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

I'm not sure if your intent was to change my mind on the section you quoted of mine, but it doesn't change my mind if that was your intent. In the movie, as presented, the humans in no way had any right to attack the Na'vi in order to mine the material under their home.

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So, if I have better technology, it okay to whip up on a people with lower technology and take their stuff if I want it?

It's not. You treat people in accordance with the way they treat you.

Clearly the humans were the bad guys in this film. The problem with the film was that it smeared humans as bad, or, more precisely, it smeared western, technological, capitalistic humans by using a hard left caricature not resembling the real world. It's a straw man that was created and then burned down.

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

It is a utopian scenario but it is NOT a life boat situation. Life boat scenario has a very specific formulation: It is when no moral option is available (which was not the set up in the movie). That is what makes it amoral and not the state of conflict or emergency itself.

Edited by ~Sophia~
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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?

The motivation of the Na'Vi for fighting was to keep their home. The concept of property is implicit in the idea of a home. No, it is not necessary to understand an abstraction such as political rights in order to exercise self defense. It is not necessary to understand property in order to possess something. Aside from cases of theft, it is the fact of possession demonstrated by use and investment of labor that establishes property in the first place.

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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.

:P

Rights begin with biological _disconnection_, so how does this fantasy about biological connection, well, err, connect?

Your use of the term "barbaric" supports my view.

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If I'm not mistaken, there were individual native Americans.

And the reason why those individuals didn't have individual rights was precisely their adherence to a collectivist social structure (the tribe). When a Native American failed to renounce that structure in favor of the more individualistic political system of the European colonizers, they became a threat to the individual rights of those who belonged to that system, because no free individual can live on the same land as a collectivist entity, and go undisturbed. The collectivist entity does not, by definition, recognize private property and individual rights.

Unless it is your position that the Europeans were in the wrong by their mere presence on the continent (which is the position of those who consider all of the US stolen land), there really is no rason to support the Indian tribes over the capitalist Europeans. The conflict was inevitable, and it was the fault of the collectivist entities who didn't recognize individual rights. If you can demonstrate that the whites were essentially collectivists too, I'd love to hear it, but as it stands, I don't think that's true.

Edited by Jake_Ellison
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And the reason why those individuals didn't have individual rights was precisely their adherence to a collectivist social structure ...

Recognizing rights and having rights are two different things. Mere belief is not capable of causing any Native Americans to lose recognition of their rights as humans, individuals would have to commit crimes or entire tribes go to war to cause that.

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I liked Avatar to the extent that I was able to mix suspension of disbelief with my own interpretation. I saw it as a film that looked back on history, specifically colonization an industrialization, and used sci fi concepts to create a scenario in which the mysticism of natives and the irrationality of environmentalists would actually (though inadvertently) apply. In this ironic context, the natives have developed their "home tree" into a functional center of civilization, primitive and collective as it may be. It can be considered their property, even though its outside appearance is still that of a tree. Not only that, but every living thing is interconnected, forming a database which can go so far as to store the minds of rational beings in a kind of afterlife. I'm waiting for them to come out with glasses which will put the villains into 3D along with the rest of the movie, but the point of their existence in contrast to the heroes is that one must always maintain an active mind and look beyond appearances when making decisions which could potentially violate peoples' rights. If this attitude was made explicit, with better plot/character developement, Avatar would be an excellent pro-reason, pro-life movie.

That said, I can't ignore that the tone of the film was anything but ironic. At some level Avatar is not intended as a differentiation between what does and does not violate rights, but is meant to be a blatant allegory claiming that what is happening or our world is identical to the events on Pandora. Viewers were intended, just for a fleeting moment, to see you and me and every supporter of capitalism and individual rights in the cockpits of those hellicopters going up in flames to the sounds of cheers. We don't have another world to go back to, so I wonder what the proposed solution would be?

Luckily, most people aren't ready for such a message, including the creators of the film. The way the whole thing was crafted is harmlessly ambiguous, divided between the latter message, which is at its core, and the former, which most viewers will walk away with by thier own choice. It will be a while yet before hollywood writers get creative enough to make a pure propaganda film that actually sells, so they will continue to be diluted with enough meaningful and enjoyable elements to keep me in the theater. Like many of you have already implied, the fact that Avatar was created via a big budget technological achievement means that nobody takes it too seriously, or sadly, that nobody has the philosophical foundations to know what to think one way or another.

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Recognizing rights and having rights are two different things.

Instead of "don't have rights", I should've been explicit and said "don't have freedom to exercise their rights". That is what I meant, it's a shame that you seem to think I don't believe that the principle of individual rights applies to Native Americans.

Mere belief is not capable of causing any Native Americans to lose recognition of their rights as humans

Mere belief doesn't cause that, belonging to a tribe does. Someone who is in a tribe is not in a state of freedom: he exists for the collective, and unless he is a master himself, he is a serf to his masters. Someone who is outside of a tribe, but in its reach, is in an even worse position, since he is bound to become the victim of the tribe.

A tribe is then inherently evil. Are you saying that I'm mistaken about what a tribe is, or that the Indians weren't organized in tribes?

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That is what I meant, it's a shame that you seem to think I don't believe that the principle of individual rights applies to Native Americans.

I think that comes into play because of the argument you are making. You argument appears to state that an individual native american does not have the right to choose a tribe structure as a form of government or as a form of cooperative living. If they do, they have no rights, either individually or collectively, to the land that they are using to support their lives.

So if you went to California today (or any state really), and found a plot of land occupied by a commune of people who all agree to live as a collective on that land, which they all voluntarily agree to share ownership, would you be morally justified to go and do something on that land against their wishes? Note I said morally, not legally.

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I think that comes into play because of the argument you are making. You argument appears to state that an individual native american does not have the right to choose a tribe structure as a form of government or as a form of cooperative living. If they do, they have no rights, either individually or collectively, to the land that they are using to support their lives.

That is what I'm saying, but that's because of the way I am defining the concept tribe. A tribe is not an economic structure that is held together by the voluntary adherence of its members, and by the enforcement of their contract by an objective third party, called the government. A tribe is a collectivist structure which is held together by the methods of tyrants, and which asserts its dominance over its members (who are born into it) and a geographical area (as opposed to a piece of property) through initiation of force.

So if you went to California today (or any state really), and found a plot of land occupied by a commune of people who all agree to live as a collective on that land, which they all voluntarily agree to share ownership, would you be morally justified to go and do something on that land against their wishes? Note I said morally, not legally.

If I went to California, and settled next to this (fictional) commune, I could reasonably expect my house and land to be left alone, just as I would leave them to do as they please on their land. It is absurd to say that the same could be said about settling next to an Indian tribe, which gained and lost its territory not through commerce, but through war, for centuries.

It would be morally justified to do what it takes to be able to build a house, work the land, and raise a family (which was what European colonists usually set out to do, when they headed for the New World). It would've been quite irrational to expect to do that next to an Apache tribe which made a habit out of scalping white people, but it's perfectly reasonable to expect to be able to do it next to your commune. Now, it is another question altogether to establish which entity is the norm: the tribe/gang, or your peaceful commune. I haven't seen Avatar, but I've read the summaries, and I find it hard to believe that the kind of creature a man can fall in love with would be able to exist "as one", in perfect harmony with her collective, let alone that a man who is "heroic" could possibly fit in with said collective. There is an inherent contradiction there. Rational creatures seek independence, because that's the only way Reason works.

Edited by Jake_Ellison
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Instead of "don't have rights", I should've been explicit and said "don't have freedom to exercise their rights". That is what I meant, it's a shame that you seem to think I don't believe that the principle of individual rights applies to Native Americans.

Mere belief doesn't cause that, belonging to a tribe does. Someone who is in a tribe is not in a state of freedom: he exists for the collective, and unless he is a master himself, he is a serf to his masters. Someone who is outside of a tribe, but in its reach, is in an even worse position, since he is bound to become the victim of the tribe.

A tribe is then inherently evil. Are you saying that I'm mistaken about what a tribe is, or that the Indians weren't organized in tribes?

I say you are attributing to tribes a power to change reality, a power they cannot possibly possess.

The case for rights is founded upon a set of facts about all humans which is referred to as the "metaphysical nature of man". No particular person's living arrangements can negate his humanity, his metaphysical nature. This is a universal claim, it applies to all men because they are men and even a primitive man belonging to a tribe is still a man. And because he is a man, he ought to be regarded as a potential value and treated as rights bearing individual until he acts contrary to that premise and demonstrates it would be objectively unjust to continue to treat him that way.

It is even an exaggeration bordering on intrincism to claim tribes are inherently evil. They are inherently limiting, they are a poor choice compared to the alternative of civilization. Deliberately choosing tribal life in the face of the real possibility of being civilized would be evil. The vast majority of people born into tribal societies in the past did not ever have such a choice available to them, and they were not evil simply for having been born into certain circumstances.

And to bring this digression back toward the movie Avatar, consider the question of Jake Sully's decision. Did he not choose the tribe over civilization, and shouldn't I be condemning him as evil by my own words? But our director/writer has in this case already equated civilization as just another tribe, remember the "jarhead clan" remark? And despite all the science and technology what makes a civilization civilized, its ethics and standards of conduct, is distinctly lacking here. The humans are acting as just another tribe whose members must serve their masters. The Na'Vi have a certain crude honor which is almost entirely absent among the humans, so the Na'Vi are the better choice. Sully's decision is correct in the impossible situation he has been put in.

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That is what I'm saying, but that's because of the way I am defining the concept tribe.

Well, I won't argue against a person who defines their way to victory.

I haven't seen Avatar,

Okay, I'll listen to your arguments about the movie or it's characters after you have. Until then, I will not entertain any second-handed opinions you want to represent.

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Well, I won't argue against a person who defines their way to victory.

The terms we use need to be defined some way. We might as well define them in a way that is consistent with their use in Objectivism.

Tribalism is a dominant element in Europe, as a reciprocally reinforcing cause and result of Europe’s long history of caste systems, of national and local (provincial) chauvinism, of rule by brute force and endless, bloody wars.

Philosophically, tribalism is the product of irrationalism and collectivism.

If men accept the notion that the individual is helpless, intellectually and morally, that he has no mind and no rights, that he is nothing, but the group is all, and his only moral significance lies in selfless service to the group—they will be pulled obediently to join a group.

It is obvious why the morality of altruism is a tribal phenomenon. Prehistorical men were physically unable to survive without clinging to a tribe for leadership and protection against other tribes.

Besides, I specifically raised the question of what a tribe is, and no one bothered to define it differently. You don't have to agree with my definition, but you need to define it some way, if you want to use it. You can't just say the Indian tribes were like the fictional Californian commune you cited in your previous post. They weren't like it.

Edited by Jake_Ellison
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I expressed no such opinions.

So this isn't your opinion?

...and I find it hard to believe that the kind of creature a man can fall in love with would be able to exist "as one", in perfect harmony with her collective, let alone that a man who is "heroic" could possibly fit in with said collective. There is an inherent contradiction there. Rational creatures seek independence, because that's the only way Reason works.
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Btw, I've been told that many of the scenes in Avatar were inspired by the artist Roger Dean, who did album covers for the English rock band Yes. I have had a book full of his art work since I was a kid, and there is no mistaking the similarities, e.g. the floating mountains, the imaginative animals, etc.

Here is a link to his website: http://www.rogerdean.com/

Here is a good example of his work:

51EHzYGhx-L.jpg

From the stand point of the art and scenery, this movie was great fun.

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In the movie, as presented, the humans were barely human in any way. You are focusing on the fact that almost-neanderthals with high technology attacked primitives with low technology instead of focusing on the fact that the whole movie is a farce meant to paint humanity in the most negative light possible and the aliens (the non-human) as the more evolved lifeform. Sure, they had no right to attack- but also no company that was run the way it was run would have survived long enough to make it to Pandora in the first place, it would have fallen apart at the seams.

I'm not sure if your intent was to change my mind on the section you quoted of mine, but it doesn't change my mind if that was your intent. In the movie, as presented, the humans in no way had any right to attack the Na'vi in order to mine the material under their home.
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... the fact that the whole movie is a farce meant to paint humanity in the most negative light possible and the aliens (the non-human) as the more evolved lifeform.

Actually, I don't recognize that as fact, I recognize that as your opinion of the focus of the movie. The humans in the movie represented too small of a subset to say how all humans were being cast, and a few of the humans were portrayed in a very favorable light. You may be correct, but as with many other aspects of the movie, it fails to create a clear context sufficiently parallel to our own to be compared to any real life situation. Having identified that, yes, I did focus on what the movie ACTUALLY portrayed, and not what it may have been intended to portray.

Regardless of all that, I'm glad we are in agreement that as presented in the movie, the humans were not justified in attacking the Na'vi.

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"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."

This misses one important thing: The film portrayed the nasty behavior of the "capitalists" as the essence of capitalism. Polluting the environment, driving primitive people off their land, using force to take what is wanted, crass indifference to life, spiritual emptiness, etc. were all presented (by virtue of showing no contrast) as simply the way an advanced, capitalist culture is by its nature.

That's why the film is anti-capitalist. The film doesn't condemn the use of force - it condemns modern, advanced, capitalist cultures as evil because such force is (allegedly) inherent in them.

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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.

B)

If anything, their biological connection makes the analogy to the American Indian even more apt, because it brings them closer to the status of ordinary animal life. Such a connection is irrelevant to rights anyway - it is the possession of a rational faculty that confers rights, not biological connections to nature.

You put your finger directly on the reason why this film is so corrupt: that barbaric technological species is _us_, which is precisely what that film is trying to say.

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

That is exactly what any primitive culture possessing language would say ... and it isn't enough to show they had a rudimentary grasp of rights or property. They were tribalists, and "This is our home" is a collectivist notion, not an individualist one. The Na'Vi were defending their tribalist territory, not their rights.

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That is exactly what any primitive culture possessing language would say ... and it isn't enough to show they had a rudimentary grasp of rights or property. They were tribalists, and "This is our home" is a collectivist notion, not an individualist one. The Na'Vi were defending their tribalist territory, not their rights.

Sorry, but I disagree. It is enough.

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The Nav'i are aliens, so the issue of collective versus individual may be harder to judge. But, let's assume they are identical to humans in terms of how they survive.

If they are identical to humans, how they treat each other would be an indication of how much respect they are worthy of rights wise, not to mention how they treat outsiders. If they enslave each other and force each other to engage in tribalistic rituals, then the society is primitive and not worthy of a great deal of respect. Now, the way they were portrayed in the movie everything looked idyllic, so it's really hard to make a sound judgment based on such fiction. It's a fantasy land with fantasy characters behaving as the director wished.

Edited by Thales
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