Remember this scene from Episode III?
Yes, yes – Obi-Wan’s statement is in and of itself an absolute but one can argue he misspoke or was simply trying to connect to Anakin in a way he would understand. Regardless, it’s a good way to start an article on Polarized Thinking. When someone is in polarized thinking a thing is either good or bad, a success or failure, valuable or worthless – there is no middle ground.
Imagine living an existence where the perfect is unachievable and the imperfect is unacceptable.
Born out of the ashes of the Old Republic (with a little help from a manufactured crisis) the goal of the Empire was virtuous – order. However, as Aristotle would argue virtue resides in the mean. In the Empire’s political philosophy other “goods” were worth sacrificing as order was the highest good. What makes order good? In polarized thinking it usually doesn’t matter, in pursuing order as the highest good The Empire compromised the benefits of order (safety, predictability) – order requires flexibility, mechanisms to tolerate the potential for deviance from the order – something a Sith would have a difficult time understanding
How does this connect to us? In pursuing money with the singular focus of obtaining it, we end up neglecting what makes money worth having. In pursuing obedience and discipline with the singular focus of obtaining conformity and virtue, we may end up losing out on what makes parenting meaningful and fun while creating the conditions for rebellion against the very things we are looking to cultivate. In making it ALL about that one thing, we may compromise the value and benefit of that very thing.
Socratic questions, dialectical statements, and interpersonal effectiveness skills are excellent ways to avoid polarized thinking.
Let’s imagine Obi-Wan used some of the skills in his dialogue with Anakin…
Anakin: “Don’t lecture me, Obi-Wan! I see through the lies of the Jedi. I do not fear the dark side as you do. I have brought peace, freedom, justice, and security to my new Empire.”
Socratic Obi-Wan: “Are they lies or simply things that did not turn out to be true for you at this precise moment? What makes you believe I fear the Dark Side? Is it possible that I simply don’t agree with their philosophy or methods? How are peace, freedom, justice, and security served by the Dark Side and are there costs? Can any philosophy guarantee these things perfectly, all the time?”
Anakin: “Don’t make me kill you.”
Relationship Effective Obi-Wan: “I can understand why you feel angry and betrayed by the Jedi, I can imagine feeling the same way if I went through what you just experienced.”
Anakin: “If you’re not with me, then you’re my enemy.”
Dialectic Obi-Wan: “I want to support you and I am struggling with agreeing to the terms I feel I would need to meet to provide that support”
Some of this stuff can come across as hokey or formulaic but its’ written this way to illustrate a point – of course, Obi-Wan would use his own way of speaking in delivering the message.
Would his words have made a difference?
Only a Sith deals in hypotheticals.