Center for World Indigenous Studies
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Multidimensional Vision

Published: January 2, 2010, Author: MHirch

What a flat-out anti-war message. The science fiction epic film “Avatar” is a fictional story about the most pressing, real problems of today’s imperialistic world. It concerns big contemporary topics such as the human fight for natural resources, loss of culture and biodiversity, greed and inhumanity. The film is set on Pandora, a distant moon where an indigenous culture and their ecosystem is threatened to be destroyed by humans engaged in mining reserves of precious mineral.

Through special glasses the moviegoers are made to see a different vision that appears only too real in 3D format and acts on people emotionally. It is not a deep film by any means but draws in people from all backgrounds. The plot might not appear too appealing to many but they go to the movies interested in witnessing the technical breakthrough the movie is impressive for. United in a theater moviegoers open their hearts to the story of the love of life and future of civilization without previously expecting it. The third dimension sucks the viewer in the scene giving the action an unknown multi-dimensional experience of screen reality.

In times of political insecurity the film inspires hope and appeals to everybody’s responsibility to protect our own world. Makes people conscious and instills the moral right and duty to not just execute orders but to reflect individual deeds and the consequences these might have. It suggests, if necessary, to better switch sides. It thus is outrightly provocative as it promotes the idea of deserting and even fighting the own military to achieve true peace.

It makes me wonder how this strong anti-war message of the film might act upon the consciousness and psyche of soldiers stationed on some of the military bases around the world. A former Canadian soldier comes to my mind. When he related the story he was still suffering from the traumatic images burnt in his mind of a very old and helpless woman in Serbia during the latest war there. The woman must have fled a combat zone, alone, way out somewhere, completely exhausted, terrorized on her way to death if left unaided. He watched back as they drove on- but left her there- rules forbade…. Later he got severely hit in a tank and decided to leave the army and go to college, likely haunted by those images for the rest of his life.

Apart from the contemporary topics shown in the film, Avatar in Europe could become the Karl May of the present day. It is the idealizing story about a white guy going native. Drawn to the alien culture the protagonist was initially fighting against he assimilates and becomes the savior and strongest leader of the people he once helped to oppress. Images as portrayed in the movie certainly are a stereotypical representation of traditional cultures and make indigenous groups stay stuck with the romanticized version of the outsiders, Hollywood inspired perception of Natives. Dreaming of and escaping to a better place non-indigenous people want to see savage wild women and men of nature dancing around fires. Playing on the human wish of transcendental mythical experience the film is rather insulting in its romanticized kitsch.
At the end the alienated protagonist divorcing himself from his own cultural roots becomes the savior of the other culture.

Hopefully the movie will make people more interested to become aware of the fundamental experience of being an oppressed racial group and not fantasize about becoming other races. Fleeing our own culture is no solution. To join the call to wake people up and raise awareness of humanity’s destructive impulses and stop this destruction is.
Leaving the theater moviegoers should take off their glasses and see what is really going on: the destruction and elimination of indigenous cultures in this world, here and now. They ought to go back in their own cultures, search their roots and effect change in their worlds to help truly save our most precious planet.
Instead of escaping to another world, let’s see and try to create paradises around us.

Chief George Manuel Memorial Indigenous Library

The library is dedicated to the memory of Secwepemc Chief George Manuel (1921-1989), to the nations of the Fourth World and to the elders and generations to come.

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