Most conservatives seem displeased with AVATAR for its ‘anti-white’ and ‘anti-American’ message while a few alternative right types have defended it as an allegory of a people’s right to survive. Is the movie leftist or rightist? Can it be both?
Ideologies are funny. They are like two snakes swallowing each other by the tail. History may be serpentilical than dialectical. Leftism swallows and digests rightism but is then swallowed and digested by rightism which is then swallowed by leftism and so on. And, no ideology demonstrated this as well as fascism, a strange blend of the right and left, the traditional and the modern, the reactionary and the revolutionary. And, Avatar may indeed be fascist above all else. Keep in mind that fascism doesn’t have to be white nor Western. Though fascism is particularist, it can be adopted and used by any race, nation, or people. Some forms of fascism are more left-leaning while others are more right-leaning. Some tend to focus on nature while others on civilization.
Consider the rise of National Socialism in Germany. Though many people associate Nazism mainly with airplanes, tanks, monumentalism, and gas chambers, there was a Nature aspect to Nazism.
Though steeped in the Wagnerian operas based on Germanic myths, Hitler cared less for the cult of Nature Tribes than people like Himmler did. Hitler’s paganism was more along the lines of the Classical ideal which emphasized Man & Civilization over Nature & Tribalism. Hitler was also more an ‘Aryanist’ than a Germanist. But, Himmler was an oddball pagan Teutonist and not alone. He had a serious interest in the cultures and beliefs of the ancient pagan Germanic tribes. He romanticized the Germanic barbarian peoples and their connection to sacred nature. Himmler’s fascination with Japan may partly have owed to Shintoism being a form of Nature Worship. Both pagan Germanic peoples and traditional Japan had an animistic view of reality which believed that everything–rocks, streams, trees, animals, etc–was alive with spirit. The world was brimming with a million gods; everything was sacred and beautiful.
Buddhism arrived in Japan but coexisted with than wiped out the indigenous culture. But in Europe, the spread of Christianity led to massive cultocide–‘cultural genocide’–of the indigenous beliefs, customs, and rituals.
One can make a moral and civilizational case for Christianity in the progress of Europe, but neo-paganists in the 19th and 20th centuries charged the intolerant slave-religion of Christianity of having robbed European Man of something vital, virile, and sacred.
Of course, Classical pagan culture had managed to survive and triumph since the Renaissance, when Greco-Roman styles were re-employed to pay homage to Biblical figures and themes or even to the pagan heroes and deities.
There were two kinds of paganism in Europe. High or civilized paganism of the Greco-Roman world and the low or the barbaric/nature paganism of the Germanic peoples and other Northern Europeans. If Hitler favored high paganism, there were others like Himmler who had a thing for barbarian paganism. In a way, Nazism was an attempt to forge the two together to create an invincible and eternal neo-paganism, one that defied the usual cycles of rise and fall in nature and human history. In the art of Japanese sword making, hard(sharp yet brittle)metal is inter-layered with tough(flexible)metal. This way, the sword becomes both sharp and durable. Hitler and Himmler thought they understood the advantages and disadvantages of both forms of paganism. High paganism can produce a great and mighty civilization but then leads to rigid hierarchy, decadence, elitism, abstraction, and/or corruption. It declines either through dissipation stemming from corrupt elites and lazy masses(what eventually happened to the Roman Empire and what is happening to the West today) OR through dogmatism and stasis(as what happened to the Ottoman Empire or the Soviet Union).
a profound spiritual, political, or Low or barbaric/nature paganism, unlike high paganism, is always virile, organic, and pumping with raw blood. But as it lacks higher spiritual or philosophical concepts, it won’t amount to anything more than tribal head-bashng, raping and looting. (Barbarian dominated empires don’t last long as they are held together by brute force than by ideas or values..) So, the Nazis thought they could create a new kind of pagan civilization combining the profundity & complexity of high civilized paganism with the virility & vitality of low barbaric paganism. (A variation of this can be found in the neo-fascist novel WOLF TOTEM (http://www.cbc.ca/arts/books/wolftotem.html) in which the Chinese author idealizes the robustness and ferocity of the Mongol tribesmen and argues the Chinese need to be infused with such vitality. It is a reworking of themes once a hallmark of thinkers like Carl Jung in the first half of the20th century. Lu Jiamin is arguing that the Chinese have become too tame and conformist under the pressure of high civilization. Like Avatar, Wolf Totem has elements of leftism and rightism. It’s leftist in championing the ‘little guy’, the nomadic/primitive minorities ‘marginalized’ or ‘oppressed’ by the powerful majority. But, it is also pagan-rightist, or proto-fascist, in admiring the pagan warrior virtues and in embracing Natural Hierarchy.) For this reason, accusations of gangsterism weren’t necessarily insulting to the Nazis.
Nazis understood that ideas are useless without the force of power, and that power is meaningless without an higher ideal to serve. Yukio Mishima contemplated the harmony of the pen and sword. Nazism was an alliance of the beautiful and the beastly. There was a thug element in Nazism but different from gangsterism of street punks or skinheads(especially white trash for whom ideology is just a rock concert). Nazi thuggery was the sword and shield that guarded the sacred and the beautiful. In contrast, gangsta rap thuggery reduces the man to a pimp(rather than elevating him into a noble warrior) and the woman to a skankass whore.
Nazis understood that all civilizations with lofty ideals were founded and defended by violence. Many liberals tend to think in terms of civilization = peace & love vs. violence = barbarism & savagery. But, not all forms of violence are the same. There is the kind of violence prevalent in places like Haiti and sub-Saharan Africa(and Detroit)where the norm is to just grab, loot, steal, rob, rape, and kill. There is also the violence to create a new order by defeating the enemy, to defend the order from its enemies, and to maintain the order by rooting out the internal enemies. In this sense, forms of violence employed by Christians, Muslims, Nazis, Communists, United States, and other peoples were not savage violence or violence-for-violence-sake. They were violence with a certain logic and ‘higher’ objective. Bombing Dresden or Hiroshima was indeed horrible but not without higher purpose: to end the war. Though communists killed tens of millions, they too killed and employed violence for ‘higher’ ends. The Nazis killed a lot of people for the purposes of creating or expanding a new civilization to be ruled by the ‘superior, noble, and beautiful.’ . We can abhor or disagree with all these ‘civilized’ rationales for violence, but not all forms of violence are the same.
Anyway, there was an element in the New Right that was paganist, nature-worshiping, and even primitivist. Carl Jung argued that the spiritual realm of the ‘Aryans’ was more fecund and creative than that of the Jews since Europeans came under monotheism much later than the Jews. Since (Northern)Europeans had lived in a natural state(and in tune with natural spirits) longer than most civilized peoples, their collective consciousness was more alive with imagery, dreams, and spirits of a time when man, streams, rivers, mountains, and beasts were one.
There were certain strains in the modern European Right which tapped into this vein and longing. And, though Nazism embraced modernity and technology, it too had aspects centered around nature. The fact that music was the greatest achievement of the German peoples also fueled the notion that Germans had a greater and deeper connection to nature and emotions than other peoples. It’s no accident that German music was one of the most important elements of the German Right. If Hitler’s architectural vision was essentially Greco-Roman, his emotions had been charged with the neo-pagan intensity of Wagner’s music.
Of course, Nazism turned out to be a crude caricature of European history and culture, a kind of bazooka bubble gum comic strip. Even so, there were some talented and serious men in or associated with the movement.
Hitler too was an intelligent person with extensive knowledge of certain aesthetic matters, and he could certainly hold interesting–if somewhat repetitive–conversations on art, philosophy, and history. His main problem wasn’t really ignorance but a personality marked by contempt, arrogance, and intolerance which made it impossible to consider any views markedly different from his own. Since he regarded himself as a visionary-genius-sorcerer-Siegfried-Lohengrin sent to save his people and create New World Order, he could only tolerate worshipers and sychopants. Though Hitler had many bad ideas, the main problem was his bad personality, essentially a petty and shabby one that could never admit any wrong. Thus, even though Germans had served him loyally to the end and died in the millions, Hitler ranted about how they had failed him and how all of Germany deserve to be destroyed forever and be wiped off the face of the Earth. Not once did he ever blame himself for what came to befall Europe.
The primitivist or pagan-ist aspect of the Modern Right causes problems in political discourse, especially in the United States where rightism or conservatism is so closely linked with Christianity, Zionism, technology, capitalism, development, money, and so on. Of course, there are the cult of hunting on the Right, the cowboy myths, and the idea that the small towns/suburbs/farm villages/low population-density states(like Montana) are better than big cities like NY or Los Angeles. There’s also Conan the Barbarian comic books and movies. Still, the emphasis on the American Right has been Mastery over than being one with nature. There’s a difference between a hunter who seeks adventure and meat AND a liberal outdoors man who wants to commune with nature. Also, many conservative people living in proximity with nature cut down trees and mine for natural resources. Sarah Palin certainly loves the natural wonders of Alaska but is also for exploiting the resources. One can make a good argument for balancing the appreciation of nature with the need for economic development. Indeed, the great Theodore Roosevelt did just that. But, a more familiar face of modern conservatism is the obnoxious swine called Rush Limbaugh who thinks it’s a great idea to clear every forest and kill every animal that isn’t a cat, dog, or cow to make way for another golf course. This kind of philistine fat-ass consumerist conservatism is sadly popular on the American Right.
In contemporary politics, we do tend to associate everything pro-nature with the Left. Many see environmentalism as socialism-in-disguise. Many associate nature freaks with hippie naivete or Hollywood liberal fantasies. Conservatives scoff at nature programs on PBS which present nature as wondrous and paradisiacal while the world of man is presented as greedy and insatiable. (If man is indeed greedy and insatiable, it’s because he is, after all, an animal possessed of NATURAL emotions. Any animal will gorge and indulge itself as much as possible. If we do more damage than other species, it’s due to our higher intelligence and capacity for self-satisfaction, not due to some special evil. Do killer whales show any mercy or decency when they come upon seal pups? Or, do they act like a bunch of Rush Limbaughs of the sea?)
There is a great deal of truth to these charges. Many in the environmental movement are indeed closet-socialists who found a convenient anti-capitalist cause following the fall of communism.
And, there is indeed something naive about the liberal Dances-with-Wolves kind of nature-romanticization.
Few movies have depicted nature in its fury and fullness. ‘Aguirre: the Wrath of God’ and ‘Fitzcaraldo’ by Werner Herzog are among the rare exceptions. And, there have been some nature documentaries that show not only the beauty but also the ugly ferocity of nature: ‘Eternal Enemies: Lions and Hyenas’ by National Geographic is maybe the best. But, most of what we’ve gotten are idealized glowing slow-mo images padded with gushy music that turns your stomach.
In the 19th century, Americans were too busy settling the continent to really enjoy the beauty. They were more into the bounty. Oddball eccentrics and rich people who could afford leisure were the first people to really see natural beauty as a value in and of itself than in a utilitarian manner. If a pioneer came upon a beautiful valley and staked his claim, he may indeed have enjoyed the scenery, but his primary objective was to make the place productive and livable for his own family and for commerce. And he sure as hell wasn’t going to live like Indian savages. There was simply too much work to be done–much of it by hand even into the early 20th century.
So, it’s not surprising that environmentalism developed in cities where people could idealize about Edenic nature. For them, nature wasn’t snake bites, foxes raiding the henhouse, a cougar eating one’s dog, a bear taking off one’s head, or mosquitos eating one alive. It was all that lush images and romantic ideas gleaned from books, movies, TV, or lectures.
Also, there was a sense that though civilization was good and necessary, there was too much or enough of it, and therefore the remaining natural areas should be preserved. (Similarly, Climate Change people argue that everything must be done to prevent the Third World from catching up to the First since the level of pollution and over-exploitation of nature will not only eradicate much that is beautiful but also do irreparable harm to all of mankind.) Hippies had a funny way of embracing nature. They went to upstate NY in 1969 and rolled around in the mud and their own feces for three days. The more savvy environmentalists put on suits and started up NGO’s generously funded by corporations and rich people who want to earn moral credits as ‘conscientious’ businessmen. Besides, everyone who went to college came under the influence of liberal and leftist ideology.
There was also a racial element to the politics of environmentalism, at least in the New World. In Europe, the modern right could wax romantic about primitive people living ‘in harmony’ with nature since indigenous pagan-barbarians of pre-Christian Europe had been white or ‘Aryan’. German rightists romanticized Germanic barbarian warriors, the ancestors of modern Europeans. In the New World it was a different story since civilized white people came and conquered–or drove out–the indigenous or savage peoples. To romanticize about primitives in the Americas meant to favor the “American Indians” over the whites. In the European context, even if one favored the Germanic barbarian brute over the civilized Roman, one was still for White Power. One could be pro-nature and pro-pagan and still be pro-white. This wasn’t possible in the Americas where highly civilized waves of white people with superior weapons took the land from the native peoples, and then chopped down trees and turned entire areas into farms, towns, and cities. So, part of the reason why there has been a more muted primitivism and nature worship among white American rightists has something to do with this racial dynamic. Of course, there was the myth of the cowboys or Western gunslingers as icons of the Wild West along with the Indians, but if Indians stood for an eternally savage Wild West, cowboys and gunslingers–despite their attachment to the WILD West–represented the vanguard elements in the eventual taming of the West.
For this reason, the modern paganist right tends to be more European than American.
It’s also true that radical or extreme ideologies always had bigger appeal and greater success in the Old World than the New World. Perhaps, the ideology of extreme reaction had less appeal in the New World since there was less of a tradition or heritage to safeguard and cherish. Besides, the whole point of coming to the New World was to get away from the old one.
It’s also possible that the ideology of RADICAL revolution had less appeal in the Americas since newness was simply an evident fact of social and natural reality. In Old Europe, one needed an ideology of The New in order to feel new since everything was steeped in deep history and tradition. In the New World of the Americas, newness was all around in the form of material evidence. A pioneer merely needed to move westward to find ever new territories and new opportunities and dreams.
United States has long since been explored, conquered, claimed, and settled, but the spirit of The New lives on. Also, US is so large that if one tires of one particular place–say NY or LA–, one can pack up things and move to–and discover–a new world in another part of the country. But, it wasn’t just about land but vision too. Russia still has lots of unclaimed or undeveloped land, but a spirit of newness and discovery has been lacking in the Russian mentality shaped by the repressive Orthodox Church, serf mentality, communism, and authoritarian gangsterism.
It’s also possible that there is a psyche of Americanism that idealizes favors immigration because of the perception that immigrants revitalize America. For many white Americans who don’t have many or any children, inviting immigrants is like surrogate parenthood. Parents re-discover the world through the fresh eyes and ears of their young ones. Similarly, established and settled Americans take some kind of giddy romantic pleasure from the notion that immigrants are like the pioneers of yesteryear whose energy and excitement will infuse America with new life. Adults rediscover the joy of Christmas through the exuberance of their children, and settled Americans rediscover the excitement of the New World through the romance of new waves of immigration. Of course, most of today’s ‘immigrants’ are indigenous or mestizo people from Mexico for whom the ‘New World’ is their ‘Old World’ stolen from them by white folks. Mexicans who cross the SW border don’t feel that they are beginning anew in the New World but only feel that they are taking back what is rightfully theirs.
For most Mexicans, it’s reconquista of their old and sacred land stolen by the Gringo.
And tides and tides of Third World immigration is such that the New World may soon come to resemble the Old Third World with all its poverty, crime, disease, and dysfunctions. If current levels of immigration continue, there will be nothing distinctly ‘new’ about the New World.
Anyway, there was a primitivist strain in the European modern right, and this element also existed within Nazism itself. Heinrich Himmler for one was an avid ‘scholar’ of ancient Germanic peoples. If anything, many on the Left found this atavistic, childish, barbaric, and ridiculous. The radical left took pride in its rationalism and modernity. To be sure, a powerful and romantic pro-nature aspect in the writings of Rousseau had left a lasting imprint on leftist thinking. And, many great Romantic poets and artists of the 19th century were on the Lleft too. But, there was a dividing line between the romantic irrational left and the radical rationalist left. Marx was of the latter, and he insisted on a wholly RATIONAL and INDUSTRIAL model for society. He insisted on a scientific approach to understand and solve the problems of man–even if many regarded his economic theory as anything but. Since the radical rationalist left was more united, better organized, and had a clearer purpose, they came to dominate the leftist discourse in the 20th century. Even so, there was a connection between Rousseau-ism and Marxism. Rousseau had argued that Man was innately and naturally good but corrupted by social institutions. Rousseau recommended a kind of return to nature. Even if Marxists fully embraced the industrial world, they believed in the Rousseauian idea that human nature was essentially good and should be nurtured by a Just State.
The naturalist strain was more pronounced in fascism–especially Nazism–than in communism. This was also probably cultural. Germans have long loved nature and animals, and this was no less true for many in the Nazi movement. Also, as communist Russia had been a late-comer to industrialization and urbanization and eager to suppress the image of the Russian as a primitive boor who danced and wrestled with bears, it’s main emphasis was on industry and urban growth, not nature and rustic-ism(at least in the first few decades of its rule).
In terms of idology–the ideology of imagery and vision–, Nazism was more nature-oriented and primitivist than communism. The most famous iconic images of communism show man and woman dressed up as the proletariat. Both figures look manly, sexually interchangeable in some cases. They are ideological beings than natural beings. The figures may be robust and hale but are usually covered with ideological symbolism–the worker’s overall, the monkey wrench, the hammer and sickle.
Nazi idology, on the other hand, emphasized the naked or natural beauty of man and woman. If communism was about the worker’s uniform, Nazism was about the Aryan’s blood. The Aryan man stood tall and muscular, noble and proud. The Aryan woman stood beautiful and dignified, radiant. Communist idology suggested that the Proletariat is the newest and the final product of human history. Nazism was saying that the Aryan is Eternal(as a natural principle). Communists perceived all of human history as a story of human oppression. Nazis looked upon the past and believed that the Aryan, whatever his cultural manifestation–pagan barbarian, leader, artist, slave, king, businessman, etc–was always a noble creature by the virtue of the sacred blood that flowed in his veins. Nazism was a revolutionary ideology, but it was Eternalist than Progressive. Though Nazis believed in the necessity of change–especially in science and technology–, they regarded some principles to be timeless: racial nobility of the Aryans, the wickedness of the Jews, the natural differences between man and woman, the sacredness of nature, the importance of beauty, man-as-warrior-and-defender, woman-as-wife-and-mother, the hierarchy within mankind and nature.
Nothing is as eternal as nature, and Nazism tapped into the eternal laws of Darwinism. Thus, Nazism was a nature-based ideology even as it directed its energies toward building vast cities and war machines. Their concept of civilization was not one that opposed or existed outside of nature but one that grew from nature’s deepest and truest principles. Thus, Hitler imagined the visionary city of Germania as the natural expression of Aryan genius and creativity. It would rise from the ground of the Aryan just as a magnificent tree rises from sacred fertile soil. Thus, there was a theoretical connection between the natural realm and the man-made realm in Nazi thought.
Of course, one could make a kind of Eternalist argument for communism as well. Man has always sought moral truth and justice. Buddha, Jesus, the Greek philosophers, and sages and saints of all cultures had sought The Great Wisdom regarding the moral and spiritual truth of man. One could argue that the truth is really in each of our hearts, but most of us fail to grasp it because of lack of sufficient thought, reflection, empathy, and wisdom. But, people like Jesus supposedly grasped the truth–for all time and for all peoples. The Truth could argue that all people are equal before God or Science. If there is one god or one truth, then all men must attain this knowledge. And if there is one truth for all men, who are some people–aristocrats or bourgeoisie–to monopolize power and wealth over other men? In this sense, communism could be seen as the culmination of the man’s Eternal search for moral truth and justice. With both Nazism and communism, the methods could be new but the principles could be eternal. Sacred Beauty with Nazism vs Rational Truth with communism.
Anyway, the issue of primitivism on the modern right is interesting to us in light of what has become of nature-based ideologies sympathetic to paganism. This is all the more obvious when confronting a movie like AVATAR. Though the American Right may be ideologically and habitually accustomed to seeing the film as anti-white, anti-right, anti-American, pro-leftist, pro-people-of-color, and etc, AVATAR presents multiplicities of meanings. This would be true regardless of the artistic or ideological intention. Even if Cameron sees himself as a liberal and meant his film to be an anti-American-imperialist screed, his film, like all creative works, has a life of its own. Also, the artistic process is as subconscious as conscious. In many cases, the great artist doesn’t really know what he’s doing. He only thinks he knows what he’s doing. Thus, it’s not surprising that many Christian art works convey the spirit of paganism. A work of art that may be superficially puritanical may actually be densely layered with sensuality. Also, the very act of repressing or demonizing certain elements, ideas, or figures in the act of creation could be a confession of fascination with the allure of the ‘dark side’. Horror movies are about good people fighting and prevailing over the forces of evil, darkness, and/or violence, but they also betray humanity’s eternal fascination–even addiction–to the occult and ‘evil’. We want to see the vampire killed at the end, but we also want to see him rise again and again in new books and movies.
So, even if the outward or conscious message of AVATAR is “greedy white man exploits noble people-of-color-and-nature”, there may be underlying themes and subtexts unknown to James Cameron himself. Nothing is ever exactly as its makers intend it to be. Thus, communists thought their ideology was purely materialistic and scientific when, in fact, they worshiped a new religion. Many Catholic artists expressed their repressed sexuality through the sensual colors and forms in paintings or through music. This is even more brazen in the black church where all that singing about God and Jesus really sounds like all them Negroes really just wanna jungle-boogie and have an orgy on the disco-church floor. Though many traditional black church leaders condemned the idiomatic uses of the gospel by Ray Charles and his ilk, it never occurred to them that essence of gospel music was masked African sexuality. The real energy wasn’t in the mind or heart but in the groins and buttocks. It’s no wonder so many Christian Negroes are just as crazy and out-of-control as ones who do not attend church.
So, upon a closer look, it should be obvious that there’s more to AVATAR than meets the ear. Cameron tells us one thing but shows us something more multifaceted. And it is in this zone of ambiguity that AVATAR has something in common with the ideology of the European modern right. AVATAR embraces a view that is organic and cyclical. Nature itself may be eternal but no element IN nature is eternal. Forests grow and die, mountains rise and fall, rivers form and erode away, animals evolve into new forms; there is a constant cycle of birth and rebirth.
From this viewpoint, what is–or should be Eternal–is not a particular culture, political power, race, or tradition. The only thing that is Eternal is the organic power of nature and its natural cycles.
Mircea Eliade and Oswald Spengler both developed this view of nature, humanity, and history. Rise and fall of civilizations are natural. For Eliade, the Jewish and the Judeo-Christian tradition violated and cheated this principle. Judaism and its outgrowth Christianity–and Islam–found the secret to eternal life. They defied the ways of nature. Judaism was regarded as worse than Christianity because the latter at least possessed a youthful spirit whereas Judaism was marked by decrepit old dogma. If Christianity discovered the fountain of eternal youth–bound up with excitement of evangelizing the whole world–, Judaism guarded the well of eternal senility. The iconic image of the New Testament is the young Jesus with his young followers. Jesus dies in his youth and his disciples are filled with youthful vigor, even as they grow older. The iconic images in the Old Testament are Abraham in old age and Moses in old age. But, both religions defied the organic law of nature: Nothing Lasts Forever; things must grow, die, and decay, and from the decay, new things must grow. For this reason, though Spengler was worried about the decline of the West, he didn’t necessarily see it as the tragic end of humanity but a process whereby a new order may rise from the natural death of the present one. In this sense, the idea of the 1000 yr Reich had more of a Jewish than a Spengerlian ring. Hitler too was trying to create a permanent philosophical-political order in the world. But, Hitler was a literal-minded fool who believed that a political system could be virtually everlasting whereas the Jews made allowances for the fall of political orders and focused more on spiritual, moral, and cultural principles. Indeed, the secret to the Jewish success was the acceptance of political or secular failures–kings come and go. Jewish genius was salvaging the spiritual-moral core amidst the fall of cities or temples, material wealth and power.
Hitler, on the other hand, invested himself and his ideology into the PHYSICAL ASPECTS of Nazi Germany. But as we all know, when the monuments fell, so too did the ideology.
For this reason, there is a crucial difference between modern rightism and Nazism. Nazism grew out of the modern right but simplified or twisted many ideas to suit its near-sighted or hubris-laden political purposes. It’s no wonder that Spengler soon grew disillusioned with Nazism which he came to regard as a boy scout/comic strip version of deeper stream of rightist ideas. Hitler was like cruddy version of King Midas whose touch turned everything into iron and concrete, and Nazi aesthetics reflected that. For all his admiration for Greco-Roman art, most of Nazi art was stiff, rigid, lifeless, inorganic, obvious, and dull. Hitler wasn’t interested in the wholeness of nature’s forms and processes but only sought to freeze-dry or fossilize what he deemed the best of nature.
In Spengler’s universe, the process is crucial–seed sprouting into a stem, stem producing a bud, the bud blossoming into flower, flower withering, plant dying and decaying, and preparing the ground for the next flower. For Hitler, all that mattered was the perfect form: Take a flower in bloom and turn petal into metal. One can’t breathe freely looking at Nazi art. It was art for those with iron lungs.
The great painters and sculptors created the illusion of life and vitality through paintings and sculpture. Though physically frozen in time, they poetically glowed and flowed with organic power. With Nazi art, it was as if time stood still at the command of a dictator playing traffic cop with aesthetics.
If Cameron has something in common with Nazism or industrial fascism, it’s his fascination, indeed obsession, with war machines and technological gadgetry. His dream job might have been designing new weapons for the Wehrmacht or Luftwaffe. But, Cameron has a thing for nature too, and this is where his views intersects with those of the modern right or organic fascism. A great love of both technology and nature may not necessarily be contradictory or hypocritical. After all, technology, whether primitive or advanced, big or small, often tries to mimic, simplify, or expand on nature. There is something awesome about mountains, and so we build artificial mountains in the form of skyscrapers. Man have always dreamt of the looming clouds and the flight of birds, and have replicated their power by building flying machines. The most popular animals in zoos are tigers, elephants, bears, lions, and giant snakes, and why? We admire their power and awesomeness as organic fighting machines. Indeed, early technology employed animals such as horses and elephants to do heavy lifting or serve in battle. And, it’s not surprising that the most powerful German tanks were called ‘Panther’(Panzer V) and ‘Tiger’(Panzer VI), or the American fighter jet has been called the hornet. We use technology against nature but also as an extension of nature. Technology gives us the power or advantages that other organisms or forces of nature has. Our furnaces are like volcanos. Our hearing devices are doggy or cat ears. The telescope is like eagle eyes. Spaceships are like comets and asteroids. And, technology, whatever its form, must obey the laws of nature. We can go around gravity but we can never defy it.
To be sure, there are two views of nature. There’s the fluffy-duff hippie version where everything is in harmony. It’s where you go to the forest, drink clear spring water, commune with trees, sing with the birds, and dance with the bears. The movie ‘Grizzly Man’ told the story of a kind of neo-hippie who thought he could party with the bears. This naive view of nature sees nature as being in harmony with itself. In a movie like ‘Koyaanisqatsi’, mankind is stressed out and in conflict while nature is at peace. There is much to be said for nature and for nature-time, but in truth, the forces of nature–especially its living organisms–are constantly at war, not at peace, with one another. Of course, hippie and new age types know full well that animals eat other animals, but they see it as a kind of meaningful ecological balance where every organism is happy to play its part–as if a deer volunteers to be eaten by a cougar. The ecological interdependence of nature is undeniable, but it is also a vicious, cruel, and ruthless system. In short, there is ugliness at the core of outwardly beautiful nature.
The modern right view of nature is closer to the truth. Nature is understood to be fierce and brutal. It is also beautiful. Indeed, following Darwinian logic, nature is beautiful because it is brutal–it is brutiful. The healthy, hale, and strong destroy and devour the weak and sickly. Over time, only the most powerful, efficient, adaptive, and beautiful life-forms survive and pass down their superior genes. This is why wolves are more impressive than dogs. This may be why there’s such a white fascination with black physique, musical expression, stronger vocal chords, and sexuality. Whites look upon blacks like dogs look upon wolves: with fear and loathing but also with a kind of envy and admiration. Since blacks evolved longer under harsher natural conditions, only the physically robust/strong and instinctively fierce survived. Though blacks have lower IQ when it comes to logical reasoning, they have faster intuitive reflexes when it comes to many things. Europeans and especially Asians, on the other hand, are physically less robust and ‘charismatic’ than blacks because they practiced agriculture for 1000s of yrs in colder climes. Agriculture led to surplus of food, which meant that even the weak and sickly got to survive to breed. It’s no wonder there are so many geeks and gimps among whites and especially Asians. Just look the woopsy-doopsy skin-n-bones British males.
Also, more close-knit societies that developed in the East and West tended to exile and even kill off more rowdy members. Also, colder climate meant that people had to huddle together to conserve their energy over long winters instead of jungle booging all night long. Thus, the Asian and European temperament grew calmer as the wilder ones conserved less energy in winter and died off–or were exiled by the community. Europeans and Asians became ‘tamed’ genetically like the dogs. Blacks remained more like wolves, which is why it’s harder for them to function in a civilized setting. Their core nature is still wild and rough. But, just as we admire the bigger, stronger, and sharper wolf more than the sappy, slavish, and droopy dog, there is a universal fascination with blackness–especially athleticism, musicality, and charisma–among many peoples around the world.
One reason for Obama’s appeal in US and the EU may be white liberal guilt, but it’s also because there is also a kind of Alpha Male wolfishness about him lacking in most ‘white boy’ politicians.
(When America used to respect the elderly as wise and experienced, older white men could command a certain respect–as Eisenhower and Reagan in their days–, but America has grown more infantile and celebrity-oriented. Just like the biggest movies are made mostly for teens, national politics has become a game of celebrity, and that means younger guys like Clinton, Bush II, and Obama have the advantage. No country for old men, indeed. John McCain, for all his faults, did honorably serve his country and had a long political record on his resume. Bush II and Obama had nothing to show for themselves, but they had right pop appeal image.)
Just as inferior wolf males submit to the top wolf male, a lot of white males submitted to Obama–black man as alpha male. Of course, there are white males who do not submit, but even they feel a great fear of the black male. They will deny it with the usual white-male-pride-and-power bluster, but the fear is real and palpable. Angry black males resent the greater wealth of the white males, but black males do NOT fear the ‘white boy’. Angry white males, on the other hand, are mainly angry because blacks can ‘whup their asses’ in school, public spaces, in sports, in music, and etc. White women willingly run off to the alpha male black male. So, the anger of the white male is not that of the robust and confident alpha male but the fear and resentment of the beta male with wounded pride. This goes back to when Jack Johnson destroyed all the white guys in the world. And, Joe Louis destroyed the ‘Aryan’ Schmeling in a minute or two. ‘White boys’ are in big trouble.
Of course, some organisms have evolved to lead a parasitic existence(though one can argue all forms of consumption is a variation of parasitism. Leeches suck blood from the host, we suck oil from the ground. What’s the difference between a flea sucking on the blood of a deer and a cougar killing and eating the deer? In a way, one may say parasites are more welcome than predators. Would you rather have lice on your pubes or be eaten by a tiger? Indeed, parasites require you to live so they can keep sucking your blood whereas a predator will kill and devour you from head to toe. It may be Jews have been successful because they’ve been more parasitic than predatory. Predators come right at you–like the Nazis or Japanese Imperialists–and it’s kill-or-be-killed. You fight and win or lose. Parasites, on the other hand, come and stick onto you like it’s a part of you while sucking your blood.)
Anyway, just consider the historical irony of how NATURE WORSHIP has played out in politics. Though there was no single form of leftism and no single form of rightism in the 20th century, the two monstrous forms that clashed were communism and fascism/Nazism. Allied with fascism/Nazism was Japanese militarism which had elements of fascism but was different in one crucial way. Fascism and Nazism, unlike Japanese Emperor-ism or Japanese Divine-Blood-Yamato-ism, tended to be secular and rational in its use of irrationalism whereas Yamato-ism was fully irrational. Fascism accepted the irrational nature of man. It understood that man doesn’t live by facts and logic alone. Man needs the concept of the sacred. There needs to be an emotional and ‘spiritual’ bond amongst the people. The identity of a people is rooted in the myth of history and peculiar scents of its culture–just like different animals have different odors crucial to marking territory. Fascism acknowledged and made use of the irrational, but there was a rational understanding of the fundamentally irrational nature of man.
It’s like the great neo-fascist thinker Joseph Campbell didn’t literally believe in God or gods but had the most profound respect for myths as man’s poetic search for sacred unity with the universe, time, nature, and other men.
In the fascist world view, god was indeed dead–killed by rational science–, but the god-instinct within man was still alive and possibly eternal–or eternally rooted in his psyche. If man is, by nature, ‘spiritual’, what does he do in a world where God and gods have been exposed as nonexistent by rational science? Man must rely on sacred symbols and embrace a metaphorical-mythological view of reality–in some spheres at least. Thus, ‘Aryan’ blood becomes ‘sacred’. Thus, race becomes not just a scientific but a spiritual category. Thus, history becomes a kind of myth, like when Mussolini said Italy must revive the glory of the Roman Empire because inside every Italian is a Roman warrior dying to get out. Even so, Mussolini and Hitler rationally played with these ideas. They didn’t LITERALLY believe that certain things or peoples possessed sacredness in the literal sense; rather, sacredness is something we impose on and value in things for our purposes. Whether something was sacred or not was a function of subjectivity–individual or collective. Hitler did believe that the ‘Aryans’ were indeed the superior race but he didn’t believe them to be a sacred race in the literal sense. Their blood became sacred through the subjective ‘spiritual’ longing and imagination of visionaries like himself.
It was different with the Japanese who literally and truly irrationally believed in the divinity of the Emperor and the notion that the Yamato race had descended from the Sun god and goddess. Nazis made a big deal of Germanic mythology and its sacred place in the imagination and ‘spiritual’ life of the German people, but no one actually believed that Odin or Thor had existed or that the German forests were once populated by dragons and giants. But, the Japanese mythology was taught as a real living religion and history to the Japanese people during the militarist era. Japanese people were told that the Emperor was indeed a living God. Mussolini came to an understanding with the Catholic Church and gave them considerable control over spiritual and cultural affairs, but he was himself an atheist; he made certain concessions to the church because he rationally understood the mass hunger for spiritual life. There were surely many Japanese leaders who were educated enough to know that Japanese mythology was all bunk, but the official ideology of Japan during the militarist era did insist on the literal sacredness of the emperor and unique divine blood of the Japanese people. If Hitler insisted that Aryan blood was superior on a scientific basis–and for that reason deserving to be sanctified–, the Japanese really believed in the divine nature of the Japanese blood. Fascism was a rationalist use of the irrational whereas Japanese Emperor-ism or Yamato-ism was an irrationalist use of the rational. Japanese adopted rational Western science and technology but the core of their ideology, perspective, and beliefs was atavistic and occultist. To be sure, there were some genuine kooks in the Nazi movement too. Both Heinrich Himmler and Rudolf Hess were seriously into the occult, which may explain why Hess has a soft spot for the Hindu stuff and Himmler had a thing for Japanese culture. Interestingly enough, Hess was the most humane of the prominent Nazis whereas Himmler was the most psychotic.
Communism, unlike fascism, claimed to be utterly scientific and rational. This didn’t mean communists were out to destroy nature or had no appreciation for beauty, but it did mean that they took a mainly utilitarian view of the world. Nature existed for man to exploit for the well-being of man. Also, man was essentially an animal that could be tested and improved like lab rats. Under a purely rationalist viewpoint, there should be no ‘spiritual’ place for man in the world. Of course, man was higher than other animals, but this had to be proved on a rational scientific basis–such as the observation that man is more intelligent and sensitive. But, one could not say that man was specially chosen by God and is thus absolutely unique from all the other animals. Man was indeed an animal–the most advanced kind. It is difficult to spiritualize or sanctify anything with this rationalist view. Man is a part of nature, but his greatest attribute is his reason and capacity for morality. Only man can use higher reason and understand morality & laws. Thus, it is necessary for man to expand and build a world where all men are raised according to their needs and ability. If cattle or laboratory rats can be raised and taken care of in a rational–clean, efficient, and humane–manner, why shouldn’t this be done with humans as well? The difference, of course, is that cattle and lab rats are raised for the benefit of mankind whereas humans would be raised in a rational-systemized way for their own benefit. However, you slice or dice it, it’s hard to have a romantic view of nature with communist ideology. If love and appreciation of nature did survive during the Soviet era, it owes more to Russian culture which survived than to communism who sought to ‘rationally’ systemize everything.
There were back-to-nature forms of leftism but they remained on the periphery and had no means of gaining much total power. Also, even rustic forms of leftism–such as living in small communes–emphasized social organization and utilitarian application upon the land than a worship of nature. Kibbutzim embraced the agricultural life, not the natural life. Agriculture is a form of technology. Of course, rightists didn’t return to nature either, but the Japanese really worshiped nature as being alive with countless spirits. And the German right was deeply romantic about the dark, powerful, and majestic mystery and beauty of nature–and the mythologies that developed from them. Even if the modern right could not return to nature, its adherents had a ‘spiritual’ respect for nature as the sacred source of all things. They respected not only nature but the laws of nature. Even as Nazism was modern and industrial, its racial science–through advanced medicine and eugenics–sought to mimic the natural processes. Darwinism was understood to be the ‘survival of the fittest’. Many on the modern right felt that civilization was doomed because its wealth and food surplus allowed too many useless and inferior beings to live and breed–indeed outbreed the superior individuals. In other words, the very success of civilization would be its doom. Paradoxically, for civilization–which developed by separating man from brutal nature–to survive and thrive in the long run, it must utilize the laws of nature. Since man cannot literally return to nature and since the natural processes–tooth and claws–are too brutal, the modern right embarked on developing a ‘humane’ system of favoring the superior over the inferior. Thus, Nazi eugenics, though aimed specifically against certain races, was also meant to be used on Germans as well. The less ‘Aryan’ Germans would gradually be weeded out through generations of eugenic policy whereupon the final result would be a society of only the healthy, intelligent, and beautiful.
In this sense, many Nazi leaders could be said to be selfless and self-loathing. Self-loathing because so many of them were ugly, crude, short, misshapen, and gross looking–near Neanderthal in many cases. Selfless because their racial policy would eventually rid the Aryan race of people like themselves in favor of tall, beautiful, and noble blonde-and-blue-eyed heroes and heroines. There could be no one as unpleasant looking as Goebbels or Himmler. No one as fat and gross as Goering. No one as idiotic as Streicher. Of course, it’s possible that Nazi leaders considered themselves to be dashing, handsome, and superior. There is no limit to the power of self-delusion. If Woody Allen and Barbra Streisand could pose as sex symbols in 1970s, why not everyone else? If enough people can be fooled into seeing Sarah Jessica Parker or Sandra Oh as attractive, then beauty is in the eye of the beholden(than of the beholder). Same goes for brains too. There are still people who cling to the notion that George W. Bush was really an intelligent president who was underestimated because he couldn’t speak well!
Anyway, there is irony in AVATAR being regarded as a leftist movie solely on the basis of its pro-nature and pro-alien-race sympathies and its anti-technology and anti-human(or white) disdain. Few people seem to wonder WHY Cameron has such admiration for the Navis. Is it not because they are tall, beautiful–depending on one’s tastes–, powerful, and healthy? Aren’t they, in a way, a kind of a proto-fascist Alien-Aryan ideal? Some argue that the Navis are supposed to be stand-in for African tribes, the Viet Cong, or the American Indians. But, even this doesn’t make it necessarily leftist. Western leftism did indeed support non-white peoples against white imperialism or white powers, but so did the Western far right. Nazi Germany sided with the non-white Japan and Arab nationalists against white British Empire and the US. United States–a right-wing imperialist nation in the eyes of the Left–supported the non-white Afghanis against the white Soviet invasion/occupation in the late 70s and 80s. There were many proxy wars where Soviet Union supported non-whites against the ‘imperialist’ whites and where the US and the West supported non-whites against Soviet ‘aggression’. And, there was a lot of this between the British and the French. French hired, supported, and used American Indians to fight the Anglos, and the Anglos did the same to undermine the power of the French. One could argue that the Left acted on principle while the Right acted on self-interest, and there may some truth to that assertion, at least ideologically. But, in truth, communist nations also acted mainly on national self-interest, and there did exist what might be called the anti-imperialist Western right–Knut Hamsun, who reviled British imperialism, was one of them. We have them today in the US in the form of the Anti-War conservatives who warn of the pitfalls of empire building–for peoples of other countries as well as for us. And men like T. E. Lawrence , though no raving leftist, came to sympathize with Arabs fighting for their own nationhood. There was more than self-interest or mere cynicism in his participation in the Arab struggles against the Turks–who were arguably white Europeans.
At any rate, rightism is about white power only if we take a Eurocentric view. To a white power activist, rightism means the interests of his own people. Therefore, there is a fallacious tendency to regard everything opposed to white power as ‘leftist’. But, it’s not that simple. The struggle could be between two right-wing modes of thought. In this sense, American Indians were all right-wingers fighting for their pride, traditions, beliefs, and sacred soil. If anything, American whites who conquered and settled North America with universal principles of human rights, Christian Faith, common laws, and progressive/reformist spirit were relatively far more leftist–ideologically–than the American Indians who were fighting for nothing other than Blood-and-Soil. Because American Indians lost and came to be perceived as a ‘victim group’, they came to be associated with leftism, something that the descendants exploited in order to win more concessions from the white majority. But, American Indians–as proud warriors or a defeated people–were really no more leftist than the Japanese from the Meiji Reform era to the end of WWII. Japanese too came with blows with the West over right-wing ideas. Japan wanted to rule the Asian continent which they saw as their own backyard, and as such, they regarded Western powers as unwelcome aggressors in the Asian sphere. The war between Japan and the West was rather like the war between the British and the Zulus in Southern Africa. It was not a case of left vs right but right vs right. British imperialism vs Zulu imperialism. Also, even leftism adopted by non-white peoples were often employed for right-wing purposes. While men like Mao and Ho Chi Minh were indeed economic communists and true believers in Marxism, they were also fierce nationalists and one of the main appeals of communism was as a weapon for national ‘liberation’.
Cameron’s siding with the Navis against the humans may indeed be traitorous, but it isn’t necessarily leftist. I’m not arguing what is better or worse: rightism or leftism. Both have valid ideas. If modernity leans closer to leftism–ideologically at least–, it’s because we rely on reason and universal law. But, all successful nations are also rightist because no society can survive or thrive for long without a unifying culture, common racial or ethnic identity, strong borders, and social discipline founded on confidence and pride. While a totally rightist society would be rigid, static, and undesirable, a totally leftist agenda will only be a utopian dream existing in theory and certain to cause more harm than good if forcibly applied on the real world. Both extreme rightism and extreme leftism extinguish freedom since individual freedom seeks liberation from the confines of established dogma/customs and from the power of the intrusive state.
There are two ways of approaching the Navis: As literal manifestation of the wonder and the harmony of nature–a rather stupid and simple-minded fantasy. But, they can also be regarded in the metaphorical sense–embodiment of the SPIRIT of nature. Perhaps, AVATAR should be seen as fairytale, fantasy, or mythology than as science fiction. We tend to literal-minded with the sci-fi universe because it’s dominated by technology, and technology–no matter how outlandish or unlikely–obey the laws of nature. In other words, spaceships operate thanks to some ‘scientific’ principle even if such were invented by the sci-fi author or filmmaker. There should be no magic in science fiction. There can be mysterious beings like the extra-terrestrials in 2001 or the strange planet in Solaris. They may mind-bendingly overwhelm our intellectual capacity, but we are to assume that they too are governed by laws of nature, albeit ones beyond our rational understanding.
In fantasy and mythology, on the other hand, magical or miraculous things do happen, and it’s useless to ask why. We are to assume that magical spirits exist everywhere. There are two ways of absorbing this: literally or metaphorically(poetically). We can enjoy the Greek myths as stories of great heroes fighting actual monsters or we can analyze them as metaphors of our inner struggle.
Same is true of the Bible. Literal-minded people read the Genesis as a real story of how God created the moon and the sun, man and woman. Others read it metaphorically, as a contemplation of man’s place in the universe, man’s relation to nature, the loss of innocence, the dangers of lust, the seductive and dangerous power of knowledge.
It could be that AVATAR, like STAR WARS, confused a lot of people because it fuses sci-fi elements with fantasy elements. Star Wars has spaceships and robots but also the thing called Force. Is the Force supposed to be magical phenomena whose mysteries cannot be understood but only tapped by man? Its literal and metaphorical presence in the movie is rather confused.
Are we to see the wondrous qualities of the Navis and their paradisiacal planet as metaphors for the beautiful and impenetrable mysteries of nature–which should be left alone(as similarly urged in the opening segment of Akira Kurosawa’s DREAMS)–or did Cameron intend us to see all this wondrousness as a possible reality in another part of the universe? If the quasi-magical elements in AVATAR are to be taken metaphorically, why did Cameron go to such lengths to literally manifest them to such ‘scientific’ degree?
To the extent that the Navis are fighting for their sacred homeland, they are indeed tribal rightists. All tribal cultures are rightist in thinking in terms of us versus them. Though tribal communities are not always at war and find means to trade, intermarry, and cooperate, their main identity is determined by territoriality and/or cultural uniqueness. Just as different college fraternities have their own special rituals, different tribal cultures have ways of distinguishing themselves from others. Even the people who came up with the universal one-and-only-god-for-all-the-world, the Jews, were rightist in this sense. They made a clear distinction between who was and wasn’t a Jew, and membership in the Jewish family was strictly proscribed. If anyone could become a Christian by converting to the creed, it wasn’t so easy to become a Jew. For the more conservative Jews, conversion to Judaismis an impossibility since the Old Testament says only one birthed by a Jewish mother can really be Jewish.
Though there are great differences between primitive societies and modern Germany of the Nazi era, there were some commonalities too. Both were into blood-and-soil. As advanced and sophisticated as modern Germany was in the 20th century, the passions that animated the governing ideology from 1933-1945 were essentially tribal-national-racial. Hitler regarded democracy, human rights, and universal values as either fanciful delusions of the over-educated or means by which the mediocre masses sought unwarranted advantages. If Hitler preferred ‘socialism’ over ‘democracy’–though both had leftist connotations–, it was because socialism could be used to control the masses whereas democracy gave power to individuals. Some people brand Hitler a leftist for his ‘socialism’, but despite some leftist aspects of Nazism, it’s more accurate to say Nazism appropriated aspects of leftism in order to serve a radical form of rightism. Fascism from its inception was meant to be pragmatic and ‘creative’–some would call it opportunistic. Mussolini had started out as a principled leftist. Nothing was higher than ideology–even national interests were theoretically secondary. But once Mussolini became an Italian nationalist above all, everything had to be subservient to the nation(or the nationalist state). If aspects of capitalism could be used for good of the nation, no problem. If aspects of socialism could be used, all the better. Mussolini’s thinking was that science, ideas, and knowledge change; and nothing could be done about that. But, there is something constant and ‘eternal’. The Nation. Whether it was capitalism or socialism or whatever dominating current politics, the one constant was the Italian people and culture. Since nation and culture, rather than ideology, were the true constants, there was no need for the ideology to be strictly one thing or another. One can argue that nationalism was the ideology in Fascist Italy, and that was of course true. But, there’s a problem in designating nationalism as a true ideology. A true ideology is about IDEAS. Nationalism is an idea that defies ideas; it’s about blood and soil. Communism demands that one THINK like a communist–at least ideally speaking–, whereas nationalism demands that one FEEL like a nationalist.
To be sure, there is something even more constant than nation, which is race. In this sense, National Socialism was more properly ‘eternalist’ than Italian Fascism. Though there was a racial aspect to Fascism–something about the tough macho Italian he-man–, the main emphasis was on HISTORICAL glories of the people of the Italian peninsula. Thus, Mussolini invoked the great achievements of the ancient Romans and the achievements of Italian culture through the ages. There was, however, not much about what “Italians” had been prior to the rise of Rome.
Nazis, on the other hand, emphasized race. The implication was that the Aryan peoples have always been superior by blood, regardless of their cultural and historical achievements. Also, this greatness was traced to a time when the Aryan race first developed. If Italian Fascists were interested in what happened in Ancient Rome and Italy, National Socialist intellectuals searched far and wide–especially focusing on Central Asia–to discover the true origins of the Aryan race. The element of race made Nazism a more genuinely ‘eternalist’ ideology because, while civilizations have been around for only 5000 yrs, human races have been around for tens of thousands of yrs. Mussolini was saying that Italians became great through culture and history. Hitler was saying the Germanic peoples–being ‘Aryan’–have been great(beautiful, noble, courageous, intelligent, etc)from the dawn of their racial birth.
The emphasis on race was also convenient to the Germanic peoples since they were later to come to civilization than the peoples of the Near East and southern Europe. When Egyptians built the pyramids, many Northern European peoples were no more advanced than the American Indians. When Ancient Greece reached its height of glory and power, Northern Europeans were tribal barbarians. The mighty Roman Empire, as it expanded up north, regarded the Germanic barbarians as about on the level of African savages–big and strong but not-too-bright. Romans admired the physical size and prowess of the Germanic barbarians and African savages and often made them fight one another in the Coliseum. We still have something like this today, with the top fighters in the world being either black or Northern/Eastern European. Consider Lennox Lewis or Muhammad Ali. Or Brock Lesnar and Vitali Klitschko, big Germanic or Slavic lunks.
In other words, the Germans had much less to be proud of when it came to historical longevity. Though Italy had fallen on hard times in the modern era, they had a history of greatness that reached back to centuries before Christ. Italy was also the center of the Renaissance. German rise to greatness in culture came much later–and owed much to influences from Italy and other Latin nations like France and Spain. Hitler even found much of the Germanic barbarian stuff embarrassing and didn’t want to make too big a deal of it–unlike Himmler who was fascinated by that stuff. Indeed, Hitler included the Greeks and the Latins in the great ‘Aryan’ family of nations. According to this view(developed by certain 19th and 20th century race theorists), Latins became lesser ‘Aryans’ over the years by having practiced race-mixing. But the original ‘Aryan’ builders and conquerors of Greece and Rome were supposedly blonde-and-blue-eyed ‘Aryans’, the best of the best–whose main rivals were the Semitic kingdoms and tribes. It didn’t matter to Hitler that the Germanic peoples themselves accomplished relatively little in ancient times since, as fellow ‘Aryans’, Germans could take collective credit for whatever the Greeks and Romans had accomplished. To Hitler, they were all examples of ‘Aryan’ genius. Hitler may have been sincere in his delusions, but there’s something disingenuous about this kind of perspective. It’s rather like Mongolians taking credit for the civilization of China since both Mongolians and Chinese are Asian. There’s also a black variation of this with American blacks–of sub-Saharan stock–taking credit for the glories of Ancient Egypt since Egypt is part of Africa and since there was a degree of Negroid mixture in Egyptian blood. We know full well there was a clear cultural and geographical distinction between Egyptians and black Africans. Ancient–and many modern–Egyptians may qualify as black if we apply the one-drop rule. After all, even people who look entirely white will sometimes declare themselves as ‘black’ in America. But, that is an Americo-centric view. Egyptians–ancient and modern–would disagree. Also, if the black American insistence of Ancient Egyptian blackness is predicated on the notion that some black people in the US are light-skinned and have prominent Caucasian features(like most Egyptians), then the argument for the ‘blackness’ of Egyptians has been made possible through the experience of black slavery in the US whereby black genes got mixed with whites genes. If white Americans hadn’t enslaved and mixed blood with blacks and hadn’t declared that a drop of black blood defines blackness, there would be no cultural basis for Egyptians being black. If Egyptians being ‘black’ is so important to American blacks, this is only possible through the ideas, notions, and categories that grew out of white American racial or racist thought.
Anyway, there is a common rightist ‘ideological’ thread that links the Nazis with the primitive peoples–whatever their race. There was something essentially atavistic and blood-and-soil about the Nazis(even if Hitler and like-minded thinkers tried to fashion their obsessions and prejudices into a full-blown ‘scientific’ ideology). If we tend to associate rightism with Western nationalism/imperialism and leftism with Third World peoples and cultures, this is really an accident of history. Even the imperialist West was ideologically more ‘leftist’ than the non-white peoples around the world. The British Imperialists were far more open to social change, new ideas, progressive thought, and political reform than, say, the Hindus and Muslims of India. Americans fighting in the Vietnam War were less nationalistic and more liberal(and open-minded) than the North Vietnamese who were diehard nationalists and actually conservative on many social matters–no chance of ‘gay marriage’ in communist Vietnam. The Japanese who resisted the incursions of the West and then only adopted Western methods to repel the West were not leftist either. The ideological and moral basis for their anti-Westernism was essentially right-wing. They were trying to preserve what they considered to be sacred to Japan. And, areas that Japan came to rule–Korea and Manchuria–weren’t left-wing but even more right-wing than Japan, which had at least been socially and culturally altered by its adoption of universal Western science and values.
Just as Japan adopted Western ideas and ways to repel the West, one could argue that many Third Worlders adopted leftism to serve what were essentially right-wing causes. Just as Japan adopted modernization to fend off the modern West, Third World nations adopted leftism to fend off the influence of Western Progress–of which imperialism could be seen as one. (Though we associate Western imperialism with greedy white exploitation of non-white peoples, it was also a force creating a New World Order, a means to unify the entire world, to set down common rules and laws that would be the same–initially for white people mostly–whether in London or Bombay. Indeed, today’s globalism would be inconceivable without the achievements of white imperialists who, through arms, trade, and persuasion, unified the world like it had never done before–not even by Alexander the Great or Genghis Khan. Even international communism would have been inconceivable without the world created by capitalist-imperialism. It is for this reason that Karl Marx wisely didn’t regard capitalism nor imperialism as true forms of rightism. They were merely earlier forms of leftism to be superceded by the final leftism–communism. If rightism is about defending the social order and hierarchy and if leftism is about upheaval, then nothing was as revolutionary as Western capitalism, and Marx knew it. Nothing was as productive and powerful, as destructive of the old and constructive of the new. Indeed, there could be no real communism without capitalism according to Marx. Marx believed that capitalism was the NECESSARY revolutionary process that would produce the great cities, the great factories, the great wealth. Communism could not produce those things. The role of communism was to take over the entire economy in the name of the people once the industrial achievements were completed under capitalism. Capitalism eventually had to go for it replaced one hierarchy with another–bourgeois power over aristocratic power–and maintained a new system of privilege and inequality, but it was a great and necessary revolutionary force that swept away the old order like no other system before it. It also uprooted people, brought them together in giant cities, loosened family ties and made possible the ‘modern individual’. There was more freedom for people to produce, buy, move about, organize. But, Marx foresaw the demise of capitalism since its inner logic of ruthless exploitation and competition could only lead to giant monopolies which came to concentrate all the wealth and drive everyone else to penury. When that day came, the people would rise up and bring forth a new order. So, Marx didn’t see capitalism as a right-wing force but a necessary, ruthless, and morally flawed revolutionary force. Capitalism wasn’t seen as just a destructive force–like a natural disaster or war–but a productive force. We tend to think that communism is about totally destroying the existing system and building a utopian society from scratch, but that’s really Marxist heresy of the Maoist and Khmer Rouge kind. The idea of communism totally smashing the status quo and creating a radical utopia gained credence because communism mostly triumphed in backward nations without much modern industry. The communist rulers were often faced with pre-modern culture and values which had to expunged in order to make room for universal modern values. And, they had to grow the economy from ground zero. But, this is not what Marx had envisioned. Yes, communism was to rid the world of capitalism but not the product of capitalism. Social organization would have to change, but the communist would essentially be inheriting–or expropriating–the wealth and industry created by the capitalists.
And, Marx wasn’t necessarily anti-imperialist either. He noted the imbalance of power and injustice within imperialism, but he also saw Western Imperialism carrying out a historical duty of smashing down barriers all over the world. Marx had little respect for cultures around the world which he considered right-wing, tribal, primitive, atavistic, irrational, and superstitious. Even if Marx regarded Western imperialists as men of greed, ruthless ambition, and nasty prejudices, he still felt they were playing a progressive and unifying(and universalizing) role in history. They were the necessary destructive force tearing down the barriers among mankind. And, the ideas and methods imperialists spread where ever they went–Christianity, free trade, individualism, human rights, education, science, medicine, etc–were still infinitely more progressive, transforming, and even revolutionary(and radical)than the pigheaded customs and beliefs held by ‘savage’ and ‘barbarian’ folks. Imperialism, like capitalism, would one day have to go, but not before they performed their historical duties of transforming and forcibly uniting the entire world. Since non-white cultures and peoples were tribal, xenophobic, and reactionary, they had to be brought into the New World Order by force.
This view got profoundly altered by Vladimir Lenin for two reasons. Russia was less developed than the West, and so Lenin and his cohorts had to change Marxism to make the case that even a backward nation was ready for communist revolution; a nation didn’t need to go through the long and arduous process of capitalist transformation. A mostly agricultural nation can leap frog to industrial communism. (Stalin did accomplish this, with the cost of some 20 million lives. Though gruesome, some leftists still defended Stalin on the basis that at least Stalin victimized his own people for their own future benefit whereas Western imperialists victimized non-Westerners–in Africa, Asia, and Latin America–for their immediate pleasure.) Since Russia was isolated and no advanced Western nation jumped on the communist bandwagon, Lenin revised Marxism so that there was no need for long-term transforming power of capitalism and imperialism. World revolutionaries could instantly take on the Western capitalist-imperialists, overthrow them, and be on the socialist path to full-fledged communism. So, Russian communists fanned the flames of ‘revolution’ in the non-white worlds against Western Imperialism. So, Russian communists tried to win over the Chinese–and nearly achieved this–by showing goodwill and providing support to Sun Yat-Sen that weren’t coming to him from Western powers. Even so, one wonders to what extent this was Lenin’s core principle or a political strategy. It appears he had grave doubts about what communism could achieve politically and economically without the fruits of capitalism to expropriate. Leon Trotsky was likewise skeptical about a mostly agricultural and backward nation leapfrogging to industrial communism and invested his main hopes with revolution in crisis-ridden Germany following WWI. Trotsky believed that Germany was sufficiently advanced, industrialized, and wealthy to make a successful transformation to communism, and as such, a communist Germany would be a great example and a core ally to communist Russia. Indeed, as a communist internationalist, Trotsky had no special love for Russia. It could be said he despised most Russians like most American Jews disdain patriotic white Americans. If Germany had indeed gone communist, Trotsky would have likely argued for Berlin, rather than Moscow or Petrograd, as the center of world communism. It was Stalin who believed with ruthless confidence and iron will that a vast agricultural nation could be transformed into an industrial giant within a decade or two.
To the extent that there was an ideological or philosophical link between Nazism and tribal nature-primitivism, it is ironic that something like Avatar should be considered ‘leftist’. Nazism was a form of tribalism, after all, whereas communism was universalist in its economic, political, and philosophical agenda. Theoretically, where-you-are matters far less than what-you-believe within the leftist paradigm In contrast, where-you-are(sacred soil under your feet and of your ancestors)is sacred to a rightist. Of course, a rightist may want to expand territory and the power of his own people, and in this regard, all forms of imperialism are rightist in their agenda. Imperialism isn’t about uniting the world to share it equally but conquering the world essentially for the glory and benefit of one’s own people. Alexander conquered for Greek glory, and Genghis Khan conquered for Mongol might.
But a new kind of universalist imperialism developed with the rise of Christianity and Islam. Christians and Muslims claimed to spread their faith and credo–by words or swords–not out of greed or power-lust but to save all of mankind. This was something new in history. Universalist and egalitarian religions–informed with the idea that the all men are the children of God and that a poor powerless can be the spiritual and moral equal of a rich powerful man–added an idealistic element to imperialism. Thus, the Ottoman Turks used Islam to justify the expansion of their empire in the Near East, Central Asia, and Europe. Thus, Christians rationalized the conquest and control of the world as serving God’s purpose of brining the light of truth to the heathens. To be sure, even the Ancient Romans and Greeks thought they were spreading and sharing their higher civilization with the lesser or lower ones whom they conquered. Or, the cultural invasion could go from the weaker to the stronger. Romans conquered the Greeks but Greek culture informed and influenced the Romans. The Mongols conquered China, but Chinese culture, in time, absorbed and elevated the Mongols. The oppressed Christian community came to culturally conquer the mighty pagan Romans. The weaker power can prevail through a kind of cultural hegemony, especially if it offers something intellectually/artistically superior or sensually more appealing. Though WASPS dominated much of America up to the 60s, the cultural Zeitgeist was swinging in the Jewish direction since Jewish writers, intellectual, and creative forces came to dominate much of the cultural scene. Blacks came to dominate in the realm of sports and popular music because they are stronger and their music is raunchier, sexier, and wilder. Though whites are far more numerous and wealthy than blacks, much of the cultural admiration or fascination is the white-for-the-black. Because blacks came to be associated with coolness, athletic prowess, musical charisma, and sexual energy, there is a great sympathy and admiration among many whites for blackness–history, Africa, political issues, etc. Would so many whites be so worked up about noble, wonderful, and colorful Africa if it weren’t for black figures like Oprah, Will Smith, Jazz musicians, rappers, and athletes?
For many whites, blacks are their heroes(hometown sports heroes), dream fantasies(in funky music), and/or role models(Martin Luther King, Obama, and other NOBLE Negroes). If blacks lacked athletic ability and ‘charisma’, I highly doubt if many Western liberals would be SO obsessed about Africans. Take Bono for instance. His a rock star and knows full well that Rock music is steeped in the Negro musical tradition. So, Bono thinks like “I was a lame Irish boy but was spiritually and sensually liberated by the magical energy and power of the Negro. I worship you, Noble Negro!” Also, the world media–mostly owned and controlled by liberal Jews(even foreign news outlets get much of their news from sources controlled by Jews)–has made white people pee in their pants over the myth of Martin Luther King and other NOBLE NEGROES. So, Bono thinks blackness = cool and noble. Black suffering = especially tragic(since blacks are so cool and noble). Since blacks are so cool and noble(and wonderful), it can’t be their own fault that their societies suck so bad. The blame must fall on white imperialism or current Chinese investment in Africa. Blame EVERYONE but blacks themselves–just like Obama blames everything on Bush Jr. but never admits any wrongdoing or foolishness on his part.
Politics creates odd bedfellows and there is no iron law of political alliances. Even so, even enemies can have more in common than friends. For instance, the thirteen colonies had more in common with its enemy, Great Britain, than with its allies such as France, Spain, and Prussia which all had less liberal and representative political systems. In the 1970s, US and Red China forged a political partnership though US had more in common with the USSR–Russians are white and their form of communism was comparatively more liberal than the Maoist kind. So, there’s no guarantee that a nation will necessarily be politically closer to others with a similar ideology or same race. During WWII, white Germany was allied with yellow Japan but enemies with Anglo US and UK and white Russia.
Indeed, similarity of ideology may drive certain peoples into heightened conflict. If two political entities have an aggressive warrior-centered culture or an ideology of triumph-via-conquest, they will likely come to blows. Boxers fight one another because they’re committed to the ‘ideal’ of fighting. But, entities can come to blows even if their similar or shared ideologies champion justice or peace. They may compete for the title of the champion of peace or justice. Thus, the various Christian sects and kingdoms battled one another for the king-of-the-hill title as the Defender of Christendom. We’ve seen much the same among the various sects of Islam over the centuries. Soviet Union and Red China split apart in the late 50s over ideological as over national disagreements. Mao accused the Soviets of taking the ‘capitalist-road’ while Soviets accused Mao of reckless ‘adventurism’; both sought to lead the worldwide communist movement. Similarly, the democratic West shifted its allegiance back and forth between communists and fascists in the 20s and the 30s. Initially, communism seemed the more threatening and alien force on the European horizon–not least because it first triumphed in ‘Asiatic’ Russia. Mussolini became the darling as a bulwark against the Left and new kind of progressive and modern right-wing leader. But when Hitler came to power and created lots of trouble, many in the democratic West argued that they had more in common with the communists since communism too was a product of the Enlightenment.
During the period of the Hitler-Stalin pact, it was argued that Nazi Germany and Soviet Union actually shared more in common than with the ‘decadent’ bourgeois democratic powers. Both were radical, ultra-statist, and social-engineer-ist. When Hitler violated this pact by attacking the USSR, USSR was again ideologically included in the ‘progressive’ and even democratic camp.
So, there are many ways to find or neglect ideological affinities or differences between political or cultural entities.
And, this can be done with primitive peoples too. National Socialists could idealize the primitive state of man–at least ‘Aryan’ man–as one ruled by proud warriors and sacred sorcerers, an idea appealing to men like Himmler. But communists and radical leftists could idealize the primitive state of man as one in which people were communally-oriented and shared things in a social order unencumbered with class hierarchy. (There is a such an implication in Hillary Clinton’s “It Takes a Village” which argues that modern society should be organized along the lines of the primitive African communities where the entire village is said to play a role in raising children and managing all aspects of society as a whole.)
Macho types could idealize primitives where men were men(hunters and warriors)and women were women(mothers and wives). Feminists could idealize primitive societies as ‘matriarchal’ than ‘patriarchal’, as social order where the sexes are more equal. .
War-monger types could respect primitives as fierce tribesmen willing to fight for ‘land and pussy’ and peacenik types could romanticize primitives as nature children living in harmony with nature. What appealed to the right about primitivism was the centrality of ‘blood and soil’ whereas what appealed to the left was the more ‘egalitarian’ sharing of goods and power within the tribe. In this sense, one could say both modern rightism and modern leftism have a primitivist longing in their ideologies. Even as they embraced modernity and progress, they were trying to go ‘back to the Garden’. As to whether this paradise was ruled by proud warriors or maintained by some intuitive egalitarianism was in the eye of the beholder. In this sense, the politics surrounding the Navi Tribe in AVATAR can be interpreted as leaning ‘leftist’ or ‘rightist’ or both. The Navis do seem to be a ‘superior’ race of greater strength, higher intelligence, deeper natural wisdom, and more varied ‘spiritual’ powers. If we are to admire them for their superiority, then the notion of leftist equality is negated. However, they also seem to maintain a society without the kind of hierarchy of power and competitive mania that marks modern human societies. As such, the Navis could represent what humanity has lost in its search for greater wealth and power–the link not only with nature but sacred bond with fellow man.
But, let us focus on the rightist aspect of the Navis. They are indeed a tall, handsome, impressive, and intelligent people. Though primitive, they seem to have all the advantages of technology through their natural attributes. If humans need technology to rise above nature, Navis seem to rise above nature within nature. They don’t need airplanes to fly. They don’t need modern weapons to wage war. They don’t need modern agriculture to feed everyone. They are unlike primitive man who must struggle against nature all day and night to have just enough to eat. Navis are less like primitive men than primitive gods. They are closer to the gods worshiped by primitive men than to the men themselves. In the mythologies of primitive peoples, the gods live in the realm between man and animal, between heaven and earth. They travel between past, present, and future. Many have the power of flight. They can take on human form or animal form, thus possess both human wisdom and animal prowess. Primitive humans were a part of nature whereas the gods they worshiped were the very essence of nature. Humans had to struggle with nature which could crush them at any moment. Gods, on the other hand, had the advantage of duality. They could have human attributes but also possessed the power of nature itself. Humans could only live in nature whereas the gods also controlled nature. To the extent that the Navis are ‘tuned’ into nature rather than merely its inhabitants, they can be sad to be more godly than manly. They are like primitive Jedi Knights–not merely mortals but ones who’ve harnessed the central energy or force of the Universe. According to Hinduism, the top branches of the Brahmin caste are not only mortal priests but cosmic sages who hold the secrets of the universe. As such, they can be said to be more powerful than the universe. In AVATAR, it’s as though each Navi is born not only with high intelligence, great beauty, and impressive physique but also with spiritual link with nature.
Anyway, there are endless implications to the relations between modern man and primitive man, between man and nature. We are all products of nature and parts of nature. In the larger sense, even civilization can be said to be a part of nature. If Earth is nature itself, then human civilizations seen from outer space are no less parts of nature than rest of Earth. In the larger scale of things, our cities could be no more significant than beehives or beaver dams. Rather than being anti-nature, the world created by humans could be an imposition of OUR version of nature over other forms of nature. A bird builds a nest up on a tree. Prairie dogs dig underground tunnels. They all create their own version of nature which is hospitable to themselves and maybe hostile to others. Humans have done the same except on a larger scale. But, what we’ve created could be considered to be a form of nature to–if seen from a larger perspective.
So, there can be no definitive answer to the ideological questions of nature, and it should be this way since everything about both man and nature is too complex and multi-faceted for simple facile explanations.