More on the Avatar phenom

The ever-thoughtful and interesting Steve Greydanus weighs in on the hysteria.

And the invaluable Rod Bennett offers a series of typically insightful reflections on the movie fueled by all sorts of good stuff from Chesterton, Belloc, Lewis and Tolkien.

In particular, I found this fascinating:

Like Pixar’s recent WALL*E, Avatar depicts a cautionary imagined universe which might almost have been dreamed up by Hilaire Belloc, G.K. Chesterton, or Dorothy Day. These 20th century Catholic “Distributists” as they were called, prophesied a state of affairs wherein Capitalism and Communism would eventually agree to call off their long, destructive stand-off and allow a merger to take place, a cynical marriage of convenience between Big Business and Big Government for their own mutual benefit. In WALL*E it was the ubiquitous Buy N Large corporation, whose mile-long “Ultra-stores” sold “all you need and so much more” to an increasingly sheep-like population but whose W. Bush-like CEO also happened to be President of the World. Here in Avatar it’s the Resources Development Administration (or RDA), a “quasi-governmental administrative entity” which started as a mere globe-straddling monopoly but has ended up with the ability to use the nation’s armed forces the way Andrew Carnegie used Pinkerton guards, with an RDA officer on every battlefield giving direct orders to the generals. In both cases, nothing like “the free enterprise system” exists any longer: Big Business has come to rely on Big Government completely (just as Wal-Mart relies on Food Stamps, property-tax breaks, and other forms of massive corporate welfare to continue paying out its poverty-level wages) and Big Government (ever since the Soviet Union failed for lack of cash) has realized it can’t get along without Big Business. Belloc called this situation “The Servile State” but you don’t need quite his level of genius to see it coming these days, if, indeed, it hasn’t got here already. Not with Mr. Bush’s TARP program in the news, guaranteeing Federal control of the banks from now on, and Mr. Obama’s orgy of government buy-outs for former business enterprises such as General Motors all over the front pages (GM, which used to be, if you’ll recall, the largest corporation in the world—the Buy N Large of its day—and may yet be again, though under “entirely new management”). Even the redoubtable ex-Soviet mouthpiece Pravda observed these developments and pronounced them “the death of private enterprise” in America…and they were right. In truth, today’s political economy is something horribly new and different—the bastard love-child of its quarrelsome 19th century parents (Capitalism and Communism) with the many of the worst qualities of both.

Avatar then, is no indictment of Capitalism, a system which, like Communism, is extinct in Cameron’s world…and in ours, too, IMHO. James Cameron may not have read the Catholic Distributists (nor have the makers of WALL*E in all likelihood, though director Andrew Stanton is, in fact, a Christian of some stripe) but for keen, observant eyes like theirs, so adept at “discerning the face of the sky,” all one has to do is “discern the signs of the times” (Mt 16:3). I, myself, wish more Christians could find a way to step out of the smothering hothouse of the left/right culture war and learn to do the same.

But read everything he has to say. There’s lots more where that came from. I love the guy!

Oh! And he’ll be speaking next August at the American Chesterton Society confab in DC! Don’t miss it if you can!


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