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The Flaws of Yoda: Rigidity

This post is part of the Flaws of the Jedi series.

Do or do not. There is no try.

Yoda, The Empire Strikes Back

Yoda is Grand Master of the Jedi Order. Their eldest statesman and recognized head of the organization. As in Camelot the Jedi Council are seated in a circle but Yoda, like Arthur, is king. Even after the decimation of the Jedi, even after his death, Yoda is their most respected member and mentor.

And Yoda is representative of the stagnation of the Jedi Order. An argument could be made that Yoda is responsible for the stagnation of the Jedi Order — it’s not clear precisely how long he’s been in charge but given his age he’s been around for a very long time. He represents the status quo. Thus, he is conservative and traditional, firm is his beliefs and rigid in his methods.

Mastery, Serenity, and Rigidity

The Jedi live by a Code that prioritizes knowledge and enlightenment and eschews passion and possession. Their system is based on community and equality. Force sensitivity makes one eligible for entry and once accepted everything is provided: training, structure, career, housing, all physical and mental needs are met. As long as you follow all the rules and pass all the tests you are awarded with status and position and membership in their respected institution. Any individuality is a risk to their precepts. Any deviation is morally wrong. And the testing never ends.

The Order treat everything as a learning experience. Sometimes this is innocuous: in Attack of the Clones, Obi-Wan asks Yoda a question and Yoda opens it up to his class of younglings. Sometimes it’s obnoxious: in The Empire Strikes Back, Yoda pretends to be an annoying little monster when he first encounters Luke. Sometimes it’s cruel: in “Lair of Grievous” a kid is killed and Yoda uses his death to spout a Jedi proverb. When it comes to Anakin, it’s dangerous and ultimately destructive. He is set up to fail.

The issue is, people have individual needs, but the Jedi see everyone and everything through their own myopic lens.

Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering. I sense much fear in you.

Yoda, The Phantom Menace

Yoda decides Anakin is heading toward a Dark path (because of his actually healthy attachment to his mother) in their very first encounter. That’s why they choose not to train him. And though they reverse that decision, Yoda continues to see Anakin as a threat. Because Anakin’s individual personality was formed before his Jedi potential was identified.

Doing Not Trying

After Qui-Gon’s death the Jedi have three options for what to do about Anakin. One, they could stick to their original decision and disallow his training. Obi-Wan’s determination to train Anakin, as he promised a dying Qui-Gon, complicates that choice. Two, they could allow his training but adjust their teaching methods to address the differences in Anakin’s upbringing and experiences. This is the responsible choice, but it is not the Jedi way. Three, they could allow his training with no adjustments and hope for the best. This is the worst option and this is what they do.

Yoda speaks in riddles and considers every interaction an assessment. He provides the bare minimum of information in order to encourage his student to work it out for themself. This works well for most Jedi, who were raised within that system and have the foundational knowledge to understand and appreciate the purpose of the exercise. But it does not work for Anakin, who lived nearly ten years as a slave. Anakin is bright, he’s a mechanical genius, a strategic thinker, but he’s not intellectually curious because he didn’t have the opportunity to become so in his formative years. Luke, too.

Yoda’s interactions with Ahsoka in Clone Wars “Assassin”, with Ezra in Rebels “Path of the Jedi”, and with Luke in The Last Jedi show a capable mentor. But using the exercise in the video: Anakin requires two boxes to make up for the inequity of his childhood. The Jedi dress alike, live together, and have a strict hierarchy. They all use the same tools and follow the same code and get the same training. They avoid attachment and place the Order and the Republic ahead of individuals and individual needs. Yoda is the Master Jedi, the example. The rigidity of the Order is a reflection of him.

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