Avatar, Mysticism, and American Politics

By Dakin Sloss

Box office hit Avatar presents the clash of tribal savages and greedy businessmen on the seemingly far off world of Pandora, but the story actually symbolizes the political battle that occurs in our country.

The plot of Avatar is straightforward: a corporate pig travels to a new planet with vast mineral deposits that will yield untold wealth, but a primitive civilization lives on top of the desired rock. The business hires a small personal military to forcibly remove the innocent civilians who are simply trying to live among nature. The soldiers do not understand the natives’ religious attachment to the trees, and the soldiers destroy the natives’ sacred religious environment. In the end, the people of Pandora repel the profit-seeking invaders. The movie’s message is clear: give up your evil attempts to make money and return to a simpler life among the trees.

Unfortunately, viewers can only choose between different villains because the battle in Avatar involves no true heroes. On one side, the natives of Pandora represent a backwards and mystical people who have not yet emerged from the prehistoric era of mankind. They blindly worship God and the woods around them. They are mystics of spirit who sacrifice the mind for the sake of a deity and nature. As a consequence, they are also blatantly collectivist: they sacrifice the interests of any individual for the good of the tribe as a whole. Thus, Avatar offers a primitive, tribal, uncivilized, uneducated, mystical savage as the symbol of the heroic man.

On the other side, the greedy businessman and his soldiers ruthlessly kill innocent human beings in order to make money. They are no more venerable than the savages they kill. They are mystics of muscle who worship the power of force to wipe aside any obstacle. Instead of using their minds to create a valuable product that will earn wealth, they steal from and kill others. This is a distorted image of the capitalist because in a free society, no man is permitted to commit theft or murder. These men are not capitalists, but simply more technologically advanced brutes than the savages. They are not individualists either because they urge the sacrifice of soldiers and natives alike. They are anti-mind and thus anti-man.

The natives, soldiers, and businessmen in Avatar all reject man’s mind and instead accept the mysticism of spirit and muscle. Where is the character that has emerged from the forest of Pandora, left behind allegiance to a deity, and foregone the evil of wielding a gun against his fellow man? Where is the character that has accepted the responsibility of living as an individual without depending on the tribe or stealing unearned wealth? Where is the man who uses his mind to set rational goals and then sets out to achieve them? Avatar provides no vision of this man.

The same element is missing in the political scene of America today. Liberals decry man’s destruction of nature, condemning the men of the mind who use their rightfully owned natural resources to provide for themselves. This is a direct attack on any attempt by man to better his life because all life requires the production of goods that rely on some part of nature (ocean, forest, or rock). The liberals urge the same mystical worship of nature that the natives of Pandora openly practice.

The liberals not only practice mysticism of spirit, but also of muscle. They urge ever-bigger government to cease the wealth of productive citizens in order to provide healthcare, education, roads, and whatever else people want. This is no different from the man in Avatar who wants the mineral deposits of the natives and thinks that he has a right to them because he has a mightier army than the natives.

The conservatives also practice mysticism of spirit. They have become an openly religious political movement that shamelessly worships God with blind faith. Support of school prayer, attempts to teach creationism as science, and moves to outlaw abortions are all clear examples of the anti-mind and anti-life policies that conservatives espouse to match the liberals anti-mind and anti-man politics. It is time for a politician to stand up for man and reject mysticism and collectivism.

This requires a replacement of liberalism and conservatism with the ideas of the founding fathers that lie at the root of the American political system. This means recognition of each man’s right to keep the product of his labor and pursue his own self-interest. The government must function only as a guardian of individual rights, not as a religious institution or a means for the redistribution of wealth.

Most fundamentally, man’s mind must be recognized as his primary tool of survival. Therefore, man must be permitted to think and act freely, so long as he does not prevent others from exercising the same rights. No political group today has taken this stance in defense of man and until someone does, we are destined to continue drifting towards the rule of brute force that dominates the story of Avatar.

This entry was posted in Articles for Volume 3, Issue 2, Winter 2010. Bookmark the permalink.

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