Fig. 1. Daniel Jonea, a leader of the Church of Jediism. Source: <http://www.flashnews.com/news/wfn02100707fn32530.html>, (accessed 06.05.2017).
A small town. D. is entering the supermarket in a hooded cloak. The security guard is watchful, and asks him to pull down his hood. But D. claims that he has a religious right to wear it, because he is a believer in the force from the Stat Wars. Is this a serious claim?
Nonserious speech acts refer to horizontal conventions, which imply that one is actually doing something else, for example in declaring a belief, one is actually writing a poem, performing in a play, making a joke (Austin, 1962: 8; Searle, 1985: 66-67, 73).
Yet D. does not refer to conventions, which could relieve him from the responsibility for his speech acts. And since he does not give a sign that he is not serious, does this mean that he is making a serious speech act?
Sometimes we speak naively, superficially, optimistically, passionately. Imagine for example that one is making a passionate but impossible promise. Even if she is not being nonserious, her speech act is not a serious promise.
In the meantime, the security guard is joined by two more, by all the security guards at the supermarket. One of them tries to invoke the conventions of the nonserious speech acts. You can find a hoodless Jedi in any film of the franchise, says the guard. But D. explains in all seriousness when and under what circumstances it is acceptable, and emphasizes that this never happens in a public space like the supermarket.
The media will transform this controversy into news (The Guardian, 2009). The retail company operating the supermarket will try to compensate for the failure of the guards by invoking once again the horizontal conventions of nonseriousness. The management will communicate to the press that the company respects the beliefs of the Jedi, and that any Jedi is welcome in its supermarkets, where he or she could find a variety of seductively discounted products. But just like D., the Star Wars fans will debate much seriously what is publicly humiliating for a Jedi, and they will comment that they see no substantial difference between Jedi hood and a burka (The Force Net, 2009).
To speak seriously does not mean just not to speak irresponsibly.
Let me explain the difference in terms of the pragmatics of ordinary speech.
In order to be able to make things with words, one should be entitled to speak (Austin, 1962: 143-144). For example, in order to grade a student, one should be entitled to grade students, to grade this particular student, and in this particular way.
Since words have the power to do things to the extent that I am speaking rightfully, words can become powerless, their power can stall if my right turns out to be questionable (Austin, 1962: 18, 144). Imagine for example that I am grading the student before the exam, or I am evaluating her for a course that she has not attended, or I have not taught, or that the impatient student has decided to grade herself instead of waiting for the exam.
If my right to say something is questionable, then I should either abandon it or respond. In the first case, my speech act will lack power (Austin, 1962: 32). My words will not do a thing, just like an illegitimate evaluation. But if I choose to respond to the possible questioning of my words, if I make an attempt to justify my words, then my speech act will have been responsible. As for example if I manage to convince the student that I have been asked to evaluate her by her real teacher, or that this is an experiment.
Yet what if I am neither abandoning my words, nor justifying them?
John Austin briefly touches upon this problem in his discussion of statements that refer to non-existent or inappropriate conventions, like baptism of a penguin, words uttered by a rational dog, marriage with a monkey, the treacherous naming of a ship behind the back of the official delegation (Austin, 1962: 23, 24, 27-28, 30-31).
D. is doing just that. Surrounded by security guards at the entrance of the supermarket, he declares his belief in a film. The reference to a film should have been nonserious, it should have relieved him from any commitment to veracity, yet D. nevertheless claims that he is telling the truth. The declaration of a belief has constituted D. as a believer, yet he is a believer in a fiction. The horizontal conventions of cinematic fiction seem out of joint, detached and inverted into vertical conventions. On the other hand, the vertical conventions, which make declarations of faith facts rather than just words (Searle, 1985: 65-66), are dislodged and transposed as horizontal conventions that relieve D. from responsibility for his speech act, just like the horizontal conventions of theatre free the actors from responsibility for their words on stage. The transversal conventions of the usual behaviour in a supermarket are dismantled and assembled together with normative conventions, which are intended to protect the right to an unusual behaviour in a public space.
Such speech acts are not just infelicitous. We know what the point of an illegitimate speech act is, and that the act fails to do a thing, just like we know that the student who graded herself after self-examination, even a thorough and principled one, does not actually get a grade. But if one refers to a non-existent or inappropriate conventions, if one transposes conventions on inappropriate objects, if one exercises illegitimately a right, we do not know what point he is trying to make. We do not know even that he fails to do a thing. Such speech acts differ from misfires like metaphors differ from mistakes. In the context of this paper, I will call them transgressive acts.
Fig. 2. Jedi Church ritual, Northern Wales, OddCulture.com, Source: <https://www.google.bg/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwiN1rec9-DTAhUGnRoKHUXqDDwQjRwIBw&url=http%3A%2F%2Foddculture.com%2Fjediism-an-alternative-religion%2F&psig=AFQjCNEC96BEsl3yteYfJPwVzDRfyyiklQ&ust=1494354686627997>, (accessed 06.05.2017)
D. performed a transgressive speech act.
The security guards tried to repair the conventional nature of the situation by cornering him. D. threatened to sue. Did he speak seriously now? Was the situation getting already serious?
A month later D. filed a complaint to the Equality and Human Rights Commission. The claim against religious discrimination was supported by data from the 2001 census, in which almost 400000 British citizens had declared Jediism as their confession (Jedi Church, 2017b). Statistically, Jediism was the fifth largest denomination in the United Kingdom, more popular even than Judaism or Buddhism. Moreover, if one took into account the census data from New Zealand, Australia, the Czech Republic, and the United States, Jediism seemed a world religion.
The Commission did not consider his claim on technical grounds, because Jediism had not been properly registered as a confession. Nevertheless, in filing the complaint, D. still achieved something. He managed to demonstrate that his declaration of a belief in the force from a film was not an irresponsible speech act.
Responsibility emerges between rather than inside the subjects. And because of that, if a speech act is not irresponsible, this is not because the speaking subject feels responsibility or is felt responsible by another. Let me illustrate this with a hypothetical example.
Imagine that I have promised to help you. It would be rather odd, if you asked for my help and I responded that I did not feel responsible for my promise. And even if I did that, I would not relieve myself from responsibility, I would just reveal my dishonesty.
Yet on the other hand, the responsibility I bear for my promise is not a blank check. If you want me to help you with something impossible or unacceptable, and I refuse, it would be odd of you to accuse me of irresponsibility, just as it would be odd to insist that I was under the obligation to help you no matter what, or that my promise was a misuse because I failed to define the exact limitations and timing of the help I offered.
So if I am not speaking oddly, if I am not in an odd situation, not to speak irresponsibly means to be responsive if my right to make the speech act is questioned, to respond to its actual or potential questioning, to make an attempt to justify my words, to answer the questions that make my words questionable.
D. did not speak irresponsibly, because even though he was cornered, even though it seemed that the only room left was for apologies, he did not refuse to respond to the questioning of his transgressive act, but rather tried to demand responsibility, and his demand passed the threshold of the attention of the public authorities, if only to be dismissed.
Later D. will capitalize on his transgression. After gaining notoriety as a champion of the faith, he will make an attempt to become an apostle of Jediism. He will found a Jedi church with somewhat hesitant dogmas, which will not rule out a supreme being or a form of afterlife, but will nevertheless recommend that the believers should decide such matters for themselves (Jedi Church, 2017a). His church website will provide an address list of Jedi communities around the world, census data, Jedi wedding rituals and certificates at very competitive prices, and quite affordable necessities of proven quality like cloaks, boots, meditation jewellery.
Fig. 3. Source: DBMNews.com, <http://www.disneybymark.com/disney-business-jedi-perform-marriages/>, (accessed 06.05.2017).
There are several different Jedi churches. One of them, The Temple of the Jedi Order has been registered as a religious organization in the United States. In 2016, the Temple filed for registration in England and Wales (Charity Commission, 2016).
The claim was supported by contents taken from the website of the Temple, including a code, a credo, three dogmas, sixteen teachings of the Jedi, definitions of the rights, the obligations, and the procedures of the Synod, data on the website members, a collection of opinions and expressions of gratitude by believers.
The Charity Commission is not a court. The commission does not decide if the claimants really believe, but rather if the public good derived from their activities justifies exemption from certain taxes. Yet the decisions of the commission draw on the existing legal practice, which has been shaped by the case Hodkin v. Registrar-General of Births, Deaths and Marriages (Supreme Court, 2013). The plaintiff was married by the procedures of the Church of Scientology, but the Registrar-General’s office did not recognize the marriage and refused to consider scientology as a religion, claiming that although scientologists had rituals of their own, they believed in an abstract and impersonal deity. In order to decide on the case, Lord Toulson developed a juridico-political model of religion, which held that religion without deity was conceivable, because any religion was essentially a teaching, which overstepped the limits of senses or science to preach a way of living, and claims to provide the mankind’s place in the universe.
The Charity Commission applied that juridico-political model to Jediism, and found that it lacked the essential features of a religion. Firstly, the only territory shared by the Jedi believers seemed to be the fictional world of the Star Wars franchise. Secondly, no dividing line marked off Jediism from other religions. Thirdly, the Jedi Church had no body politic, because it represented a virtual community. Fourth, Jediism did not have even a heaven of its own, because its cosmos was devoid of deities. Fifth, the believers were not committed to established norms. And because of that, sixth, Jediism did not imply a particular responsibility, and therefore it was not a serious religion.
The Charity Commission assumed that religions were pastoral governments that needed protection by special rights as far as there was a conflict, or at least a friction between their norms, and the norms of the secular state, on which territory they operated. Since there was no friction between Jediism and the secular British society, the commission decided that Jediism did not need special protection, and since the Jedi teachings were just general moral principles, the Temple deserved tax exemptions no more than any generally moral person.
However, if Jediism was nonserious religion, if the Temple could not be recognized as a serious institution even by the public authorities specialized in recognizing and protecting uncommon religions, then the speech acts adherents who declared their faith in the force were not serious. Yet the Jedi did not speak neither nonseriously, nor irresponsibly.
Of course, we can always explain their behaviour by their foolishness. But this means to assume that there is nothing to know or understand about them. I will rather think that their behaviour can be explained by a reference to a regime of responsibility that evades the court or the institutions, which base their decisions on norms. I will illustrate that regime of responsibility by two cases from the online prep courses of the Temple of the Jedi Order.
As a matter of fact, it is worth noting that the Temple maintains a graduate and a post-graduate program in Jediism, which afford the titles Batchelor and Master of Divinity, and which accreditation is pending, at least according to the website.
Learning to choose
The students at the Temple prep school are choosing Jediism, because it opens up a space for choice.
Jediism lets one chose not only because it is not an inherited religion, i.e. because nobody is born Jedi. It is essentially a practice of the self. Any Jedi has to assemble her practice from open series of heterogeneous elements, for example keeping a Jedi diary, posting on the online forum of the Temple, itemizing emotions, controlling reactions, helping others.
|K. is studying philosophy, Reiki, martial arts sword. She has went through deep introspection, altruism, egotism, paganism. Now K. has realized that she is perfect with her flaws rather than in spite of them.|
|J. is a veteran, a metal worker, individualist and liberal. The war has taught him to disbelieve those who speak of battles between good and evil, Terry Pratchett – that one should believe in justice, courage, duty, because otherwise they would not exist.|
The forum debates what does it mean to be a Jedi (TOTJO, 2017b). K. says that Jedi are brought together by the films rather than by ideas, and that this is enough. J. comments that this is exactly the reason why he prefers Jediism to conventional religious, social, subcultural, or clandestine communities. Then K. retorts that no matter what issue they discuss, Jedi inevitable take different, and increasingly dissonant positions. J. comments again that the advantage of Jediism consists in the fact that one can debate with others who share similar interests rather than with the ordinary people, which positions are determined by their places in the social order.
Meanwhile, other users have joined the discussion. Some of them comment that being a Jedi means helping the others, or putting the others before oneself, or being a hero on a quest, which meaning is one’s life, or that unlike the traditional religions they were born into, Jediism encourages critical thinking, or that Jediism is useful to anyone who is trying to make her or his life more rational, or that they have tried to promote the pagan doctrines for a long time, but only after being labelled Jediism, the doctrines got likes on Facebook, or that they are just visiting the forum and do not understand the thread, but they still want to have their say in the discussion, or that not all who call herself or himself a Jedi are one, but rather there are only a handful of Jedis who are true followers of the teachings.
Later the discussion will resurface again in another thread (TOTJO, 2017c). Do the ideals followed by the Jedi exist because of being followed? K. will claim that an ideal makes sense only if it is in opposition to something, that the opposition depends on the context, but if the context is broad enough, the opposition would become practically limitless, therefore the ideal emerges from limitations on the context imposed by one’s point of view, therefore the ideal is subjective, so the question is actually not if the Jedi ideals are real, but rather can Jedi choose their ideals. Believing that they are in agreement, J. comments that almost anything can be made better with gin, but in this case one needs Pratchett, who would say that the ideals are real, if one believes in their reality. Then K. will suddenly accuse him of nihilism, J. will insist that he is a liberal individualist, she will start exploiting her background in philosophy in order to make him recognize that his position is untenable, until they make the higher-rank Jedi counsellor who has created the thread intervene. The counsellor will try to argue that they both have a point, and soon he will become the target of their allied attacks.
Assembling a practice should be limited by the Jedi dogmas and teachings, and its success should be measured by the advancement in the twelve-tiered hierarchy of the Temple. Yet the dogmas and the hierarchy are virtual. Indeed, what is the actual meaning of dogmas like “emotion, but peace” or “death, but force”, or of the alternative, authored version of the dogma, “there is no emotion, there is peace, there is no death, but there is force”? Or what is the actual meaning of the credo “I will seek to love more than to be loved ... if there is sadness, I will bring joy ... the force is always with me, because I am a Jedi”, adapted from a prayer commonly ascribed to St. Francis of Assisi? What is the authority of a senior knight or dean but an authoritative avatar?
As a matter of fact, Jedi practice can be assembled even with other religions, and this seductive opportunity is extensively exemplified by the intensive activity of the groups of the Jedi Buddhists, or the Jedi of the Abrahamic confessions, officially registered on the Temple forum.
In order to articulate a particular practice of the self, the norms and the goals of the Temple have to be actualized so as to fit the desire and the situation of the student. Let us take another element of the practice, usually recommended to advanced Jedi (TOTJO, 2017d).
A Jedi must be resolute. In order to become one, any student at the Temple should make a resolution to do something for a hundred days. The student is supposed to post daily about her victories, failures, and feelings in online diaries associated with their profiles on the Temple website. Since at this phase of their education the students are not yet assigned to masters, i.e. to personal tutors, the counsellor who manages the training of the group assures them that her or his posts could be read by anyone, and that the posts will most probably come to the attention of a senior Jedi knight. The students are invited to choose by themselves what to do for a hundred days. They can meditate, do exercises, eat less meat, be good, see movies. But their choices define them in the eyes of the other Jedi and in their own eyes, and the choices inescapably reflect their ways of living and their milieu.
But although any student is supposed to choose for herself, the choice is not erratic. If the future Jedi would choose an activity that would not involve a serious commitment, if for example she would choose not to do what she would not want to do, than she would be choosing nonseriously, she would not be taking her Jedi training seriously, and in consequence she would be exposed to the increasingly critical, disapproving, or flippant behaviour of the other Jedi, until she would either start to show more commitment, or abandon Jediism.
In order to take on a serious commitment, the Jedi should set on a problem, for example an addiction or a personal flaw. K. chooses to walk for at least fifteen minutes every day. Because she knows that this is a good habit, she wanted to do that before, but she always started it, and then gave it up for no reason. By means of the online diary, the forum discussions, the itemization of herself, K. will soon realize that beneath the seemingly superficial failure to do her walks hides a deeper, insidious problem that could be ruinous to any Jedi – a lack of focus. The choices made by other students will lead them to different problems – procrastination, asocial behaviour, attention deficit, anger, addictions, inability to control their weight or dietary habits…
Such problems are deeply rooted in the soil of our lives. They cannot be eradicated by imperatives and even if crushed, they will soon grow out again. Therefore Jedi students are invited to solve their problems by making use of a model invented by clinical psychology in the middle of the 20th century (Rose, 1999: 239-241). The students are instructed to make series of reiterations, which should increasingly accumulate and accelerate until their recurrence would develop the inertial force of a habit. And even though K. commit to an activity that requires a relatively little effort, if she keeps on doing her walks consistently, she will learn how to be consistent.
In order to be effective however, the series of repetitions should fit the milieu and way of living of the student. If the practice is not demanding enough, it will bring about slow and almost imperceptible transformations. If the practice is too demanding, it will be very hard to follow. And in both cases the student will soon abandon it. The Jedi instruction program hopes to avoid that by asking the students to do what they would ask of themselves. But that does not depend only on desires that burn deep inside their souls. What the students ask of themselves is the result of complex calculations of a matrix of interdependent variables, including their personality, self-image, work stress, free time, emotional state, personal issues, the inertial force of the old habits, the desire to compensate for the heaviness of the day with the lightness of some entertainment, or to hold in balance frustration by petty pleasures.
If, for example, fifteen-minute walks are too much of a burden for K., because even though this is healthy, it is yet another task laid upon her shoulders, walking for a hundred days may turn out to be too demanding. In that case, K. can join a group of Jedi who choose to limit this component of their practice to thirty days (TOTJO, 2017e). Since the norms and the practices of Jediism are virtual, they allow a flexible actualization, and because of that one can adapt them to fit better her way of living. A personalized religion.
Of course, even if K. manages to walk for a hundred days, she will probably not overcome her problem, the lack of focus. Yet K. will be doing something about it, and if it would turn out to be inadequate or insufficient, she could try something else – a hundred days of physical exercises, meditation on the Jedi teachings, another religion that would suit her better. Whatever she will try, as long as she will keep on trying, her problem will not be pressing or oppressing, as a destiny or a suffering. The problem will be transformed into power to choose, even if her choice is limited to the alternatives of acknowledging or denying, even if the space for choice is open only in her mind. Indeed, is not Jediism a kind of self-help religion?
But Jediism has also an added value for the society, since it can discipline even those who, like K. and J., are insusceptible to the dressage carried out by modern disciplinary institutions like the school, the workplace, or the family (Foucault, 2003: 325-326).
We can be constituted as subjects of responsibility not only by holding us responsible for a duty or a commitment, or by teaching or training us to comply responsibly with our obligations.
We can be constituted as a subject of responsibility also by letting us choose, and by associating the choices we make with risks. If no one chooses instead of us, we will be responsible for our choices. And therefore, we will be also responsible for their risks. And if we have miscalculated the risks, if we have made risky choices and lost, we will be also responsible for our loss. In effect, we will not be able to hold responsible others for the damage we suffered. But on the other hand, if the risk is paying off, we cannot not be held responsible even by those, from which losses we derive our gains.
This regime of responsibility shaped by the nexus between choice and risk, often called responsibilization, is the core of neoliberal capitalism. Responsibilization does not subject us to the authority or the violence of a governmental apparatus intended to maintain order by preventing dangers. Responsibilization does not deceive, threaten, or rob us like a devious sovereign hiding her power behind a facade of rights. Responsibilization does not train us to comply with externally defined or imposed norms like the modern disciplinary apparatuses. Responsibilization makes us governable by letting us choose, by associating our behaviour with risks, and by making us pay the price of the risks. It trains us to calculate our behaviour as entrepreneurs. It teaches us neither to do, nor not to do something. It rather tells us “you are free to choose but you will pay for your choices”. It makes us calculate risks of statistical nature, thus bringing about a statistization of behaviour, which allows the late-modern governmental apparatuses to articulate each one as a population of one, as a lonesome population. Responsibilization normalizes the excess risks by exercising an irresistible gravitational force, which presses us against statistically defined norms that transform us and each one into average individuals, average selves. Responsibilization imposes on us the obligation to calculate our life chances, and in consequence, it represents the unavoidable insecurity of our lives as a result of our miscalculations. Because of that, responsibilization masks the social causes of insecurity, individualizes its costs, frames the costs of social insecurity as bills, which we should pay for personally, which we cannot leave unpaid, even if we have at our disposal only the capital of our lives. In fact, even if we deplete the capital of our lives, the bill will keep on accumulating in the form of a credit. Responsibilization does not subject us to an external apparatus of power, but it subjectifies us as apparatuses of power, as individualizes apparatuses of security.
We should not underestimate the power effects of responsibilization.
Firstly, responsibilization makes us governable more effectively than any form of coercion. If a cruel tyrant would command his subjects to quit smoking under the threat of improvement or death, he would probably manage to increase the prisoners or the executions to an extent, but he is unlikely to succeed in reducing the share of smokers in the total population. Yet the share of smokers has decreased in the recent decades because of the responsibilization of the smokers, and because of the articulation of smoking as a choice associated with risk (Brown, Baker, 2013: 30-31).
Secondly, responsibilization can justify coercion with unmatched efficiency. In order to explain that, we should take into account that risks involve costs. For example, if one has risked an university education in philosophy, but is unable to pursue a relevant career, she will pay the price of the time and efforts invested in studies that do not seem to pay off, the price of the forgone income and shrinking life chances. The costs of the risks run by the financial operations of the global banks can be seen in the public debt incurred by the governments, which are trying to cover their losses. The costs of the environmental risks produced by an industry would involve the deteriorating health of the affected population. Modern societies redistributed the costs of the risks they produced by means of social security apparatuses like public healthcare, cheap education, labour rights, social insurance against unemployment or poverty (Ewald, 1986, 1991). The apparatuses of social security alleviated the losses incurred by risky behaviour. They promised compensation for the losers who were not protected by rights and were unable to pay the price of an effective legal process. Since such apparatuses required extensive resources, many feared the times when their costs would become unbearable, and anticipated a future crisis, disorder, revolution. Yet now the apparatuses of social security are being increasingly switched off, and the public authorities relieve themselves of their costs without even a ghostly upheaval. Because the curtailment of social security has been associated with the responsibilization of the losers who are taught to know, even if they do not want to know a thing, that since they have been given a choice, since they have lost because of the choices they made, since they have become losers by their own choice, they cannot hold responsible anyone but themselves, they cannot blame anyone but themselves, they cannot reasonably claim that their situation is unfair, and they cannot hope for nothing more than the benevolence of the winners.
A Neoliberal Religion
Traditional religions impose norms. Their norms cannot be calculated as choices, the norms are detached from the risks associated with the lives of the adherents, and even though the traditional religions promise a future, this future does not promise any value to an entrepreneur, even to an entrepreneur of oneself.
Althusser wrote that Pascal reduced religion to a ritual practice: kneel down, bring your hands together, move your lips in prayer, and you will believe (Althusser, 1971: 168). But if religion has become a material practice after Pascal, why not optimize it? Why not choose a more comfortable pose? Why not move my lips in words that would stimulate me to accomplish more, to make more of my potential, or at least to help with my problems – procrastination, frustration, insecurity that have developed the inertial force of dysfunctional habits? And if I have the chance to optimize my practice but nevertheless fail to do it, am I not wasting chances? And if I am wasting my own chances, how could I hold anyone else responsible for the opportunities that I have lost? How could I blame, demand justice, claim that others should share the costs of my losses?
Traditional religions are hard to optimize. In contrast, Jediism is flexible, completely responsibilized religion. The religion of neoliberal capitalism.
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 The story is based on (Cusack, 2013: 127-128, The Guardian 2009).
 Actually, pragmatics of ordinary speech does not exist. But I hope that it will develop from a careful amalgamation of philosophy of ordinary language, ethnomethodology, conversation analysis, and dramatics of discourse in the sense of Michel Foucault (2010: 68).
 The Temple of the Jedi Order is registered as a religious organization by the Federal Tax Administration. The FTA registration reflects the fact that the organization declares its purpose to be religious, and does not involve a decision on the nature of its values or activities.
 For a detailed and deep analysis of new age as practice of the self see (Kyurkchiev, 2015, 2017).
 On the virtual nature of norms in invented religions see for example (Cusack, 2013: 126).
 See: TOTJO, 2017a. The particular form of bricolage characteristic of Jediism can be captured by the concept of cyber-folklore introduced in: Ditchev, 2012.
 The concept emerged in (Foucault, 1978: 142, 146-147, 2003: 254-256; Burchell, 1996; Rose, 1999). A productive and attentive version of the concept in Bulgarian context see in (Medarov, Tsoneva, Hristov, Kasabov, 2015: 63).
Todor Hristov is an associated professor at the Faculty of Slavic Studies, Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski. His main research interests focus on power relations, critical theory and post-colonial studies and his teaching interests lie in the fields of theory of literature, visual culture, literature and governmentality studies.