When I heard about the theme of this edition, hope, the first thing that came to mind was Star Wars.
“But I cannot write about Star Wars in the UF magazine”, I thought.
“Why not?”, the others asked.
And they are right: fiction books and movies mirror what is happening in our world, and Star Wars has grown into a whole universe of stories, which deals with political and social issues we face in the real world. It is a reflection of recurring situations on Earth, only with planet systems instead of nation states.
How do I relate issues in real world politics to the first Star Wars movie “A New Hope”? In Star Wars, hope was materialised in the form of the Rebel Alliance’s successful strikes against the Galactic Empire. Rebellion is a recurring feature in most science-fiction stories. Rebellious groups represent the oppressed people’s hope for a better world. And so I asked myself, how justified is this hope? Do rebellions often succeed? And what do books and movies teach us?
Two Rebellious Movements: The Rebel Alliance vs Euromaidan
Rebellions are understood as armed resistance against an authority, a government or a leader. Star Wars movies and reality have their differences and similarities, comparing the Ukrainian Revolution of 2013-14 to the movie can help us to understand these.
For those who do not know Star Wars, the Rebel Alliance formed itself during the last wars, when the Galactic Empire arose. In “A New Hope”, it is fighting an insurgency war against the Empire to overthrow it and to create a new democratic Republic.
As a comparison, take the Ukrainian Revolution. It started of as a student protest against the Ukrainian government, who did not want to sign an EU association agreement. These protests then developed into a revolution, aiming to replace the ruling government.
Both cases are rebellions aiming to overthrow a ruling government. But while the Ukrainian Revolution started out peacefully, the Rebel Alliance was formed from pre-existent, violent resistance movements.
The main difference is that in reality things are not that clearly separated into the good and the bad. The relations between affected parties are far more complex, and the international community and law play a much bigger role, restricting parties’ use of violence and ability to manoeuvre.
At first sight, both rebellions were successful—the Empire got defeated, the Ukrainian president Yanukovych fled and a new parliament was elected. But you have to keep in mind that in recent years, new Star Wars episodes came out, with new rulers, new problems, and new rebels. The parliamentary elections in Ukraine and the Russian annexation of the Crimean peninsula were followed by riots and conflicts in Eastern parts of the country. This raises the question: at which point can a rebellion be called a success, when the long-term effects are not immediately visible?
Learning through Movies
Movies do not often deal with the long-term effects and how daily life continues after a happy ending. But we can still learn a great deal from movies and books, as dozens of Star Wars interpretations and analyses can point out. You can come across books, such as “Sex, Politics, and Religion in Star Wars” and “Harry Potter and International Relations”. The stories show us examples of courage and wisdom, of violence and cold bloodedness, and of political wit and military strategies.
According to Christine Cornea from Edinburgh University, writers draw inspiration from reality to their stories, and give us something new to learn about since “science fiction has become a significant and widely accepted element of cultural reality.”
With the heroic imagery of the rebels in movies, these stories can give us hope. Movie-rebels succeed far more often than rebels in reality. And no matter how small the chances of success are, there is always some hope. Of course, in reality rebellions can be either in the right or wrong—the government is not always on the dark side.
Whether rebellions in reality fail more often than in movies, and whether they actually create change socially or politically—hope is the one thing that drives them forward. Hope is what most people need. Governments and rebellious leaders know that. The more I learn about the complex interactions and dependencies in the world, the more often I think: is it worth the fight? Does it even make sense to fight a superior power? But the moment you want to give up, thinking it is useless to carry on, something you do not learn about at university, pushes you forward: hope.
by Nina Kolarzik
Soldiers of the Rebel Alliance: Michael Neel (CC BY 2.0)
Ukrainian Revolution: Ivan Bandura “Climbing the crane for a better view” (CC BY 2.0)