Avatar: A Pro-Freedom Movie

It’s been out for a while, but I only just got around to seeing Avatar. Luckily for me, the local cinema is open even with the snowstorm here in D.C. (yes, the movie theater is open, but the Federal Government is closed).

I wasn’t sure what to expect from it before going in. The day before, one of my Republican friends at school expressed disapproval of the movie. He didn’t say it in so many words, but he implied that the movie was anti-military and overly environmentalist. But I felt it was a movie I should see anyways — and I was right. Not only was it a decent movie, but I found its themes to be extremely pro-liberty.

[Read on only if you want spoilers!]

What really irks me is the idea that the movie is “anti-military.” In the very beginning we sympathize with the protagonist, Jake, because he was wounded in battle and the military would not pay for him to receive proper treatment. What could be more supportive of soldiers? Avatar makes us feel for a wounded veteran who wasn’t given proper attention by the country he served. It suggests that we don’t treat our military men and women well enough.

But the conservatives rage on. For example, John Podhoretz at the Weekly Standard wrote:

The conclusion does ask the audience to root for the defeat of American soldiers at the hands of an insurgency. So it is a deep expression of anti-Americanism-kind of.

Let’s take a step back from the blind pro-military-support-the-troops mentality. Why do we love our soldiers? Because our soldiers swear an oath to lay down our lives for our freedom. Soldiers volunteer to go through hell and back to defend the liberties we hold so dear. At least, that’s what Republicans have been telling us.

But what are the “soldiers” in Avatar? As the story progresses, we learn that they’re employed by some company to “provide security” — and end up attacking another civilization for “unobtanium.” This purpose has nothing to do with why we support our troops, it’s a paramilitary army working for a corporation attacking another planet and stealing their resources. The pilot in the movie, as she has a change of heart, says something along the lines of “I didn’t sign up for this shit.”

That’s not freedom. It’s not pro-America. And it’s not the view of our founding fathers. It’s straight and simple corporatist imperialism inwhich the state and corporations are so in bed with each other that the military is used to boost the profits of a corporation. Of course I’m going to root for the defeat of the human soldiers; they went to another planet to kill for the sake of some corporation. What the soldiers in Avatar do has nothing to do with defending freedom.

In fact, if you claim to support the troops because they defend our freedoms, you ought to cheer for the Na’vi soldiers. The Na’vi are the ones who are defending their homeland against attack by an outside invader. An honest assessment of the movie demands that conservatives cheer for the alien race, for it is their soldiers, not the humans, who are upholding the values of freedom and a strong national defense.

That’s not the only reason why pro-liberty viewers should enjoy Avatar. There’s also a strong theme of property rights throughout the movie. The facts tell us that what the corporation does is stealing, plain and simple. The Na’vi own the land, the magical tree, and the unobtainium underneath; the corporation flies in and bombs their homes in order to take their unobtainium.

More than anything it reminds me of Kelo vs. New London, when the Supreme Court decided it’s alright for the government to use eminent domain to forcibly remove someone’s property and give it to a corporation (read: steal from one to give to another). Government-sanctioned stealing is the sort of thing is what “conservatives” have claimed to fight against for years, and somehow their reviews of Avatar don’t mention this at all.

I guess to them, it’s alright if the people you’re stealing from don’t look like you or practice different religions than you. But as a libertarian, I can’t endorse that kind of thinking. As Jake says as he rallies the Na’vi to defend their homeland, “they can’t just come in and take what they want.”

That’s the main point I took away from Avatar. You can’t just force things you want from others. We all have our rights to life, liberty, and property. Peace comes from respecting the rights of others. And those effects weren’t too shabby either. I hope the sequels don’t ruin it.

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