Gangsters in the Spotlight

Ethically Equivocal, Criminally Captivating

The American Gangster and My Dad

I asked my dad about what how he would explain the American gangster, and he said some things that lined up pretty well with what we’ve discussed in class. He talked about how there’s a certain romanticism associated with the gangster when compared with other countries, where they’re more often viewed as clearly and solely criminal. There is also a component of mythology to it, almost as an evolution from Wild West outlaws and gangsters like Bonnie and Clyde. He also saw hierarchy as important component to gangsters as seen in The Godfather, and even described gangsters as sometimes seeing themselves as not having a choice, and also saw themselves as heroes in a corrupt system. Overall, his description touches on a lot of the important parts of what the American gangster is, from tragic hero to our O’Kane-Lupsha juxtaposition.

I also asked my dad about why exactly the American gangster was so compelling a story to us. He first brought up again the idea that Bonnie and Clyde represented an evolution from the Wild West to gangsters, and how gangsters as a whole are the next step in that cultural hero role. He also said they were sort of tragic heroes that acted in a more modern context. They were cultural heroes who did things that normal people might want to do but couldn’t or wouldn’t, almost as Robin Hood romantic heroes. He touched on gangsters as another type of powerful rich person that we all want to be. Overall, the most important aspect to him was the gangster as the modern cultural, tragic, romantic hero who filled the role that had once been filled by western outlaws.

I was surprised and impressed by how much of what he said so closely aligned with what we’d been discussing all semester. I really shouldn’t have been surprised: my dad is a pretty smart guy. Almost on the spot, he said things that were very similar to some of the arguments made by Warshow, O’Kane, Lupsha, and Ruth. I think this speaks to the accuracy of those ideas, that someone who hadn’t every been directly exposed to them developed some nice summaries of them on his own. He also said that gangsters are the latest in a line of outlaws and cultural heroes, and that’s an idea that I’ve been a little obsessed with over the span of the course. I suppose I am his kid, after all.

The Hustle Spectrum

Dr. Mintler mentioned “the hustle spectrum” several times throughout the course, and that idea stuck with me. The hustle spectrum represents the continuum of illegal, off-the-books behavior that people partake in, from the grand white-collar conspiracy to the untaxed teenager babysitting their neighbor’s kids. Some parts of the spectrum are innocuous, but technically, they would still represent a rung on the crooked ladder. For lots of people, these small infractions are largely forgotten, or more often, never acknowledged from the start. There’s nothing really wrong with that, since no one is hurt by it.

Still, the word “spectrum” is important to remember, as sometimes actions are less clearly innocent while still being potentially understandable. One example I’m reminded of comes from The Godfather. Vito Corleone, working with Clemenza and Tessio, steals a truck of dresses on the street. They then each sell their share of the dresses. While potentially understandable, their actions aren’t the most important ones for this example, as its difficult to argue that they hold no moral guilt. The people who bought the dresses from them, however, are an additional step removed from the crime. They may not have even known about the origin of their purchases. Ignorance of the law doesn’t mean you aren’t considered guilty by it, but despite their definite status as lawbreakers, they probably weren’t convicted. Had the crime been larger, their immigrant status in early 1900s America would probably have landed them in jail, but the small scale and distance from the original crime saves them from punishment.

That bit about their immigrant status tends to carry over to modern day, but applied to a slightly different group: ethnic minorities. Minor crimes are far more likely to be prosecuted and punished if their perpetrators are people of color. Additionally, many of the crimes the very small, minor crimes that white people commit are simply not available to poor people. You can’t mow lawns during the summer if you don’t have a lawnmower and your neighbors don’t have lawns.

Don’t Hate the Player…

For our final project about our fascination with the American gangster, I created a board game called Don’t Hate the Player. Originally I had been calling it some silly twist on Cops and Robbers, but the final title maintains that lighthearted, silly tone while also allowing me to make a statement about society as a whole by extending the game’s argument to its title. In the most naive interpretation of the rules and the instruction booklet, it’s a game that combines some aspects of a few different board games like MonopolySettlers of Catan, and Risk into a new setting that takes place in a fictional version of some modern metropolis. Hopefully, some more insightful arguments came through in the subtext.

Reputation is one of the most important facets of the game as well, and we spent a lot of time in class and in our writing on discussing how reputation can be used as an advantage. Reaching thresholds of reputation allows a player to enter more and more profitable businesses, and get away with more and more egregious crimes. However, certain combinations of action and reputation can increase your notoriety with the police, attracting attention to not only yourself, but the actions of your gang. Overall, reputation is probably the most important part of the game, and having a powerful reputation is necessary for success. No matter how much money you have, a bad reputation will prevent you from succeeding. At the same time, that money can allow you acquire a better one.

One of the most important parts of setting up the game is rolling the dice to determine who goes first. That roll also determines your starting net worth and your ability to access different parts of the game, and allows you first choice of territory and any other choice that every player has access to. By this, I intended to represent the incredibly unfair advantage given to certain segments of society, most prominently white men born to wealthy families. Such a group has an enormous advantage practically from birth in financial and social interactions, and this can often force other groups out of business. By stacking the deck explicitly in favor of one random player, I hope that this represented that random unfair favoring of one “group” or player over all the others.

Expanding on that unfair preference, I scattered a few unnecessary and obscure rules that would give anyone who happened to know about them a huge advantage. By having the time and the prior knowledge given by family or education that would be inaccessible to many in America. This would further perpetuate any difference between one class or group and another.

Another important aspect of the game is the method of victory, acquisition points. Here, I borrowed a keyterm from the course to represent materialism and obsession with sartorial display. By making that the measure and method of victory, it places an emphasis on consumption and spending money in the right places. Further, by combining the other aspects of this game – reputation, random chance of advantage – with acquisition, the main argument comes together. Acquisition depends on reputation and advantage bestowed upon certain groups, and that acquisition is often considered a measure of success, both culturally and economically.

One thing that I didn’t get to discuss during the presentation was the idea that a lot of board games can be seen as a commentary on modern society. They are focused on acquiring more and more points or money at the expense of others, and the victory condition is usually centered around that, whether it be acquiring the most in a certain amount of time, or completely eliminating competitors. I wanted to include that idea by making my argument in the form of a board game. This idea is probably related to why gangsters are such a focal point of our culture. They represent success in that field, often through the clear ideas of reputation and sartorial display. Other rich people might just have a lot of money, but a lot of the time, they don’t do anything cool with it. Games that allow you to spend your money on cool looking swords or whatever else you might decide to focus on hold a clear allure in that they allow us to live out our own financial fantasies, much the same way that gangster films do.

Violence

Politics, in essence, depends on violence and exclusion. Questions of politics tend to revolve around questions of violence and how to apply it. Should we go to war with this country? Should our police officers be doing that? Should we have more restrictions on weapons? Should these people have access to healthcare? We don’t always think of it this way, and those in power have plenty of incentive to encourage us not to. Still, it definitely is violence, physical or structural, legitimized by the status of government. The gangster, by contrast, has their violence either absorbed into the larger political and economic system, or vehemently condemned. Despite this condemnation, the violence of the gangster and the violence of the state hardly differ in their harmful effect, and they tend to perpetuate one another.

This mutual perpetuation is seen through systems like the school to prison pipeline and how that affects both individuals and communities, and the implementation of what amounts to slavery in the prison labor system. When gang violence becomes a part of an area, usually due to neglect from local authority and commerce, that violence ends up replacing the violence and exclusion of the local government. It tends to be more visceral, since it doesn’t depend on external approval, but it occupies a similar category. Local police tend to use this violence as an excuse for unfair policing, and regardless of whether or not the level of crime actually is higher, arrests tend to spike in such communities. Then, since young people are disproportionately arrested in these areas and the remaining youth are stereotyped and barred access to more typical modes of advancement, they either join gangs, or suffer and starve. Some exceptional few might succeed on the “straight” ladder despite these disadvantages, but these few are exceptional indeed, and are often used to shame those who are not so successful. Importantly, by exceptional I mean exceptions to a rule and not exceedingly talented and deserving of recognition. Usually, the successful few are such people, but there are certainly equally intelligent and talented people who are not chosen as idols by external ruling class aristocrats. These such people eek out a meager existence in the outskirts of society, and die with potential unrealized, often far younger than an equal in a white middle-class community. That denied potential and stolen years of life – that is incalculably more violent than a starving teenager threatening a store-owner with a gun, but if you watch the news, one is condemned, and the other is ignored.

This ignorance amounts to acceptance, and perhaps even approval. Many of a certain political group see such violence not as violence, but as the deserved consequences of failure. Such people are fortunate suckers, who succeeded in a system that rewarded them for mediocrity with riches, or at the very least, disproportionately celebrated their talent. These lines are drawn along neighborhood and city limits, and suggest that violent systems of racism and segregation that were supposedly abolished years ago continue through this day, not through overt racist legislature, but economic, social, and legal legitimization of types of violence perpetuated by the state.

Infinite Regress of Wiseguys

In Lupsha’s conception of the wiseguy, the wiseguy depends on a certain number of suckers to take advantage of, on a base level. They might work through sharpies and other wiseguys, but at the end of the line, the method of profit is the exploitation of the sucker. That exploitation might be voluntary, but arguably, willingness is inherent to being a sucker. This system works well for the wiseguy, but it seems to belie an underlying problem with the greater environment in which it functions. If there were no suckers, there would be no way for the wiseguy to make money. Of course, a sucker is born every minute, but when your bootstraps are your main source of social mobility, it doesn’t seem impossible that suckers might become a rare breed. It’s very unlikely, but in such an event, wiseguys wouldn’t have much to make themselves rich out of.

This problem is probably a better way to criticize the gangster than the moral one. You can hind behind enough moral abstractions that the gangster’s actions can seem justifiable, but this situation is inherently general. If everyone was a wiseguy gangster, no one could be. However, though this seems like the best argument from within the system that wiseguys manipulate, it ignores the rest of Lupsha’s commentary. These gangsters are simply obeying the directive of American values. This suggests that their actions are at least in part a result of those same values. Competition and individualism necessarily reward illegal profit above legal profit, all else being equal.

This implies that American values depend on suckers in order to be internally consistent. If there is no one to take advantage of, the wiseguy as an embodiment of pure competition and individualism cannot succeed. Popular culture and politics often criticism crime and glorify the American dream, giving the sucker plenty of incentive to continue suckering. Establishment players have great incentive to keep suckers around. When no one questions the system but ostracized criminals and radicals, suckers who buy into the narrative of ostracism believe that they should remain suckers. Basically, capitalism and American values depend on and reproduce the sucker in every popular media foothold they can find.

Pirate Music

When the words “pirate” and “music” are put together, they tend to combine into music piracy, which is an interesting topic, but not the one I’m looking for. That pirate-music formula isn’t just limited to the mind; the proportion of JSTOR articles about music piracy to articles about actual pirates understandably favors the more modern, even when omitting the music term. That’s partially me just complaining, but I think it also does obscure some actual information. Pirates did place some emphasis on music. On the ship of Captain Bartholomew Roberts, musicians were important enough to warrant their own article in the ship’s constitution:

XI. The Musicians to have Rest on the Sabbath Day, but the
other six Days and Nights, none without special Favour.

The rest of the list includes the arrangement of the ship’s economics, and hands out punishments ranging from abandonment at sea to execution. On such a list, it seems significant that one of the most successful pirate crews in history included musicians in their constitution.

Part of the reason JSTOR doesn’t seem to have any information on pirate music is also that primary sources on the subject are practically nonexistent. Other, less scholarly articles are often generally informative, but neglect to include their sources. Much of the knowledge seems to come from assumption and inference, without actual citation. That being said, that knowledge makes some sense. Pirate musicians were held in high regard, as they helped to keep moral up and ease the completion of boring, menial tasks. They also played the crew into battle, terrifying the enemy and inspiring their fellows. They were considered so important that they were often kidnapped during pirate raids. As for the actual content of their music, little is known, but it seems reasonable to assume that they played typical sea shanties of the day, perhaps with a little pirate twist.

Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be much more than that, but it’s relatively obscure topic hidden behind an unfortunate linguistic eclipse. To ask for more than that seems a little greedy.

Sicilian Fascism

When Mussolini first came to Sicily, he expected to be treated with a certain amount of gratitude; the region had long been neglected by Rome, and he was one of the first leaders to visit the island in a long time. In arranging his visit, Mussolini had arranged for security to be provided by his own personal detail, not by local authority. As the local authority was basically just the mafia, this was not taken well. Mussolini was under the impression that Sicily was “fascist to the bone-marrow,” which was frankly absurd. In Sicily, fascism’s advance had lagged far behind the rest of Italy, and it was the smallest contributor by far to countless national fascist events and campaigns.

Both contemporary and modern commentators have provided a number of explanations for this resistance. Some historians have attributed it to “ancient respect shown by Sicilians for individual liberty and the sanctity of family and human life,” though as you might expect, those historians are often Sicilian themselves. There are less idealistic explanations. For example, Sicilians usually saw fascism as a response to German and Russian communism, and Sicily was almost entirely devoid of communism. They also saw it as the product of the socioeconomic factors unique to the North, and ignored it. Fascism as a tool of government control was also fairly unappealing, as the mafia considered it necessary given the political apathy of their constituents. The tools of violence it offered were also completely redundant, because of, y’know, the mafia.

Additionally, since fascism was in part, though not in whole, a response to communism, which was a response to capitalism, which was the evolution of feudalism, fascism requires capitalism as an ancestor. Sicily was still living in its own particular brand of feudalism, and the middle-class disenfranchisement abused by fascists was impossible. The minuscule middle class that did exist was often aligned against fascism, and the influence of Catholicism also acted against the installment of fascism.

All of this is meaningful, but as historian Jack  Reece says, “[it leaves] important questions unanswered. [It does]  not explain, for example, why Fascism established itself so easily in Sicily after 1922…” Reece gives several other questions, but this one seems the most historically interesting. Reece’s research says that the Liberal conservative party in Sicily thought that fascism’s rhetoric was just propaganda, and that their actual views were more moderate than that. The Liberals viewed them as a political opportunity, as they had been losing ground to other parties in parliament. Some of these seats lost were lost to socialists, and many of the aristocracy had experienced very limited, but nonzero resistance from other socialists. The combination of Liberal conservatives and frightened aristocracy led to a longing for “the good old days,” and faced with a rising fascist movement in the rest of Italy, those in power found it very convenient to erode that ancient Sicilian respect for liberty.

Those circumstances pose interesting questions about modern politics, but I’ll leave that to you.

Kantian Ethics and O’Kanian Gangsters

To have the moral obligation to do something, you’ve got to have the ability to do that thing; ought implies can. This idea comes from the moral philosophy of Immanuel Kant, who had otherwise fairly abstract ideas about morality. Without diving too deep into his philosophy, Kant thought that any maxim by you which you might act ought to be universalizable. In other words, the combination of your action and the motivation for that action, when agreed upon by every human being on the planet, shouldn’t cause any contradiction or societal strife. Therefore, you have a moral duty to ensure that your maxims are right.

The difficulties that arise from practical application of are many, but in relation to O’Kane’s arguments in The Crooked Ladder, I’d like to focus on choice and maxim. American immigrants had their choices constrained by dominant societal factions, but to say that they had no choice at all seems wrong. After all, nobody can truly force someone to do something. Still, you can’t deny that immigrants were significantly limited, and the choices available created an unpleasant dilemma: either live in squalor with no hope of escape, or by harming others, improve yourself. In O’Kane’s view, gangsters chose the latter. When we compare that action to those of the more choice-based gangsters in Lupsha’s arguments, the results are the same, and if you accept consequentialism, are equally morally condemnable.

Kant, of course, did not accept consequentialism. In philosophy, maxims are considered to be the thought process that is used to justify an action, and are made of three things: the means, or the action itself, the conditions under which the action is to be taken, and the ends, or the motivation behind the action. The complication comes from how generally you want to define your means, your conditions, and your ends. In the case of O’Kanian gangsters, the means would be becoming a gangster, the conditions would be the social and economic pressures immigrants faced, and the ends would be financial stability and the American dream. From a purely Kantian perspective, this maxim is not universalizable; if everyone became a gangster and furthered themselves at the expense of others, the world would fall apart. However, the conditions faced by American immigrants have been brought about by forces entirely outside of their control, and though Kant would say they have a moral duty to take the first horn of the dilemma, he also says that to have a duty implies that you have ability. It all comes down to whether you believe that the conditions are severe enough to justify the means.

In this case, you might argue that while the ends proposed don’t justify the means, the ends themselves ought to include mitigation of the conditions that brought about the dilemma to begin with. If we accept that, our revised maxim would be as follows: the means would be becoming a gangster, and the ends would be escaping the social conditions responsible for your poverty, and in doing so, clearing a path to the American dream. It seems to me that such a maxim is universalizable, as long as your methods as a gangster are properly applied. Of course, that’s easier said than done.

One of the immigrants in the picture painted by O’Kane would probably tell you that such moral quandaries are difficult to consider when your family is starving and you’ve been fired for being a foreigner, and that’s true. If given extra hours in the day beyond the 24 real ones, and in the unlikely case they chose to study philosophy, they might say that the maxims of the people responsible for their conditions are far less universalizable. This criticism is especially compelling when you consider that the people at the top have both the means by which to alleviate the suffering of the impoverished, and the time to ponder the moral necessity of it. Disappointingly, yet unsurprisingly, they have time and time again chosen to ignore their duty.

Masculinity

When we think of masculinity, certain qualities might leap to mind, but when considering nebulous concepts like this, it might help to have a standard definition available. From Merriam-Webster:  having qualities appropriate to or usually associated with a man. Super helpful, definitely. Maybe a simple list of masculine traits would be more useful. From Dr. Aqualus M. Gordon: “protectiveness, competitiveness, aggressiveness, assertiveness, sexual appetite, deference to truth over feelings, passion, confidence, independence, and so on.” Gordon does note that plenty of men don’t emphasize these traits, and many women do, but he says they “are found significantly more in men than they are in women.” If we accept that as true (which we could certainly argue against doing) that might reveal something interesting about masculinity and gangsters. Some of those traits seem an awful lot like the American values we’ve been discussing: competitiveness, independence, “deference to truth over feelings.”

In The Great Gatsby, Gatsby is described as the platonic ideal of a man. If that form encompasses the traits listed above, it seems that a significant number align with the American values that have inspired gangsters like him. Regardless of the reality of those traits, aspiring to them in a pursuit of manliness seems to be a common thread throughout the gangster narratives we’ve seen. Gatsby, Corleone, J.T., and others have all willingly occupied and sometimes enforced very traditional gender roles. There have been woman gangsters, but they seem to be rarer, especially in pop culture. They don’t fit the masculine ideal, and so are forced out of the conference room, or more often, never allowed near it to begin with.

Of course, not every gangster actually embodies those traits as the realization of their personality. The final chapter of Moonlight introduces us to Black, who seems to have reconstructed his life around masculinity. Having seen the rest of the movie, we know this persona to be just that: a persona. That’s not really the way he wants to live, but through forces that nobody, including him, seem to fully understand, his life has been led down that path. He lifts weights, deals drugs, wears fronts, etc.: typical masculine gangster stuff, but no matter how hard he tries to live that masculinity, it is not him. By virtue of his relocation, he can ignore the parts of his past that contradict his new front. Part of the tragedy of the film is that he seems to choose this life, in emulating Juan, but at the same time, choice doesn’t quite seem adequate to describe Black.

Embodiment of stereotypical masculinity doesn’t seem to be necessary for the gangster, but maintaining such an image, or perhaps talk-of self, seems to be vital. If you’re too soft, or too naive, or too willing to accept your emotions, the gangster life is not an option, unless you manage to conceal those “flaws.” As long as the Nick Carroways of your narrative see you as “the platonic ideal of a man,” you’re golden.

 

 

Why not Darth Vader?

Forgive me, but I’ll be drawing mostly from the prequels here. The Clone Wars were alright, though, and I’ll fight you on that.

Anakin Skywalker was born a slave on the Outer Rim of the galaxy, where he stared at the sky every night and dreamed of an adventure. He dreamed of a life beyond his dismal situation, where he could save himself and his mother from a life of labor for the profit of others. Despite being a slave child, Anakin managed to find the time and space to cobble together a protocol droid from the heaps of machine scraps surrounding his home. He uses his mechanical genius to actually earn a small living for himself on the side, and he becomes both the youngest and only human – it’s a reflexes/number of arms/brains/whatever thing – podracer on Tatooine.

One day, a ship crashes on Tatooine, and Anakin offers his help, but he comes up with bad news; their hyperdrive is shot, and the price for a new one is too high to reach. Luckily, there’s a podrace coming up, and the prize money is enough to get them off the planet. Anakin wants to help these people, but he has a few other motives. He’d very much like to escape with them (and the girl he’s developed a crush on), and helping these powerful people out is likely to earn him some favor.

He succeeds, and though he doesn’t get to save his mom, Anakin earns his adventure with the Jedi. After some other boring prequel stuff and a pretty sweet lightsaber duel, Anakin becomes apprentice to Obi-wan Kenobi. They’re close enough in age and talent that they practically train each other. Over the course of the Clone Wars, they become the youngest generals in the entire army, and their skill in battle is arguably greater than plenty of the Jedi Council.

It’s not all good for Anakin, though. Ignoring the whole Darth Vader thing for a minute, the Jedi Code doesn’t exactly mesh well with Anakin’s goals. Most Jedi were picked up as infants, and he’s had time to develop his idea of himself before the Jedi indoctrination. He ends up marrying that girl he met on Tatooine, which is a big no-no for the Jedi. He also is pretty emotional, and has a sense of independence that has usually been trained out of a Jedi.

Up to this point, there are some hints of gangster that shine through in Anakin’s story. He’s a poor kid who dreams of a better life and legacy, and he’s got the raw talent and the force of personality to make it happen. He sees opportunities where they come to him –  his mechanic side-business – and he makes them when he needs to – offering to race for the crashed Jedi. Though it’s difficult to call the ladder Anakin begins climbing crooked, it certainly isn’t straight; for most of their history, the Jedi have operated based on an internal authority and the Jedi Code. Still, Anakin sees through their enlightenment hypocrisy, and breaks the rules as he sees fit. No emotional attachments? Nearly every prominent Jedi has, in some part of the Star Wars universe, a relationship, but over and over again, they scold Anakin for his righteous anger and his determination. Anakin becomes disillusioned and afraid, and starts looking for ways to secure his future outside of the Jedi.

By this point, Anakin has found a mentor in Chancellor Palpatine, who is secretly the Dark Lord of the Sith. He represents everything the supposedly fight against, but Anakin doesn’t know that yet. All he knows it that Palpatine disagrees with the Jedi in all the same places as him, and he eventually offers him another path: a new code.

Another weak point of the prequels is that Anakin’s fall to the dark side becomes rushed, as if they forgot he was Vader until the last bits of the trilogy. This makes it difficult to map his transition to Vader in a gangster light, but his biggest reason for doing so is his desire to protect himself, his wife, and the life outside of the Jedi that he has built for them. It seems unreasonable to say that its enough to turn to the dark side over that, but there is more gangster flavor to be found in the Code of the Sith:

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.

This isn’t a perfect match, but this is a good picture of one possible routes up the crooked ladder, especially when viewed against the relatively straight ladder of the Jedi:

There is no emotion, there is peace.

There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.

There is no passion, there is serenity.

There is no chaos, there is harmony.

There is no death, there is the Force.

The Jedi stood for law and order for its own sake, and the Sith fought for personal power and for personal freedom. Their methods were often objectionable, and they frequently abused the weak, but within their own, there was a certain level of protection, as long as you maintained your power. Anakin saw the chaos and death inherent to the Jedi; he was one of their greatest generals in the war. When they threatened his love, he refused to give up his emotion for the false peace of the Jedi, and instead gave into the dark side, with all its costs.

The beginning of his story can be seen as an O’Kanian story: as a slave on Tatooine, he was forced to work for hours on end to merely survive, and at times, it was not entirely certain that their slave wages would enable even that. When the chance comes, Anakin has to cling to it in hopes of making life better for himself and his mother. The Jedi were on their way out; the Republic no longer needed them, and the grey morality inherent to their order was no longer necessary. Again, it’s difficult to call this ladder crooked, but it’s no easier to call it straight, with enough analysis.

The ladder of the Jedi, despite the lip service they pay to the greater good of society, is not entirely straight. It lies in an uncanny valley where it shares some parts of both. It is outside society, and its methods are strangely cruel. It obeys its own code, entirely separate from the law laid down by government. At the same time, parts of that code are far stricter than the law, and the Jedi can be seen as hyperlegal, but only in ways that support their isolated society.

In a Lupshavian sense, it’s a bit easier to read Anakin’s story as a gangster’s. His disillusionment with society starts young, as it’s not difficult to recognize the hypocrisy and evil of slavery. Initially, he sees the Jedi as an escape: heroes of the Republic who stand against evil wherever it can be found. However, as he grows more familiar with the organization, he sees more and more of the contradiction built into the Code. Anakin is able to do this partially because of his relative old age of induction into the Order; it allowed him to develop his own values, which often align with those discussed by Lupsha. Independence, freedom of action, and individualism are all impossibilities for those who strictly follow the Jedi Code. They forbid attachments as well, and would likely see emotional attachment as materialism, another value. It’s also difficult to deny that the Jedi don’t really look very cool, besides the lightsabers. Darth Vader looks awesome, and though the Sith likely would disagree, there’s a degree of materialism in the conquest demanded by their interpretation of the Code of the Sith.

Despite the good in his heart, Anakin frequently chose to make the wrong decision, and was often punished for making the right one. As he grew tired of the hypocrisy of the code he and his friends followed, he found a different code from the Sith. That code allowed Anakin to achieve his goals, thoroughly outside of the law. Had he continued on the comparatively straight ladder of the Jedi, he would have been unable to live his life as he saw fit. Anakin defied the Jedi’s law against attachment, and took the crooked ladder of the Sith.

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