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Casual Thursday Episode 18: The Sith Paradox

Peace is a lie, there is only passion. Through passion, I gain strength.Through strength, I gain power.Through power, I gain victory.Through victory, my chains are broken.The Force shall free me. – The Sith Code

Hello everyone, and welcome the first Casual Thursday after the official launch. I have been collecting some thoughts on the Sith Empire. The side I won’t be playing much during the actual game. But during the beta, playing through two of the four classes, it gave me a few things to think of in regard to the Sith philosophy. I won’t spoil it, but it happened on Dromuund Kaas during my exploits inside the Sith Temple. After a certain encounter in my Sith Warrior’s storyline, it made me wonder more on the Sith and their philosophy. So yes, this week will be another philosophical article, in the vein of my previous article on interpreting the Star Wars universe through Plato.

The Sith power comes from the dark side of the Force, which is based upon emotion. Fear, anger, hatred, passion. Anything to gain power. That is where their strength lies. They use their fear and hatred of the enemy – the Jedi, primarily – and even the feelings of hatred and distrust for one another – as weapons.
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Weakness is a death sentence in their society, as one can discover while reading the two books based on SWTOR, Deceived and Revan (highly recommended for those who want to delve more deep into the lore). If one’s master is weak, or getting old, it is your duty as a Sith to destroy him and take his power for your own. Darth Malgus showed that clearly at the end of the opening cinematic. This is what the “rule of two” is based on. Of course technically, the “Rule of Two” didn't come much later, the principle of overtaking your master, or getting rid of a weaker protege is there already. If the master grows weak, the pupil takes over. It has been the base of the Sith philosophy for thousands of years throughout their history.
 

 

And yet the very same emotions that fuel a Sith’s connection to the dark side, the emotion they are taught to draw on, is so often the source of their downfall. Emotions are fickle and can as quickly destroy a man as empower him. Fear can run out of control and become panic. And if a Sith allows his fear to grow into panic while facing down a Jedi Knight, he may as well kiss his lightsaber goodbye. A lot of powerful Sith understand this, like strong Jedi masters do, however, they sometimes even encourage exploiting the rage or fear of the students themselves to wield and become a weapon in their own hand. Just look at the Sith that was heavily portrayed in the book Revan. He was encouraged to use his own anger or if needed, his own fear and then fuel his anger through this. But just as panic can paralyze one’s senses, so too can rage or hate inflame a Sith’s mind past the ability to reason, to strategize. It isn’t a Sith’s fear that is the weakness, it is the reliance on emotion.

 

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Even more so, one cannot blindly follow their emotions. Especially not in Sith society, where everyone lives by preying on the weakness of their own allies. Becoming attached to your master or feeling loyalty to her will only weaken you when the day comes that you must destroy her for your own advancement – love is a weakness that will prove fatal to any upwardly-mobile Sith. Love and attachment become weapons that your fellow Sith, or even your enemies amongst the Republic, can use against you. In that sense, the Jedi and Sith orders have a commonality – both warn strongly against the dangers of attachment. However, that is the only similarity in the two societies.

Jedi are not allowed, to or at least it is advised against, love as we would consider it normally, since attachments can, through encouraging passion and desire, lead you to the dark side. But love is an important part of their society. Love of your master, friends and fellows, etc. In the words of a particular Jedi Consular, “Jedi are kin to all people…” A Jedi is meant to be bonded to everyone he meets, is loyal to all living beings, and can draw strength through this bond. To a Sith, such loyalty can only be a weakness, a line one’s enemies can follow to vulnerability. A Jedi’s primary goal is to serve life, and so bonding with that life is a strength. To a Sith, the primary goal is personal power, and so to divide one’s desires between the attainment of that power and any feelings of loyalty or love is to lose focus, to reduce your ability to grow strong.
 

So the Sith philosophy on emotions is somewhat paradoxical thing: emotions are the source of power, but they are also nothing more than tools, and they are tools that the Sith know can easily be turned against them. The Sith attitude toward individual emotions seems to be based on how easily a particular emotion can become a weakness. Passion and hate are favored emotions, being powerful and controlled, based on conscious philosophies or focused purely on the drive for power. Fear is another one that the mighty dark Lords love to use. They can bend people to their will through the fear of annilation, of either oneself or a fellow. Love, in a sense that is peculiarly parallel to the Jedi philosophy on love, is seen almost entirely as a weakness. Love is the emotion that is most capable of distracting one from the pursuit of the ultimate goal of power, so despite its strength as an emotion, it cannot make one a stronger Sith. Darth Malgus is a prime example for this feeling of being a paradoxical man. If you want to know the full details on this, I'd suggest reading the book Deceived.

 

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I would almost say, the Sith society is one of parasites. They absorb strength and power from their masters and peers, and damage or destroy each other in the process. It is apparent even during the time of the Old Republic, where there are a great many Sith, why the eventual formation of the Rule of Two becomes the core of Sith philosophy – Sith are only weakened by the existence of other Sith. They jump for the kill if they sense that they can progress from it, instead of daring to expose themselves to failure and learning from that failure. Failure is not an option in the Empire, and failure can be anything from an unsuccessful mission to placing too much trust in a traitorous ally. Even if one has done everything perfectly, if a peer can manipulate events so that you take the fall for something you didn’t do, it is considered your own fault for allowing your position to be weakened. And there are not many Sith known for their forgiving nature. Ideas of fairness and second chances are considered coddling philosophies that do not reflect the harshness of reality, and so are not in any way a part of Sith society, while in my point of view, that is life to the core. Fail and learn, and improve. Treachery is a sign of intelligence, destruction of allies in the pursuit of power is a sign of strength, and to believe otherwise is to misunderstand what it is to be Sith.

 

So to conclude this short writing, I think the Sith are in fact a society of parasites, preying on those who show signs of weakness, instead of daring themselves to take a risk and expose themselves for failure. Even if they do very bold acts, they always have someone to take the blame if they messed up, or they will undergo punishment. If that is either torture or death for their failure. Their dichotomy on emotions shows this very clear in my eyes. They use emotions and some are even valued highly, like hate and anger, but most other emotions are more viewed as a weakness and due to that, they cannot handle those emotions. Just like the Jedi have problems with experiencing emotions in general. Hmm, maybe someone needs a therapist… or a hug.

Now that the game has come out, I will return to the normal form of getting out each other week a Casual Thursday.

I hope you enjoyed this article and remember as always,
May the Force be with you.

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