Thursday, January 21, 2010

Avatar: Anti-Military and Pro-Ecoterrorism?

I’ve been reading several places where people are in an uproar over the movie Avatar—one of the highest-grossing films of all time, in spite of its release only one month ago. The issue is that several notable conservatives seem to think that this fictional film is promoting a message that ecoterrorism is justified, and giving an anti-military message as well.

I can see their point. But I don’t agree with it. I certainly can’t see that anything particularly terrorist was done in the film (though defense of themselves through the destruction of a camera seemed reasonable to me, given the circumstances in the film, even if there might be a later price to pay). The “military” forces in the film were clearly no longer in the military—they were wash-outs and misfits, hired by a corporation. To me, this isn’t anti-military, but rather a call to responsible activity by those who hire security personnel which are too aggressive.

Other lessons I think I saw:

  • Money tends to be too much the focus of what people want, to the exclusion of moral thought—and this leads to confrontations over money.
  • Our historical treatment of the native peoples of many lands (not just North America) tends to be more savage than the “savages” are. Some of this was necessary; most of it was not.
  • When we see a connection to something, it is nearly impossible to un-see it.
  • When people learn true principles, it is difficult also to fail to see the truth.
  • Actions speak louder than words.

There is a long list of  others, but these seem to be the best of the lot. So, what about the anti-corporate message?

This is certainly a part which is present, but it’s less anti-corporate than it is pro-responsibility. A responsible corporation which is accountable to the public interest should see that there is more at stake than their bottom line. The people in the film were no more or less evil than the executives at AT&T who conspired to tap hundreds of millions of telephones without a warrant, or no more or less evil than those who seek to eliminate all competition in the marketplace, rather than to allow a true free market. They are no more or less evil than corporate executives who seek to corrupt Washington politicians by ensuring that their own interests are served above those of the population.

Money is really the focus of business, and people can’t seem to live without it. So, it’s true that money is important. But there are also other things to consider. For example, we should consider the reasons for obtaining money in the first place: we need to live, to support family and self, and to address our obligations to others. Without these reasons, of what purpose is money? Money is certainly important, but it’s far from the most important thing, and far too many people focus on it as their top priority.

The next time you’re with someone you love, consider the money it takes to spend time with them. Money itself is unimportant in the grand scheme of things. When we die, money is pointless to have in our possession. It is left to those who are still living.

And yet we tend to take the position that everyone is really too focused on currency, at the same time scrambling to make ends meet, worrying about the economy instead of finding ways to create new jobs for those around us, and in all ways finding excuses not to have to work.

Which brings me to another lesson learned by the film: fiscal responsibility. The line about unobtainium (nice name, by the way) being “twenty million a kilo” is one of those expository lines which shows just how invaluable life itself is.

There are more important things than money. But how many people can honestly say that they put those things first?

That’s the real lesson: putting what is truly important as one’s first priority is the fastest way to earn opposition. And that’s why the film is so highly rated by the population. It’s not so much that people identify with ecoterrorist activities, or that they are against corporations, or even that life itself is more important than money. It’s that people who actually have their priorities in line are often the first people to get assassinated.

We think of Martin Luther King, John F. Kennedy, and even people who aren’t dead yet, and how they each influence our thinking, but how the opposition despised them! The only way to be rid of them was to silence them forever. Today, we don’t kill them, we merely arrange a gossip column to scandalize them.

In a free republican democracy, the expressions of others show how our principles operate. They show what we truly value by action, and this can allow us to correct those values.

But the value we should respect most of all is that of the freedom to think. I don’t criticize these ultra-conservatives for believing as they do; nor the ultra-liberals for saying that perhaps the movie could have illustrated the point more plainly. To both, I merely point out the box office figures and say: “You’re wrong. The public perception is satisfied with this, the correct principle of conservationism.”

A conservative value in itself, responsibility depends on achieving and maintaining the moral high ground, not in merely maintaining power at all costs. This was the point of the American Revolution in the 1760’s and 1770’s, it was the point of the US Civil War in the 1860’s, and it was the point of the militia groups in the 1990’s. We simply cannot stand by and watch all of our future resources go to waste; neither can we strip all of the resources from an area and expect to survive. And survival is the key—not money, not politics, not even law itself. This is why democracy was invented: when the survival instincts of the population speak, it is with a voice so powerful that very little short of death itself can stop them.

But unless all life is ended, an idea can never be killed.