I haven’t yet seen Avatar and it doesn’t seem like it’s worth watching. From all reports it’s an action-packed distraction-fest like any other Hollywood film, and it’s directed by James “True Lies” Cameron, so any political message it claims to have will undoubtedly be as deep as a pancake.
Still, it’s made over one billion dollars thanks to a massive marketing campaign, the 3d gimmick and surprisingly good word of mouth. In fact, some people like the movie so much, they’ve become depressed when it’s over and they have to go back to their real lives.
The recent news about “post-Avatar depression” is pretty funny, in a sad kind of way. That it has actually become something of a news story must be due to one of three reasons:
– A couple of teenagers claimed on some fan forums to experience this depression, CNN jumped on the story and made it seem far more important than it actually is. More teenagers jumped on board.
– People were depressed about there lives before seeing the movie, then the visual beauty and the romantic storyline sent them spiraling into a deeper depression, and fan forums have given them an avenue to try to connect with others.
– Seeing the beauty of the world of Pandora touches somewhere deep within the viewer. Reminding them of their own connection to the natural world, a world that Western civilization has decimated, along with the indigenous cultures that have inhabited it.
Any one of these is a possible answer, but if the third is real, then depression is a completely justifiable response.
This article from The Independent claims “Bracketed between best- and worst-case scenarios, then, somewhere between 2.7 and 270 species [of animal and plant life] are erased from existence every day”. This BBC article from 2002 says that a “Quarter of mammals face extinction”. CNN claim “Only ten percent of big ocean fish remain”. Ten percent!!!
In Derrick Jensen’s “Endgame, Vol. I”, he states:
“In the last 24 hours, over 200,000 acres of rainforest were destroyed. Thirteen million tons of toxic chemicals were released. Forty-five thousand people died of starvation, thirty-eight thousand of them children. More than one hundred plant and animal species went extinct because of civilized humans.”
The history of genocide that Western civilization is responsible for cannot be denied, even though the moral evil of these actions is constantly (and deliberately) forgotten about. Like the Na’vi, the indigenous cultures of the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Africa and more had a spiritual connection to their land, which has never been truly understood or appreciated by civilized society. These beliefs were wiped out along with the population. Since these beliefs are no longer prevalent (many are lost forever) it’s now thought that we’ve made it to the “correct” religion: Science, which denies that any meaningful communion with nature is possible, let alone spirits or deeper worlds.
If you’re not feeling the depression yet, if you think that we’ve made mistakes in the past, but civilization is getting back on the right track, let me give you one more piece of information: Medical technology has been developed to such an extent that AIDS can be successfully treated for around eighty dollars a year. Pretty great, right? And yet, those in Africa who could afford this medication are asked to pay thousands of dollars more (which they cannot possibly afford) since the patents to these drugs are held by massive drug dealers corporations, who refuse to sell their products at cheaper rates. Millions are dying around the world every year in order to keep the Western economy strong. (Read about it here). Genocide isn’t a thing of the past, we’re letting it happen every day.
Isn’t this disgusting behaviour, the wiping out of these animals, plants, environments and humans, along with the unimaginable amounts of knowledge they hold, something worth getting genuinely depressed about? Isn’t a little bit of sadness over a film actually a rather tame response? Wouldn’t total and complete despair and rage be a more suitable reaction?
The problem is that all of the atrocities carried out by those in power are absolutely necessary in keeping our comfortable lives the way they are. Those of us in privileged situations never stop to consider the total insanity of our lifestyle. Avatar itself has a tie-in deal with McDonald’s, who can only grow enough beef by decimating forests across the third world.
We’ve been brainwashed with the idea that we can live a completely sustainable lifestyle while exploiting and destroying non-renewable resources. Think about the paradox: A sustainable lifestyle from non-renewable resources.
A single moment of seriously considering this insanity should be enough to have us deeply concerned.
But I don’t believe the inner nature of all humans is one of complete evil. A lot of the responses on the Avatar forums work under this false premise, that it’s human nature for us to exploit and destroy those weaker than us, and that driving the world to destruction is simply the inevitable way of things.
That’s bullshit. After millions of years of human life, it’s only in the last six thousand that Western civilization has begun to develop, and to consume the world. The inner nature of the human being is still one of connection to others, and as the responses of depression to Avatar show, this inner feeling of connection is still alive, even in those who have been indoctrinated into accepting current civilization as “the way things are”. When speaking strictly from an atheistic perspective, the idea of unending exploitation as the purpose of life is completely bunk. (Check out this old Richard Dawkins documentary “Nice Guys Finish First” for the evidence).
So what do we do about the problem of civilization? I recommend checking out the previously quoted Endgame Vol. I and Vol. II for some potential answers, and for information about the issues I’m discussing.
One thing we should avoid is the belief that if we just recycle, vote Obama, or go vegetarian, all our problems will be solved. So long as we are living in a system that opposes itself against nature, that views the natural world as something to be exploited for superficial gain, we’ll be long dead before experiencing anything close to Pandora.