Friday, 9 December 2011

Mandalorians, Jedi & Sith! Oh My!

I was recently disappointed to have prematurely finished reading the Republic / Imperial Commando Series of Star Wars Novels by Karen Travis - disappointed because I was thoroughly enjoying delving deeper into Mandalorian Culture and premature because the series has abruptly ended because of a dispute between the author and her publishers over the official Star Wars canon. The dispute basically renders the chronology of the Commando Series impossible in favour of developments in the Clone Wars cartoon and leaves the main protagonists of the novel in limbo.

Whilst the expansion of Mandalorian psyche which has taken place under Travis has been generally met with approval amongst fans, her treatment of the Jedi has not. Some of the exchanges between reader and writer have reached levels of vitriol which are a testament to the emotional investment that Star Wars fans have placed in the world originally created by George Lucas. Lucas himself is often a target for some hardcore fans who don't think the legacy of the original three films can be left in the hands of a man who in their eyes botched the prequel movies, introducing the likes of Jar-Jar Binks, Medichlorians & an annoying Darth Vader Junior. Some go so far as claim to relieved Lucas of his responsibilities for the franchise through their championing of Fan Literature or alternative timelines.

I tend to side with those who condemn Travis' treatment of the Jedi and can see much in the argument that the author has taken far too much of her own political views into her story telling. If authentic, the crux of the issue can easily be identified in an interview Travis gave for Infinity Plus

"I see Vader as a tragic character who's been betrayed by everyone, and I can't help thinking of the Jedi as self-serving unelected elitist spoon-benders making whoopee on Republic taxpayers' credits. It's an iconoclastic journo world-view. Believe me, Order 66 was long overdue. I have a couple of Jedi that I don't want to shoot on sight, but they're my own creations, so I could make them a little humbler and more aware of the consequences they create for others"

How someone with such views actually got to write a Star Wars book is beyond me and it's a great shame because I genuinely like the Madalorian clan Travis has created. I enjoy the various explorations of the philosophy of the force that have been present in other novels. Is there really a Light Side and Dark Side of the force or is there One Force which can be used for Good or Evil? There is nothing wrong with exploring things from "a different point of view" and expanding on the background of the creation of the Clone Army, the inability of the Jedi to perceive the threat of Palpatine and the fate of the Clones but it shouldn't have been done at the very basic premise that Jedi are a force for good in the Star Wars universe. To my mind, Travis' depiction of the Jedi is as ignoble as the books which saw the Jedi embrace moral relativism as their guidance in the use of the Force.

With that said, I am still disappointed that there will be no follow up to 501st Legion - perhaps someone will eventually pick up Skirta and his lads where he left off, rescuing him and the Jedi from the abyss in which they have been left.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Gary Speed, Depression & Suicide

I am writing this post sitting up in bed drinking some effervescent vitamin C feeling rather drained.

Man Flu is a real issue and comes about because quite frankly, men are weaker than women.

It has been some time since I last blogged and I put that down to a) not having the time to comment on mundane things and b) not having a topic which enthused me enough to blog. As I now find myself drifting in and out of a Lemsip induced trance, I thought I might put virtual pen to virtual paper.

This week, I was shocked and saddened to hear of the tragic death of Gary Speed. It is always difficult to accept the death of someone before their time but it is even more so when that person takes their own life. In Gary Speed's case, we don't yet know the details which led him to his decision, but it is all the more poignant because every single friend who has spoken about him has been dumbstruck and unable to identity the source of his difficulties.

The Beatles suggested that "All you need is love" but this simply is not true. You also need Faith and Hope. People who do decide to take their own lives may no longer have Faith in other people or believe that no-one has Faith in them. They also do not hope for something better or beyond their suffering.

The very day that Gary Speed took his own life, his fellow former professional footballer Stan Collymore was in the midst of a depressive episode. In it, he wrote a poignant and informative description of what it was like.

The Catholic Church has not always had a complete understanding of suicide because the psychological impact of depression was not understood until relatively recently. It was therefore always analysed in purely spiritual terms.

Suicide is contrary to the Fifth Commandment and contrary to justice, hope, and charity.

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states in paragraph 2281, "Suicide contradicts the natural inclination of the human being to preserve and perpetuate his life. It is gravely contrary to the just love of self. It likewise offends love of neighbour because it unjustly breaks the ties of solidarity with family, nation, and other human societies to which we continue to have obligations. Suicide is contrary to love for the living God."

It was often believed to be the one sin for which one could not be forgiven because suicide was committed against Hope and the Holy Spirit - the giver of life (Mt 12: 31). For this reason, those who had committed suicide were often denied a Christian burial.

Particular condemnation is reserved for those who encourage it as a viable social norm:

"If suicide is committed with the intention of setting an example, especially to the young, it also takes on the gravity of scandal. Voluntary co-operation in suicide is contrary to the moral law." (CCC §2282)

Today, the Church understands that as a person needs to be in full control of their faculties to bear the full responsibility of a sin, the gravity of suicide can be mitigated by its circumstances:

"Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide." (CCC §2282)

It also actively encourages the faithful to pray for those who have died in such tragic circumstances:

"We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives." (CCC 2283)

I knew Gary Speed was a consummate professional and a proud Welshman but as the tributes continue to pour in, it is clear that he was a great friend to many people.

May choirs of angels come to greet him & speed him to paradise. May the Lord enfold him in His mercy. May he find eternal life.

PS: For the record, the Patron Saints for those suffering with depression and anxiety are St Jude and St Dymphna.