A Galaxy Not So Far Away I: Crises

It would seem that the galaxy that is supposedly “far, far away” is in fact much closer than we think.

Sometimes we look to history for perspective on current events. Of course, not everyone pays attention to history, because we keep having to repeat it. So when the history books aren’t enough, sometimes it helps to look into the worlds of fiction, because sometimes even in those worlds, reality slaps us in the face when we aren’t suspecting it.

In addition to being a fan of history, I also happen to be a fan of the “Star Wars” universe, not just the movies, but the “Extended Universe” novels as well. Emperor Palpatine was a fascinating figure to analyze, because of how he gained and consolidated power. Palpatine, despite being a fictional character, really underlines the key difference between a well-meaning, reluctant leader and someone who really desperately wants power and intends to use it for his own benefit and no one else’s. It can be summed up in two sentences:

Always capitalize on a crisis.  When there is no crisis to take advantage of, create one.

While Palpatine did have the Force on his side, he was also an expert political manipulator. He created the Clone Wars by essentially taking control of the Trade Federation while still being a member of the Galactic Senate, though neither side knew of his other role. He moved the pieces so that when a new Chancellor was needed, he appeared to be a moderate solution; far enough removed from the corrupt Senators that the honest Senators considered him above board, but also seemingly unassuming and docile enough that the corrupt Senators felt they could manipulate him. Of course, neither side realized until it was too late that he was manipulating both.

Once Palpatine achieved power, he made sure the war escalated. He would use his connections with the enemy to ensure they could assasinate those who posed a threat to him, then use these incidents as an excuse to have loyal Senators propose giving him more power, but only temporarily. (“For the duration of the emergency” was a common phrase in Palpatine’s world.) He would always pretend to be reluctant to accept these powers, but he would then make full use of them.

By the time the endgame of the war was near, he practically had full authoritarian power. Yet a reader putting himself in the position of an average galactic citizen could look at everything that happened and totally understand how many might support each step as it happened. Of course, none of the citizens knew that Palpatine was running the other side of the war, so he could appear to be the reluctant leader who didn’t want to have the power he was being given. Once the time came to relinquish the power he had been given, he was so powerful that he could not be stopped.

This was also a tactic Hitler used once he got into power. The primary reason he got into power was the Great Depression, which he obviously had little to do with, but still took full advantage of. Once he got into power, however, he used the same tactic that Palpatine did (even though Palpatine wasn’t created until over 40 years later): creating a crisis to consolidate power. Specifically, Hitler wanted dictatorial powers, but he didn’t have enough Nazi deputies in the Reichstag to get the Enabling Act passed. So he had the Nazis burn the Reichstag building, frame the Communists for it, and use this as an excuse to get the Reichstag to pass the Enabling Act to give him the power to deal with the problem. Of course, once he got power, he replaced the disloyal representatives with Nazis and became dictator. The Reichstag still existed, but it was an all-Nazi rubber stamp for his edicts, much like the Galactic Senate (renamed the “Imperial Senate” after the Clone Wars) became for Palpatine to give his whims the illusion of legitimacy. Hitler also used this tactic to create his excuses for annexing Austria and Czechoslovakia.

So what does this analysis have to do with today?

“Crisis manufacturing” is still going full-speed ahead today as a way for government (specifically Democrats) to consolidate power. Consider the following:

  • The banks are collapsing (because of bad mortgages that government pressured them to give out), so we must give Washington power to “save” them.
  • The Earth is in trouble from global warming (all the socialist-leaning scientists said so, and that’s good enough for us), so we need cap-and-tax.
  • GM and Chrysler are going under (because of bad labor contracts and over-regulation to solve manufactured environmental problems), so we must take them over to “save” them as well.
  • We have 30 million uninsured (even though the actual number without health care is far less), so we must give government power to make sure they get health care (even though the bill doesn’t do that).
  • And now, of course, Wall Street is corrupt (the SEC – which is so totally independent of the administration, despite what you’ve heard – said so), so we must now take them over to ensure you are protected from their greed.

Remember what Rahm Emanuel said: “A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.”

And of course, lest we forget, Bush conspired to bring down the World Trade Center so that he could get the Patriot Act passed so he would have the right to spy on all our phone calls. (Note to those with the power of the “ban hammer”: This is sarcasm.) I guess if Bush was using Emperor Palpatine’s tactics, that certainly explains how Dick Cheney became “Darth Vader”.

At any rate, I have a second comparison from the “Star Wars” universe for our current leader, which I’ll bring out in the sequel.

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