July 26, 2012
Given the extent of global violence at the present time it is worthwhile to revisit the phenomenon which was Avatar. The film’s popularity when it was released and the resulting DVD sales suggest that nearly every household in Australia has either seen or possesses a copy of the film.
The film takes the viewer to the beautiful but threatened planet of Pandora. This world has an ethereal quality about it and a mystical centre of wholeness and healing. The name of the planet is well chosen and relates to the Greek myth of the same name. Pandora was the mythical figure credited with opening a forbidden box and releasing violence, disease and death into the world. According to the myth the world’s salvation lay in the one beautiful gift within the box: Hope. In Emily Dickenson’s words – Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul.
The crippled man who takes on the role of the avatar in the film learns to love the people and the planet. His mentor, a scientist, dies for the planet attempting to change the minds and hearts of the corporation heads and other scietists who think only in terms of profit, research and their own survival. For them empathy and compassion are empty words and qualities to be used only to manipulate others to their own ends.
The film’s conclusion shows Pandora victorious after battling earth’s technologically equipped army with primitive weapons and guile. But for how long is such a world safe before the next invasion occurs?
Einstein said a problem cannot be solved by the same consciousness that created it. The question which arises from the above film challenges us to ask in what way can further violence be the answer to a problem fuelled by violence? Violence extrapolates the more it is used and opens the door to further oppression and destruction. The oppressed, in Paolo Frere’s words, become the oppressor!
It seems what is needed is a new creative consciousness that will find another solution to the innate global problem of which violence is the symptom. Nelson Mandela found an initial solution to South Africa’s problems after apartheid through a process of reconciliation. While South Africa is still suffering the situation could have been much worse if violence had been the only outcome of self-government. Gandhi sought a solution through non-violence. Barbara Kingsolver suggests we are facing a crises of perception and Thomas Merton dared to say, in a letter to Rachel Carsons: It seems that our remedies are instinctively those which aggravate the sickness; the remedies are an expression of the sickness itself. I would almost dare to say that the (global) sickness is perhaps a very real and very dreadful hatred of life ( Witness to Freedom; 70-71)
The failure of Avatar to find a creative solution to violence and destruction challenges us to keep looking for ways to solve the problem of abusive power and a lack of connectedness to all of life. We must keep searching.
Colleen O’Sullivan rsj