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Grames, I think we agree on the salient points of the Avatar discussion, but I would like to explore your argument on the subconscious more fully. I just don't think this is the thread for it. As soon as I get more time, I'll review what's been posted before, and address my questions there, or start a new thread if need be.

Thanks for the discussion.

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Setting aside the fact that Cameron himself is no defender of rights, the fact is that the Na'Vi were essentially a stone age, tribalist people. Such people by their very nature can have _no_ understanding of the concepts of rights or freedom. Those are political concepts, and primitive people haven't yet even discovered philosophy as a subject matter, let alone its most abstract branches.

Someone's understanding of the philosophical explanation of the concept of rights is irrelevant. Rights are based on the metaphysical requirements of survival for rational species. Rights then apply to all individuals of the class regardless of whether they understand them or not (children do not, for example).

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This is what Cameron wrote about his intent : (the movie) "asks us to open our eyes and truly see others, respecting them even though they are different, in the hope that we may find a way to prevent conflict and live more harmoniously on this world. "

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I was just about to write an original review of the movie - though I'm glad others have came to the same conclusions I did with Avatar. I guess I'll write one on "Blind Side". :)

I left Avatar with an even greater understanding of how emotions are logical and not persistent apparitions. While the person who took me raved about it, and must have felt plenty of emotion - I was sort of numb. I almost cracked up when I saw that the aliens interlinked their bodies with nature as to purport some kind of environmental mysticism that set the collectivist theme for the ending. Aside from what was naturally given to these aliens - they made absolutely no use of their minds to produce anything beyond the given. That would be the definition of hell for me - the definition of an animal life - where the environment is the given and you are an ableless creature at the mercy of nature. I saw movies like this as a kid - Pocha Hauntis (sp?) which when combined with a daily dose of religion at Catholic school and mystical parents who were products of the same teaching left me in my own little withdrawn world. The children that do not have the intellectual/philosophical fuel who feel deep emotions they do not understand and the tree hugging collectivists will not benefit from this movie.

Edited by MoralParadise
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It has been claimed here that Avatar is primarily about rights and the fight for freedom. I think that is an example of wishful thinking or projection.

Setting aside the fact that Cameron himself is no defender of rights, the fact is that the Na'Vi were essentially a stone age, tribalist people. Such people by their very nature can have _no_ understanding of the concepts of rights or freedom. Those are political concepts, and primitive people haven't yet even discovered philosophy as a subject matter, let alone its most abstract branches.

Additionally, there is a fundamental contradiction in that view. Tribalists are inherently collectivists, but rights are an individualist concept. For that reason, to claim that tribalists are defending their rights is to claim that the tribalists are individualists, which contradicts the premise that they are tribalists.

The focus is on Jake Scully individually doing the morally right thing. Setting up the situation politically is secondary.

Rights apply universally. One doesn't have to be fully versed in their theory to have them. Certainly the humans knew about rights and should have recognized they were in the wrong.

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Grames, I think we agree on the salient points of the Avatar discussion, but I would like to explore your argument on the subconscious more fully. I just don't think this is the thread for it. As soon as I get more time, I'll review what's been posted before, and address my questions there, or start a new thread if need be.

Thanks for the discussion.

Cool.

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This is what Cameron wrote about his intent : (the movie) "asks us to open our eyes and truly see others, respecting them even though they are different, in the hope that we may find a way to prevent conflict and live more harmoniously on this world. "

Apparently he doesn't always take his own advice and extend that respect to those different "redblooded redneck NRA supporters". That was his choice of description for "the bad guys" in this movie. (Link)

Whatever, the movie worked for me because my enjoyment doesn't hinge on whatever his flawed premises and philosophy may be. He gets to create the world, the story, and everything in between... but he doesn't get to tell me how to intellectually interpret it.

So I saw it twice! lol

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Instapundit links to Volokh who links to The Hindu of India, which has an english language story about the reaction to the movie Avatar in China.

BEIJING: The bull-dozers await at the gates. An evil corporation sends its guards, using every possible threat to move the residents from their land. But all resistance is futile. The people watch in horror, as their homes get torn down to rubble and they are forced to relocate.

This is a not-so-unfamiliar storyline in China where forced land acquisitions by influential real estate companies are rarely away from the headlines. Here, home demolitions are arguably the most controversial of social issues, and widely regarded as the biggest cause of social unrest.

This also happens to be the plotline of James Cameron’s epic blockbuster film ‘Avatar,’ which opened in China last week and has seemingly taken the country by storm.

Not to deny the Rousseau inspiration, but this cubic zirconium gem has multiple facets. Certainly Rousseau is not going to be the first, second or third thing that pops into the mind of any chinese movie goer, or even movie critic.

edit: add

And just to stir the pot further, I submit this remark from the Volokh.com comment thread:

The idea that a movie that condemns the use of force to take what isn’t yours is anti-capitalist is just weird, and says more about the people who would make this argument than the movie itself.
Edited by Grames
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A work of art represents what man thinks is important. Therefore, in its essentials lies the meaning of it. Avatar was essentially a lifeboat scenario. Remember, Ayn Rand did say that savages have no right to land that they do nothing with. Sure, Avatar does represent a man fighting for his values - but what exactly does he value? In this case he values anti man values. When I say man - I mean anti Na'vi values too - since every being with the potential to use their rational brain must use it to survive. So in this lifeboat scenario, the main character ends up using anti man values to survive. It didn't help that the humans wanted to utterly decimate the entire forest without studying it first and its people - therefore learning more about it. Obviously this would most likely happen if this lifeboat scenario were to ever happen in real life. The practicality of decimating an unknown alien race for their ore is almost zero.

Would you enjoy a sadist fighting for his values to be flagellated and sacrificed in the name of his own pleasure? It is perfectly fine to enjoy Avatar as a movie and relate to the main character - but if you are the intellectual type that cannot get past obvious collectivism, then the movie is not for you. I could not watch for example an Indian reenactment of the sort and side with the Indians and enjoy a movie that portrays them as victims - because my emotions do not randomly appear for no reason. My emotional response is a value response. You obviously found value in this movie - maybe for the pretty visuals or for some other inessential, unless you valued what was essential in the movie - and that was the triumph of anti man values. I cannot completely drop the context of a plot and call it a great work of art when the hero is clearly fighting for values diametrically opposed to man. To fight for something is not enough for me at least. Sure the aliens were innocent, but it is a collectivist notion to think that just because someone is born in some place means that they own that place for the rest of their lives.

I might add that the writer of Avatar sets up seemingly unresolvable inner conflicts with the main hero of the story - making it a man vs man movie, which is most sadistic. Someone posted this link a while back in this thread - http://www.cnn.com/2010/SHOWBIZ/Movies/01/...lues/index.html - it talks about viewers walking out of the show confused and depressed for no understandable reason. Art is not a mere bathroom function. A Jackson Pollock painting does portray what the artist values, however obscure or depraved that value might be. I don't know where your confusion lies Grames, or where you disagree - but if you'd like to discuss further I will.

Edited by MoralParadise
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A work of art represents what man thinks is important. Therefore, in its essentials lies the meaning of it. Avatar was essentially a lifeboat scenario. Remember, Ayn Rand did say that savages have no right to land that they do nothing with.

Ok, lets start with this. That gigantic tree was used as the home of a thousand or two natives, who had cared for it and bent it to their purposes over the course of many generations as if it were some kind of mega-scale bonsai. If you are going to call that doing nothing, I call bullshit.

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I must have seen a different movie. The Na'vi did not behave like 'savages' and as Grames notes, they clearly made use of the home tree. If there were a god I would thank him that we (humans) made it through our primitive times without some intellectually superior race coming along and determining for us that we had no property rights, or really, rights in general.

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If there were a god I would thank him that we (humans) made it through our primitive times without some intellectually superior race coming along and determining for us that we had no property rights, or really, rights in general.

Yet I have seen that very attitude projected toward Native Americans here on another thread. Curious, is it not?

Regardless of their superior technology, the humans had no legitimate right to come to someone else's planet and take their stuff, no matter what it is. This is called exploitation, and there really is no justification for it. Once someone says "No," taking what you want anyway because you have the perceived ability to do so is the initiation of force, and morally indefensible.

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Yet I have seen that very attitude projected toward Native Americans here on another thread. Curious, is it not?

Regardless of their superior technology, the humans had no legitimate right to come to someone else's planet and take their stuff, no matter what it is. This is called exploitation, and there really is no justification for it.

Ah, the age old argument of collective rights vs. individual rights. I'll go with the latter.

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Someone's understanding of the philosophical explanation of the concept of rights is irrelevant. Rights are based on the metaphysical requirements of survival for rational species. Rights then apply to all individuals of the class regardless of whether they understand them or not (children do not, for example).

How is that relevant? We're not talking about whether rights apply, we're talking about the motivation of the Na'Vi for fighting and the theme of the film.

How can one claim that the Na'Vi or any other primitive people are defending their rights when such people don't have even a rudimentary grasp of rights? To legitimately claim a person is motivated by X, doesn't X have to be present in that person's mind? I think it does, but X isn't present in this case. The concept of rights also is not present anywhere in the film. If it was even hinted at, it wasn't actually rights but "collective rights", which are not rights at all. And as I pointed out, tribalist cultures and rights are incompatible.

I think the most that one can say is that the Na'Vi were motivated by the tribalist view that the ground they walk on is "theirs", i.e., the tribe's. They viewed their land as a tribal possession, not as property (they didn't have the concept of property).

Given that motivation plus the portrayal of the Na'Vi as a spiritually/environmentally pure culture, the film was just another presentation of the myth of the noble savage, with a stronger than usual dose of praise for environmentalism and primitive cultures, and condemnation of technology and advanced cultures.

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I think the most that one can say is that the Na'Vi were motivated by the tribalist view that the ground they walk on is "theirs", i.e., the tribe's. They viewed their land as a tribal possession, not as property (they didn't have the concept of property).

Did you forget that they are BIOLOGICALLY connected to that land, the tree, etc. etc? That is why there is no corollary to, say, the native Americans.

In this film depiction, a barbaric technological species (played by humans) attack a newly discovered type of intelligent and rational beings (played by human in motion controlled suits and computer animators). That tree isn't property (Cameron didn't write it that way). The tree is written as biologically part of the Na'Vi. So, when your shooting a tree, you're shooting the people.

It is just wacky enough not to make sense or apply to anything in the (real) known universe. But if I ever meet a guy who is half man-half tree, well, I don't think I'm going to chop him down.

:D

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How can one claim that the Na'Vi or any other primitive people are defending their rights when such people don't have even a rudimentary grasp of rights?

The fact that they said "This is our home" indicated that they had AT LEAST a rudimentary understanding of rights AND property.

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In this film depiction, a barbaric technological species (played by humans) attack a newly discovered type of intelligent and rational beings (played by human in motion controlled suits and computer animators).

Barbaric indeed. I have to say, it sickens me that anybody on this forum would defend the actions of the humans in the context of this movie.

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Barbaric indeed. I have to say, it sickens me that anybody on this forum would defend the actions of the humans in the context of this movie.

I would rather we not get entangled with the particulars of the movie because it's not about those. It's a lifeboat situation.

The movie and Cameron try to subvert metaphysics by playing "if":

"Let's pretend there is a race of blue fungus-people symbiotically connected to this giant tree...[\I]

when that if is established, Cameron tries to make a case for collectivism, while making "individualists" seem monstruous in comparison by using the age-old trick of writing every character of that side with the approximate IQ of Micah. What seems to be escaping most here is that in order to make his impassionate point "work", Cameron had to create an actual USB collective mind (something that, to our knowledge, does not exist among rational creatures) while lobotomizing 99% of his human characters.

The issue is not that a certain form of collectivism is not unreasonable for the Na'vi since they're essentially biological flash drives, the issue is that Cameron is holding up the Na'vi as an example for humanity, which us ridiculous since 1) they are fictitious and 2) our biological natures are vastly different and therefore impossible to emulate. The sense of depression some people have experienced is precisely because they feel deep down in themselves that they have just been philosophically chastised for being human and requiring individuality to exist due to their nature as rational individuals. The whole angle of the movie is that to be human is bad and to reinforce it it presents the most poorly written cases of human stupidity ( who never would have survived their positions that long with their Modus Operandi) while the only truly sensible humans (Doctor Sigourney Weaver-- sorry, she's always Sigourney to me----- and the tough as nails female pilot) end up dying (I'm not counting the two Hollywood Sidekicks, since they were there mostly out of necessity). The protagonist in the end abandons his own humanity in order to be Na'vi (I.e. better than Human) his disability is merely the excuse that Cameron uses in he script to execute this conversion at the end of the movie and thus underline his statement.

Written as it is, Avatar is meant to be an attack on humanity, individualism and rational self interest.

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