Just a week or so ago, our professor in our INTFILO class showed us the 2009 James Cameron film “Avatar”. I never really had watched that film before so I was pretty excited to finally be able to watch it and it certainly did not disappoint. Just the visuals would have you watching it until the end and leaving you no doubt as to why the film was really popular back when it was released. This journal however is not for a review of the technicals of the film, the questions it raised is what is worth noting about.
In the film, Earth’s resources had been severely depleted and one alternative resource they found was unobtanium, a valuable mineral, found on the moon called Pandora. There are however natives called Na’vis residing there but the humans in the film have tried co-existing with them. They used “avatars”, a kind of “suit” used to pose as a Na’vi and further explore Pandora. The main protagonist, Jake Sully, was found as a replacement for his dead twin brother who was supposed to have an avatar and be one of the teams who’d explore Pandora. Avatars are specially made for a specific person but since their genetic makeup is most likely to be similar, he could use it. As they were exploring Pandora, Jake was abducted by the natives and was brought into the society. Colonel Quaritch, the head of their military force, after knowing what happened to Jake, promises to restore his leg (he’s paraplegic) if he could negotiate with the natives to move out of their place for their main gathering place, Hometree, is one of the richest deposits of unobtanium and if he fails, they would make the natives to move out by force and destroy Hometree.
What bothered me is that when Jake did fail to negotiate with the natives to move out, they really did destroy Hometree despite it being an important place for the Na’vis, also killing some of them along the way. They didn’t even have a chance to defend theirselves since the humans used high-tech machinery while their weapons are only arrows. The things those capitalism-driven humans did just to feed their greed is just horrible. What if the tables have turned and they were the ones who would destroy our homes just for whatever is their counterpart for money is, would that be the time when we would realize this?
This very film could actually be quite a metaphor for how people could exploit and/or destroy lives of other people and even whole countries just to gain profit. All of those who have the upper hand, the power, the money, the weapons, would almost always win. “Survival of the fittest” as they say, but where would this concept draw the line?
Social Darwinism, according to britannica.com, is a theory stating that people, groups, and politics are also subject to the concept of natural selection, wherein “the weak were diminished and their cultures delimited, while the strong grew in power and in cultural influence over the weak”. This was popular back in the late 19th century and the 20th century, people using it to justify ideas of racism, imperialism, fascism, etc. Although traces and hints of this theory is still found in today’s society, because of advances in anthropology this idea is now largely discredited.
Though not explicitly answered, I do believe that this concept of social darwinism draws the line when what they are fighting for is unjustified just like how they destroyed Hometree just to get the deposits of unobtanium. Their greed is the only thing they’ve been fighting for and it is just horrible to think about.
Another thing is that Colonel Quaritch questioned Jake when he tried saving the Na’vis, asking him what side is he on, if he forgot who he truly is and that he is fighting against his own race. But what really does it mean to be truly human? Just by fighting alongside with your race going against your own judgement just because of “what you are” or is it
something else? Is being human more than just empathy toward others too?
When you’ve done something good, going for the welfare of others, acting on compassion and empathy, you’ve demonstrated an act of humanity but if you’ve done something wrong, being human is a common excuse used. How could these differ so much? It is true though that these two words are used in different contexts in the example but how can being “human” is both used as a virtue and vice?
Perhaps humanity in general is too broad a concept to talk about. Basically, we all just act on what our instincts tell us and what our nature leads us to. The true definition of the form had been debated over way way back by the time of Socrates, giving his own definition through what is considered a teleological approach and so much other philosophers. There may be no true definition now and whether there would be a true definition or not, what is important is that we all act according to the best judgement we could muster as humanly possible and if ever that judgement fails, just try to do our best to fix whatever is broken and face the consequences. After all, we’re all just human.
(Images are all from Google Images)