What the Mandalorian rejection of history can teach society

Mandalore concept art. Photo: StarWars.com.
Mandalore concept art. Photo: StarWars.com. /

Any content with Mandalore is bound to be political. Allegories to modern day terrorism and occupation are present throughout the storyline, especially in The Clone Wars. In the last few years, societies across the world have been taking a second look at their history, and have realised those who faced historical injustices have often had their voices and history glossed over. With this view in mind, it’s possible to interpret the conflict in Mandalore in a new way, one that is about identity.

In the old times, Mandalorians were a violent race. They forcefully subjugated planets to create a sphere of influence, carving out a sector of space known as Mandalorian space. At some point in time, these, early, expansionist Mandalorians came into violent contact with the Jedi, and a war erupted. The Mandalorians would eventually lose this war, though to keep a fragile peace one Mandalorian, Tarre Vizsla, was inducted into the Jedi Order.

Upon his death, Vizsla’s lightsaber was kept in the Jedi Temple, which Mandalorians took back during the fall of the Old Republic. During these cycles of violence, the surface world of Mandalore was reduced to a barren desert, with the grasslands covering the world destroyed. This would inspire a group of Mandalorians called the New Mandalorians, who after such horrific cycles of conflict and destruction swore to turn their backs on violence. However, this was not for all their people of Mandalore. Traditionalists, who still believed in the warrior ways, caused a civil war on the planet, killing most of the population. The war ended with the victory of the New Mandalorians, with Duchess Satine driven further into pacifism due to the extreme loss of life and ecological destruction.

Satine holds the view that Mandalore’s violent past is a stain on their history, and so removes major references to it from their society. To address the remaining warriors who refused to convert to pacifism, Satine adopts a hard-line policy of death by exile, showing she has no interest in reconciliation and integration with these former warriors. Instead, Satine opted to put the problem out of mind and sight, which would come back to haunt her.

The remaining warriors formed the terrorist group Death Watch, holding Mandalore’s history with pride and reverence. Pre Vizsla, the leader of Death Watch, identifies this as a conflict rooted in identity, as he violently accuses Satine as “crushing our souls, destroying our identities [as warriors]”. However, while Death Watch’s views are steeped in tradition, they don’t appear to hold the same colonialist tendencies as past Mandalorians, as evidenced by Vizsla’s disinterest in expanding his influence into the League of Two Thousand Neutral Systems.

The moral of the episode “If you ignore the past, you jeopardise the future” affirms this interpretation. It applies to Satine the most, as her wish to ignore Mandalore’s warrior past only bred conflict, and ultimately led to her downfall. Had she instead integrated the opposing viewpoint, Death Watch and Maul wouldn’t have been able to gain a foothold or destabilise Mandalore.

This conflict of how one interpretation of history – that it’s based on violence, death and destruction, can clash with another interpretation – one based on tradition and reverence, is one that should be familiar with modern audiences. Increased scrutiny has been placed upon the history of Western countries, with uncomfortable facts that had previously been downplayed brought up. European history for example, is full of colonialism, and while America was initially a victim of this, they themselves became colonisers. America also has a complicated relationship with slavery and race.

However, on both sides of the political spectrum, two interpretations of history have formed. To take the most extreme left view, there is disorder in the streets, and the illegal pulling down and defacing of statues. On the extreme right, there is denial that these atrocities are as bad as said, with claims of erasing history plentiful. Viewpoints on both sides become entrenched, with neither speaking to another.  This mirrors the extremes found on Mandalore, with Satine outright rejecting any form of the warrior identity, and Death Watch ignoring the destruction their ancestors wrought. Neither side is willing to even tolerate the existence of the other, until their society tore itself apart.

What Mandalore shows is a warning. There needs to be a careful balance of viewpoints, a society that’s willing to accept that during points of history, uncomfortably bad things happened. But, on the other hand, this viewpoint shouldn’t go so far as to deny what is good about a country. Mandalorian weapons and armor were born out of colonial conflict and while there is definitely a place to repent on the historical injustices that armor caused, it isn’t possible to simply get rid of it and radically change society. There is plenty good that the Mandalorian armor can do, and there have been examples of this in Star Wars.

This warning can be applied in real life. Society is becoming more and more divided, and not just how history is viewed. The ultimate lesson that can be found all over Star Wars is about finding balance, and if people applied that, there would be less division about.