Early on Nar Shaddaa, the Jedi Exile, Meetra Surik, encounters several men who could use her help. The final one, where a man flat-out asks for money, stands out from the rest. The player can either help or chase him away. Kreia, the exile’s teacher, condemns her actions no matter which choice is chosen. But why? What was Kreia trying to teach?
In a game filled with grey, it’s unusual for the game to force you into making a binary choice of simple ‘good’ and ‘evil’. If you exclude Kreia from the party, she talks to you telepathically instead. This is how you know that it’s important and the developers absolutely wanted the player to listen to her.
You can either give the poor man some money or you can threaten his life to chase him away. If you give him the money, Kreia tells you that such an action could have far reaching consequences that you cannot see. By giving him money he hasn’t earn, perhaps now all you’ve done is made him a target to others who also suffer in poverty.
If you threaten his life, Kreia tells you that the echo created could be one of more suffering as well. Misery loves company after all. Everyone has the same problems he does, or possibly worse. But people tend to have tunnel vision in times of strong emotions. The man who’s trying to help him understands that in the situation they’re in, as cliche as it may sound, they have to stick together.
Let’s say that developers added a third option. You can tell him something like: “Wash my spaceship, and I’ll give you 50 credits. Here’s 5 credits up front so you can buy the supplies.” It’s unlikely that he’ll take the 5 credits and run, knowing that he has a job lined up for more credits. The guy that assaults him and takes the money, can’t touch him now. Because otherwise, he would be shunned by the community, and the next time he’s in trouble, no one is going to help him.
A pretty good real life example of the first option can be seen in the Anthony Bourdain television show, no reservations. In the first episode of the seventh season, Anthony travels to a post-earthquake Haiti. The show is centered around food and culture. As he’s eating his Haitian creole food, he becomes painfully conscious of the children that surrounds him and his guest. Children who haven’t had a proper meal, or any meal, in days. After having a word with his producers, they decide to buy out the restaurant, in an effort to feed everyone there. But the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
The situation quickly devolves into chaos. Hunger overcomes all reason, and violence breaks out as the strong attempt to dominate the weak, and people who are desperately trying to maintain order, starts whacking people with a belt. In the end Anthony admits: “We didn’t think it through.”
Altruism is not inherent to humans. The species developed it with a purpose in mind. People you helped would be more likely to help you out later. It evolved from there, but the seeds are still visible. Some people feel obligated to help. “I can’t leave him hanging. I owe him.” They say that, but not out of concern for what others may think of them, but instead of what they would think of themselves. You could say that people give to charity without expecting anything in return. But you could argue that they’re looking for the reward of feeling better about themselves. We may never know.
My grandmother is probably the most generous person I will ever know. I’ve heard countless stories of her just giving things away, in situations where there was basically no chance of her getting anything in return. She would go behind people’s backs to help someone out. I know what you’re thinking, and yes, it wasn’t unheard of for her to be taken advantage of. But she’s catholic. A good catholic, not the fire and brimstone kind. The love your fellow man kind. I love her for that. She’s also a mean cook.
I try to follow her example. But now I live in a place where things like homelessness is not a top concern. It’s still an issue, you see them around, but not frequently. And that’s the heart of the matter. Look at the characteristics of Nar Shaddaa. Large amounts of homelessness and unemployment. Organized crime runs rampant, to the point where it’s considered to be the only form of a “government” there is. Employment itself would most likely mean joining one of these criminal organisations. Association by itself, means putting your life on the line because of rival organisations. Even then, getting such a job itself could prove difficult, as the local crime lords, whether it’s the hutts or the exchange, don’t exactly have a positive human bias.
What Kreia is trying to teach you here, is not to never give to charity, or even that they always have to earn it somehow. The lesson here is detailed observation, nuance, and calculation. Especially for someone with power like the exile, the importance of looking at the bigger picture is damn near infinite.
Kreia understands that you do not have a crystal ball. It is impossible for a human mind to predict every single thing, that will happen, and every single timeline that could possibly result, with 100% accuracy. But it is your responsibility to try and to try your best. Even disconnected from the force, and it’s real life. As human beings, we have power.
If you’re walking down a street, you have money in your pocket, and there’s a homeless guy with his hands out, you’ve just found yourself within a position of power. Even the homeless guy has power. In certain fashions, it’s insignificant to your own, just like your power is insignificant when compared to certain others. Power is a spectrum after all, and it comes in many forms.
I recently heard a news report come out of the United States of America. A man running for senate named Brian Ellison says that homeless people are constant victims of violent crime. His solution is to distribute pump-action shotguns to said homeless people, so that they could defend themselves. Now, whatever opinion you may have on this, I implore you to do your best and think about all the possible consequences that such an action could have. Personally I’m still trying to wrap my head around the origins of his conclusions and what his thought process might be.
It was reported, over a decade ago, that former president George W Bush said something along the lines of: “I don’t do nuance.” At the time, when I first heard this I thought: “Won’t or can’t?” But regardless, for a world leader to have such a stance, someone as powerful as the president of the United States; someone who makes decisions that produce a lot of echoes. For someone like that to not at least try to look at the bigger picture, disaster was inevitable. Maybe not for him, but for someone, somewhere, sometime.
Why do people tend to default to binary positions? Black and white. Right and left. Us and them. Me and you. I don’t know. I guess I’d have to ask a psychologist. But if I had to take a guess, I’d say because it’s easier. Black and white is simple, it takes less energy. I read an article once that argued that it’s the same with racism. It takes energy to understand everyone as an individual. Easier to regard a group of people as all of them being the exact same person.
I was returning to my apartment one day after visiting my brother. I had some loose change in my pocket, and I encountered a man with a cup, cocooned in whatever cloths he could find. It was cold. I buy almost everything with my bank card. Whenever I have loose change, I’m looking to get rid of it anyway. Here was someone who could use it more than I could. And like I said before, I live in a place where this kind of thing isn’t too frequent. His cup became a bit more full. But sometimes I encounter women, sometimes with children, and that gives me pause.
The increased possibility exists of there being someone behind the scenes. That’s the thought that occurs to me at least. They could be abusing her and taking whatever money she’s received. But if she comes in with nothing, that would only escalate her suffering. All I could do was mitigate, I couldn’t solve anything. But it was something, so I gave her the money.
I’ve read comments from people saying that Kreia teaches the exile to not give to charity and from people saying that Kreia is a heartless shrew of a woman. Two extremes. Always remember that Kreia doesn’t tell the Exile to never give to charity. Her exact words are: “be careful”.