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Posts Tagged ‘Environmentalism’

I, like so many others that I know, enjoy watching Super Bowl commercials.  Although most are forgettable, there are always one or two that stick in my mind.  This year, Audi’s “Green Police” was the most memorable and controversial of the day.  It has captured the attention of many conservatives like Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, Senator Obenshain, and fellow bloggers such as SWAC Girl, and Virginia Virtucon.  I suppose if you didn’t watch the game (or was using the bathroom during the commercial), you should see it for yourself.  For the record, for those who don’t know, the theme for the commercial is a rewording of the song “Dream Police” by Cheap Trick.

In a recent email, the Attorney General calls the spot, “eco-funny…or not-so-funny”.  As Senator Obenshain puts it, the ad “would be funny if had been a little more farfetched”.  In recent years environmentalists have been getting more and more vocal and they are now relying on the government to enact their agenda.  From cap and trade, to the upcoming banning of incandescent light bulbs, to the regulation of thermostats in new homes in California, the green movement continues to flex their political muscles.  No longer simply content to “live in harmony with mother nature and her creatures”, some have become increasing radical, forcing their neighbors to adopt their lifestyles choices as well.  Such tactics mirror the fascist movements of the 1930s, and, like it’s historical predecessor, I fear that a police force designated to enforce this code of ethics can’t be too far behind.  Going through a person’s trash and spying on their activities in their own homes and yards without a warrant is not only an invasion of privacy, it is a clear indication of a police state, not a free society.  Although my critics will declare me to be an alarmist, without any safeguards, we will one day have a green police.  It will happen, and it will happen within our lifetimes.

Although Audi might think differently, after watching this ad, all I can say is “green has never felt so wrong”.

Update: For those who thought the green police commercial was “all in good fun”, two bills concerning plastic bag use have recently come up in the House of Delegates in Richmond.  The first, by Delegate Adam Ebbin, sought to fine plastic bag users a nickel for each bag used.  The second, by Delegate Joe Morrissey, intended to outright ban the bags.  Although both bills were defeated earlier this week, each of the delegates vowed to try again in the next session.

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Late Saturday night I received an email from Steve Zeitchik, a reporter at the LA Times.  He was writing a piece for the paper about politics of the movie and, after reading my political review of Avatar on this blog, wanted to speak with me further on the subject.  The following evening I had the opportunity to talk with Mr. Zeitchik about the political themes of the film.  We explored Avatar, fellow blogger reactions, political attitudes of the movie going public, and briefly other films.  Although I’ll admit it that I’ve always been a little intimidated to speak to the press, I thoroughly enjoyed our half an hour conversation.  He highlighted all of these issues in his work, “‘Avatar’: Red-state politics + blue aliens = box-office green”.  Let me tell you that it was both gratifying and humbling to be recognized in the media.

I suppose I can now add that my blog is “now featured in the LA Times”, but regardless of that issue, I encourage you to check out Mr. Zeitchik’s article.  After our exchange, I entered the theater for the second time on Monday to revisit my original impressions of Avatar.  They remained pretty much the same.  However, I did find another conservative message.  Given the Na’vi’s code of “mating for life”, their concept promotes such a high degree of marital and sexual fidelity that they would presumably create far more stable and long-term relationships, as well as improving the society as a whole.  As a side note, despite what some might say, the 2D experience is nearly as good as 3D.

The bottom line is simple: if you haven’t watched Avatar yet, go do so and see what all the fuss is about.  Even if you, like myself, disagree with many of the political ramifications in the film, the stunning visual effects and entertaining story easily cover the $10 to $15 ticket price.  Then feel free to share your gripes and praises of this controversial work.

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Earlier this week, I watched the new movie, Avatar, and I wanted to share my thoughts about the work.  Originally the title struck me as a bit odd.  I think the first time I heard the word “avatar” was in a class in Hinduism.  In Hindu theology, from time to time the gods take mortal forms and walk about the Earth.  They engage in all sorts of behavior such as: imparting wisdom, participating in battles, getting into fights, and even partaking in lewd and potentially immoral acts.  Perhaps the most celebrated avatar was Krishna, an avatar of the god Vishnu who you can find in the great Indian epic story, the Mahabharata.  Nevertheless, it is important to note that while the avatar can die, the god remains.  The reason I mention this tidbit of information was that it was the only insight I had about this movie beforehand.  I read no spoilers and I saw no trailers and so went into the theater not really knowing what to expect.

But back to the film…the basic storyline is as follows:  On a planet called Pandora live a species of bluish humanoids called the Na’vi.  Also on this world is a rare and extremely valuable substance ironically named unobtainium.  Although we are never told the uses for this mineral, we discover that the largest deposit lies beneath the Na’vi settlements.  As a way to gain access to the natives, and reap their rich natural resources, a mining corporation creates Na’vi/human hybrids that are controlled remotely through a form of mental link.  These creatures are a Na’vi-looking embodiment of the humans that operate them.  Although radically different physically, they share the same thoughts, experiences, and emotions, with their human consciousness hence, like in the Hindu stories, they are avatars.

Visually Avatar is a very rich experience.  There is an abundance of vibrant colors, lush and exotic scenery, and even the 3-D experience was well done, though I did have a bit of a headache to show for it.  Although certainly alien, the Na’vi physically, thematically, and styles of dress appeared to be some sort of cross between cats, Native Americans, and African tribesmen.  For what it is worth, they were fairly attractive, with the notable exception of Sigourney Weaver.  Although I would argue that she looks pretty good for a woman of 60, her avatar was quite unappealing.

Unlike traditional movie reviews, my central interest was in Avatar’s underlying political message(s).  It examines the plight of the naturalistic natives against the technologically advanced invaders, a page ripped from history:  Native Americans versus the United States, Indians versus the British Empire, Germanic tribes versus Rome, just to name a few.  Given the Na’vi’s Native American traits, throughout the movie I couldn’t help but think about the events leading up to Custer’s last stand.  It strikes an anti-imperialistic chord, which I can appreciate, as well as nativist, environmentalist, and anti-militaristic tones.  I’m going to delve a bit further into the plot, so if you haven’t seen the movie yet and don’t want me to give it away, I suggest skipping ahead to the final paragraph.

Still with me then?  Very well.  So, as stated earlier, these avatars are physical copies of the Na’vi, but with a human mind.  The scientists create these beings in order to gain a better understanding of this species and also to begin meaningful diplomacy.  At the same time, however, the hired muscle seeks to use the avatars merely as a tool to spy upon the Na’vi and learn how to best conquer them.  Both the commander and the soldiers in the film are portrayed in a generally negative light, as most treat the native population as mere savages unworthy of discourse, their land, or even their very lives.  The corporation, that finances and heads up this operation, is driven solely by its profit margin.  As we learn more about the Na’vi, peaceful talks seem increasingly fruitless as the Na’vi view their homeland as sacred and have no interest in bartering away their land.  They reject the supposedly superior goods and education offered to them in favor of their own traditional ways.  And so, motivated by money, the corporation resorts to plan B, sending their paramilitary army to claim the land by force.  Thus, in a not-so-subtle fashion, the film simultaneously warns against the dangers of the military-industrial complex, corporate greed, consumerism, and even neo-conservatism.

Avatar was persistent in its environmental message.  The natives appear to live in near perfect harmony with the planet in much the same way that we are told that the Native Americans did and supposedly still do.  They seem to go out of their way to preserve both plant and animal life, their structures blend with the natural surroundings, and they spiritually bond with both nature and the planet.  I’m not looking to get into an argument over this point, but I don’t think such a way of life is either practical or religiously correct.  Nevertheless, should a society choose to organize in such a fashion, I would not advocate changing their lifestyle or relocating them through force.  The greatest problem lies when they compel their neighbors to act likewise through a heavy-handed government.  Oh wait…the Na’vi don’t act that way in the movie, but modern American environmentalists certainly do.  The horror!  The horror!  Anyway, the movie then seems to go out of its way to validate these beliefs through the supposed scientific findings of the head researcher just as many environmentalists do in our society.  If you need more proof of the pro-green message, in the final battle sequence all of the creatures of the jungle rally in defense of the Na’vi as if guided by the will of nature itself.  After the humans lose, a vast majority of the wicked and thoughtless human race is exiled.  To top it off, the main character casts off his human body to become one of the Na’vi.  Therefore, we are led to believe that only by rejecting our humanity can we save the planet.  Lastly, one of the final lines in the film, when the main character mentioned that humans had previously destroyed the environment on Earth, smacked of rhetoric worthy of Al Gore himself.

How is the film nativist?  Although I couldn’t real see any difference, the Na’vi could easily differentiate between themselves and the lab created avatars.  At first, everyone in their encampment treated the main character as an interloper who neither understood their culture, nor appreciated their lifestyle.  In addition, they feared he would try to infiltrate them, which is exactly what he ended up doing by revealing weaknesses in their defenses to the Colonel.  Both the Na’vi and the humans were, for the most part, ethnocentric.  Neither cared really to learn about the other, thought of themselves and their ways as superior, and both viewed the other with distrust and great suspicion.  At the end of the day, one has to wonder what would have happened if the Na’vi never accepted Jake, the main character, as one of their own and maintained their xenophobic ways.  Would the first military attack have been successful if not for the intel that he gave them?  Would the lost of life been far less?  Or would the humans, pressured by the tremendous costs of maintaining their presence, simply have given up and left?  Who can say?  Then again, if both sides had viewed each other with respect, perhaps the corporation could have extracted the unobtainium without disrupting the lives and homes of the natives.

Apparently Avatar had at least one conservative message too.  Although I didn’t see it, after discussing the film with my cousin, he pointed it out with the plight of the main character.  You see, Jake is a wheelchair-bound former marine.  Not only does the desire to regain his mobility serve as a motivation, it also fuels his rugged self-reliance.  Despite his physical limitations, he displays a high level of personal responsibility.  He never gives up, never insists on others to help him, and never expects handouts or special favors from his associates.  Rather than stay at home and collect disability from a nanny state government, he instead chooses to live life to the fullest and explore life on a new world.

Overall, I enjoyed the Avatar experience and I would recommend the film.  Sure, the movie has some awkward and questionable dialogue and yes, the plot twists are easily predictable. Nevertheless, you shouldn’t pass up the opportunity to learn about the fascinating, colorful, and bioluminescent world of Pandora and it’s inhabitants.  A word of warning to you impressionable folks…although some misguided people tend to take cues from movies on how to think, act, and even live their lives (the Jedi Church anyone?), one should value this movie for its storyline and amazing visual scenery and effects.  Be mindful of the liberal politics, of course, and don’t use them as a motivating tool for action.  Otherwise you’ll likely find yourself hugging trees, dancing in the woods with a loincloth, singing kumbaya, and worshiping Eywa…I mean “mother Earth”.

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