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February 6, 2010

The incongruity of 'Avatar'

As curtains rolled down and credits rolled up , cinema-goers world over applauded the triumph of an ancient civilization (Na'vi people of Pandora) over its more technologically advanced, commercially savvy adversary (Sky people from Planet Earth). It was a conquest of righteousness, simplicity, harmony with nature over infinite greed and uncontrolled lust for wealth without any conscience. The movie is set in year- 2154

Peru, 1528 AD - Incas have build one of the largest empires ever known to mankind,stretching from the present day Columbia in the north to Chile in the south. Largely peaceful by the standards of that era, Incas are industrious, peace loving, economically successful society. They do not practice human sacrifice or any such savage acts ,which are attributed to tribes in the North (Especially Aztecs in present day Mexico). Incas build highways, cities all across their vast empire. Machu Picchu is by far the best preserved of their ancient cities.

There is a striking parallel history has to offer, albeit between fact & fiction - In 1532 (2154), Francisco Pizarro, a Spanish Conquistador (RDA Executives )- arrives in Peru (Pandora) with a royal approval to conquer the Inca civilization (Na'vi species). The objective - loot all the Gold
.(RDA Corps charter to mine Pandora for unobtainium). Underline the word 'all' for the Spaniards can get plenty of gold without having to necessarily destroy the Incas ( RDA is already mining unobtainium , but they want all of it) Greed has no full stop.

At about the same time in the Southeastern United States, near Jamestown in present day Virginia there was an Indian tribe by the name – Powhatan. Its here that we also located the real version of Neytiri (Pocahantas who like the movie, saves a British Officer from being killed ) Inspite of all the friendly gestures of Powhatan confederacy, they cannot contain the insatiable appetite for land of the settlers.

Returning to Peru, though far larger in strength,Incas (Na'vis) are no match for the Spanish technological superiority and cunning. And the Spanish knew it. Canons,guns, swords and horses (Most advanced weaponry) easily overcome any opposition offered by arrows and primitive spears of Incas. This is where the fiction (avatar) makes a departure from facts. In 40 short years Inca civilization is decimated by diseases brought by the contact with the Europeans, warfare and total collapse of their way of life. ( a la 'tree of souls').

Such exploitation & destruction of the indigenous people was not restricted to the new world, in India too, Adivasis (Original inhabitants or dwellers) suffered the same fate as the more organized Aryan or Dravidian communities expanded thus pushing the tribal's into remote areas, likewise in Africa it was the Bushmen & Pygmies.

And this by no means is an exception, as a matter of fact over the last two millenia not even on an exception basis did a older civilization survive the expansion of more technologically advanced, intelligent rivals. Whether that can be attributed to 'survival of the fittest' or 'natural selection', the arguments need more examination.

So when we cheer the victory of the Na'vi people, I find that rather absurd ,considering that had that happened in reality here, in most likelihood the world would have been a different place. Think about all those indigenous tribes living deep within Amazon rainforest or on the Andaman & Nicobar islands, without any contact with the outside world their life has hardly changed in thousands of years, not an exciting prospect by any measure though.

We in reality are the Sky people having plundered to ruin, many a civilizations to put the 'way of life' as we know it today into dominance. I am not too sure if everyone had realized it, we would have cheered as much at the end of the movie for Na'vis. There in lies the incongruity of 'Avatar'

Though it is almost certain that some time in the future once we have sufficiently destroyed our planet it will dawn upon us that our ' way of life' is not-sustainable and we might return to our roots - living in harmony with nature the Na'vis. Hope that happens before its too late !!!

To end with a quote from Gandhi “ World has enough for everyone's need but not enough for everyone's greed” I guess Na'vis on Pandora had already realized it. But till the time Sky people on Earth dont get it, its unlikely that Na'vis would ever win in reality.

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