Whose side were you on?
And no, I didn’t write this.
The 1977 movie ‘Star Wars’ opens in a desert realm, wherein we are acquainted with Luke Skywalker, a young man apprenticed to his family’s construction business.
Early in the film Luke receives an unpleasant reminder that the wider world beyond his home is a place of injustice and suffering that he can neither ignore nor hide from. The minions of an evil empire pay a visit to Luke’s desert settlement and, confident that their military might will afford them impugnity, wreak death and destruction on its innocent inhabitants. This experience has the effect of defining Luke’s destiny; he leaves home to begin a quest, joining up with an esoteric/religious order whose adherents combine an ancient spirituality with the art of the warrior.
Luke’s quest necessarily brings him into direct conflict with an empire whose aim is to secure military, economic and political control not only in its own territories and those of its neighbours but in many distant regions as well. Theirs is a callous and destructive style of rule; they contrive to make it known that they possess a sufficient weapons base to extinguish an entire planet by means of a few computer commands. They use their military power as a punitive tool and a means to blackmail leaders of other civilisations into courses of action that disadvantage and often kill the ordinary people under their care.
The only thorn in the side of this empire is a loosely constituted group of rebels, relatively small in number with vastly inferior military strength but possessed of a determination that their values should not be quashed without a struggle. These rebels are drawn from many different cultures. They do not comprise a ‘nation’, so they cannot be opposed in a ‘conventional’ war but only by means of an long-term cat and mouse conflict. Nor do they fight in an ordinary fashion, preferring a guerilla style of warfare.
The rebels’ bases are often caves in remote regions. They must live a shadowy existence to avoid the clutches of the empire and its clients, venturing out only occasionally to make pin-point strikes in territories under imperial control, then disappearing into hiding. They regularly abandon bases, keeping on the move to escape detection.
Luke Skywalker joins this band of rebels and quickly finds himself thrust into the forefront of the action, a poster child for resistance against an evil superpower. He distinguishes himself during an attack carried out against the ‘Death Star’, a vast construction which serves as the workplace of thousands of imperial employees from the rank-and-file and automata up to high-level policy makers. The Death Star is a power centre of the empire, but even more importantly it serves as a potent symbol of imperial hegemony.
After quickly familiarising himself with the skills needed to be a pilot, Luke has an opportunity to join a raid on the Death Star. Exploiting a weakness in the structure, he flies his aircraft directly into the building and sets off an explosion which causes the entire edifice to crumble. The film ends on an upbeat note as Luke’s actions – which have thwarted the empire’s immediate plans and made him the most wanted man alive – are celebrated by the rebels.
So whose side were you on in ‘Star Wars’?