Avatar's Savage Message


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Avatar's Savage Message

by Edward Hudgins

December 24, 2009 — James Cameron's new film Avatar is loaded with fresh, eye-popping special effects, all in a new, cutting-edge 3-D that sets the standard in cinema technology. It is also loaded with tired, mind-numbing leftist clichés embedded in old, reactionary themes that set a new low for political propaganda.

The plot as avatar

An avatar is, originally, the embodiment of a Hindu god. Today the term also refers to an embodiment or personification of some principle, attitude, or view of life; online it's a graphic image that represents some person or thing. Cameron's movie is filled with avatars, but not just the strange, hybrid creatures to which the title refers. We also see them in the silly, subtle-as-a-brick-to-the-head parallels that he makes between current events and his imagined world. Let's turn to the story. (Warning: Spoilers ahead!)

The planet Pandora, a beautiful, verdant jungle paradise, is an avatar for anywhere the American military might show up. It contains the costly and rare substance Unobtainium, an avatar for oil, which is critical to the Earth's economy. The private company Resources Development Administration, an avatar for Halliburton, has set up operations to ravage the planet to extract that substance. The problem is that this planet is inhabited by ten-foot-tall blue aliens called the Na'vi, living in primitive, pre-technological conditions.

The company employs a private army, an avatar for Blackwater as well as the American military. As is explained, "Back home they fight for freedom. Here they're hired guns for the corporation." The mercenaries are led by the evil Colonel Quaritch (Stephen Lang), who gives cartoon villains a bad name. He's gung ho simply to clean out the "savages" by force, an attitude avatar representing how Cameron and his ilk see American history and foreign policy. See, it's the evil military-industrial complex in your face!

The company's administrator on Pandora says that the corporation's investors would prefer to avoid the bad PR that they'd garner by killing off all the Na'vi, but they're even more concerned about avoiding a bad balance sheet. See, capitalism leads to killing!

The corporation has made half-hearted attempts to win the hearts and minds of the Na'vi by teaching them English and setting up schools and roads for them. How white of them! But it hasn't worked. Still, it would be better to figure out what the "blue monkeys" (see, Americans are racist!) want and somehow to get them to leave the potential prospecting property.

Mind to body

Enter the scientists. A team led by Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver) has mixed human and Na'vi DNA to produce avatars. These Na'vi bodies can be operated by the human whose DNA is used. The human's mind is linked to and controls the avatar as the human rests on a techno-bed to which he or she is wired. Humans can't breathe the atmosphere of Pandora, but their avatars can. So perhaps an avatar can re-contact the Na'vi, who aren't very fond of the nasty, callous, heartless American—err, sorry, Earthling--soldiers who tend to gun them down at the least imagined provocation.

Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) is a crippled ex-Marine who volunteers to operate an avatar. His dual mission is to look for a peaceful way to move the Na'vi out and to provide military intelligence to the evil colonel for the probable removal of the Na'vi by force.

Pandora living paradise

Jake is thrilled with his avatar body, which allows him to walk and run again on healthy albeit alien legs. But he becomes lost in the jungle and captured by the Na'vi who, rather than execute him, decide to show him their ways in spite of their suspicions about this "dreamwalker," this demon who's part human and somehow controlled from afar.

You can predict the rest of the story from here. Jake goes native in an interplanetary Dances with Wolves. Here Cameron can't offer a parallel with the real targets of America and its military today. After all, Islamists are bloodthirsty fanatics who will chop off your head for having ideas that differ from their own primitive superstitions, who treat women like chattel, and who see it as the height of virtue to blow up other people's children. Cameron instead gives us (in the Na'vi) a cross between how he imagines American Indians and tribes of the rain forest to be. Much more sympathetic!

Jake wins the trust and respect of the Na'vi by passing all the challenges required to be a warrior. He is declared one of The People. And he falls in love with the Na'vi woman who helped him along his path.

One with the world

In the process, Jake learns about the Na'vis' religion and their unique relationship to their world. When they hunt and kill an animal they thank it for its body as its spirit goes to Eyra, their god. When they ride or fly on the backs of Pandora's fantastic fauna, the Na'vi must entwine special nerve threads at the ends of their long hair with those of the animals in order to form a mental and spiritual bond. They also can entwine their nerve hairs with a tree that allows them to hear the memories of their ancestors. They are literally one with nature!

The Na'vi talk incessantly about flows of energy. And there's the Tree of Souls at the center of their world. The scientists who created the avatars find that it has a strange, unexplainable flux field around it. Can you say, "May the Force be with you?"

Needless to say, the military moves in with helicopter gunships and heavily armed infantry to lay waste to the forest and the Na'vi. So the Na'vi, lead by Jake in his avatar, unite with other tribes and, like the army of primitive desert "Fremen" in Dune or the teddy-bear Ewoks in Return of the Jedi, use their command of the environment and its animals to beat the evil masters of technology. In the end, the Na'vi load the captured Earthlings onto their ships to send them back to their dying world on which all that was green has been destroyed.

Savage myth

In Avatar Cameron perpetuates the enduring, seductive, yet morally false myth of a Garden of Eden or lost paradise inhabited by noble savages. This myth has done no end of harm to humanity. In modern times, it found its voice in Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

In the eighteenth century the Enlightenment had dragged Europe out of the Dark Ages, setting individual happiness as a legitimate moral goal, showing that the human mind could understand the movements of the planets and the biology of the human body, and discovering ways to produce the material means for prosperity. Then Rousseau stood before human progress and shouted, "Stop!"

He argued that in the state of nature humans were governed by two instincts: self-preservation and pity for others. We thus lived in idyllic harmony with our fellows and our world. But when we started to think, to use our minds, we worried about the future. That's when all the trouble began. We sought private property to give us personal security. In the process, we became selfish and put ourselves as individuals in conflict with others. We created creature comforts that cut us off from our natural world and our natural selves. Civilization was the enemy of our virtue.

This, of course, is moral nonsense. A look at primitive peoples from the prehistoric to the original inhabitants of America to the odd jungle tribe today shows brutality, superstition that leads to ostracism and murder, and institutionalized human sacrifice along with the occasional "respect" for animal spirits. And, in fact, virtue consists in disciplining our appetites and urges, in the light of reason, toward our individual well-being, which will also lead us to respect our fellows and deal with them based on mutual consent.

There are noble and virtuous individuals in primitive as well as advanced societies. But there's nothing noble about ignorance of one's world. There's nothing noble about the impotence over one's world that comes from one's ignorance. There's nothing noble about being unable to build adequate shelters against the forces of nature, produce adequate food against famines, or discover adequate medicines against illness.

It is the height of irony—to say nothing of hypocrisy—for Cameron, the master of movie-making technology, to have as the theme of this movie the utter evil of technology.

Talk to the trees

In Avatar, Cameron helps the modern environmental movement continue to morph into a new religion of Gaia worship that, disguised as a love for nature, is anti-human in its essence.

This new cult treats "nature" itself as a conscious, living entity at odds with and morally superior to human beings. Of course, a strong counterargument is that the world itself, the environment itself, is not a conscious entity. Only we humans are self-conscious, living, breathing creatures with free will who must choose to act and to seek values. Human life is our standard of value, and to survive and flourish we must make use of the materials of our world.

In Avatar, Cameron gives us a sci-fi version of the Gaia superstition, showing the Na'vi living in an animate and conscious world, in which animal and human minds can join, in which we can talk to the trees as we would with our friends and family. Of course, that's not the reality. That's not the world. But powerful images like those in Avatar have nothing to do with reality. Unlike rational arguments, they can create and reinforce deadly ideas in a culture.

If you want great special effects and an action-packed popcorn thriller, you'll certainly enjoy Avatar. But hopefully Cameron has so overplayed his hand with his politically correct plot that audiences will leave the comfort of the theater with an appreciation for technology and no desire to flee to a jungle or support the sort of public policies that would reduce our civilization to savagery.

------------

Hudgins directs advocacy and is a senior scholar at The Atlas Society, the center for Objectivism.

For further reading:

*Edward Hudgins, "Star Wars and the politics of republics." May 21, 2002.

*Edward Hudgins, "Star Wars: Are the Sith Selfish?" May 25, 2005.

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I think anyone who watched Titanic closely should not be surprised at Avatar's message.

Titanic has a lot of anti-capitalist messages. Two examples are the treatment of the third class passengers and the outrageous Billy Zane character.

Edited by Chris Grieb
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... the enduring, seductive, yet morally false myth of a Garden of Eden or lost paradise inhabited by noble savages. This myth has done no end of harm to humanity...

I spent a week in Hawaii recently, and despite having a good time I was kind of underwhelmed. My expectations of natural beauty had been blown out of proportion. I also felt this nagging unearned guilt about the native culture disappearing, although at the same time I identified these thoughts as racist. This clarified where my faulty premise came from.

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Once again Cameron makes a "chick-flick" under the guise of a guy action film.

I plan to see this, only because of the FX. I do not buy the tree-hugging Gaiah loving crapdoodle.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Avatar's Savage Message

by Edward Hudgins

(snip)

In Avatar Cameron perpetuates the enduring, seductive, yet morally false myth of a Garden of Eden or lost paradise inhabited by noble savages. This myth has done no end of harm to humanity. In modern times, it found its voice in Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

In the eighteenth century the Enlightenment had dragged Europe out of the Dark Ages, setting individual happiness as a legitimate moral goal, showing that the human mind could understand the movements of the planets and the biology of the human body, and discovering ways to produce the material means for prosperity. Then Rousseau stood before human progress and shouted, "Stop!"

(snip)

Bravo!

Bill P

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Sorry, Ed, but to suggest that a stand-in for Halliburton, practicing the military Keynesianism that has ruled the United States since 1940, is being used to indict genuine capitalism ... well, that's too far removed from knowing how the statist world we're trapped in actually works.

Cameron is still one helluva storyteller, and with so many warning me away from it, I want to see "Avatar" more than ever now.

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A glowing review of Avatar compared and contrasted with District 9 appeared on the sociology blog orgtheory. I posted this reply. Dr. Rojas replied and I answered.

Imagine an “Avatar” in which beautiful, spiritual aliens come here and with persuasion, effectively convince us with a direct message to stop pollution, clear out the cities, go back to the land, live closer to nature and be one with life. Everyone obeys. Millions — billions — walk out of the cities. Oil rigs are abandoned. Three days later, billions are dying, since we have zero ability to live like that. Old, infants, sick, all die first. Stronger people survive longer and some small groups begin to establish camps in the forests where some more die from poisons because they have not yet learned which fruits and roots and shoots they can eat. We see different groups of survivors killing each other over basic resources.

Meanwhile, one guy – an old white guy, a retired General Motors plant foreman who was actually hiking the Adirondacks and missed the aliens – uses a mix of industrial skills and builds a frannistan that negates the alien mind waves.

Everyone lives happily ever after. (Oh, I forgot the part where the alien girl is in an abandoned kitchen at a large hotel and she begins sampling the desserts.)

Anyone who is troubled by civilization is perfectly free to use their 1300cc brain to successfully hunt and gather.

Michael E. Marotta

The server is in Europe, which why the timestamps may seen odd. I found half a dozen sites for sociology with more or less tolerable premises about markets. Generally, sociologists are anti-market. A couple of years back, completing an associate's degree, I took a year of economics. I do not buy textbooks; I gather them. Mostly, in the run of the mill, Karl Marx has been relegated to a sidebar to balance Ludwig von Mises. The mainstream of undergraduate economics belongs to Chicago with a nod to Von Hayek. In sociology, Karl Marx is alive and well, one of the Trinity of Marx-Weber-Durkheim.

December 26, 2009 at 2:17 am

I thought the movie was more anti-corporate than anti-technology. For example, it’s made clear at multiple points that they have the technology to do amazing medical cures and are willing to trade with the Na’vi. What the movie is really about is the limits of trade: they don’t really need what we have, but we take it anyway, because of the insane market value of what happens to be below the Na’vi home.

fabiorojas

This semester, I had a class in Global Crime. The professor, Gregg Barak, wrote Crimes of the Capitalist State almost 20 years ago. We actually get along well enough, on the basis of culture and personality. My paper for this class was The Future of Capitalism and its Relationship to Transnational, Multinational and Global Crime.

December 26, 2009 at 2:32 am

I highly value the readings here which evidence a lot of hard thought and which provide me with the opportunity to think hard as well. Ideological debates never go anywhere useful.

Finance capitalism and industial technology are intricately linked by deeply causal factors, including the arithmetic and morality of risk, the inventions of new, abstract moneys and wealth, and limited government in support of individual rights. That was the Enlightenment.

In April 2010, I complete a master’s in social science to cap my bachelor’s in criminology. Few of my peers, colleagues or mentors share my views. In fact, none of them do.

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Sorry, Ed, but to suggest that a stand-in for Halliburton, practicing the military Keynesianism ...

I spent four years bathing in that litoral shallows, arguing for the capitalism of Franklin and Smith and Spencer and against Dick Cheney's imperialism. As a result of deftly stating my case within a social context where the Marxists are the voice of reason confronting postmodernism, I completed a baccalaureate summa cum laude; and with one semester to go, I have a 3.85 as a graduate student. But, Greybird, what's your excuse?

The world is full of stories. Pick among them and then tell them as you please. In the two generations since The Fountainhead and then Atlas Shrugged, has anything else even come close? Don't you get tired of projecting yourself into a vacuum so that you can record the presence of something?

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Sorry, Ed, but to suggest that a stand-in for Halliburton, practicing the military Keynesianism [...]

I spent four years bathing in that litoral shallows, arguing for the capitalism of Franklin and Smith and Spencer and against Dick Cheney's imperialism. [...] But, Greybird, what's your excuse?

My "excuse" for what, exactly? You're not being at all clear here.

If you mean, "Why are you using a term such as 'military Keynesianism'?" — and with this being a partial quote, I suspect that's what you mean — then all I can say in reply is: Because that's precisely why the Halliburtons exist, what they reinforce, and what they seek to expand.

They have nothing to do with genuine "defense." They have everything to do with a fastening upon us of the permanent war economy, which we Americans have been saddled with since 1940. Halliburton and the other such predators are structured, first and most, to engineer political favors for themselves. Any fulfillment of what they are contracted to accomplish for "our troops" is a distant second. (Any searching questioning of those tasks is deemed "subversive" or "unpatriotic" by nearly all those involved, and ruled out of bounds for civilized discussion.)

The main rationalization for this rent-seeking and manipulation is that these companies "create jobs," when anyone is bold enough to challenge their position. Such powermongering parasites never fulfill that ultimate Keynesian excuse, even if that were enough to justify extortions from taxpayers for it — which it is not. They never make that excuse remotely justify the Empire that inevitably results.

But if you mean something else, please clarify what that is.

The world is full of stories. Pick among them and then tell them as you please. In the two generations since The Fountainhead and then Atlas Shrugged, has anything else even come close?

"Close" as to measuring what? I can think of many books that, as to esthetic skill and narrative drive, have matched or exceeded Rand's, but few matching their storytelling scope.

But if you mean something else, please clarify what that is.

Don't you get tired of projecting yourself into a vacuum so that you can record the presence of something?

Well, here, I don't know whether you mean me, specifically, or the generic second-person.

If it's me, and you're talking about esthetics, I can't say that I do that at all. I look for lively, self-aware presences. Especially in films, where I don't even sample 90 percent of what's released in any year — because I know that obvious formulas create profound vacuums, mostly to suck up the contents of our wallets. (Double meaning intended.)

But if you mean someone or something else ... oh, you get the idea, Mike. You're oh-for-three, unfortunately, in narrowing down what you're talking about this morning {rueful smile}

Edited by Greybird
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Michael E. Marotta - I like your reply to Dr. Rojas! Back to nature means eliminating 90 percent-plus of the population.

Greybird, et al. - I don't think Cameron or the audiences will make the subtle distinction between corporatism and genuine capitalism. Someone on another site also gave this quote from the movie of someone speaking of what the company was doing on the planet as "finding something you want, and making the people that have it the enemy so you can take it from them." If some Na'vi or Jake-avatar had made remarks about, "This is not true free enterprise what you [the corporation] are doing. This is not free trade with the Na'vi. This is theft." then I might be more sympathetic. But Cameron's message was pretty pure PC and a caricature of true free markets.

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Ed wrote:

Greybird, et al. - I don't think Cameron or the audiences will make the subtle distinction between corporatism and genuine capitalism. Someone on another site also gave this quote from the movie of someone speaking of what the company was doing on the planet as "finding something you want, and making the people that have it the enemy so you can take it from them." If some Na'vi or Jake-avatar had made remarks about, "This is not true free enterprise what you [the corporation] are doing. This is not free trade with the Na'vi. This is theft." then I might be more sympathetic. But Cameron's message was pretty pure PC and a caricature of true free markets.

I think you're right, Ed. Unfortunately, the populace has such a limited knowledge of capitalism that I hear the following (teaching in an intensely international business school!):

1) Enron is an example of what happens with "unfettered capitalism."

2) Ditto for Bernie Madoff

3) The market behavior in 2008 fall is an excellent example of what happens when you have laissez faire capitalism

Unabashed ignorance!

So I have no doubt but that the bad guys in Avatar (as I have had the movie described to me) will be perceived as "capitalists at their worst."

Has anyone caught interviews by Cameron discussing the political/economic content of the movie?

Bill Parr

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Ed,

Thanks for the review! I'm looking forward to the movie all the same. I'm always a sucker for a James Cameron movie. Before having seen the movie, if the environmentalist slant is as pronounced as your review indicates, we should watch out. Cameron has an uncanny ability to capture the popular zeitgeist. True Lies, a muscular antiterrorist movie was released in 1994 at the height of disaffection with Clinton policies. Titanic, a feel good romance, was released in the middle of Clinton's moral troubles. Both Terminator movies and Aliens were top-notch blow you out of your seat action movies in their day.

Jim

Edited by James Heaps-Nelson
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Ed,

Apparently this movie has an effect way beyond philosophical and storytelling.

People are literally thinking of killing themselves. Check this out:

Audiences experience 'Avatar' blues

By Jo Piazza

Special to CNN

January 11, 2010

From the article:

A user named Mike wrote on the fan Web site "Naviblue" that he contemplated suicide after seeing the movie.

"Ever since I went to see 'Avatar' I have been depressed. Watching the wonderful world of Pandora and all the Na'vi made me want to be one of them. I can't stop thinking about all the things that happened in the film and all of the tears and shivers I got from it," Mike posted. "I even contemplate suicide thinking that if I do it I will be rebirthed in a world similar to Pandora and the everything is the same as in 'Avatar.' "

Other fans have expressed feelings of disgust with the human race and disengagement with reality.

. . .

Ivar Hill posts to the "Avatar" forum page under the name Eltu. He wrote about his post-"Avatar" depression after he first saw the film earlier this month.

"When I woke up this morning after watching Avatar for the first time yesterday, the world seemed ... gray. It was like my whole life, everything I've done and worked for, lost its meaning," Hill wrote on the forum. "It just seems so ... meaningless. I still don't really see any reason to keep ... doing things at all. I live in a dying world."

Darwin Awards anyone?

Michael

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Subject: Disagreement on Avatar; Wider Esthetic Issues

There are a number of issues to disentangle in Ed's wholly negative review of "Avatar", and I think he is mistaken on several of them.

Ed said: "This, of course, is moral nonsense. A look at primitive peoples from the prehistoric to the original inhabitants of America to the odd jungle tribe today shows brutality, superstition that leads to ostracism and murder, and institutionalized human sacrifice along with the occasional "respect" for animal spirits."

First, violence and warfare is not true of the lifestyle of every Indian or jungle tribe. There are peaceful tribes in the Amazon and many places in Africa. The Bushmen are one well-known example. And only if they were violent aggressors (not the case in the movie) would it be appropriate to use force against them, in a defensive context. Also, to make it worse, the American Indian tribes who were expropriated were in a number of cases (especially in the Eastern half of the country as opposed to Apaches, etc.), farmers, agriculturalists.

More importantly, the movie -correctly- showed the injustice of killing people so you can seize valuable resources. While the American hunter-gatherers could not legitimately claim the entire continent to follow the buffalo, they could claim some preserves.

One of the worst American Presidents was Andrew Jackson, who simply stole the Southern farming lands of the Cherokees. And in defiance of the Supreme Court. It's an issue of property rights. They don't just belong to the highest-valued use. If you claim that my hunting ranch is not as 'civilized' a use as farming or mining or building a cpu chip factory, you still don't get to steal it from me.

Second, there are many Hollywood films that are good movies even though one could make a connection to a left-of-center ideology, either directly or by inference. The "China Syndrome" could be taken as an anti-nuke movie. But it was also a great story about preventing a catastrophic industrial accident. "Dirty Dancing" could disenchant an Objectivist because the bad guy loves "The Fountainhead". And what was the name of that -superb- movie in which Julia Roberts is fighting big business when it is putting cancer-causing chemicals in the groundwater? Are you going to walk out because you don't like businessmen/corrupt corporations always being the villains? (In fact, sometimes they are.)

Yes, the Navi in "Avatar" are mystically one with the earth. Try to get over that. That kind of metaphysical unrealism is true in all kinds of fantasies from epic literature and fairy tales up through "Lord of the Rings" or "Harry Potter". Are you going to discard or be unable to appreciate much of western literature for this reason - Peter Pan flying? Excalibur?

When you read or see a work of art, look for the positives. Find the value if any. Try to leave your politics on the shelf, unless it is something truly inescapable. The principle is "willing suspension of disbelief". Rand loved the music of "The Internationale" - she did it in that case. But rock and roll music reminded her of savagery and jungle rhythms. And she couldn't see past what she (mistakenly) took to be Shakespeare's general malevolence

She made the same mistake in those two cases (we won't even talk about Impressionism), which Ed and other Oists are making with this movie.

No, "Avatar" is hardly "Casablanca". It's not a great movie, but it does a lot of things well, as is true of any James Cameron picture. It's an action flick with wondrous special effects. It's straightforward, well-executed storytelling with a good plot and shallow, but reasonable characterization. And the defense of the Navi was MORALLY correct with regard to genocide and property rights.

Learn to enter into the world of an artist without requiring he be a libertarian, an Objectivist for you to find anything to enjoy.

Yes, I know Ed is not saying all this...but I'm extrapolating and making a wider point about esthetics, value-seeking, enjoyment among Objectivists.

Edited by Philip Coates
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Enjoyed your post Philip. I just watched this last night and I am not thinking about committing suicide this morning :) I think maybe there are lots of people with emotional problems and maybe they should not see movies like this if they are so unstable.

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"Learn to enter into the world of an artist without requiring he be a libertarian, an Objectivist..."

Philip, I was mightily impressed with Ed Hudgins' article, but your extrapolation, ('fleshing- out'?), might be even more significant.

What you said, needed saying, imo.

Tony

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Subject: My Rethinking of 'Avatar'

After thinking more about it, I want to revise my previous post "Disagreement on Avatar; Wider Esthetic Issues".

I was so irritated at (1) Ed's article's disregard for the property rights of the natives of the planet and his allied oversimplification of primitive people as all brutal, aggressive savages and (2) the equating of the corrupt businessmen or 'corporatist' types in the movie as capitalists, or as intended to represent American free enterprise -- that I did not give proper weight to the fact that it was gung-ho -American- soldiers who were portrayed as the equivalent of Nazi stormtroopers.

I was so offended and intent on rebutting what was very much a -mistaken- reason to resent or dislike the movie, that I didn't stop to fully integrate the other, -valid- reason.

My general point about 'willing suspension of disbelief' and not letting politics trump art -would- apply to a movie like "China Syndrome" and "Erin Brockovich" for the reasons I gave in that post. But using "Avatar" as an example of this is a poor choice. It's not the mystical, tree-hugging Na'vi that undercut this movie. For the reasons I gave in my post. But the view of the American military as in the hands of rights-violators and killers and of the space program + government as in the hands of fascist type 'corporatists' in not only false, but stomach-turningly false.

Not only that, but this blame-America-first idea is rife in movies coming out of Hollywood decade after decade. (I'm not quite sure why this didn't sink about this movie in in my mind before) But I retain my point - which should be obvious, I would think - that the movie had a -good- ending in terms of the conflict between the fascists and the natives who defended their property rights in a way that an Objectivist ought to root for.

(As an aside, for me personally the thing that I liked least about this movie has nothing to do with politics or environmentalism. It is the "dumb teenager" level of the two young leads in green - Jake the avatar and the young woman: "Hey dude, what's happening" when he walks into a group of natives. "You're stupid, stupid." Dumb, callow high school kids. As someone who's seen real adult heroes on screen, especially in the classic old movies of old Hollywood, the "wassup" California surf dude as role model is simply nauseating. Especially in a future that has mastered travel to the stars.)

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I watch movies to be entertained, I don't expect them to be realistic. I found this movie somewhat entertaining but I downloaded it so I didn't see it in 3-D - perhaps it would be more entertaining that way. :) I'd give the plot and acting about a 6 out of 10.

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Ed,

In a post on another forum about Avatar (which I have not seen yet), a remark jumped out at me:

... this particular creation of his is a visual, technical, and anti-authoritarian masterpiece.

Why is the anti-authoritarian theme not discussed much?

From what I have read, setting aside all the silly mother-earth-worship Wicca-like stuff, the theme of opposing the use of technology for massive destruction guided by a corrupt authority seems to be there. That, in fact, is a theme I totally identify with.

What I have not seen discussed about this movie is how technology is used to enhance life. Is that theme present at all in Avatar?

Michael

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Subject: My Rethinking of 'Avatar'

After thinking more about it, I want to revise my previous post "Disagreement on Avatar; Wider Esthetic Issues".

I was so irritated at (1) Ed's article's disregard for the property rights of the natives of the planet and his allied oversimplification of primitive people as all brutal, aggressive savages and (2) the equating of the corrupt businessmen or 'corporatist' types in the movie as capitalists, or as intended to represent American free enterprise -- that I did not give proper weight to the fact that it was gung-ho -American- soldiers who were portrayed as the equivalent of Nazi stormtroopers.

I was so offended and intent on rebutting what was very much a -mistaken- reason to resent or dislike the movie, that I didn't stop to fully integrate the other, -valid- reason.

My general point about 'willing suspension of disbelief' and not letting politics trump art -would- apply to a movie like "China Syndrome" and "Erin Brockovich" for the reasons I gave in that post. But using "Avatar" as an example of this is a poor choice. It's not the mystical, tree-hugging Na'vi that undercut this movie. For the reasons I gave in my post. But the view of the American military as in the hands of rights-violators and killers and of the space program + government as in the hands of fascist type 'corporatists' in not only false, but stomach-turningly false.

Not only that, but this blame-America-first idea is rife in movies coming out of Hollywood decade after decade. (I'm not quite sure why this didn't sink about this movie in in my mind before) But I retain my point - which should be obvious, I would think - that the movie had a -good- ending in terms of the conflict between the fascists and the natives who defended their property rights in a way that an Objectivist ought to root for.

(As an aside, for me personally the thing that I liked least about this movie has nothing to do with politics or environmentalism. It is the "dumb teenager" level of the two young leads in green - Jake the avatar and the young woman: "Hey dude, what's happening" when he walks into a group of natives. "You're stupid, stupid." Dumb, callow high school kids. As someone who's seen real adult heroes on screen, especially in the classic old movies of old Hollywood, the "wassup" California surf dude as role model is simply nauseating. Especially in a future that has mastered travel to the stars.)

I stop by to lurk for a bit and find out what's been happening around here in my absence and what do I find but this:

"[T]he view of the American military as in the hands of rights-violators and killers and of the space program + government as in the hands of fascist type 'corporatists' in [sic] not only false, but stomach-turningly false."

Sorry, Phil, but I suggest you study some American history. The U.S. military has been in the hands of rights-violators and killers in varying degree for more than 150 years - since the days of the Mexican War. It's stomach-turning, all right, but there it is. And the fact that the space program and government generally are in the hands of fascist-type corporatists is also old news. With respect to government generally, that's been the case for around a hundred years now.

Wake up.

JR

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> The U.S. military has been in the hands of rights-violators and killers in varying degree for more than 150 years - since the days of the Mexican War...With respect to government generally, that's been the case for around a hundred years now. Wake up. [JR]

Jeff, I worded my statement about Cameron's exaggeration about American government's 'imperialism' too loosely, but with regard to Avatar's characterization of the U.S. military it is yourself who needs to put down the Sominex and pick up a wide range of American history texts.

Historians debate the mixed motives behind the Mexican war involving disputed borders vs. a 'land grab'. (Aside: it's certainly clear that national sovereignty over territory with mixed populations is not always black and white and that the Anglo and Hispanic populations in the West would have greater freedom living under American rule rather than Mexican.)

But here are some of the things the U.S. military fought for as a basic principle since the Mexican War:

--in the Civil War, to free the slaves and dismantle the feudalistic rule of the authoritarian, anti-capitalist Southern white elites.

--in WWI, to stop the aggression of Germany and its allies.

--in WWII, to stop German aggression (and as we slowly found out concentration camps and the genocide of minorities)

--in various theaters of the Cold War, to stop global expansionism, conquest and imperialism by totalitarian communist regimes

--in Bosnia, Serbia, Somalia to stop the extermination of ethnic cleansing and to topple totalitarian regimes or for humanitarian aid purposes

--in Iraq, to topple a dictator who threatened to take over the oil fields and gain a choke hold on our economy + who had tried to assassinate a U.S. president + who was thought to be preparing to proliferate weapons of mass destruction which could kill millions in the U.S. and elsewhere in the West

--in the "war on terror", to hunt down people who had -already- used weapons of great destruction against the U.S. and who promised to do so again.

You can disagree, as do I, with the wisdom or effectiveness or extent or 'overkill' of some of these wars, but my point was different: it was about the *basic intent* of the actions of the U.S. military, consistently across over a century, certainly since the Civil War.

It has not been to conquer, to exterminate native people's so we could govern or seize their resources, as James Cameron and Avatar would imply.

One could argue whether we should be trying to police the world (we shouldn't) or whether it is okay to join with other nations or the U.N. to hunt down terrorists or topple dictators or prevent nuclear proliferation (we should on this last - it is a matter or national survival and self-defense, a principle with which no libertarian, even an anarcho such as yourself, can rationally disagree.)

But you cannot disagree with the fact that the U.S. military has fought against the worst people and worst regimes. Consistently. Particularly the totalitarians.

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Brant, you are quite right about Andrew Jackson.

His stealing of the land of the Indians in the South, in defiance of the law of the land and the Supreme Court, about which I posted a couple months ago, was one of the worst episodes in American history.

It is the Andrew Jackson kind of feudalistic, aristocratically tribal Southern elites who would grab any land and any power he could intimidate the poor whites or Indians or the weaker settlers out of who was defeated and "gone with the wind", when the more capitalistic North won in 1865.

Edited by Philip Coates
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> The U.S. military has been in the hands of rights-violators and killers in varying degree for more than 150 years - since the days of the Mexican War...With respect to government generally, that's been the case for around a hundred years now. Wake up. [JR]

Jeff, I worded my statement about Cameron's exaggeration about American government's 'imperialism' too loosely, but with regard to Avatar's characterization of the U.S. military it is yourself who needs to put down the Sominex and pick up a wide range of American history texts.

Historians debate the mixed motives behind the Mexican war involving disputed borders vs. a 'land grab'. (Aside: it's certainly clear that national sovereignty over territory with mixed populations is not always black and white and that the Anglo and Hispanic populations in the West would have greater freedom living under American rule rather than Mexican.)

But here are some of the things the U.S. military fought for as a basic principle since the Mexican War:

--in the Civil War, to free the slaves and dismantle the feudalistic rule of the authoritarian, anti-capitalist Southern white elites.

--in WWI, to stop the aggression of Germany and its allies.

--in WWII, to stop German aggression (and as we slowly found out concentration camps and the genocide of minorities)

--in various theaters of the Cold War, to stop global expansionism, conquest and imperialism by totalitarian communist regimes

--in Bosnia, Serbia, Somalia to stop the extermination of ethnic cleansing and to topple totalitarian regimes or for humanitarian aid purposes

--in Iraq, to topple a dictator who threatened to take over the oil fields and gain a choke hold on our economy + who had tried to assassinate a U.S. president + who was thought to be preparing to proliferate weapons of mass destruction which could kill millions in the U.S. and elsewhere in the West

--in the "war on terror", to hunt down people who had -already- used weapons of great destruction against the U.S. and who promised to do so again.

You can disagree, as do I, with the wisdom or effectiveness or extent or 'overkill' of some of these wars, but my point was different: it was about the *basic intent* of the actions of the U.S. military, consistently across over a century, certainly since the Civil War.

It has not been to conquer, to exterminate native people's so we could govern or seize their resources, as James Cameron and Avatar would imply.

One could argue whether we should be trying to police the world (we shouldn't) or whether it is okay to join with other nations or the U.N. to hunt down terrorists or topple dictators or prevent nuclear proliferation (we should on this last - it is a matter or national survival and self-defense, a principle with which no libertarian, even an anarcho such as yourself, can rationally disagree.)

But you cannot disagree with the fact that the U.S. military has fought against the worst people and worst regimes. Consistently. Particularly the totalitarians.

Phil, the US military fought for its masters. The bs was just to get the shit swallowed whole.

--the war between the states was fought to enhance and preserve federal power.

--WWI was fought because Americans didn't speak German, the perfidy of the British, Zionists, Woodrow Wilson and general American imperial, moralistic hubris.

--WWII because of WWI, sticking Japan with embargoes, the failure of France to kick Hitler's butt when it was kickable, etc.

--the Cold War because of the previous hot wars.

--the Balkans because Clinton finally felt he had to do something.

--Iraq was oil and Afghanistan has gone completely stupid.

--the War on Terror is merely perpetual war for the perpetual benefit of the state for it can't be won, only fought.

Maybe America will soon be so poor it can no longer feel so able to mind everybody's business including the business of its own citizens. War really is the health of the (American) state--war like the war on drugs.

I used to be blind too, like you. Went to Vietnam and nearly got my head blown off. I'll say this for Jane Fonda--she never got anybody killed. LBJ got several million killed in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos and the figure is probably closer to five million than three.

--Brant

knows war from A to Z

Edited by Brant Gaede
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