Thursday, January 14, 2010

Evo Morales on Avatar

It turns out that Bolivian president Evo Morales loves Avatar.

A self-proclaimed socialist, Evo Morales says he identifies with the film's "profound show of resistance to capitalism and the struggle for the defense of nature."

Well, I think Avatar is a stereotyping piece of shit of a movie, despite its excellent visuals. However, Morales' praise is worth a brief discussion on two points.

First, Morales clearly watched the evil Americans invading the indigenous homeland to supply their insatiable resource hunger and sees it as a metaphor for his own nation. And in a broad, cheap, and poorly thought out way, it is an anti-capitalist and anti-imperialism film, even if it reinforces imperialism by needing a white guy to save the natives.

This all gets more interesting now that James Cameron has to defend himself against charges of anti-Americanism. I guess for some people, resource exploitation and wars against indigenous people are what America should stand for and portraying the story from an indigenous perspective is unpatriotic.

In related news, Jonah Goldberg is upset because the movie wasn't about the blue people accepting Jesus Christ into their hearts.

Which reminds me, isn't Goldberg Jewish?

The Morales praise also reinforces ideas of the Ecological Indian. The Ecological Indian is the construct of the native person who lives in harmony with nature, never wasting resources, never destroying ecosystems, never harming the earth. Ever since the 1960s (though with roots in the Enlightenment) this idea has come to dominate much white thought on Native Americas. The Crying Indian ad is the most prominent cultural example, though films like Dances with Wolves and Avatar certainly reinforce this myth.

Native Americans themselves have taken advantage of these ideas to gain white support for indigenous rights. And good for them. That's basically what Morales is doing here. By identifying with the blue people and against the rapacious American corporation/military-industrial complex, he is speaking words progressives like to hear.

Of course, those words are mostly false; indigenous people can be just as damaging to the land as anyone else and to say they can't takes away human agency and turns them into stereotype. Still, if Morales wants to attract left-leaning international support to his cause against racist elites in his own country and multinational corporations who want to steal Bolivia's resources, who am I to complain?