Posted: July 28th, 2010 by Gadget42
I watched Avatar many moons ago. It was a great movie. Spectacular in effects. A very good plot. And it had its moment of emotional drama when the hero, Jake Sully, shows up riding the great bird that was untamable. Brought tears to my eyes. Yes, it was all it was advertised to be and even more. David Cameron can rightly be called the mogul of the megamovie. He has progressed to the point where he can inject his morality unto us, the masses, without effort or concern. And not that Avatar has an undesirable message, it does not. The message of Avatar is a good and true one : That any native regardless of race, religion, or solar system has the natural right to fight by any means necessary for their life, liberty, and property. Even against Americans.
But there was one message in Avatar that I know even eluded the great Cameron himself. Indeed, were he queried on this, he would get the answer wrong guaranteed. And that is, among the humans, who displayed the most moral actions? And who displayed the least moral actions, the most despicable? Most, including Cameron, would instinctually answer that Jake Sully, the hero, is the most moral of the humans. It is after all, he who turns sides and leads the natives to victory over the invaders. That is what we are expected to learn. That it is OK to go half way in the effort to destroy another country or planet, so long as we repent or reform at point along the journey and then try to help. Regardless of expediency or futility, no matter what damage one has done, how many lies told, how many natives killed, any sin is forgiven, so long as as the person can switch and fight for the right at the end. Or at least help save as many of the tragedy bound natives as possible. Of course, in the movie, Jake Sully is successful, as he must be to forestall any doubt as to his morality. But it is not so in real life. More often than not, the natives are conquered, regardless of the actions of a few turncoats. And that is where we can judge true morality, or at least a scale of it.
It is in fact, Colonel Miles Quartich who is the only one who speaks the truth, from beginning to end. It is he who unapologetically declares that the humans are not there to help the Na’vi or to learn anything about them or to facilitate some friendly relations. And that he and his troops are only there to conquer the natives and push them out. And this is actually a moral thing to do. It is far more moral and noble, NOT TO LIE about your intentions to do harm to a people. And only an anti-Quartich, a like minded human leading troops who unrepentantly and openly vow from the outset to defeat the invaders could be more moral. And it is in this respect that Jake Sully is a fallen character. He lies to the natives to gain their trust, to find out their weaknesses which he then conveys to the invaders. And because he falls in love with a native(how touching) thus gaining some empathy for the Na’vi at some point and turns, would not be enough, short of guaranteed victory in a movie, to absolve him. The history of conquest brought forth in the modern age is a history of lies and deceit, infiltration and subversion, greed masked with altruism. It is the method developed by the British Empire and perfected by the US Empire. And it is in this sense that Quartich represents a reversion back to the old way, of old empires, where brutality is unmasked and unrepentant and TRUTHFUL. Where a native land stares at an army at the boundary and knows its fate lies in victory or defeat. Where at least a man knows he’s been conquered by another man who does not lie to himself about the evil commited. And not tricked into slavery by a group of goodwill workers who came to spread knowledge, or learn about your culture, or trade with you.
And thus we must ask who represents the vilest, lowest form of immorality in the movie Avatar. I know that many would have thought, until they read this far, that Quartich was the most vile character. Unrepentant, bloodthirsty, brutal. And indeed, had this movie had even a single decent minded clear human, Quartich would not have been the most moral. But he rises to the top in a cup of filth. No, the most vile individuals in the movie Avatar are the human scientists. It is they who represent the insipid trickery of modern imperialism. It is they who present the friendly face of the invader to the native as the knife is drawn. In the movie, it is these scientists who develop the avatar, a body of the Na’vi with the mind of a human volunteer. It is avatar that allows the Na’vi to be infiltrated and fooled. And yet we are not explicitly told that they are the evil actors here. It is obvious from the film that they are to be considered part of the moral side along with Sully. The message that should be gotten is that the technologists who willingly facilitate an unjust act are the MOST evil actors. This class has been represented in the past by the priest but is now portrayed in popular science fiction by the scientist. The wondrous scientist with his extended practical knowledge of the subjects at hand but no wisdom. It is almost always the case that these misguided fools actually believe that they are beneficial and necessary to facilitate the peaceful interaction of newcomer and native. All too often, in past reality of history and in the fiction of today’s vacuous idealists, this class of people always end up doing little more than disarming and blunting the instinctual reaction to chase away an unknown threat, the very reaction that would offer a native society any chance of resisting invasion and colonization and eventual extermination. It is sickening to watch the scientists in the movie as they seek to “peacefully” interact with the Na’vi within their doppelganger avatar. Their concern for the Na’vi while they work under the protection of the invading forces is nauseating. Their care for the killed and wounded Na’vi after their employers have acted is maddening. They are truly the vilest breed.
In the real world, we see a great deal of hatred toward America. Much of that hatred is toward this insane notion floating in most of our government and many of the jingoist populace, the Fox News crowd, that American intervention is beneficial for the native around the world. That we must liberate them, educate them, rationalize them, organize them and so on. It is a lie employed by the coward to rationalize his actions to himself, for he would not have the courage to act knowing the truth, let alone admit it to the conquered. Over time this self inflicted lie has come to be believed by its perpetrators, that what they do is actually good and benevolent. It is an irritating hubris that is embodied by the scientist and corporate characters in the Avatar, a lie completely repudiated by Quartich. In Iraq and Afghanistan today, the US government prosecutes soldiers for assaulting a native, while their air force kills dozens of civilians with bombs every week. I can assure you the Iraqis and Afghans cannot understand this pathological bipolar behavior. We shoot them in half and then give them a band-aid. It is this bizarre morality that breeds an even greater level of hatred. Far better to unapologetically thrash a nation than pretend you care or be stupid enough to actually care. We must learn to understand the correct morality to apply to the twisted vision of American exceptionalists, their diplomats and technocrats, and their thoroughly addled cheering section in Hollywood. The world always hates a conquerer. But they hate a thousand times more the vile lies that a sick hubristic society brings that they are there to help as they proceed to dismantle a nation and culture.