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The Pitch: Rey’s To-Do List

The Rise of Skywalker happened a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. It is already over. Nothing can be done to change it.

So, what now? Rumors abound, but outside of season two of The Mandalorian and a slate of books and comics that looks pretty similar to last year’s (at least until they spill the details on Project Luminous), exactly what form mainline Star Wars content will take remains an open question. The Old Republic, or maybe the Even Older Republic, seems to be the most likely next step, if only to give the sequel cast some time to breathe and perhaps age up a little.

But the galaxy didn’t end just because the Skywalker saga did; the story of those characters will go on, first in fanfic and almost certainly in officially-licensed material of some sort, someday. Let’s dwell for a moment on what that day might look like.

Rey may be the last Jedi, but even the relatively tight confines of the sequel films have established at least two other Force-sensitives in Finn and Temiri Blagg, better known as Broom Boy. Potentially even Jannah’s entire company of former stormtroopers depending on how strictly you want to interpret ROS’s nudges–imagine for a moment a new Jedi Order whose first class is composed almost entirely of First Order stormtroopers! It’s a hell of a thing. Between that and Rey’s own training seeming to have come at least as much from the original Jedi texts as from the Skywalker twins, you’ve got a recipe for a very different Jedi Order.

And they’ll have their work cut out for them. Another side effect of the saga’s tight-focus ending is a lot of lingering threads and unanswered injustices in the galaxy: slavery, both biological and mechanical; a newly-familiarized Unknown Regions with untold mysteries and threats, the ignorance of which allowed the First Order to rise in the first place; and even within the quote-unquote civilized galaxy, political divisions have been exposed that make the Empire look positively centrist. Not only are the possibilities endless, but it strikes me that they’re uniquely interesting in their potential to underline the ways in which the old Jedi let the galaxy down in the name of holding it together, and the lessons Rey might have learned from them.

So with that in mind, what’s an established, persisting injustice in the GFFA that you think an ideal NJO should take on? If you’re Grand Master Rey, what would you do in your first hundred days?

Ben: Something that I think would be on Rey’s mind is related directly to her best friend Finn. When Finn discovered Jannah and her crew, and found that he was not the only stormtrooper who defected from the ranks of the First Order, I believe that he would set out after the war’s conclusion to find any other potential deserters and give them the good news of the First Order’s defeat. Finn would also be the sort to actively seek out survivors of the First Order’s defeat and do whatever is within his power to get them to give up the fight without killing them, and I highly doubt that Rey would let him go on such a dangerous self-imposed mission without helping.

Now, why would this be an issue for the new Jedi, rather than one merely for Finn and Rey as people? Leaving aside the fact that Finn being at least partially trained by Rey to become a Jedi in his own right is a foregone conclusion, thus making this whole thing a Jedi issue by osmosis, I think this is exactly the sort of mission that the Jedi should undergo if they want to start off on a different foot than the one that the old Jedi left on. Recall that the prequel-era Jedi were often accused of kidnapping children to raise them in the temple on Coruscant. Here, with this, Rey and Finn have a chance to set the reputation of the Jedi back in order by restoring children who really were taken from their homes back to society.

My focus is mainly on the stormtroopers, like Finn and Jannah, who have been trained from birth to only consider war. I’m sure there’s more that could be said about the remaining members of the First Order, but restoration into a time of peace is even more important for those stolen from their homes, lives and parents when they were too young to even remember what their names were. Having the Jedi be the facilitators of their rehabilitation would earn them an incredible amount of goodwill within the galactic community at large. Those who are found to have families can return to them, and those who might not can be offered, for the first time in their lives, a choice of where they want to go and what they want to be.

If Finn is any indication there is the possibility that the ranks of the Jedi may increase through this process, but that would be a side effect, not the goal. The goal is to help all of the scared, confused and PTSD-suffering people whom the First Order built their short-lived empire atop the bodies of. Those people are victims, too, and the Jedi are the ideal organization to transition them from a lifetime of war-preparedness into a peaceful role, since they would not face the stigma among their ranks that representatives from a “New” New Republic or other governing body would.

David: I can’t think of a better galactic problem for Rey’s new Jedi Order to engage than that of droid servitude. I’ve often maintained that there’s a possible reading on the status of droids just waiting for someone to use it, and that’s the responsibility that Jedi themselves might have for the galaxy not seeing droids as actual self-conscious, intelligent beings.

When you consider their exceptional view of the universe, it’s not surprising that Jedi appear to show little empathy towards synthetic organisms. Try to picture beings that can literally perceive themselves as part of a galaxy-wide web that links all living beings to a mystical energy field, and now try to imagine how they would feel about voids in that network. Constructs that they can’t sense or affect at all. Jedi often felt empathy for clones, but they were quick to add that clones felt like individuals in the Force. Why would the dispassionate Jedi of the prequel trilogy care about our mechanical friends at all? Why would they feel toward them anything other than the same indifference they showed to any non-kyber-powered tool? If droids could think, there would be none of them there, right?

Of course, we only have to spend one minute with a droid to realize how horrible this point of view is: go ahead and try to convince me that Artoo wouldn’t pass a Turing test.

Luckily, Rey’s Jedi enjoy the benefits of a fresh start and thus have the opportunity to address this topic in some fashion. I’m not saying that I want Rey’s generation to solve the droid dilemma, though: I’ve never seen Star Wars as a utopia, and I appreciate that the faraway galaxy has the same kind of moral contradictions our earthly realm has. But I’d like for someone to say, at least once, that it’s fucked up that galactic civilization works thanks to an underclass of artificially-made slaves and that everyone seems more than okay with it. And if we are talking about Jedi, then yes: I’d like for them to do more than just think about it.

Abigail: My idea was prompted by a Tumblr post from soon after The Last Jedi released. I have tried in vain to locate and provide the individual proper credit and citation (the librarian in me is screaming), but this was the gist: “Rey publishes the Jedi texts on the HoloNet for anyone to read.”

This has stuck with me since The Last Jedi as it reminded me of important turning points in the real world. The first was the point where the Bible was made available to laypeople, both with the development of the printing press and with translations into the common vernacular. People could finally begin reading scripture in context and coming to their own conclusions, as opposed to being wholly reliant on what was stated from the pulpit.

The second is a current growing trend called Open Education Resources (OER). This is a movement in colleges and universities to create and share textbook-level and college course-level materials with students for free. OER has the capability of eliminating one huge barrier of entry to students, and also opens up the information for use by the general public.

What we’re looking at with Rey publishing the Jedi texts is freedom of information. Both in Legends and in canon we can see how the Empire controlled ideas about the Jedi, first as traitors, then as mere myths. Positive stories that did slip through were often exaggerated into sainthood. And – aside from the cultures that had their own understanding of the Force (Lasats, Lew’el, etc.) – it seems like most people knew about the Force only because it related to the Jedi. Therefore, whatever people thought of the Jedi would affect what they thought of the Force.

Giving out the sacred Jedi texts for the galaxy to read would allow people to come to their own conclusions and understanding both about the Jedi and the Force, as opposed to relying on myths, propaganda, and controlled narratives. We see hints of the need for this in Most Wanted with Tsuulo as he trusts in the Force and the Empire, and in The Force Collector as Karr runs into conflicting ideas about the Jedi, and Luke himself defends the idea of people coming to their own conclusions, no matter how wrong, in The Legends of Luke Skywalker.

But freedom of information doesn’t just mean “a government can’t tell you that you can’t read that.” It’s also about accessibility. Consider The Legends of Luke Skywalker; Luke had the means to travel the galaxy and find new interpretations of the Force. In The Force Collector, Karr had his grandmother to teach him, his specific Force talent, and a friend who could provide him transportation across the stars.

The lack of those could be read as similar to high tuition and textbook costs for college. There are some people who simply don’t have the means to get that information. If Rey turned the Jedi texts into OER, how many more Jedi across the galaxy could begin growing, simply because they now had access to a resource they would have been previously denied?

Granted, a counterpoint to Rey making this information public would be Jocasta Nu’s decision to eliminate the texts within the Jedi Temple library, which in my opinion was the correct move. However, Jocasta is in an infinitely different situation than Rey. Jocasta was destroying information at an oppressive-regime-controlled location that would have been used to oppress the galaxy. Rey has the chance to put information into the control of a galactic public who have just shook free from an oppressive regime. Besides, even Jocasta made sure the knowledge was secured for coming generations.

For the new Jedi Order to grow, the sacred texts should no longer be shrouded in mystery to the galactic public. They should be accessible to all.

Jay: I’m thinking along similar lines to Ben, but with regard to an older injustice than the First Order’s stolen child soldiers. I’m thinking back to the conditions that made the First Order rise in the first place: stuff that we saw hinted at in Bloodline, Star Wars Resistance, and even in “The Perfect Weapon”. The First Order didn’t just arise from ex-Imperial diehards who fled to the Unknown Regions. It also thrived because of the conditions in the galaxy that the New Republic failed to address: inequality, suffering from the last cycles of war, and even the burden of reparations and economic downturns on former Imperial supporters.

Of course, the New Republic was in a bit of a tricky place after the last war. Mon Mothma pardoned some folks, prosecuted some others, and gave Mas Amedda a cushy position on Coruscant. But people like Tam Ryvora’s family felt ostracized because they’d been somewhat well off under the Empire, and theirs wasn’t the only story like that. But what is there to do? Especially this time around, where some ex-Imperials may have become First Order supporters and become party to a second attempt at galactic tyranny.

There’s where someone like Rey and the new generation of Jedi can come in. The government may not be in the best position to try to unify the galaxy after the war, especially since it’s unclear if there even is a government and what form it would take. What to do with the Centrists and First Order types is likely to be a convulsion that dominates the early government, especially because there’s no easy satisfactory answer. A blanket amnesty is letting complicity with evil off the hook — while being punitive is potentially creating the circumstances for continued division. The politics are difficult and people will validly have strong opinions.

But Rey? Rey’s not political. And I think that’s the key to what I’m looking at. Rey’s emphasis has always been about people, about being compassionate, and about doing what’s right. I trust her instincts regarding how to help the galaxy knit itself together on a case-by-case basis, and how to heal wounds by helping both victims of the First Order and abettors who need to be reintegrated into the galactic mainstream and turned away from their darker thoughts and instincts.

The Jedi as roving goodwill ambassadors trying to knit people together, not on behalf of any flag or government, but because it’s what’s good? I would love to see that. And maybe whatever government succeeds the New Republic might have a better chance at being a good democracy when the people are coming together and helping each other.

It’s something that I think is hard and complex, but capable of being resolved with an optimistic ending, and that’s something I’d enjoy seeing in Star Wars. Especially since it has contemporary resonance.

2 thoughts to “The Pitch: Rey’s To-Do List”

  1. Publishing the Jedi texts galaxy-wide would be a great move! Instead of trying to track down all of the Force-sensitive children in the galaxy to train them to be Jedi, it could become possible for the children or their parents to take the first steps themselves, creating a truly decentralized Jedi Order, following the will of the Force in their own way, that would be extraordinarily difficult to stamp out.

    Obviously that leaves open the possibility of schisms and misuse, but, assuming that the texts are more Light Side focused than Dark Side, they shouldn’t be able to do that much harm.

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