Sound Strategy: How often do you think about the Roman Empire? Or, how Star Wars mirrors Greater Outer Banks’ current state

Sound Strategy: How often do you think about the Roman Empire? Or, how Star Wars mirrors Greater Outer Banks’ current state

October 5th, 2023

For many years in historical circles, Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire was considered to be a proxy, in its history, for what Jefferson called the American experiment (especially among those who search for clues to any emerging decline in American society). 

We could look to these pages for the trends, events, and causes for the decline in sovereignty, civic virtue, or the many other causes of the collapse of the Roman Empire.  Hindsight, as William Blake points out, is second only to foresight. 

In studying the Romans, we ultimately hope to learn about ourselves.

Funny, that might help partly explain why the “How often do you think about the Roman Empire?” meme on Tiktok has been trending over the past month.

@whitelocksvstheworldLol i am blown away by this trend.♬ original sound – Ashley Whitelock

But, then there’s the most cited legal scholar in America – Cass R. Sunstein – who has written a book on Star Wars as an original case study. Yes, you read that right.  Why would one of the brightest legal minds in America touch on the greatest science fiction saga of all time?

For starters, it’s because Star Wars is a remarkable global franchise, with more than $42 billion dollars in sales alone.

It’s also an enduring and engaging story accessible around the world for what I think are three compelling reasons all based not on science fiction but on the human condition; it’s what Star Wars can teach us about our own behavior that led to Sunstein’s fascination.

The first is that it’s clearly a story of free will and choice. In other words, it’s a science fiction exploration of choice and who among us – around the world – doesn’t understand the power and hope of personal choice.

The second is that while it’s a story of hope and it’s also a warning of institutional failure as a reality – the Rebellion, for example, never quite seems to live up to the sacrifices of its adherents. 

Governments around the world – with democracies of particular note – resonate in many ways with the back and forth of the New Republic and the Empire.

It’s also remarkable for the endurance of the Empire – whether it’s the original George Lucas movies, the follow-ups and continuing spin-offs – the resilience of the Empire is a ready reminder that the work of hope is never done and, in fact, may only exist along the barest of gossamer threads.

There are quite a few people, across the Star Wars franchise, who remain loyal to the Empire for its sheer power and subsequent potential for translating power to personal gain.

As for the countless Star Wars fans across our region (our lead reporter Sam Walker included), many of us are left to consider the science fiction of the Skywalkers in relief against the current trends, hopes, failures, and warnings in our own lives and governments.

The New Republic – a promise of change – never seems to fully obscure the power of the Empire except in brief moments.  In moments of clarity, we perhaps wonder what side we might choose (Darth Vader is a popular Halloween costume).

As we consider strategy, as did the New Republic, we’re left in many ways, by considering the choices in our own region, wondering if we can spot the difference between the Empire and the Republic (there would be a lot of finger pointing, clearly, as to who is who) knowing full well that one of the key reasons the Romans failed was an inability to agree internally on virtually anything.

Gibbon mentioned, in his massive study of the Romans, that a key observation wasn’t necessarily how the Romans fell but in understanding why exactly their society lasted so long.  It was, as Gibbon points out, that understanding that is the central study of the book.

In parting, one of the most famous music themes in movie history is the Imperial March, written by John Williams – millions, if not billions, of people on Earth can spot it only with a few notes.

Happily, one of the best parts of movies is that the music usually comes in at just the right time to warn us. Here in the present moment, though, we’re wondering what kind of music we’d hear, and when would be the right time to cue the march.

But, on a positive note, it’s a holiday weekend along one of the greatest shorelines in the world. Have fun and be safe out there everybody, and thanks for reading here along America’s Seashore.

WOBX Publisher Clark Twiddy is the author of Outer Banks Visionaries:  Building North Carolina’s Oceanfront which is now available at local bookstores and online.  This is his second book about the Outer Banks. “Sound Strategy”, a weekly commentary from Twiddy, features issues, ideas and information focused on our mission statement of “Covering the Business News of the Greater Outer Banks”.

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