Avatar Illustrates the Two Paradigms in Conflict
Wilderness, as a counter story to Civilization, is the high drama of the movie Avatar. Their economies clash. The plot of “Avatar” shows the dramatic struggle happening today between the two stories.
In the movie, as in real-life today, those who have been shaped by the story of civilization regard their story as the ONLY way; it’s a kind of fundamentalism. They feel sure they are moving past all other economic models. If any counterplot gets in the way, it will be destroyed. Those shaped by the story of one-Earth, no matter how aligned with nature they are, are an inconvenience, an irrelevant obstacle to civilization’s “progress.”
Viewers of Avatar recognize it as a mythological version of what is unfolding live on our planet, Earth, in real time. Human civilization has become so separated, so alienated from the realities of evolutionary Creation that it regards wilderness as nothing more than a source for materials that have commodity value in the progress of civilization. People whose worldview is shaped by Creation are regarded as primitive, an inferior nuisance to be destroyed along with the trees, animals, and streams that stand in their way.
But the wilderness of planet Pandora (and Earth) has a wildness, an unpredictability, a connection with deep, nature mystery. Its people do not cave. They do not submit. They resist with the full mythic capacities of the wild. The precious element “unobtanium” remains unobtainable. Avatar reaffirms a profound mythic hope and truth, namely, the Earth story of evolutionary Creation will continue beyond the Civilization Story.
Avatar contrasts the power of consciousness shaped by these radically different stories. Its characters speak of SEEING as critical for transformation. Conversion to the one-Earth story rooted in Creation happens when a character who has been captive within the Civilization Story SEES a character who lives within the one-Earth Story. The poignant, simple words, “I see you” are the words that testify to the moment of paradigm shift. The blindness by which they’d been living was a result of having been captured by civilization. When that blindness is healed, opened eyes SEE the greater wisdom on one-Earth living. It’s a coming home to being who we are created to be.
Contrary to our prevailing paradigms, which assume that indigenous peoples throughout the world wish to participate in our economy, many Indians do not see us as the survivors in a Darwinian scenario. They see themselves as eventual survivors, while we represent a people who has badly misunderstood the way things are on the earth. They do not wish to join the technological experiment. They do not wish to engage in the industrial mode of production. They do not want a piece of the action. They see our way as a striving for death. They want to be left out of the process. If we are going over the brink, they do not wish to join us.
Throughout the world, whether they live in deserts or jungle or the far north, or in the United States, millions of native people share the perception that they are resisting a single, multi-armed enemy: a society whose basic assumptions, whose way of mind, and whose manner of political and economic organization permit it to ravage the planet without discomfort, and to drive natives off their ancestral lands. That this juggernaut will eventually consume itself is not doubted by these people. They meet and discuss it. They attempt to strategize about it. Their goal is to stay out of its way and survive it.
—Jerry Mander, In the Absence of the Sacred: The Failure of Technology and the Survival of Indian Nations, p 220-221.