Avatar and the changes we need to see

All the recent insanity in the world has been pretty discouraging and depressing for most of us, and certainly things are reaching dismal levels of violence and intolerance in many places.

Charles Eisenstein – in a couple of his periodic newsletter posts – addresses these horrors and the despair they produce in us, and in his lovely way responds to these things in a way that helps me at least tolerate the insanity because I can understand it better.

Charles gives this example of a little thing that illustrates a source of much of it. He tells of walking with a group of children in a fancy development, and one of the kids grabs a low-hanging branch and swings upside down, as kids do.

Suddenly a car coming up the drive honks, pulls up and the woman inside, identifying herself as ‘a member of the board’, tells the girl to come down, as they “don’t allow this kind of behavior!”

This is Charles’ response:

“I don’t know why that petty incident should hurt more than the carnage around the world, but somehow it got under my skin. Maybe because it is not unrelated to the carnage. The mentality of control, the subduing of the wild, the emphasis on “security” at the expense of life, play, and freedom, the conquest of childhood, the “civilizing” of the Other… all of these threads wrap together into the big ball of earth’s dominant culture.

Maybe it is because the mentality that is disturbed by a child swinging from a tree branch is so far removed from the kind of world I want to live in that I felt that intense pang of hopelessness. What kind of miracle will it take for the kind of people exemplified by this woman (and there are many) to change? Probably it would take a severe shaking of the foundations of their world.”

In his comments this week, he uses the movie Avatar to illustrate how our worldview needs to change if we are to stop the wars and violence that plague us.

He relates that some indigenous people who were shown the movie responded in the same way he did – they thought the movie was beautiful and cool, but they didn’t like the essential message. Charles says they found it offensive “because it was resolved through overcoming the enemy by force and killing the evil person.”

In a recent book, Charles tells about an indigenous group in the Amazon, the Shuar, who are trying to stop mining there, relating their struggle to the movie Avatar as well:

….So for example, in the movie Avatar, which closely parallels the situation of the Shuar, the fictional Na’vi overcome the spaceships and artillery of the human invaders with spears, bows and arrows, and large animals. When the chief human general is killed, then the victory is complete. There is no other way, since he is depicted as irredeemable. Fortunately, the Shuar seem not to be infected with the virus of the ideology of “evil.” They are not fighting the mining companies. They are fighting the mining.

I would have liked to see a different ending to Avatar. I would have liked to see the planet infiltrate the nervous systems of the humans so that, when they destroyed its world-tree, they themselves felt the pain of it, erasing the us/them divide that enabled them to see the planet as a mere source of resources. That is precisely the change of perception that our civilization needs to undergo. Because I don’t think that the Shuar are going to overcome us with their spears.

Charles goes on to relate that some of his friends have encouraged the filmmaker (James Cameron) to make a sequel incorporating this idea. He says, “I can hardly imagine how powerful that movie could be if it added this extra element of the worldview of interbeing to its message of the sacredness and intelligence and interconnectedness of all life.”