3/02/2010

'I See You': Film Review of Avatar


'I see you.' (Na'vi blessing on Pandora )

Avatar is not just a film, but a new mythos. Avatar is an initiation into the mysteries of the Great Mother. Avatar is an invitation to hear ancestral voices, reconnect your cortex with a lost synapse to tribal awareness, root down in the mystical nexus of soul and matter that is the Earth.

Avatar must be experienced in Imax 3D to appreciate the full force of its eco-spirituality and scathing critique of the economics that destroy our planet.

Political Avatar
Avatar grinds out political overtones so blatant some might call them clunky. After a decade of Neoconservative propaganda, maybe Americans need a three-dimensional girder in the face to wake us up. Surprised more people aren't talking about the politics of Avatar, I'd predict an angry right-wing reaction to this film on Fox. Avatar explicitly indicts Bush foreign policy and his doctrine of preemptive war. Above all, Avatar is a judgment against corporate exploitation of our ecosystem.

The events on the planet Pandora, though fantastically magnified, reflect what happens in the rain forests of Africa and South America, where petroleum or mining corporations brutalize the Earth for profit. It's the story of our own national history, exploiting tribal lands for gold and oil. Avatar is happening today in Appalachia, where mountain-blasting union-busting coal companies exploit powerless white rural Americans.

The film focuses on private militias employed by corporations to conquer forest tribes. Again, this is hardly fiction. After re-locating the native populations, these corporate pirates clear-cut the trees to make room for oil rigs, lumber processing plants, and beef farms supplying cheap meat for MacDonald's. I have friends who have witnessed American special forces, with local government troops, attacking villagers in the rain forests of Equador for a multinational oil company. Avatar should also remind us of villages in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Avatar makes direct reference to our "carrot and stick" foreign policy. If Third World people cooperate with our corporate empire, allowing us to exploit natural resources and control native lands for regional hegemony, we pay them off handsomely. Thus we bribe the Suni Sheiks in Anbar Province, Iraq, and Pashtoon warlords in Afghanistan. But when tribal people resist us, we brutally crush them under our patriarchal boots of Earth-leveling technology, using mercenary armies like Blackwater Associates. Avatar recounts the story of such "civilian contractors" who conduct corporate genocide against native people on the forest planet Pandora, half a century from now. In the film, these brutal storm troopers serve the CEO of a mining corporation.

Spiritual Avatar
Yet deeper than Avatar's political allegory is its earth-centered spirituality. Planet Pandora represents the Earth's lost tribal consciousness. In Avatar, the tribe is the collective, planet-healing soul that we must regain. Western civilization needs to humble itself before tribal people, as students before teachers, rather than crushing them under our corporate machinery.

The Na'vi are the inhabitants of Pandora. The name has Biblical undertones. Navi means prophets in Hebrew. In Avatar, name of the Great Mother Eywa also has Biblical resonance. This mantric sound reverses the sound of Yahweh, male God of ancient Israel. The priestly scribes who wrote the Bible condemned agricultural, Earth-centered Goddesses of the ancient Near East, portraying them as whores and demons. The Bible's demonization of mother Goddesses justified the genocide that Hebrew armies carried out against the tribes of Canaan, or present day Palestine. These same scriptures proved useful to our own colonial settlers in justifying the extermination of native American tribes. In Deuteronomy chapter 20, Yahweh as military commander orders Joshua's army to invade Canaan and "slaughter everything that has breath."

Breath is the life-force of the Na'vi and their planet. Breathing is a spiritual sacrament in Na'vi culture, as indeed it is in the healing arts of most ancient tribes on Earth. In Avatar's most religious moments, the Na'vi gather cross-legged on the ground to practice collective breathing, which we would call pranayama, or kriya yoga. As the tribe breathes together, their collective consciousness roots down in the forest through bio-energetic cords of kundalini, accessing the wisdom of the ancestors and the cosmic life of nature. Their individual breaths are now synchronized in the Spirit-breath of the Great Mother, which they channel toward healing a wounded sister, initiating a neophyte into clan membership, or defeating the invaders. In many ancient cultures, incidentally, breath and Spirit are one and the same. Even in the Bible, the word for breath, "ruach," is the word for Spirit.

The American's who descend on Padora to rape its forests for profit are called "the sky people." Avatar dramatizes the ancient conflict between matriarchal cultures, who worship the Earth-Goddess, and patriarchies who serve the Sky God. In the coming age, we will synthesize the two into one, the dichotomy will become a marriage. Thus the promise of Avatar's hero, who begins as a wounded U.S. marine and ends as a tribal warrior of the Na'vi.

Avatar is more than entertainment. It is an awakening to biogenic spirituality, a spirit that takes responsibility for saving our planet while there is still time. Avatar chooses to inspire rather than to proselytize. It is a work of art, not a power-point lecture in green politics. We peel off those 3-D glasses and stumble out of the theater with a prayer on our lips, like St. Paul receiving the vision of Christ-Consciousness and then removing the scales from his eyes. But in Avatar, the Christ-Consciousness is feminine. The prayer on our lips undoes the damage of patriarchy.

Eywa, Great Mother, I see you. I see your bio-spiritual nerve roots glistening through reptilian stems of flowering cortex in Pandora's ancestral dream time. Do not take sides, All-Mother, but balance, balance our violent lives with beauty. Through the calling of your tender name, Eywa, make gentle the power of Yahweh, and heal our planet.

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