A major theme in the original Star Wars trilogy was the idea that some people were born with a special mental gift – the Force – which allowed them to wield great power. Those who had the greatest gift also suffered from mental instability, an ever-present danger of personal and moral collapse. Therefore, the Jedi masters always warned their young students to “beware of the dark side of the Force.”
Anakin Skywalker was the most gifted Jedi to be seen in generations, and he did great good until he gave into his dark side and became Darth Vader. This story resonates with people because it touches upon an archetypal truth. Is this relevant in understanding politics today?
The Force represents more than mere intelligence. If you are smart, you can get a well-paying job and do good work, but you probably won’t be able to impact the world radically. For that, you need the abilities of the likes of Elon Musk: openness to experience, creativity, ambition, grit, and often a tinge of narcissism.
It is a fact, as Dr. Jordan Peterson has pointed out, that those who score high on these personality traits and gifts often lean left. At the same time, when these talents use their gifts for pushing leftist ideas, society tends to spiral downward into disaster. It seems that giving into their natural inclination is not good for them, because they destabilize both their psyches and the society that adopts their unsustainable values.
It is almost as if they are giving into the dark side of the Force.
Voltaire v Rousseau
However, far more interesting are those talents who lean left who nevertheless discipline themselves and use their powers for good. There are multiple prominent examples throughout history. Consider the French intellectual, Voltaire. He was a writer, historian, poet, and philosopher, who today is best known for his vehement support of free speech and the separation of church and state – and the oft-quoted declaration “I disapprove of what you say but will defend to my death your right to say it.”
Being an artistic talent, he most likely scored high in personality traits that would make him lean left, and by the standards of those days, he most certainly did. However, the modern left owes far more of its legacy to Voltaire’s contemporary Jean-Jacques Rousseau, for whom he had nothing but disdain.
In a private correspondence with Rousseau, upon reading one of his books, Voltaire aptly commented:
“No one has ever employed so much intellect to persuade men to be beasts. In reading your work one is seized with a desire to walk on four paws. However, as it is more than sixty years since I lost that habit, I feel, unfortunately, that it is impossible for me to resume it.”
In a brilliantly accurate evaluation of Rousseau’s ideas, Voltaire managed to show that he rejected the dark side of the Force. He was a man of passions, but he did not give in to his animalistic side. Unlike Rousseau, he disciplined his talents with reason and civility.
Do we have modern examples of people like Voltaire, who temperamentally lean left, but have chosen to cultivate their disciplined side? The primary example would be President Donald Trump. He has been a New York liberal and a business Democrat all his life, and despite his well-deserved reputation as a playboy, he has managed to raise five children and never drinks alcohol.
While he came into office largely on hyperbole, much of which does not pass the fact check, he has fulfilled more election promises than most presidents, including appointing two originalist justices to the Supreme Court.
Other people who fit the bill are Jordan Peterson, who by his own account scores very high in personality traits that predisposes him for leftist thought. Nevertheless, despite being a socialist in his youth, he has come to value the free market and the discipline of traditional wisdom and Christianity.
Two other examples are Kanye West and Scott Adams, both highly creative talents who lean left yet support Trump and promote distinctly conservative ideas. The Force is certainly strong in them, and the fact that they have chosen the light side bodes well for the future of the country.