Avatar – More of the Same

23 01 2010

It seems like almost a requirement for anybody with an environmental blog to write something about Avatar, and it is probably sacrilegious for me to suggest that there is nothing new about it.

Obviously I am not talking about the technology or the special effects.  Those are amazing, and I can now rank as one of the biggest challenges of living in Uganda the fact that I can’t see it in 3D here.

What I am referring to is Einstein’s assertion that we can’t solve a problem from the same level of thinking that caused the problem in the first place.  I am always happy to see a movie where “people” who are lovers of nature are the good guys.  However, once again, we are told that the only way for “good” to win is to be just as violent and bloody as the “enemy.”

Another thing we are taught is that it is the outsider who must come in with the inspiration and the answers to protect the indigenous people’s rights and lands.  There are parallels to this all over the aid and development world, with the “white savior” complex running rampant.

Am I wrong?  Is violent conflict the only solution in any situation where there is a conflict of values or two different groups competing for a single resource?

Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr. both seemed to believe that there is another way.  I would like to think that both of their movements were incredibly successful and changed the level of thinking around human rights.  Maybe things are different today, the “bad” people have more guns, and it is necessary to fight fire with fire. 

But I hope not.  I hope that someday the environmental movement will have leaders with the same courage and wisdom that Ghandi and MLK had in abundance.

In the meantime, let’s not be deceived into thinking that Avatar is transformative in any substantive way beyond the technical.

Mark D. Jordahl – Kampala




One response

23 01 2010

I love this post. I enjoyed Avatar but hardly found the story life-changing and completely agree that it was wrought with white-savior complex undertones. Your question of the necessity of violence brings up an interesting point that I hadn’t previously thought of post-watching Avatar. I would love to say that a solution in the competition for resources can be found without violence but history and human nature lead me to believe it is only idyllic thinking. I wish that weren’t so. In regard to the environmental movement’s leaders, I tend to think the growing abundance of information has become the greatest weapon. Movies like “An Inconvenient Truth” and “Food, Inc.” shed light without being confrontational for the sake of conflict. Information and its circulation and eventual (hopefully) acceptance are what I think are our best weapon, if you will, for the environment.


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