Tag Archives: The Dark Side

A Useful Metaphor

You’d have to be living in a cave to escape all the hype about the new Star Wars movie. I rarely go to movies, but even I felt the need to see this one—if only to hold my own with my grandchildren.

For the record, I thought it was a pretty mediocre movie. I have always thought that Star Wars was space opera with great special effects, rather than inventive science fiction, but I think I understand the appeal of the franchise.

It’s the good guys against The Dark Side.

In real life, the lines are not so simple. Most people are neither saintly or unremittingly evil. (As a friend of mine likes to say, incompetence explains so much more than conspiracy.) In  many situations, determining right and wrong can be complicated. But—probably for that very reason— we humans tend to pine for bright lines, for simple demarcations between “us” and “them”—with “us” being the good guys and “them” the bad guys.

Of course, there really are “bad guys.” Sometimes, those we label “bad” are simply misguided, or mentally incapacitated  (or really, really stupid), but there is no denying that there really are a lot of malevolent people in the world—not to mention the assholes, the self-aggrandizing, self-centered power-seekers who aren’t affirmatively evil, but who don’t care about the harmful consequences of their actions.

These days, in various arenas and more often than we like to admit, the “bad guys” seem to be winning, and winners are attractive. Political psychologists tell us that people like to identify with winners, to climb onto the bandwagon of popular opinion.

In real life, we are challenged to reject the affirming mindlessness of the mob— to refuse to go over to The Dark Side, no matter what the temptations or inducements—and to do so without becoming “bad guys” ourselves.

Draw your own political analogies….