Avatar: Why do Pandorans get to be Traditionalists?
The blockbuster film Avatar has just been released. It’s about a group of humans who wish to mine the resources of the planet Pandora. The humans are portrayed as white, industrial society imperialists and the Pandorans as pre-industrial, close to nature indigenes. One of the whites is rescued by a Pandoran woman, taken up by the tribe and learns to love their traditional ways. He becomes the hero of the film by turning against his own race and leading the fight of the natives to preserve their existence.
The blogger Fjordman is not impressed:
Avatar has to be one of the most anti-Western and especially anti-white Hollywood movies I have seen in a long time.
The hero is the U.S. Marine Jake Sully who has been sent to the planet-like moon Pandora because humans desire the mineral resources found of Pandora, which is inhabited by a race of tall, blue-skinned aliens, the Na’vi. They have a non-industrial civilization technologically inferior to ours but apparently spiritually richer and in perfect ecological harmony with the natural environment. The hero predictably falls in love with the native culture and connects with a native girl …
Basically, the white characters are portrayed as brutal, greedy and insensitive beasts who rape the environment and destroy other cultures with a smile in the search for profit. The main antagonist is the white Colonel Quaritch, a brute who hardly possesses a single positive character trait. The final climax of the movie is when he screams “How does it feel to betray your race?” to the protagonist while he is trying to murder him.
Although a few of the white characters such as Jake Sully are portrayed in a more redeeming light this is only because they totally reject their own civilization and join the other team in the fight. In other words: the only good whites are the ones who utterly turn their backs on their own destructive and evil culture. As reviewer Armond White put it, “Avatar is the corniest movie ever made about the white man’s need to lose his identity and assuage racial, political, sexual and historical guilt.”
Fjordman isn’t alone in taking the film this way. Another reviewer writes:
Avatar is just the latest scifi rehash of an old white guilt fantasy . . . it’s undeniable that the film … is emphatically a fantasy about race. Specifically, it’s a fantasy about race told from the point of view of white people. Avatar and scifi films like it give us the opportunity to answer the question: What do white people fantasize about when they fantasize about racial identity?
If we think of Avatar and its ilk as white fantasies about race, what kinds of patterns do we see emerging in these fantasies?
In both Avatar and District 9, humans are the cause of alien oppression and distress. Then, a white man who was one of the oppressors switches sides at the last minute, assimilating into the alien culture and becoming its savior . . .
These are movies about white guilt. Our main white characters realize that they are complicit in a system which is destroying aliens, AKA people of color — their cultures, their habitats, and their populations. The whites realize this when they begin to assimilate into the “alien” cultures and see things from a new perspective. To purge their overwhelming sense of guilt, they switch sides, become “race traitors,” and fight against their old comrades. But then they go beyond assimilation and become leaders of the people they once oppressed. This is the essence of the white guilt fantasy, laid bare . . .
There are two things that have to be explained about all this. The first is why white liberals would fantasise about being traitors to their own race. The second is why liberal moderns, who think of themselves as progressives, would support the traditionalism of non-white societies.
It can seem very confusing. In the film the native Pandorans are portrayed in the most positive terms for having “a direct line to their ancestors.” You would think, then, that the whites in the film would be encouraged to have a strong sense of ancestry and ancestral loyalty. But they don’t. Quite the opposite — their path to redemption is to become race traitors.
So why do liberal moderns have a fantasy of fighting against their own race? I put forward part of an explanation just a few weeks ago. I’d noticed that Australian men were being told that domestic violence was a product of a patriarchal male culture. In other words, men committed violence against women in order to perpetuate their own unjust privilege in society.
I cautioned men against accepting this idea because of what it logically entailed. Once a man accepts that masculinity and masculine culture are an oppressive source of privilege and injustice, then he loses moral status and authority in society. This in itself is bad enough, but worse follows. What the domestic violence campaigners then tell men is that they can redeem themselves, and restore their moral status and authority, by breaking ranks with other men and acting against the masculine culture. They are redeemed, not only by forfeiting their own masculine self-identity, but by identifying in opposition to the masculine in society.
And a similar logic applies when it comes to race. Once a white person accepts the idea that whites are privileged at the expense of the non-white other, then there is a loss which will be hard for the most conscientious and politically aware to bear. Such people will want to speak with moral authority in society, but how can they as white oppressors? The path to redemption is, again, to break ranks and to identify with the non-white other in opposition to other unenlightened whites.
This helps to explain why some liberal whites are so obsessed with an anti-white/pro-other agenda. It comes to express their self-concept and identity. It lies at the heart of how they see themselves and the ground on which they stand.
But why do white liberals praise what is traditional and non-liberal in native societies? Why are the Pandorans allowed to express a connection to ancestry and to defend their own culture but not whites?
If I understand Lawrence Auster correctly, a possible answer is as follows. There are white liberals, white non-liberals and non-white non-liberals. All three are necessary for the liberal script to play out in society. White liberals see themselves as morally virtuous because, in contrast to white non-liberals, they are open and accepting of the non-white other. But this then requires the non-whites to remain something “other” to the white liberal. What could be more “other” to the white liberal than non-white traditionalists?
In other words, the white liberal is practising his “virtue” by identifying with non-Western traditionalists. He is being a liberal in the very act of romanticising what is traditional and non-liberal.
Here’s something else to consider. Liberals want equality and yet there appears to be inequality of power and wealth between different races and cultures. How can this be explained?
There are left liberals who believe that such inequality came about when one group of people, “whites,” invented race and racism as an excuse to dominate and exploit other groups of people. Therefore whites are exceptional — exceptionally bad, that is. All that’s necessary to restore equality is to attack white privilege and power.
If you believe this, then you’ll get upset with any expression of white group identity. Even the most harmless expressions of such identity will be condemned as an attempt to defend “supremacy.” But the identity of other groups won’t matter so much, since they aren’t seen as being tied to power, privilege and inequality. In fact, they might even be tied to resistance to whites and therefore be seen as progressive.
This is another reason for whites being treated differently to others and not being allowed to express a communal identity, whilst the identity of other groups gets a free pass.
Or there’s the issue of dissent. There are left-liberals who see themselves as dissenters to the establishment (even though they are themselves a significant part of the establishment). But how do you demonstrate your dissent? If you think the establishment is a conservative bulwark against reform, then you can express your dissent in a predictable way — by advocating for progressive reform.
But what if you see the establishment as a soulless, materialistic, powerful Western industrial complex squashing the small, indigenous tribes in its path? Then perhaps you will express your dissent by identifying against the Western power complex in favour of the disappearing underdog tribes with their ancient wisdoms.
You might even then have a politically legitimate way to identify with things that you really do feel are lacking in more atomised modern liberal societies. You might even sound at times like a bit of a traditionalist — just not for the mainstream Western culture which retains its negative status as powerfully oppressive and destructive.
From Oz Conservative, December 21, 2009