Sitting at a desk on a TV lot waiting for the rest of my life to catch up I reached over for the Daily Variety to alleviate my boredom. On the front cover was a picture from the movie Avatar with Jake’s Avatar riding a banshee while holding a serious looking machine-gun. This picture is worth a thousand words. In its simplicity, it depicts the future of the Navi people.
Almost three hours into the film the humans are deported off the planet but did anyone notice them leaving with their equipment? No, meaning those materials have been left behind. This billion dollar tale more than celebrates the love of nature over material it also brings to light the age old predicament faced by indigenous people the world over, the introduction of violent modern technology into their “backward” world. But weapons are not all that was left behind, the invasion and threat posed by the humans also unleashed a new level of rage among the indigenous Navi people. So now the indigenous population is not only pissed off but they also have access to deadlier weapons of precise destruction.
It is undeniable that something inevitable happens to the indigenous person when their way of live is threatened. Their desire to survive is awakened. And since their way is often violently threatened by those who are technologically superior, the indigenous have to quickly learn their enemy’s art of war in order to maintain their way of life. Their response too must be violent. In that one act, that one response to aggression, they regress into the very thing they fight.
So tell me, once the invaders leave how will the indigenous curb this new level of rage secreted within their soul or fight the temptation to use these new weapons if threaten again? Does having the marine fall in love with the Princess while fucking the tribe seem like a viable solution? Not for the tribe, they are still fucked, and only the Princess and Marines are enjoying it. See, transforming the “civilized marine” into the way of the “uncivilized Navi” elevates the marine by subduing his need for aggression. But by exposing the Navi to the ways of the marine, in some ways you have relegated the Navi by creating a wound of regression.
Once the credits roll, we need to think beyond the victory of the Navi. We need to ponder what conquering indigenous, “backward” peoples with technologically advanced weapons means to the human species? A look back at our history will provide the answers. What did the introduction of guns mean to the indigenous peoples of Africa? In summary, an increase in the slave trade, colonialism, brutal long civil wars, dictatorships, rapes, famine, death and destruction etc. What did they mean to the Native peoples of the Americas? If you can find one, ask them for me.
It is easy to romanticize or long for Pandora, easy to celebrate the Navi prior to the battle, but will the Navi and Pandora ever be the same after its encounter with humans? Does the realization that there are those who wish to destroy the tranquility they hold dear make the Navi more suspicious, less welcoming and thereby less Navi? Isn’t that the transformation that took place in the hearts of the Native peoples of the Americas? An Indigenous person, no matter how noble a savage, is eventually transformed by the forces that cross his/her path. In the case of the Navi, the forces were violent and materialistic. After the loss they suffered and the weapons they learned to use, the Navi will forever be struggling with the more violent nature awoken in them.
So, for those people out there contemplating suicide because Pandora is unattainable, all I can say is if you are a “civilized mind”, you make Pandora unattainable.