Monday, January 18, 2010


I forgot the Golden Globes were last night (post brain surgery I forget a lot more than I used to, even when I write it down, I then forget where I wrote it, etc.). Looks like while we were out watching AVATAR, it was winning big. Well, in many ways it deserves it, as I wrote in yesterday's post.

Though I'm happy to see Jeff Bridges won for CRAZY HEART, Colin Firth in A SINGLE MAN may have given the more challenging performance (more about that soon).

But back to AVATAR. It's being accused, by rightwing fundamentalists, of being anti-Christian because it seems, according to these critics, to be advocating paganism, or more specifically: pantheism. This is because of the age old plot of the "natives" being invaded and exploited and displaced or annihilated by the greedhead imperialists and their troops, often mercenaries (shades of Blackwater) who destroy the natural environment to extract the local resources that can create instant wealth for those in control of the invading country (the French in Haiti, the colonizers in "The New World" etc.).

An old story that unfortunately has mostly ended in the defeat and sometimes genocide of the indigenous people and the success of the invading forces, with a few exceptions (the African-Haitians initially e.g. but only after the indigenous people had been totally wiped out by imperialism). Like most movies with this story line did too. Until the 1960s when the imperialist urge in the USA and the death and destruction it had wrought (and was still causing in Viet Nam at the time) was finally addressed by more than a handful of historians and media outlets and large segments of the population, and then most movies with this ancient story line began finally to favor the "natives".

But in reality, the imperialists usually have a long winning streak (see the Roman empire, the French empire, the British empire, etc.) before finally caving in on themselves from over extension, over reliance on "natives" for troops and mercenaries, deterioration of basic infrastructure and lines of communication, and factionalism and infighting leading to civil breakdown if not civil war etc.

But maybe even more importantly, the decline of empires, from my perspective, can often be attributed to loss of control of the story line. As long as Britain was able to maintain the fiction of the code of honor practiced by the stiff-upper-lip leaders and their minions, the actual underlying inhumanity and cruelty to its foreign subjects could be glossed over. But once it lost control of the story line (the native Irish, for instance, could no longer be compared to monkeys or pigs with impudence, as Princess Margaret found out in the famous incident caught on an open microphone back in the '70s was it?) defeat was inevitable.

That's to a large extent what the right wing nuts are all about, trying to control the story line of American imperialism. And a lot of them are really upset about AVATAR because it portrays the mostly white obviously "American" corporate greedheads and their mercenaries as the embodiment of evil, and the indigenous "people"—the Na'vi—as good and just and in balance with nature and ready to revolt and throw their invaders out.

There has even been rightwing talk of how the movie supports terrorism, and a good case could be made for that since the movie itself has the hero address "terrorism" only from the point of view of the natives being invaded and exploited and displaced and annihilated by the corporate imperialists and their mercenaries. I could see, actually, some "foreign" (to us, obviously "natives" in their own lands) angry young men taking solace and even being inspired by this flick to fight foreign troops (aka us) on their land.

And though it's true to some extent our troops are not fighting in their minds to promote and protect corporate greed and expansion, in the case of many Muslim "terrorists" they are fighting—as the Na-vi in AVATAR are also—to protect their "holy" places (when the US put troops in Saudi Arabia where Mecca is, that's when Al Queda made the USA its sworn enemy) and local resources (it was clearly stated by many in the last administration that one of the benefits of invading Iraq they believed would be access to Iraq's oil fields once again).

But I can also see, and hope for, this movie gaining a worldwide audience that might be inspired by its message of protecting the natural environment and the wealth it represents in the long term from those who would exploit and destroy it for short term gain (ala destroying the rain forests of Indonesia and Brazil etc.).

Which in the end is the true story line of the political turmoil of these times in this country: those who believe short term gains are all or mostly what matters (the continuing exploitation and destruction of the environment for gas to fill up badly designed cars or tearing off the tops of mountains for quick profits for mining companies that then move on leaving polluted streams and a devastated landscape etc. or destroying forests for quick lumber profits and more land for grazing cattle to supply beef for MacDonald's et. al.) versus those of us who believe in the long-term gains, represented by the richness rain forests and glaciers and Pacific reefs and other natural environments provide, and are willing to sacrifice some immediate oil or coal or precious-metal fueled windfalls for the long term rewards of a healthier and more peaceful approach to living in the natural world.



JIm said...

Mike, It is amazing how many wrong headed ideas you can get in to a post. The British Empire ended with the rise of socialism and labor unions and the
weakening of the free enterprise system. Socialist government judged that a strong
military was unnecessary, which resulted in a loss of world influence. The Commonwealth was weakened
and split into independent countries but the commonwealth endured. There
are commonwealth countries in the Carribean with parlimentary governments
that work very well. Unfortunately, Haiti was a Spanish and than a French
possession with no parliamentary tradition. Thus they have endured 200 plus years of pain.

Scott Brown is the last bulwark against socialized Obamacare and Obamanomics. Hopefully he takes the "Kennedy Seat" and saves America from a British like decline.

Butch in Waukegan said...

Here’s the ”last bulwark against socialism”.

And the Democrats might lose to this guy?!

Can there be any clearer evidence that the US Empire is in a deep, spiraling decline?

JIm said...

40% of the electorate, the Tea Party phenonimun(sp) is not an indication of decline, but of resurgence. If in fact a Republican can win in Massachusetts, can California, NY or NJ be far behind. Oh wait, I forgot that NJ has a new Republican governor.

JIm said...

Hey Butch,
I thought you guys were the party of libertines. With that picture, Scott ought to win the libertine vote too.