Avatar, compassion, Earth, ethics, God, humanity, poverty, progress, The History of Us, wealth
As usual, a bunch of junk has rattled around in my head and finally coalesces into something that seems printable, if not entirely coherent.
So, anyway, we saw the movie Avatar on Pay Per View the other night. I know, we didn’t really get the grandeur of it all, because we didn’t see it on a big screen, let alone in 3D. I get that.
That’s number one. Number two, is that some nights, the news is so damned depressing that I can barely stand it. The oil and all that. It just suffocates me with it’s intransigence, and insolubility, and how those to blame (a cast of hundreds no doubt, but certainly BP, the oil industry, Dick Cheney, and well, we could go on but why bother) will never be horse whipped or worse like they deserve.
Number three is that we have been watching the History Channel’s, The History of Us, which is not especially good, but not especially bad either. Last night we saw the beginning of the big up tick of industry, thanks to Carnegie and the Bessemer steel process. And of course, the rich at the very tippy top got obscenely wealthy, and the poor lived in squalor that recalls Dickens’s expose` of the London slums.
And well, like I said, all that mixed together in my mind, and I wonder–have we ever been much better than we are now, or as we getting any better? Sure, we know that throughout history, life has been cheap, short, and miserable for vast numbers of human beings. Look at every major building adventure in the world, including the US and you will find “industrial accidents” just part of doing business. No muss, no fuss, 136 dead here building this canal or dam, something like one quarter of all those steel walkers who built our skyscrapers, died in the process.
Today, that has improved, and we demand safer practices from our giants of industry who build. But nobody has been outraged at the 13 who died on the oil gulf rig, nor the 11 who died in the last mine explosion. Both BP and the mine owners had received countless citations for unsafe working conditions. But that shuts nothing down. Death is part of doing business still.
The wealthy of the so-called gilded age, played in Manhattan while tens of thousands lived lives of pure misery, holed up in tenements that remain hideous today. A journalist couldn’t get his pictures of the obscenity published in newspapers who considered the photos “too” awful. He finally started having symposiums to show the rich how the other 80% lived. The tenements were overhauled in less than 30 years, but only to a degree. They grew back with the great migration from south to north in the 30’s and 40’s or so.
Enter Avatar, a simply gorgeous movie with special effects both amazing and beautiful. Such a lovely world Pandora is. And this takes place far in the future and we, meaning earth, has found a way to travel to far places in the galaxy. So far so good. But that’s as far as the good goes.
We seem, for all our technological advances, to have progressed zero when it comes to our respect for other sentient beings. We apparently have no idea that there is an ethical issue at all in raping another land. We find out near the end, that Earth has been pretty much ecologically destroyed, so there is some urgency, but still, we have learned not one thing about doing what is right.
The rambo military leader is such an utter caricature of his calling, just so utterly devoid of rationality that one has to wonder. As Leonard Malkin said at the beginning, the story is rather poor. Poor is not the word I would use, it is bankrupt. One lone scientist and a couple of assistants try to take the path of understanding, but clearly they are superfluous and have no authority.
It’s hard to believe that we could be so barbaric in our behavior, but then again, looking at the world today, and reviewing the world of yesterday, perhaps it’s not so far off really. I’m not sure we have progressed much. We have prettied it up, tied some ribbons about, and we talk about “going green.” Hell, BP talked about green technology, in all those ads it placed before our television eyes. Note to self: when a ecologically suspect company spends money to tell me how wonderfully caring they are of the environment–beware. They are probably raping the hell out if it.
Which all says to me, that the world is still controlled by the rich as it always has been, for their amusement. The vast majority of us are simply the fodder for the war/industrial machine. We are thrown crumbs, sometimes more, or sometimes less, as little as can be gotten away with. The rich are always looking for ways to maximize profits as much for amusement as for any need on their part. Money is simply the way to keep score.
There are always philanthropists aplenty, who from their largess try to work on some “problem” or other. They are never more than marginally successful, because they can never convince the rest that there is anything short term worthwhile in doing so. And since, the fat cats die just like the rest of us, long term is a waste of their time.
I have to hope that things incrementally get better over time, but God must be utterly frustrated at how snail like we move. I contemplate all those who have died in war this day, and struggle to figure out if we have learned one damnable thing from time immemorial. From Cain and Abel, forward I find it hard to see that we are any more our brother’s keeper than when we were on that fatal but metaphoric day.
So, eat, drink, and be merry as the Ecclesiastics writer intoned. All is vanity. For tomorrow, rich, poor, powerful, or powerless, we die. As we traverse this time of life, some of us, hopefully, more of us, will seek to do good on this small blue dot. Believer or atheist, just because it’s the right thing to do. Amen.