Meyers at Faith and Theology has written a few provocative posts on Christian perspectives of the moral order and revolution: Apocalyptic and creation: why I changed my mind ; Christianity and Social Vision: once more on creation and the apocalyptic; politics, society, & institutions: a theological outline#FergusonOctober, I thought I would take the opportunity to discuss my own theology of revolution (which , albeit, is still in process).

1. I, for one, respectfully disagree with Meyers (and other Radical Orthodox writers) when they argue things like “The sole rationale for politics is original sin. The principal aim of political order is not to produce justice but to restrain injustice; not to cultivate the spirit of the law but to enforce the rule of law; not to create love but to set limits to self-interest […]” The art of politics in the original sense of the word, working toward the good of the polis, finds its ground and being in the goodness of the Creator. Yes, I assume that humanity and creation are fallen, but sin does not reign, and nor should the dictates of our human pride be considered the sovereigns of the world. If in fact Jesus IS LORD, and if Christ Jesus is the Creator who sustains all systems of the world (Colossians 1), then politics is humanity’s act of co-creating with the Holy Trinity. It is not the eschatological society {THE IDEAL CHURCH OF RADICAL ORTHODOXY, NO DOUBT!} but rather Christ Jesus himself who just as Deborah and Gideon did in the days of Israel’s judges, maintains justice between just and unjust parties.

2. As fallen human beings under the kingship and judgment of Jesus the Messiah, technically we are all in revolt versus the one true King. The only Law that truly matters is The Golden Rule [a summary of the Ten Commandments], given to the Church and the World by God’s Son Himself, the Second Person in the Trinity. Given the fact that Christians recognize One Lawgiver, Christians’ preference should be for freedom as a rule, rather than the Law and Order of Whiteness. For example, let’s take the situation in Ferguson, Missouri. There, an alliance of Christian ministers calling themselves the “Clergy for Peace” were making calls for reconciliation, slow revolution, and pretty much softer versions of Law & Order churchianity. While these slow revolutionaries were acting in the name of a false peace, their neighbors were having tear gas thrown in their eyes, being denied the basic right to worship and assemble, and suffering under the repressive curfews. While Meyers and others might argue, “Civil disobedience is not rebellion against political authority but an act of political responsibility in which some particular law is broken for the sake of another (more basic or more important) law, or for the sake of some widely shared value in a society,” I say with James Cone and others, that there needs to be an upheaval in values. Also, while yes Civil Disobedience can be a responsible political act, it is not a choice of choosing between a “more basic or more important” man-made laws, but between the conflicts of divine law of neighborly love that Christ revealed over and against the tyranny of the status quo.

3. Lastly but NOT LEAST, probably most importantly, the shape of revolution should not look backwards while walking slowly; rather, Revolution as a concept should follow in the hope-filled forward-marching paths set forth by the LORD of Hosts. Revolution as a future-oriented concept will not rely on abstract, celestial visions of a transcendental moral order. Rather, a would-be revolutionary must have a theology of the cross, and that means that in order for there to be a morality, there must be human bodies. God shows God’s goodness in the act of creation, Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection. If a revolution is oriented towards hope, this means that the revolutionary moment must be tied to the pedagogical moment. Revolutions must exist for the sake of the future, for the sake of future generations. Without such a view, the present realities of oppression are lifted up as the norm, and our responses to those realities remain limited. My friend and fellow KillJoy Prophet Justin Tse has two excellent write ups on Occupy Central: EXAM REVIEW: Hong Kong’s Occupy Central with Love and Peace and Benny Tai As Political Theologian. (side note: check out this post by my friend Valerie on what she’s learned from being in Hong Kong and observing Occupy Central ) One of the important takeaways from his pieces is the fact that Benny Tai, the organizer of Occupy Central, sees the Occupy Central movement as an educational movement. In a similar vein, a number of scholars and activists are using Twitter and the #Ferguson hashtag to educate others about police brutality, the militarization of the police, racial profiling, and the Prison-Industrial Complex. If indeed, knowledge is power, perhaps a more appropriate measurement of how successful a revolution is in how many persons from around the globe find that revolution to be an important learning moment for humanity? Perhaps this a way forward, but it is only a sketch for now.

Until next time, class dismissed.