B’reishit (Genesis 1:1-6:8)/ Episode IV: A New Hope
“So God Eternal formed the wild animals and the birds of the sky out of the soil, and brought the man to see what he would call each one; and whatever the man called it, that became the creature’s name,” (Gen 2:19). God gave humanity the naming rights to the creatures God had only just created. Unlike your average inventor or discoverer, God relinquished control over not only what these creations would be called, but how they would be used. God also decrees, “be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and tame it; hold sway over the fish of the sea and the birds of the sky, and over every animal that creeps on the the earth,” (Gen. 1:28). And from then on, humans were set on a course, with full biblically legal justification and the permission of God, to discover every living being, name and sort them, and through this, control them.
I love Crispy Rice. Anybody who has spent a summer with me has heard me go on about how this generic-brand rice cereal is far superior to its name-brand counterpart, Rice Krispies. The very best part of this cereal brand, besides its taste, is that it costs less than the name-brand version. They have the same ingredients as one another. The only visible difference is the name itself, and it is that name that makes Rice Krispies cost more than Crispy Rice. It is the same case for everything, from pharmaceuticals to toilet paper to purses. Name brand companies dominate the markets and as such, set the prices that if you want their supposedly superior product, you must pay. I am here to tell you that Crispy Rice taste better than Rice Krispies (which taste perfectly fine too) and why this matters.
The Empire has spent the years since the destruction of the Jedi Order disseminating propaganda around the galaxy to convince its populous that the Force is is something of myth and that the stories of Jedi with spectacular powers are nothing more than just stories meant to attack the legitimacy of the Empire. At its hight, the Jedi Order numbered only in the ten-thousands. While this may sound like a lot, we have to assume there are trillions if not quadrillions of galactic citizens, with thousands of sentiently inhabited planets. Only so many individuals or planets themselves ever would encounter a Jedi in their lifetime, especially before the Clone Wars, because it was a Jedi’s job specifically not to interfere in the lives of others, but merely to facilitate peaceful solutions to conflict. The extent of the use of the Force before the Clone Wars was likely at a tame minimum in public, and even during the war, it is likely that very few non-combatants would ever witness the extent of their power. This is why when Darth Vader Force Chokes a subordinate in the beginning of A New Hope, the sheer awe at the power he holds is enough to establish control over everyone in that room. Vader is one of the only Force users in the galaxy at this point, and while most galactic citizens do not necessarily believe in the Force, anybody who is subject to it is instantly rendered under his control.
Everybody, that is, except for Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin. Tarkin's given title of Grand Moff not only grants him innate control over the operations of the Death Star, but his knowledge of the inner-workings of the Empire prevent him from succumbing to Vader’s control. As Grand Moff, Tarkin is the ultimate administrator in the Empirical bureaucracy. A Moff is the imperial title given to planetary sector governors and a Grand Moff, such as Tarkin, is the title given to an oversector governor, a bureaucrat in charge of multiple planetary sectors. This title and charge gave Tarkin ultimate control over all Death Star construction and mobilization operations and as such, Tarkin did not necessarily need to take orders from Darth Vader, who himself held no real rank in the Empire other than apprentice to Lord Sidius. This relationship is the other reason Vader held no control over Tarkin. Tarkin saw through the Imperial facade. He was a friend and student of Palpatine even before his assertion to Supreme Chancellor of the Galactic Senate. In fact, Wilhuff may be one of the only surviving former associates of the Emperor’s besides Vader from before his transformation. Most of the Imperial subordinates likely have never had anything close to an interaction with the Emperor. They may likely fear him, but that fear would pale in comparison to the direct fear Darth Vader would place on the many more galactic citizens he interacts with and controls. Tarkin, as a soldier in the Clone Wars who interacted heavily with Jedi and the Force, knows that there is a power beyond Vader and that the true control is held by Palpatine. Beyond this, Tarkin also knows the true identity of Vader to be Anakin Skywalker, which serves as just an extra protection against the intimidation Vader otherwise can exhibit through his faceless menacing.
Like Tarkin sees through Vader, I see through Kellogg’s. We both know that the powers that attempt to control us do not have to. We have more autonomy than these powers want us to think and when armed with the right knowledge and the right courage, we can make the decisions we want to make with regards to which cereal to purchase or whom to place our awe in. Because Tarkin does not fear Vader, he can make the executive decisions he knows to be the best courses of action. Because I do not fall victim to Rice Krispies’ market domination, I can make the choice that benefits my wallet and my pallet.
When God gave humanity the naming rights to God’s creations, there was a symbolic transfer of power from God to us regarding how we might utilize this control. Extrapolate with me that when God instructed us to name the creatures of the Earth, we did not simply stop at distinguishing ruminantia from suinae (kosher mammals from pigs), we proceeded to place labels on the human beings who exhibited different traits from ourselves. It started with men and women, seeming innocent enough. It moved on to distinguishing Jews from Pagans. But over time it devolved into separating whites from blacks, straits from gays, abled from disabled, young from old, even Democrat and Republican, or European and Asian, and so on and so on. The labels seemed convenient and accurate the the hegemons that invented them, but it is these very labels that give establish control and dominance and put those very hegemons in power. When white humans separated themselves from black humans by naming each so, they forever established the connotation, even if entirely unintentional then (which it was not) or now (which it still does), that one was the dominant and the other the subordinate. It is this unfortunate consequence of naming that puts us in the such horribly divisive world we live in.
Armed with this knowledge, we are responsible for dismantling these labels. This is absolutely not to say that we should be “color blind” or anything of the sort, because it is far too late for that. The reality we have created with our naming powers has given an inherent privilege to some that others have to fight constantly for or against. Even within a single individual, they may have one label that gives them dominance and another that forces submission. We have to be entirely cognizant that this is the reality we live it. And with that, we have to strive towards crafting our language of naming going forward around unitary titles that do not divide our species.
There will always be those with the appearance of control and those with the appearance of being controlled. But like Grand Moff Tarkin we have to take notice of where the true control lies so that like in the example of Crispy Rice, we can recognize that the control is actually in our own hands. Looking past corporate marketing to find a cheaper and tastier cereal is one thing. Understanding the hundreds of years of history that go into the names we have bestowed upon fellow humans and finding ways to mend the damage this has done is an entirely more difficult task. If we are the namers in a relationship, we cannot possibly understand for ourselves the existence of the named. And as the named, there is so much reason to believe that control is eternal. My challenge to us all is to be aware of the names we both give and are given and to use this knowledge and awareness to at the very least, begin to change the nature of control in our interpersonal relationships so that they do not exist along the lines of titles or fear, but that they exist because of respect and admiration, and that they be as reciprocal as possible as often as possible.