Hudlin Entertainment

Acclaimed Author Steven Barnes on Avatar

A gentleman referred me to his website, upon which there is an essay stating that "Avatar" triggered a sense of guilt about being white. Saw it as a condemnation of the military, and of corporations. Really? This gentleman needs to love himself more, accept himself more deeply. Criticizing behaviors, or writing cautionary tales about the excesses of a group or organization is not the same as condemning it.

But that is exactly how many people feel. And that is not mature behavior. Unfortunately, society doesn’t really encourage us to be adults (which is an observation or criticism, not a condemnation of society. Sheesh.) I mean, if I tell Jason he’s done something wrong, his poor little heart lurches to the conclusion that he must be a BAD BOY. This is one of the reasons that I will stand him in front of a mirror, have him look at himself and say "I like myself!"

This is horribly hard for him at first, but when he gets into it, there are joyous giggles. Oddly (not really) discipline and criticism are taken MUCH better for the rest of the day–I can point out a non-optimal behavior without him leaping to the conclusion that if he isn’t the best boy in the world, he must be the worst.

And I think that a huge percentage of people live in such a binary world. If America isn’t clearly the best on every issue, all the time…you must be saying America is AWFUL. If racial group X has abused its power, or segments of it are organized in patterns inefficient for producing stable social/family units…why, I must be CONDEMING it. They’re the worst!

If corporations eat everything in sight, and you point that out, why, you must be saying corporations are EVIL! No, I’m saying they eat everything in sight, and must be treated like the jolly predators they are. Like Sam Neil said in Jurassic Park about carnivorous animals: they aren’t evil, they "just do what they do." We must simply be careful of limiting them to their appropriate place in the circle of economic life.

If mercenaries in the service of corporations are said to be capable of amoral behavior, that is hardly a condemnation of the military. It is an acknowledgement that the warrior urge is related to the "death drive," and must be balanced by love and controlled by diplomacy and compassion. Society cannot exist without the courageous men and women who eat stress and spit fire. God knows I ain’t going into the caves of Tora Bora…not unless there is absolutely, positively no one else to do it. But condemn this vital drive for OUR mismanagement of it? That would be like condemning the sex drive because immature expressions of it lead to illegitimate children and the spread of disease.

The sex drive, the survival instinct, the drive to dominate and control…these things are not evil. They just are what they are, do what they do. Get this straight: I LOVE this country. There is no where I’d rather live. But because it is populated by human beings, it has been guilty of horrific acts. But wow, can you believe how hard we try to grow and heal? Amazing.

So many men feel guilty about being men, ignoring the price of carrying that toxic and intoxicating drug testosterone in their veins. And apparently, the legacy of racism is that we can’t really think of humanity as being non-heirarchical. That the attempt to embrace "equality" leads to staying quiet about your beliefs that group X ain’t quite up to snuff. And if you say something that trips a guilt switch, the easiest default is to assume that, well, if My Group isn’t BETTER, then We must be worse. Must be. What else could anyone possibly be saying, eh..?

This kind of thinking is poisonous. We are so much better than this. We MUST be able to speak of our pain, speak our truth. And be able to hear it while maintaining, without the slightest doubt, the knowledge that no one is closer to the divine than we are.

The problem is that the cost of holding that belief is abandoning the hope that we are closer to the divine than others. And that, apparently, for almost everyone: whites, blacks, gays, straights, Americans, non-Americans, men and women…virtually everyone seems to need that belief just to make it through their lives.

Believing in differential worth, applied to entire groups of human beings, seems to be one of the most addictive drugs in the world. And when it turns on you…God in heaven, is it ever vicious.

You deserve better than that, each and every one of you. The love you have for yourself will be the love you can offer your family, your community, your world. And trust me: we need every drop you can muster.

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