Avatar: The University Course
Avatar is likely to find its way into the curricula at universities around the world. For this reason, I want to discuss a number of issues which should be considered by the academics who will build courses around this movie.
The first issue deals with the subtle depiction of the white race as the prime source of rapaciousness, greed and evil. The movie is set about 140 years in the future. At that time, the two largest economies in the world will be those of India and China. The U.S. economy will be a distant third. The European Union likely will have disintegrated long before that time.
Thus, and I understand that the movie is fiction, Asians are more likely to be leading an attack on Pandora than whites. I am not an apologist for the white race. We have murdered hundreds of millions, if not billions of people throughout the millenia. This wanton destruction has been driven by tribalism, religion and ideology. Indeed, the last war in Europe following the collapse of Yugoslavia exemplified the worst features of tribalism, in the guise of nationalism, and religion in the white race.
But we do not have a monopoly on sadistic brutality, greed and evil. Asians and Africans have shown themselves over the ages to be as a dept as whites in these areas. So the issue that should be addressed is why is evil so rampant and universal. It is important to shed a light on all evil committed throughout history and the respective roles of tribalism, religion and ideology, and to discuss if there is anything that can be done to lessen the destructive consequences.
Blaming whites gives sadistic kleptocrats around the world an excuse for their behavior, namely, that they are trying to fight the legacy of imperialism.
The second issue deals with the depiction of the Na’vi, the inhabitants of Pandora. In a Sesame Street world of political correctness,blue is as good a color as any. But the Na’vi seem to be a homogeneous race. Idyllic? No, more like boring and dull.
More than 50 years ago, the population of the city of Toronto, although nowhere near as homogeneous as that of Pandora, was nevertheless much more homogeneous than it is today. Toronto the “good” was Toronto the boring. Wave after wave of immigrants, each new wave looking different from the preceding wave, added dynamism, vitality and talent to the city, making Toronto an interesting and exciting place today. Diversity elevated the city from the ranks of mediocrity.
However, is it likely that, as Pandora evolved, only one race developed? Multiple races evolved on Earth, so it might be reasonable to assume that the same happened on Pandora. If so, how and why did the other races on Pandora disappear? Did the Na’vi believe that they were the master race and annihilate the others?
Or, if there was only one race from the beginning, is it likely that the various tribes always lived in harmony and peasce with one another? Why would tribalism not rear its ugly head in Pandora as well?
In the movie it appears that some of the Na’vi were prepared to follow a leader. Unfortunately, most leaders have a tendency to exploit tribal, religious and/or ideological differences to solidify their positions. Why would we expect the inhabitants of Pandora to escape this pattern of evolution with its inevitable greed and evil?
These are the questions and issues that academics should tackle in any courses they build around Avatar.
The opinions expressed in this blog are personal and do not reflect the views of Global Brief or the Glendon School of Public and International Affairs.