Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Prophecy of Avatar

Woodville Drive-In
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
Avatar in 3-D... I hear that’s the way to go.

Nevertheless, I settled for watching it in plain-old, everyday 2-D this past week in my little, hometown of Powell, Wyoming. I suppose we’re just darn lucky to see it with the rest of the world in the same week of its release.

Despite all of the eye-candy special effects, I sat in the theatre wondering if anyone else was picking up on that old and tired story line—the one that we should all know by heart—by now.

If we could put Avatar in a movie classification, besides the predictable sci-fi category, I think it would also fit in nicely with that long list of movies and books that recount the stories of greed, excessive capitalism, power and racism. Dances With Wolves, It’s A Wonderful Life, Remember The Titans, King Kong, and the Star Wars Trilogy are some that come to mind.

The writer of one particular column suggested that there were hidden messages of anti-war, pro-environment and racism in this latest story of underdogs battling an evil empire—that coincidentally looks much like the United States.

If they truly were hidden, they weren’t difficult to find. Even viewing the trailers several weeks ago I detected these messages loud and clear. Yet, I wonder if many viewers (especially American) simply don’t see these messages or only see them in the context of the movie and once it’s over (like church), it’s on to the usual business of mindless and excess consumption in a dog-eat-dog world.

When our civilization lies in its self-inflicted ruins, I wonder if those that survive or those that uncover our soiled tragedy will think of us as even more deserving of our demise given the books and movies like Avatar that warned us of our undoing all along.

On a related note… from James Howard Kunstler’s blog:

“ClimateGate,” the latest excuse for screaming knuckleheads to defend what has already been lost. It is also yet another distraction from the emergency agenda that the United States faces—namely the urgent re-scaling, re-localizing, and de-globalizing of our daily activities.

What seems to be at stake for the knuckleheads is their identity, their idea of what it means to be an American, which boils down to being an organism so specially blessed and entitled that it is excused from paying attention to reality. There were no doubt plenty of counterparts among the Mayans when the weather changed and their crops failed, and certainly the Romans had their share of identity psychotics who doubted reality even when Alaric the Visigoth was hoisting off their household treasure.

Reality doesn’t care if we are on-board with its mandates or not. The human race has to get with whatever program reality is serving up at a particular time. Are we shocked to learn that scientists fight among themselves and cheat as much as congressmen? Does that really change the relationships we understand about parts-per-million of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere and the weather?


haiku curmudgeon said...

I see you are still doing your bit to keep us safe and sound my dear friend DQ. Good for you. I admire your tenacity and determination. When you need a break and seek solace, the grass over here IS pretty darn green and few know the location of this pasture.

Fight on,


cura_te_ipsum said...

I really enjoyed Avatar, but some of the underlying themes were absurd. In implying that human advances destroy planets and its poor natives, we must remember that the earth was never an environmental Eden and natives weren't living in some beautiful blissful experience in being one with the earth. High infant mortality rates, 40 yr avg lifespan and plagues are anything but a romantic natural state. Going back to this would be devastation for mankind (which may be some environmentalist's ultimate goal). Also, nature itself is pretty capitalist. It's survival of the fittest and symbiosis only when it serves beneficial. Natives were in the business of survival only. They took care of nature in so much that it would still produce food and shelter materials for them. What Avatar portrayed was a fairytale.

Morgan said...


I suppose it is a bit absurd to imply that human advances destroy planets and the poor natives in such worlds, but given the track record here on earth, it doesn’t seem far-fetched to me. Nevertheless, there was a fairy tale feel to Avatar; I can’t argue that.

I would like to hear the views of a traditional Native American regarding your comments as I can’t speak confidently for such. Nevertheless, I suspect there would be a strong counter to your take—especially about being in the “business of survival only.”

I don’t think a traditional Native American viewpoint would agree with you about them having anything to do with “taking care of nature.” Navajos for example speak of a sacred/desireable state referred to as “hozho’.” It has to do with being in balance and harmony with the environment and accepting one’s role as part of nature, not its caretaker. That concept/way seemed pretty evident in the movie.

As for myself, my question is, why can’t we have both? Human advances in life quality without detriment to the Earth?

Morgan said...

On a related note...