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Avatar Makes Us Long to be Na’vi, While Dooming Us to Remain Murderous Humans
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Watching Avatar 2: The Way of Water, I was reminded that there is nothing new under the sun, ours or Pandora’s. James Cameron’s three hour-plus epic tells us little more than The Tables Turned, a short poem written more than 200 years earlier by William Wordsworth. One verse observes:

Sweet is the lore which Nature brings;
Our meddling intellect
Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things:-
We murder to dissect.

Another points out:

One impulse from a vernal wood
May teach you more of man,
Of moral evil and of good,
Than all the sages can.

But while Cameron and Wordsworth share a pressing concern that we are losing our connection to – murdering – Nature, including our own natures, their visions differ on what it is to actually be a modern human.

With two centuries of additional historical experience to draw on, Cameron’s view is much bleaker than Wordsworth’s.

On Pandora, humans don’t just murder through their compulsion to understand and master their surroundings (Wordsworth’s “dissection”). They murder to make money, they murder in the pursuit of vanity, they murder simply because they can. Power has no higher purpose than its own self-promotion.

Wordsworth’s Romanticism did not halt, or even temper, the Industrial Revolution’s appetite for material dissection: the relentless ransacking of the planet’s resources, the prioritisation of endless economic growth over everything else, the promotion of a hollow rationalism that stripped out the wonder, the spiritualism that had been at the core of human existence even before mankind emerged from the cave.

There is no evidence that Cameron’s Avatars, 1 or 2, will have any greater effect on rethinking our relationship with Nature two centuries on, or end our slash-and-burn approach to our planet. We have gained no greater insight, even as the harm we have inflicted on the environment, and science’s ability to measure that harm, have grown exponentially.

Diseased agenda

In Avatar, the diseased intellects that have turned Earth into a dying shell send their forward-party spaceships to Pandora with exactly the same diseased agenda of domination and pillage. It is clear that no lessons have been learnt, and that, with humans in charge, Pandora’s fate will be identical to Earth’s.

It is not just the military – represented by the crew-cut, machine-like Col Miles Quaritch – that kills eveything it touches on Pandora. It is business leaders, bureaucrats and scientists.

Cameron’s metaphors are not subtle. The peaceable whale-creatures that inhabit Pandora’s oceans are more intelligent and creative than the “Sky People”, the human invaders. But lacking the humans’ offensive technical capabilities, they are freely hunted for a highly profitable brain extract that can end the natural ageing process. Once looted of this elixir, the whales’ giant carcasses are left to rot on the high seas.

Pandora’s indigenous Na’vi understand what has been lost. They can couple with the whales, not sexually, but through fibres in their hair that bond both parties into a spiritual communion in which they share language, songs, emotion, a sense of unity and family.

The Na’vi can conjoin with all the animals and plants around them. These connections give them a direct pathway to a planetary conciousness, a oneness, that reminds them of their dependency on the integrity of the whole.

Cameron is not, of course, inventing the wheel. He draws on the ancient wisdom of the remnants of indigenous peoples – the survivors of the White Man’s conquests – on our own dying planet, a wisdom we now either mock or exoticise.

Had this sense of oneness remained intact, had we still an awe for Nature, Cameron implies, humans might have evolved to be more like the Na’vi – as they might have too had they listened to Wordsworth all those many years ago. If we had stopped murdering and dissecting, if we had looked inwards rather than so resolutely, so aggressively outwards, we might live in a Pandora rather than in the last stages of the Anthropocene.

Belligerent rationalism

The huge popularity of both Wordsworth and the Avatar franchise – and their impact in their respective eras on the popular imagination – indicate something significant. That inside us, in the places where we so rarely look, we understand intuitively that Nature needs, demands our reverence. The message resonates with us because, without such reverence, we are empty vessels, living in a godless, competitive, materialist world created in the image of our own belligerent rationalism.

But here is the point. If we recognise the truth of Wordsworth’s injunction to value a direct connection with Nature more than its depiction and representation in books, or Cameron’s admonition to stop plundering and exploiting Nature as though it is something divorced from us rather than integral to our survival as a species, why do we carry on as before? Why are we so averse to change?

Let us put aside the problems with Avatar for the moment. The fact that the film preaches a oneness with Nature even as it bolsters the very same corporate structures that are killing the planet. The fact that it fetishises military solutions for the Na’vi – even a peaceable whale gets recruited as a battering ram – as it claims to be denouncing Col Quaritch’s militarism.

In our culture, even a film warning that Nature should not be instrumentalised is required to instrumentalise Nature, to earn the big bucks needed to keep its director and producers in the business of making more Hollywood films.

But still, why are we so impervious to the central message: of the need for humility, for respect towards that which transcends us, that which completes us?

ORDER IT NOW

Here lies the conundrum. As we watch Avatar, we identify not as human but as Na’vi. We know the indigenous people are right about the threat humans pose, and the necessity of fighting these interlopers to the death or face Pandora’s destruction. We know these humans only too well because they are us.

By extension, we should understand that humans – we – pose the same threat to our own planet, Earth. Through the eyes of the Na’vi, we should be able to see ourselves for what we have become: a virus contaminating and killing everything of value in our path.

And yet clearly we cannot do so. The awareness dies as soon as we emerge from the cinema into the light. Our Na’vi eyes close, and our murderous human eyes are restored.

Unthinking cogs

Out of the cinema, we return to our “normal” lives, to being a small, unthinking cog in the giant machine of human civilisation that pillages the planet, pollutes its air and water, decimates its forests, kills its insects, meddles with its climate.

We go back to poisoning our home world just like the humans in Avatar did, before they were forced to send spaceships to colonise a second planet. Except that last bit is just a sci-fi story. There is no second planet, no second chance.

The paradox is that we identify with the Na’vi because they have what we have lost: they have community and tradition, they share, they believe, they belong.

But we cannot really become Na’vi, outside of our immersion in a cinematic event, because we have been persuaded generation by generation that we are nothing more than individuals. There is no society, Nature is there to be tamed and exploited, there is no higher purpose than profit, there is no meaning beyond our selfish whims, our own self-aggrandisement.

Knowing something to be true with our minds is not the same as understanding its truth, feeling its truth. Which is why in our supremely interconnected digital worlds, with platforms providing infinite possibilities for virtual exchange, we have become so alone, so lost.

Wordsworth again:

Books! ’tis a dull and endless strife:
Come, hear the woodland linnet,
How sweet his music! on my life,
There’s more of wisdom in it.

Our new ethereal, soundbite “books” of instant information, easy opinion and even easier outrage are a haven for misinformation and manipulation – chiefly from our own governments but also from the terminal cynics sure everything is a plot and a deception, from disease to environmental collapse.

Without community, without common purpose, without a connection to the fixed wisdom of Nature, we are adrift. We are buffeted by the lies power wields to keep us compliant, and the kneejerk reactions of those who sense the lies but have no yardstick of truth to gauge the reality that has been obscured.

If we can learn anything from Avatar, it is this: We long to be Na’vi but are doomed to be Col Quaritch. Cameron’s film, as Wordsworth warned two centuries ago, is just another dull, strife-filled book – a representation of Nature, not Nature itself. Avatar points us towards the path of redemption, only to slam shut the door that could lead us there.

(Republished from Jonathan Cook by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Arts/Letters • Tags: Avatar, Hollywood, Movies 
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  1. Chris Moore says: • Website

    Let us put aside the problems with Avatar for the moment. The fact that the film preaches a oneness with Nature even as it bolsters the very same corporate structures that are killing the planet. The fact that it fetishises military solutions for the Na’vi – even a peaceable whale gets recruited as a battering ram – as it claims to be denouncing Col Quaritch’s militarism.

    In our culture, even a film warning that Nature should not be instrumentalised is required to instrumentalise Nature, to earn the big bucks needed to keep its director and producers in the business of making more Hollywood films.

    I might add, Jewish Hollywood has preached the destruction of Deplorable Russia, Deplorable Islamofascism, Deplorable Deplorables…

    The problem is Zionism. The problem has always been Zionism.

    • Agree: CelestiaQuesta
    • Replies: @CelestiaQuesta
  2. If we press far enough, Mr. Cook, you can be certain that Lady Nature will teach us some humility – the hard way. Earths biosphere is much, much more resilient than complex human civilization.

  3. Gregory Hoods lamentation here certainly comes across as genuinely heartfelt. It appears that he has reached, in the process of his personal growth, the actual jumping-off point from whence he will (if he keeps on keepin’ on) actually arrive at the ‘place’ of natural communion he knows is still there….even for him and his fellow ‘n’ gal inmates locked-down in the “global” gulag.

    Yet, as pragmatic “realism” reasserts its hold on his perceptions he tumbles back into the fatalistic pessimism that his cogent analysis here completely justifies….even in-a-way would seem to make mandatory. There he remains at the end, stuck in the impossible state between The Rock and a Hard Place. Damn good thing that’s not, really, all there is.

    Here in Indian Country, which is not at all some set-aside “reservation” with its own severe problems of organic disconnection, us surviving Free Wild Peoples of all Kinds just keep on keepin’ it Real….keepin’ it Alive and Well wherever we are. This we do joyously without cease despite the last-ditch efforts of the wannabe “destroyers” to finish their dirty-work….which they would’ve long-since accomplished except for us die-hard holdouts refusing to let them.

    So don’t despair. There is plenty of Life in The Old Woman yet. And plenty to go-around when our domesticated Sisters’ and Brothers’ inner Na’vi at-last and for good escapes captivity.

    • Replies: @Constant Walker
  4. @Constant Walker

    Sorry….meant to say Jonathan Cook. This isn’t at all like Gregory Hood’s usual work here.

    • LOL: Che Guava
  5. Both Avatar movies were unutterable dreck, but not as idiotic as this pus-brained idea that primitive societies live in ‘harmony’ with Nay-cha.

    Primitives live in a state of constantly shitting themselves because they don’t know how things work. That’s why ultraorthodox Jews believe in bullshit like ‘curses’ (as do Maori; Aboriginals; FeatherIndians etc).

    (And not for nothin’: they lose about half of their newborns to preventable disease, most of which stems from not understanding how bacteria works and how hygiene helps prevent shit from going south if someone gets an open wound).

    Hobbes said some really stupid things in Leviathan, which was mostly a panegyric to centralised power – with little account for the predictable downside of having people in charge of other people with little or no genuine accountability. But in ChXIII there is some corn among the shit…

    Whatsoever therefore is consequent to a time of Warre, where every man is Enemy to every man; the same is consequent to the time, wherein men live without other security, than what their own strength, and their own invention shall furnish them withall. In such condition, there is no place for Industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain; and consequently no Culture of the Earth; no Navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by Sea; no commodious Building; no Instruments of moving, and removing such things as require much force; no Knowledge of the face of the Earth; no account of Time; no Arts; no Letters; no Society; and which is worst of all, continuall feare, and danger of violent death; And the life of man, solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short.

    Hobbes’ claim is that these shortcomings are fixed by the presence of a “Civill State” – when all that happens is that those in charge of the “Civill State” are (relatively) free to steal and defraud the citizenry under their thrall.

    The dynamic consequences of that are predictably awful: the worst type of men are attracted to political office; the fruits of technology and specialisation are diverted from welfare-enhancing ends to political ends. Eventually the political officeholders set their sights higher or farther afield… and then WAR.

    In reality, only States ‘do’ war as it has been practiced since before the Bronze Age Collapse … because only States can waste resources on the scale involved.

    For primitives – hunter-gatherers and the like – there’s no ‘perpetuall warre of every man against his neighbour‘ as such… but there’s plenty of interpersonal violence, only some of which is justified (because defensive).

    • Agree: Mark G.
    • Replies: @Alrenous
  6. Brian07 says:

    No group has done less for the ecological cause than the demented hectoring Left which only adopted environmental concern after they thought they could use climate change to their advantage.

    Why would any normal adult listen to rheir histrionics and endless guilt trips?

  7. dimples says:

    Well humans are not born with the funky universal hair spirit plugs to easily connect them up with the Cosmos, so narvi/human comparisons might be considered generally worthless. Probably your average brainwashed leftard like Cook might be the closest match, but look at the mess they’re making of it.

    • Replies: @Che Guava
  8. Che Guava says:
    @dimples

    I’ve said it of Cook before, The Guardian can kick out a J. Cook, but nobody can kick out J. Cook’s inner Guardianista.

    All so predictable. He’s right about the plutocrats, of course, but not a whisper about overpopulation and the dreadful deforestation and other negatives from it, or any of the other things one must never say to stay within the leftoid concensus.

  9. Smith says:

    Nah, I don’t want be blue cat people that aren’t even cute.

    • Agree: 36 ulster
    • Thanks: Angharad
  10. The whole point of progressive civilization is to overcome being at the mercy of nature’s fickle whim. Being at nature’s mercy means a cruel and short life, not least since that means being eternally at war with other humans to accrue precious manpower and scant resources for oneself. It is no wonder that the average life expectancy of a Native American was 25 — most were murdered before age 30 and often much younger. Fighting the cruelty of nature necessarily means cooperation by humans on a large scale, large enough to end tribalism that is required to live the life of a nature-bound society.

    Ending tribalism means ending perpetual war, extending life spans, and requiring the taming of nature on an ever-larger scale to maintain an extended life span. These things go hand-in-hand. It does not excuse rampant corporate greed which is the main reason for environmental devastation (thank you, WOKE-a-Cola, for being at the speartip of the plastic apocolypse!) but it does permit terraforming to suit the needs of civilization, turning plains and deserts into forests and farms to serve a purpose other than a cycle of ecology.

    • Agree: 36 ulster
  11. 36 ulster says:

    It’s curious that the globalist Mr. Cook wrings his hands over the Na’vi, since they could pass as the nationalists in this modern-day horse (whale?) opera, whereas the predatory humans represent globalism on steroids. But I guess tribalism is OK, particularly if the tribe consists of blue-skinned worshippers of their planet–or at least their piece of the rock. As for the invading Earthmen, Mr. Cook assumes that they are the vanguard of Predatory Capitalism ™. Well, they could be agents of BlackMail–er–Rock, or other malignancies of global corporatism. OR…they could just as easily be acting according to the dictates of the latest Five-Year Plan as formulated by Those Other Globalists (or, in this case, galacticists), who turned much of Central Asia into a massive Superfund site. Look, Planet Earth is ailing, but the “act locally” half of that venerable cliche’ seems to be missing amongst the Virtuous. Lest Mr. Cook indulge himself in sentimentalism over the Na’vi and what they purportedly symbolize, let me refer him to the above insight from Silesian 2.

  12. Alrenous says: • Website

    Cameron’s metaphors are not subtle. The peaceable whale-creatures that inhabit Pandora’s oceans are more intelligent and creative than the “Sky People”, the human invaders. But lacking the humans’ offensive technical capabilities

    Cameron won’t have any effect because he’s nothing but another liar.

    The whales are smart but can’t think up weapons? They’re smart but can’t conceive of the idea that they may need to defend themselves? Can’t dream of needing to secure their shit?

    Yeah, they’re not smart. This is some whale-shaped narcissistic delusion.

    Cameron wants to self-promote and to assist the tyrants in blaming the effects of tyranny on freedom. Falsehood peddler #3095867. Cameron is another Fascist who blames the failures of Fascism on Capitalism. It’s not special, and audiences, even the least sophisticated viewers, can tell it’s not special.

  13. Alrenous says: • Website
    @Kratoklastes

    solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short.

    And yet, still better than under Leviathan.

    When early Americans were given the option to live as Indians instead, they almost universally took it. If the tribe that captured them was wiped out, they had to be dragged kicking and screaming back to ‘civilization.’ They were not rescued or liberated.

    Leviathan is even more solitary, even more nasty, and even more brutish. Longer, I’ll grant you. Poor – debatable. What is the cash value of alienation? How much would the average citizen pay to have a real community instead of a community centre?

    Leviathan exists for two reasons. 1) there is something fundamentally and irredeemably broken about humanity. 2) zerg rush beats protoss.

  14. TG says:

    Humans are not pillaging the planet. The rich are.

    Without the open-borders cheap labor immigration policies of 1888 and 1965, the population of the Untied States would have stabilized at about 100 million.

    Without the cheap labor pro-natalist policies of the Mexican oligarchs, the population of Mexico would have likely stabilized at about 25 million.

    The population of Canada should have stabilized at about 30 million – but high wages, no poverty, we can’t have that! So the rich are flooding the country with the surplus population of the third world. with the specific agenda of increasing the population to 100 million and beyond.

    People are not the problem. It’s the rich, and their insatiable desire for cheap labor and the sort of bulk economic growth that does not benefit the average person.

    • Agree: p38ace
  15. I had the impression that movies were produced to generate income for the investors/owners of movie studios, by making features that are emotionally compelling to the targeted audiences. I suspect that serious philosophy is not likely to ever pass for popular entertainment, which is probably as it should be.

  16. Dennis Dale says: • Website

    Is this offered as comic relief? Is Mr Cook here to fill the same sort of role as resident liberal at Fox News? Who takes James Cameron seriously?

  17. Beautifully written and inspiring piece here Mr. Cook. Somehow i feel I just awakened to the realization of what a great and inspiring writer you are.
    Love notes forthcoming.

  18. @Chris Moore

    There’s no money in peace, and when they can’t inflect war on humanity, they promote GlobalHomo as a means to an end. The Film Actors Guild (((FAG Awards))) is right around the corner, it will be predictable as always who will win. The losers will be those films and documentaries not inclusive of blacks, gays and lesbians or those not demeaning whites in every possible way.

    When you’ve been brainwashed and indoctrinated all your life with media pushing violence, rape, torture and Holocaust hysteria, the drugs they push temporarily ease the pain as your addicted body starts to break down, followed by bio weapons and forced jabs to finish off those healthy enough to survive.

    They’ve turn this beautiful garden planet into a hell on earth, just as they are doing to Pandora and will do to all other future real and imaginary worlds.

  19. the ancient wisdom of the remnants of indigenous peoples – the survivors of the White Man’s conquests – on our own dying planet, a wisdom we now either mock or exoticise.

    White man bad, noble savage good.

    Got it?

    • Replies: @Supply and Demand
  20. Anon[304] • Disclaimer says:

    You really do need to reconsider nature. Things on this planet one way or another eat one another. They use violence to protect themselves. This conflict (and cooperation) has evolved into an apparently stable system because the ability of most all animals is severely limited in its power to conquer and protect. Consider what happens when locusts find in some years an abundant food supply. Their numbers expand prodigiously eating everything in sight and become a major threat to the environment. It is false that to believe that the usual balance is anything but the meeting point of opposite competitive forces.

    The human population is always subject to such balancing forces of competition too. When the balance is stable and has been for a long time people convince themselves that what they see around them is the true order of nature. When the balance shifts or, worse, breaks up they learn quickly that there was no true order of nature but only a temporary balance point in a shifting reality.

    Even given an understanding of the situation people will still find themselves back in equilibrium only when the competitive forces come back into balance. Not all people will be spiritual as described above. Many will be quite happy to eat the planet and ask for more. They will be antagonistic and fight to a new balance which may favor one or the other or neither. There may be other possibilities and probably are.

    So! Wordsworth is wrong, Cameron is wrong and you are wrong. There is no mystical order in nature. If you don’t like things as they are change them to suit, if you can, and hold them in the new order as long as you can. Expect to be challenged. There is no more to it than that.

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