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Refuting The "White Savior" Attacks on Avatar Movie

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I urge that, anytime from now till January 29, you and your friends go to see AVATAR and then - discuss its meaning in our lives. It is the discussion afterward that will make "seeing" the film into the profound "seeing" of God, life, and each other that the film itself calls for. Ideas for discussion are below.

What's to discuss?

1) AVATAR teaches that the war against peoples and the war against the earth are the same war, being incited and fought by the same Crusher institutions. If we agree with this, how do we bring together the so-far separate struggles to end the two kinds of war? If we don't agree, how do we see the relationship? Why does the Torah command that even in wartime, we must not destroy the enemy's fruit trees? (The US Army did precisely this to the forests of Vietnam; the Israeli Army has done this to Palestinian olive trees; in AVATAR, the invading Earthians do precisely this to the sacred trees of the Na'vi. Why?)

2) AVATAR teaches that in the struggle to heal our world, birds and animals and trees and grasses can become our active allies if we "see" them as part of ourselves, part of our Beloved Community. Is there a way to make this true for us?

3) Some knee-jerk leftists have criticized the heroism of Jake Sully as merely another racist case of a "white male Marine" becoming savior of the exploited community. Indeed, some conservatives have stolen that rhetoric to discredit a widely celebrated film that clearly threatens to undermine the corporate-military-NeoCon alliance. But there are two mistakes in this rhetoric:

First, it is not Sully who leads the Na'vi; it is his Avatar who joins the resistance, becoming a blueskin transformed from his life as a Marine, just as Moses the Egyptian prince remakes himself into a leader of the Israelite slave revolt .

More important, it is Eywa Herself, acting through the plants, birds, animals of Pandora, Who saves all life from depredation. The story echoes the biblical story of Exodus, in which Moses may be a spokesperson but it is the locusts, the rivers, the frogs, the hailstorms - what we call the Ten Plagues, the earth itself rising up as an expression of God's Will to topple Pharaoh -- that triumphs. It is YyyyHhhhWwwwHhhh's very breath, becoming the Holy Wind that splits the Red Sea, that drowns Pharaoh's army.

What do we make of these stories? Can the Earth, God/dess Incarnate, defend Herself? What role do humans play?

3. AVATAR describes how some Earthians turn their backs on the military-corporate attempt to shatter the Na'vi and instead join the Na'vi resistance. They become - let's not mince words - traitors. Or rather, they transform themselves into the Avatars that actually become Na'vi, loyal not to oppressive Crushers but to the web of life. What do we Americans, we Westerners -- who have already done so much to crush the life from many parts of our planet and threaten to destroy the rest by choking its Breath, its Climate -- what do we make of that? What do we owe the indigenes of Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Nigeria, Burma?

4. In the climax of the film , it is not only the invading Marines in their Crusher machines who use extreme violence. The Na'vi and Eywa's life-forms use violence too, to defend themselves. There is barely a hint of any attempt to use nonviolent resistance in the mode of King or Gandhi to defend Pandora. Can we imagine an alternative? Why did the film not present one?

Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Ph. D., founded (in 1983) and directs The Shalom Center , a prophetic voice in Jewish, multireligious, and American life that brings Jewish and other spiritual thought and practice to bear on seeking peace, pursuing justice, (more...)

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Refuting The "White Savior" Attacks on Avatar Movie


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old Indian wrote a short story years ago where a C... by shadow dancer on Tuesday, Jan 12, 2010 at 10:30:40 AM
http://rikijo.blogspot.comThe occulticmeaning of t... by bennyg h on Friday, Jan 22, 2010 at 6:49:14 AM
There's no such thing as demons or the devil you f... by Ty on Friday, Jan 22, 2010 at 2:10:35 PM
Krishna tells Arjuna to fight the good fight even ... by Starla Immak on Tuesday, Jan 12, 2010 at 11:20:38 AM
Mythically, Jake represents the hero who must go o... by Cathy Lynn Pagano on Tuesday, Jan 12, 2010 at 1:24:26 PM
Rabbi,the "White messiah" critique has some teeth.... by Mikhail Lyubansky on Tuesday, Jan 12, 2010 at 3:50:55 PM
ML: I agree with this, and many of your points in ... by Richard Pietrasz on Tuesday, Jan 12, 2010 at 7:43:59 PM
It is certainly politically correct to think the v... by arlen custer on Wednesday, Jan 13, 2010 at 8:42:10 AM
Again, if the elite are willing to commit genocide... by Richard Pietrasz on Wednesday, Jan 13, 2010 at 6:47:13 PM
As I said there has never been a nonviolent front.... by arlen custer on Friday, Jan 15, 2010 at 4:09:44 PM
For one thing, we can become vegans to promote har... by Candy Layne on Wednesday, Jan 13, 2010 at 6:49:52 PM