Beating “Bucketheads”: The strength of Individualism over Collectivism

In the upcoming television show Star Wars: Rebels one of the characters named Zeb is seen joyously dismantling squads of stormtroppers singlehandedly.  This has provoked much online forum discussion about how easily the stormtroopers are defeated by a single person.  For instance, after seeing the clip below one online commenter uttered the complaint, “If these stormtroopers are supposed to be the scourge of the galaxy and strike fear wherever they go by committing atrocities and striking down innocent people left and right, they sure ain’t getting that across here in this new Disney series.  And to be honest, that might be the whole f**king problem right there—Disney.”  Watch the clip in question for yourself.

One of the reasons that Star Wars as opposed to other kinds of entertainment hits such a nerve with people—and has for generations—is because it is essentially a realistic fantasy.  It is true that one motivated rebel like Zeb could dismantle a whole squad of stormtroopers because it happens every day in real life.  People like that complainer have been taught that there is strength in collectivism–in numbers.  And while this may be true in physical force, often collective masses are cumbersome in their thinking and easy to exploit.  This is certainly the case with the Empire in the Star Wars stories who have subjected themselves to the tyranny of an emperor.

A term that is used to discuss stormtroopers in Star Wars is “buckethead.”  The big difference between the bucketheads from the period of the Clone Wars and these in Rebels is that as the Empire was built upon a premise of collectivism becoming larger and more robust, the individualism of the bucketheads became less developed.  The key is that through individuality the traits of decision-making and strength are developed.  If individuality is lacking then thought becomes less of a priority and a squad of bucketheads can find themselves defeated by a lone rebel.

Star Wars is a very anti-institutional storyline.  Within that mythology, societies who are too collective fail and societies that prosper are often driven by very individualistic personalities.  This period of the Rebels is just such an example.   Strong individuals beat collectivists in the rock, paper, scissors game of life if pure mass can be avoided.  A prime example of this is in the X-wing Miniatures game where the current reigning champion of strategy is to run 7 ship squads of TIE Fighters against 2 to 3 ship formations.  For  instance, I have been practicing a 6 ship squad against the Millennium Falcon and only one other ship—and if such a formation is taken on directly, the TIE Fighters will shoot six times to my two per each combat round, which is a great way to get killed.  But, if I can get in behind that formation while they are forced to turn their entire formation around and get their guns pointed in the right direction again, I can disseminate them quite easily.  Their TIE Fighter ships are unshielded and pretty weak one on one.

The same type of strategy can be applied to a board room with several executives sitting around a table.  If taken as a group, they may appear daunting.  But once you get in behind their defenses it will be discovered that they lack individual strength and can easily be picked off and out maneuvered by a single assailant.  This ironically is exactly how the Obama administration has been behaving for years.  As a collective ideological mass, they look overpowering—but if the efforts of Jen Psaki are measured individually, they look and act like girls trying to get a date to the prom in a high school cafeteria.  No terrorist organization in the world is going to fear them once it is determined that individually they cannot take responsibility for anything—not even simple decisions like where to go for lunch.  Meanwhile the ISIS army in Northern Iraq is driving around unorganized in beat-up cars posing as military vehicles striking terror to the high offices of the United Nations who scramble about like buffoons as to what to do next.  The reason is that the collectivists are functioning from institutionalized behavior while the aggressors are driven by individual action—random—unpredictable conduct.

In Star Wars as the Empire rose to power, individual initiative was driven from the bucketheads.  Even their pride to serve the Old Republic was driven by individual value—their fear of disgrace in not doing a job well.  The bucketheads of the Rebels show is the result—beat down individuals who simply take orders and have lost the ability to think.  So bucketheads are only dangerous if taken collectively.  If they can be broken down and handled out of a collective formation—they can be easily defeated and this is the important lesson of the show and the overall Star Wars mythology.  Collective institutionalization destroys value and without value bucketheads are easy to beat.  Nations are easy to destroy if they are functioning from collectivism as opposed to individualism.  The primary reason that the Second Amendment works in America is because it makes it difficult for an enemy to attack a nation of individuals as opposed to a collective mass such as the National Guard.  If only a military had to be overcome, North Korea, China, or even Russia would have attacked a long time ago.  But, it is impossible to overtake a society that is driven by individuality.  While mass can defeat all in head to head combat, once a collective body is outflanked—they are vulnerable simply because they can’t out think their opponent.

So the concept of Zeb beating a whole squad of bucketheads by himself is quite realistic.  The real threats in the upcoming series are not the stormtroppers but the people who give them their orders, individuals like the Inquisitor and ultimately Darth Vader.  Most of the time the real fight to most battles occurs between two individuals, not collective masses—and the keys to victory are in identifying who are the motivating minds behind a collective mass.  In a boardroom, once it is discovered who the mind is behind their institutional values—they can be beaten through direct exploitation of their poorly developed individuality.  This is why Star Wars has more value for people than say, Star Trek or some other science fiction show—because it deals with a mysterious concept that is elusive to most people—why individualism beats collectivism when society has been taught the opposite.  Star Wars is more than a fun show and entertainment venue—it is a philosophy that has value in individuals over collectivists—which is a primal concern as old as time itself.

For all those reasons, that is why Zeb rocks!  And this new Star Wars: Rebels isn’t just for kids.  It’s for  everything that breaths and thinks.  It is game changing in so many ways.  Mark my words.

Rich Hoffman