Just saw the latest Star Wars, and it did not disappoint. It did get me to thinking. These characters, like most characters in most stories, travelled light. A small bag. And, a signature weapon or tool. Not an assemblage, not an arsenal, not even a secret lair stocked with the latest and greatest, just one tool.
Of course, the first thing I thought was that our world was nothing like that. Luke couldn’t carry his lightsaber, Han his pistol, Chewy his bowcaster down any street in America without seeming strange at the least and very likely getting arrested. It is an incongruity that bears much thought.
But before this turns into a 2nd Amendment post, this idea quickly led me to Marx. Now, I am not Karl’s biggest fan, but he does have some points worth considering. In this case, it is namely that there exists a proletariat precisely because men are able to be separated from their tools, their means of production. Tools, as society has become more advanced, have become complicated, various, and expensive. A single man or woman cannot easily possess the things with which great things become possible. Instead, the tools are owned by others who may or may not know how to use them, but know even more how to use the labor of others. Marx was prescient in noticing that the tools we use are also our slave collars if they are not ours.
Once upon a time, you knew a man by the tool he carried. A musical instrument, a weapon, a hay fork, an easel, a white collar, a camera, a notebook, a greasy rag hanging out of a back pocket, a folder full of papers to be graded. I think one of the most liberated existences I know of is that of a plumber with his own truck, no other name on the door but his own.
Of course, we don’t live in a world where simplicity is the order of the day. Our lives at home and at work are full of things, many of them tools, but more of them not. We are far from the station of those heroes in Star Wars who have one tool with which they are more than a little competent and are thus enabled to set out on great adventures. Of course, why set out at all when things are so comfortable right here at home. Luke needed his childhood home to be burnt to the ground to spur him finally to the adventure he craved. I hope it doesn’t come to that.
In the meantime, I suppose we should all find that one tool we don’t go anywhere without and that can’t be taken from us by the owners of the world. That one thing we can use to leverage our will against the dark or the masses or the chaos of an increasingly tolerant and multicultural society.