I was 11 when the first Star Wars film came out. This was an era that might as well have been in a galaxy far, far away. It would be another twenty years before mobile phones became computers and video games were just green squares on a flickering TV screen batting balls back and forth.
Somewhere, but not somewhere anywhere near me, punk was happening. But all that meant to me was some weird band got banned from the radio. Little did I know that I was living in the dying days of an analogue world. A world where the only text messages I got were little notes passed from one grubby hand to another at school.
Then Star Wars happened. I’d heard about it, but I hadn’t really cared much, everyone at school was talking about it, so we went as a family to see it on its first day of release in the UK. I was transported. It wasn’t the plot that got me so much, as just the scale of the film.
It was the epic space battles, the rollercoaster ride through different planetary cultures, but most of all the fact that it viscerally communicated to me for the first time in my life the concept of the galaxy and the vast, limitless potential that existed beyond our cosy, domestic and provincial world.
I’m Tired of War
Star Wars, for me, was an epic act of galaxy-sized imagineering that forever expanded the potential of existence. I know many other people feel the same way. So why is it that now, I just don’t care about the new Star Wars film? It’s not just that I’m much older, because I do feel the same intrigue to revisit the universe that, for me, opened the door to the universe. I feel affection for the characters, the droids, the ‘fairy-tale-in-space’ soap operatics.
The difference is that now, I’m tired of war. I’m tired of the lies that I’ve been told as the pretext for the bombing and invasion of other people’s countries. I’m tired of seeing the ragged doll corpses of dead children in Syria dismembered by munitions manufactured in the cosy, domestic and provincial country that I live in.
I’m fatigued by the endlessness of it. The stupidity of it. I’m offended by the cost, I’m horrified by the violence. I’m disgusted at the carnage of innocent people that is just ‘collateral damage’ to the disassociated talking heads in uniform who try to justify what is just a barbaric, cruel, and stupid practice at the best of times and a crime against humanity at the worst. I’m sick of war. As Harry Patch, the last ‘Tommy’ British soldier from the First World War said:
‘War is organised murder. Nothing else’
Are you a Rebel Hero, or are you an Imperial Stormtrooper?
The very last thing I want to see right now is War taken to other worlds. It is a blight on this one and until we deal with our own sociopathic and self-destructive tendencies, the very last thing we should do is export our collective mental illness to the rest of the galaxy. The thing that enchanted me about Star Wars is now the very same problem I have with it. It is the glamor created by that epic scale of imagination.
Let’s be clear, war doesn’t deserve that. War is a messy, ugly business conducted in confusion. War is strafing a hospital in Afghanistan. War is barrel bombs dropped on civilian neighborhoods. War is a failure of the imagination. Not something to be celebrated. It is precisely because Star Wars is so unthreatening and so apparently benign that it is dangerous. It isn’t a graphic blood-splattered gore fest. And that’s the problem, real War is.
The problem with War and the way that War works is that EVERYONE thinks that they are the good guys. It’s the basic mechanism that allows us to separate ourselves enough from the ‘others’ so that we can see them as enemies, as targets, as something to be destroyed and defeated. War just wouldn’t work if we saw our enemies as fellow human beings. We HAVE to see them as the ‘bad guys’. So everyone thinks they are Luke Skywalker.
Here’s a classic account from an American Marine who through the reality of war came to the realization that he wasn’t a hero in the Rebel Alliance, but was in fact an Imperial Stormtrooper in the Empire. Here’s the big joke about War. Everyone thinks they are a hero in the Rebel Alliance and No-one thinks they are an Imperial Stormtrooper in the Empire…until it’s too late.
We must resist glamorizing War
We must resist the glamor of war- especially when it appears benign- and we must creatively challenge ourselves to glamorize Peace instead. What we really need, rather than another Star Wars film, is an equally compelling act of imagination that reframes peaceful co-existence as the exciting narrative for our collective future. Because the truth is that Peace IS exciting. It’s exciting to live a life of adventure exploring a beautiful planet (or new planets) with friends. It’s exciting to be part of the grand collective effort of restoring our biosphere and creating a truly sustainable and fair society. It’s exciting to dream big and to imagine exploring the reaches of our almost infinite galaxy.
But War is not exciting. It is drudgery, terror, and pain and we should leave it behind us as we leave the plastic toys of childhood behind us. We do not need lightsabers and deathstars where we are going. We have outgrown War and deserve better.
Feature image by street artist Kobra