“The Avatar Blues” -or- “Caution: 3D CGI can lead to suicidal thoughts”

Republibot 3.0
Republibot 3.0's picture

Our erstwhile reader, Kit, has recently brought to my attention an article on CNN (Dot) Com about how Avatar is adversely affecting some people psychologically, and has requested that I stop making fun of obsessive Trekies as a result. Well, obviously *That* ain’t gonna’ happen , but he does make a very valid point about how obsessive genre fans aren’t a Trek-only phenomenon.

In some cases, it can be dangerously obsessive. The first such case I ever heard of an SF-related suicide was a Midwestern kid in 1979. He was so distraught about the cancellation of Battlestar Galactica that he killed himself. This has been blown off by fans and ‘danes for a generation now as stupid, crazy, ‘taking things too far’, and so on. I think that’s being too dismissive, though. First of all, a kid *killed himself* because of a TV show, and I don’t think you can ever really just say “Well, he was nuts, that doesn’t count.” Clearly it does. You can’t just ignore the pain and suffering that caused his family by saying “He was mentally ill.” Sure he was, but that doesn’t negate the results, it doesn’t change the level of pain that he was feeling. I think it’s disingenuous to praise ‘crazy’ when it’s someone like Patton or MacArthur and it suits our needs, and dismiss it when it’s embarrassing. I mean, hell, we’re all genre fans, right? Most of us aren’t wrapped too tightly to begin with.

And yet this CNN article http://edition.cnn.com/2010/SHOWBIZ/Movies/01/11/avatar.movie.blues/inde... discusses just this sort of obsession in a broader scale. In essence, it tells of how viewers experience depression after leaving the film, and being forced to experience the humdrum workaday realities of life. It also mentions feelings of ‘disgust’ towards humanity, in large part because of the actions depicted in the movie. Let me repeat that for emphasis: “Disgust for humanity based on a movie.”

Case in point: >>>"Ways to cope with the depression of the dream of Pandora being intangible," has received more than 1,000 posts from people experiencing depression and fans trying to help them cope. <<<

And
>>>That's all I have been doing as of late, searching the Internet for more info about 'Avatar.' I guess that helps. It's so hard I can't force myself to think that it's just a movie, and to get over it, that living like the Na'vi will never happen. I think I need a rebound movie," Elequin posted.<<<

And

>>>RELATED TOPICS James Cameron Movie Reviews Entertainment "Ever since I went to see 'Avatar' I have been depressed. Watching the wonderful world of Pandora and all the Na'vi made me want to be one of them. I can't stop thinking about all the things that happened in the film and all of the tears and shivers I got from it," Mike posted. "I even contemplate suicide thinking that if I do it I will be rebirthed in a world similar to Pandora and the everything is the same as in 'Avatar.' "<<<

And this one is particularly telling:

>>>"One can say my depression was twofold: I was depressed because I really wanted to live in Pandora, which seemed like such a perfect place, but I was also depressed and disgusted with the sight of our world, what we have done to Earth. I so much wanted to escape reality," Hill said.<<<

Now, obviously, all of these people would seem candidates for some form of mental illness or another, but we can’t just blow it off as a statistical anomaly. I mean, you didn’t get thousands of people contemplating suicide and/or ecoterrorism from Star Wars or Blade Runner, now did you? I think there’s several mitigating factors here that are perhaps contributing to it.

1) The film is more immersive than most other SF films. The CGI is extremely detailed, and the depth of field is extremely great. The CGI extends to a very distant horizon, and - I’m told - a good deal beyond it, just to increase the sense of veracity. Is this a reason to kill oneself? Of course not - I mean, no one kills themselves over Roger Dean album covers, right? - but it is deeper and more complex than most people are used to seeing. Also, the 3D is very good, very well done, and it blurs the line between film and viewer in ways that *most* people aren’t ready for, thus making the deep, dark, fake world seem deeper and darker and realer still.

In “Videodrome,” the “Cathode Ray Mission” hypothesized that on a primitive level, our brains can’t tell the difference between TV and reality. This is a learned behavior, and it seems to make sense. We’ve all heard stories about people seeing movies for the first time in the 1890s running from the theater in terror because they thought they were about to be hit by a train. Small children don’t understand the difference between cartoons and reality, and are extremely impressionable - and unexpectedly violent on occasion - as a result. The ability to distinguish between real-world fact and video-world fiction is one we train ourselves to make as we get older, and there’s some circumstantial evidence that suggests every time the video technology improves radically, you get an upswing of people who have to re-learn the distinction.

The most famous case is when Gilligan’s Island went to color in the second season, the state department started getting letters from people who thought it was real, and requested the government to assist these poor castaways. No, really.

Avatar has seriously raised the bar on SF visuals, and I think that’s causing some people to have to re-learn the distinction between reality and fantasy. Undoubtedly their senses are overwhelmed, and their primitive reptile hindbrains don’t know quite what to make of it, how to cope.

2) The movie is *intended* to make a strong emotional impact. Back when “Saving Private Ryan” came out, you had hundreds of Normandy vets who were having flahsbacks, many of them for the first time in fifty years. It was a bit too real for them, a quantum level above “The Longest Day.” Suddenly they were in the middle of the most terrifying day in their lives, and most of them weren’t ready for that.

Likewise, Avatar is deliberately jingoistic about its environmental message, and its contempt for humanity, a species that’s sinned against nature and has to be punished. This is the kind of thing that probably wouldn’t have had as much impact forty years ago, or even twenty years ago, as it does today.

The Green movement is very strong and it has largely supplanted traditional religion in pop culture ( http://www.crichton-official.com/speech-environmentalismaseligion.html ). As such it generates the kinds of strong revival meeting feelings that religion does, including - but not limited to - a sense of disgust with our species, and a kind of dread/longing for the final eschatelon that’ll punish the wicked, reward the just, and end this quite-literally God damned world once and for all.

3) This movie is a huge crossover success, meaning it’s being seen by millions of people who don’t ordinarily watch SF. A lot of these people are pretentious types who decry SF as being “Kid’s stuff” and “Trash,” but insist that this film is somehow “Important” and atypical of things SF films normally do.

Obviously, they’re full of crap, and don’t grasp that SF tackles important social questions all the time. In fact, that’s sort of the genre’s day job, with space battles and scantily-clad green-skinned alien sex-slaves being more of a nighttime hobby than anything else, but still it makes me wonder: How many of these people have never seen an SF film before?

Seriously: if you like the genre - any genre - then you’ve developed a kind of coping mechanism for it. If you’ve grown up liking westerns, then you might be a bit shocked by A Fistfull of Dollars, or Little Big Man, or Dances With Wolves, but you have a context to fit them into. Yeah, they’re odd divergences from the norm, but they are *just* westerns, after all. Likewise, if you watch a lot of SF, then you’ve got a sort of context to fit your reactions of this film into - this part is a bit like this, that part is a bit like that, this part here I’ve seen before in thus-and-such film, and so on. I suspect that these overloading suicide-daydreaming folks are people with little-or-no exposure to the genre, and hence they lack our glorious geek coping mechanism.

So that’s my take on it all. What do you think? Sound off below!

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Comments

We reap what we sow

neorandomizer's picture

We have seen this problem develop for the last 10 years or so in the online game genre. People have taken World of Warcraft, Everquest, and Eve online to extremes. It was just a matter of time when this happened in a mass scale with a popular movie. It is even older than online computer games there was some people that took the old pen and paper Dungeons and Dragons game too far.

In fact the use of film as propaganda to move the masses is as old as film. The problem is not the games or films but the people, they are not taught critical thinking or any form of logic so why should they be able to distinguish reality from fantasy. The producers of Avatar are getting the reaction they wanted, an unthinking reaction that nature is good and humans are bad. The whole green movement has devolved into that simple thought. It is the reason that many people are still pushing the man made climate change agenda even though it is now known that the UN reports are trash science.

Education is the most important thing to a democracy but we have removed the aspects that would build strong critical thinking minds and substituted self esteem and correct political thinking. Many people will just accept what ever is shown them as truth instead of searching for it themselves. Most people are programmed to believe what they are told so why should they know the difference between fiction and reality.

weak minded

Republibot 3.0's picture

yup. you'll note i called these folks 'weak minded.' it's sad that i wasn't just being snarky.

The Artist Formerly Known As Republibot 3.0

D-Day Vets

For D-Day vets having problems watching SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, I can understand. That was not just a movie, it was reality, Their reality. Their hell. So for them, it was very real.

On Star Trek, I am a bit of Trek-fan, but I do not obsess about it. While I may get into a show (MONK), at the end of the day I know that it is just a show. Written and produced by people who have an incredible ability to kill it with the sheer weight of their egos, pride, vanity, and idiocy.

Only two movies have really bothered me: FIGHT CLUB and MYSTIC RIVER. The first one was too nihilistic for me to get 40 minutes in. The second had an ending that just, well, sucked.

yeah...

Republibot 3.0's picture

For D-Day vets having problems watching SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, I can understand. That was not just a movie, it was reality, Their reality. Their hell.

oh, I totally agree. You live through the worst day of your life, you spent forty years trying to get over it, and then you go to a movie that slaps you back in the meat grinder again. that's totally understandable.

I've long been of the theory that certain things function as lures for certain kinds of people more strongly than others.  Star Trek has always seemed to appeal unusually strongly to Aspergery people, Star Wars always seems to appeal unusually strongly to otherwise-normal kids from broken homes, and so on. Presumably, then, Avatar might be appealing unusually strongly to...i dunno...environmentalists with feelings of hopelessness? Prog Rock fans who always wanted to go live inside album covers? I don't know what. Something, though.

The Artist Formerly Known As Republibot 3.0

Erstwhile

Republibot 3.0's picture

Kit's not 'erstwhile', he's right there!  See!

Well, he wasn't when I wrote that.

Ok, ok, I'm an idiot. I used the wrong word. The one I was looking for was...uhm...uhm...bilaterally symetrical? No, no, that's not it...uhm...uhm....prolific? no, no, it wasn't prolific. Uhm...gorilla? No, no, no, it wasn't gorilla. Uhm...aardvark? heh, heh. No, it wasn't aardvark. Funny, though. Uhm...was it a rabbit? No, no, no, it wasn't a rabbit. Was it...uhm...

The Artist Formerly Known As Republibot 3.0

over empathy

nwkeys01's picture

that was the whole point of the movie,
maybe it would get to thinking about caring for the enviroment

but some people who are over-empathic (people who pretty much soak up emotion around them like a sponge) have to be on the extreme watch. They are even more severely tied to the emotions they are feeling

Undoubtedly

Republibot 3.0's picture

that was the whole point of the movie,
maybe it would get to thinking about caring for the enviroment

Oh, undoubtedly. It's total environmental propaganda, interwoven with some hokey, idealized "Noble Savage" nonsense. As R1 said in his review, it's basically covering the same ground as "Ferngully: The Last Rainforest." <G> It is entertaining propaganda.

Here's the thing I don't get: A lot of conservatives recognize the movie for what it is, and are boycotting it, as if that'll make any difference. A lot of us keep talking about the "Culture Wars" and how the media is opposing the right and so on, and yet no one I talk to has any interest in actually making any high-glitz media-savy conservative entertainment as a counterpoint. I mean, would it be hard to come up with right wing propaganda to counter left wing propaganda? No, of course not, but rather than work towards something like that, we mostly just sit around and talk about football and gainsay the other guys.

It's hard to fight an entertainment war if you're deliberately avoiding using the media, you know?

The Artist Formerly Known As Republibot 3.0

Tide of media

nwkeys01's picture

we've all both liberal and conservatives
(except for a few crazies)

have noticed something is really screwy with our weather. enviromentalism is not inherently conservative or liberal. It just is enivromental. because of this, whichever group gets in first has the run of it.

Ideas are not inherent to a party; take for example, did you know Abraham lincoln, a republican was a socialist? He and Marx we're good friends and corresponded in letters

enviromentalism is tagged as Liberal mainly only because of Al Gore. If a well known conservative that was popular had done it first , it would have been labeled conservative

All the same, We should be caring for our enviroment or else we'll wind up killing ourselves because we didn't. Same message as Jurassic Park and various other movies, don't screw with Mother Nature, don't play god, etc

@nwkeys01

neorandomizer's picture

@nwkeys01 True environmentalism is not liberal or conservative but the means and ends can be. Lincoln signed the law that created what became Yosemite national park and Teddy Roosevelt helped create Yellowstone.

The problem with the modern green movement is that it tries to pretend that man is not part of the natural world and that animals and nature are more important than human lives. There will always be people that will destroy things for short term profit that is why we make laws to protect things. But sometimes you have to make a chose between the greater good and conservation. There needs to be a balance not the all or nothing stand that many people in the green movement take both modern life and the natural world can live side by side but we need to stop thinking that it is a zero sum game and use some forethought and planning. The banning of DDT has not saved the bird population like the greens of the 70’s thought but it has cost millions of human lives by stopping and reversing the progress made in the control of Malaria in Africa, Asia and parts of South America.

I do not want to see the world paved over and become one large planet wide city like Trantor in the Foundation stories but I have no desire to live like the Native Americans of 600 years ago either. I am one of those people that believe we could save the Earth not by removing technology but by using it to harness the energy and resources of the solar system. This would remove the need to use the resources of Earth and give people room to expand and find new ways to live.

The problem with a movie like Avatar is that it is a fantasy that has no real relation to the problems of the real world. The people in the poor nations of the Earth see the green movement not as a good thing but as the industrialized nations trying to stop them from getting a better life. Instead of telling them no you can’t we should be showing them how to come to our level without making the mistakes we did. The third world should be helped to jump over the messy industrial age straight to the information age but that takes money and education and it does not lend itself to snappy bumper sticker slogans.

Lincoln

Republibot 3.0's picture

take for example, did you know Abraham lincoln, a republican was a socialist? He and Marx we're good friends and corresponded in letters

Oh, they were not! Marx sent Lincoln a letter congratulating him on his re-election in 1864. Ambassador Adams (To London) sent Karl a polite acknowledgement that the letter was received and read, but not endorsed. That's where it ends. They weren't friends, Lincoln never wrote back, nor would he have had much opportunity: he was dead within a year.

You can read the whole thing here http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/iwma/documents/1864/lincoln-letter.htm

The Artist Formerly Known As Republibot 3.0

Humanity-bashing

Mama Fisi's picture

The Husband bought the DVD of Avatar, but we haven't watched it yet, mainly because we don't think the breathtaking visuals will be worth sitting through the hammer-blow environmental message. The snippets I've seen on trailers and "making-of" programs actually turns me off. I have a lot of respect and affection for Nature, and I think we have an obligation to be good stewards of the planet, mainly because it's the only one we've got, but I just don't care to be beaten over the head by how bad I am as a member of a bad species. I've outgrown that interest in humanity-bashing.

I've heard this movie called "Dances with Smurfs." The Kevin Costner film that this refers to was a terrific film, right up until he and his Indian wife go into the winter camp. After that the film was horrible and depressing. I watch films for escapist relaxation and amusement, not to have my emotions ripped apart and my dignity assaulted and my species spat upon.

As for people getting so immersed in the "reality" of Pandora--and I hate to phrase it this way--but cults throught human history have depended upon finding impressionable acolytes to exploit. This might not be James Cameron's intent--and recall that he had millions of young women moved to impassioned tears by Titanic--but cults like Jonestown and Heaven's Gate are able to talk their followers into committing suicide. And I'm not going to need to remind anybody that one of the world's major religions currently is reknowned for having its followers strap bombs to their bodies in order to blow up as many infidels as possible in order to reap heavenly rewards.

With the forced decline of organized religion in the US, people who have a mindset for following prophets will latch onto things like the Green movement, Avatar, sports franchises, or anything else which can fill the void that needs inspiration and organization.

I'd like to see what these "special effects" in Avatar are like, but personally, I don't think the movie itself is worth the effort.

Masquerading as a normal person day after day is exhausting.
Magpie House Comics
http://www.hirezfox.com/km/

Cults

Kevin Long's picture

>>With the forced decline of organized religion in the US, people who have a mindset for following prophets will latch onto things like the Green movement, Avatar, sports franchises, or anything else which can fill the void that needs inspiration and organization.<<

Ever talk to a Trekie? Ever hear the song "Born again Trek?" It's intended ironically, wink wink, but kinda' not really. Our own Sheldon has repeatedly described himself as a "Koolade-Drinking Trekie." Harlan Ellison once told me that as cult leaders go, Gene Roddenberry was far more successful than Elron, and I can totally see what he means. I mean, Trek is not only culty, but it's *pervasive.*

Star Wars has become increasingly culty as the median age of fans has increased, and as Lucas himself has retreated more and more into his role as the Dali Lama of Dorkistan, but it's still a distant second to the Cult o' Trek.

Sincerely,

Kevin Long

http://www.kevin-long.com

There was an environmental message?

10000li's picture

When I watched “Avatar,” here’s what I got out of it:

Boobies!

Intelligent Design*

Nearly every scene being an homage (or rip-off, depending on your perspective) of something done somewhere else in SF movies, TV, illustrations and stories. For example (and I think I’ve pointed this out before), the first time the human kid in his Avatar body, meets the panther-like creature that nwkeys01 uses as his avatar, I had a flash back to this classic Barsoomian image by Frank Frazetta:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mcclaverty/6050667055/

Boobies!

If there was an environmental message, it was only about as overt as the one in “Silent Running.”
---------------------------------

*Perhaps the reason I did not get so much of an overt pro-environment message from the film is because, right from the get-go, I recognized Pandora as an artifact. I didn’t see anything natural about it at all. The planet is so obviously a –made- thing – everything works together so well for the benefit of the Pandorans. I figured Cameron would reveal in the next film that some Superior Race terra-formed the planet either as a Risa-like play place or as a penance for destroying the environment of their own world.

As R3 points out in the OP, however, I have a much, much wider SF-nal background to draw from than do most of the people who saw this movie. I could find layers under the layers, intended or not, that a mainstream movie-goer might not understand even if they were explained.

------------------

Mama Fisi,

My recommendation to you is this:

First, think about your own review of “John Carter of Mars,” when you wrote that most people would consider that movie to be derivative, when a lot of what we consider to be basic tropes of SF started with the Barsoomian stories.

Then, watch “Avatar” with the goal of counting references to other films and stories. Honestly, if it weren’t for the break-through 3D, this movie would have been panned as totally derivative.

And, do what you can to watch on the biggest screen available with 3D glasses.

neorandomizer, the prognisitcator

10000li's picture

In February of 2010, neorandomizer wrote this, “The problem is not the games or films but the people, they are not taught critical thinking or any form of logic so why should they be able to distinguish reality from fantasy…Many people will just accept what ever is shown them as truth instead of searching for it themselves. Most people are programmed to believe what they are told so why should they know the difference between fiction and reality.”

He must have been anticipating this, “With the forced decline of organized religion in the US,…” [emphasis added]

The idea that organized religion in the US is in forced decline (if it's declining at all) is certainly a fiction, and not reality.

"Forced decline"

Kevin Long's picture

>>The idea that organized religion in the US is in forced decline (if it's declining at all) is certainly a fiction, and not reality.<<

Interestingly, I looked into it today. In 1982, 44% of all Americans reputedly believed in the Genesis account of creation as the literal truth. In 2002, 42% of all Americans do. So if belief is being forced out of us, whomever is doing the forcing isn't very effective.

Interesting also: the number of people like me who believe in both God and evolution is up to 32%. Always fun to be on the upswing of history.

Even still, the perception exists that there's an us-vs-them relationship between traditional Christianity and the secular world, and that the government is trying to do away with Christianity. This is nonsense, of course (Governments simply want dominance over religion), but it persists.

Sincerely,

Kevin Long

http://www.kevin-long.com

As Kissnger said*,

10000li's picture

"Perception is often more important than reality."

*at least it is so perceived.

Yes, it's being forced

Mama Fisi's picture

*sigh* Whenever religion rears its ugly head in this country, and somebody takes offense, and demands that the offending activity/person/object be removed from the public sphere, and goes to court to enforce this will, I consider that "forced decline."

When level-headed moderates of faith feel that they have to hide their feelings at the risk of offending someone, I feel that's evidence of "forced decline."

When the fanatics and extremists start becoming the recognizable face of faith in this country, I see that as a reaction to the "forced decline" of moderation.

I know you're an atheist, 10000li, so you don't see it this way. But as one of those "moderate" persons of faith, I do in fact feel my views are persecuted. And I feel that this politically-correct persecution has not had many good consequences in our society. It's polarized faith to the point that moderate folks just don't feel comfortable with their middle-of-the-road views anymore.

I just spent the weekend hosting my brother and his wife and young daughter. It was excruciating because my brother has recently "found religion" and he's quite passionate about it--to the point of being in-your-face about his Bible-based non-denominational church (and I still don't know what it is, except possibly Evangelical.) Now, considering my brother used to be a self-destructive hell-raiser, this change toward being a churchgoer is welcome, especially since he now has a toddler to care for. However, since I know he's got an addictive personality, I fear he's now as addicted to religion as he used to be to alcohol, drugs, and dangerous living.

I'm a pretty open-minded, tolerant person as far as faith goes; but when he started pontificating (pun intended) about how his particular church was the only one who had a lock on the Word of God, and all other religions were nothing but man-created hypocrisies, all I could do was sit there with a Mona Lisa smile frozen on my face--you can't argue with someone who is this blinded by passion.

These are the sort of people who are making it very difficult for moderate persons of faith to express themselves publicly. There are the passionate believers who feel that unless you follow their particular creed, you're damned to Hell, and there are the equally passionate non-believers who don't want any religion at all to impose upon their worldview, and will use every means at their disposal to eradicate religion from the public discourse.

I never saw anything wrong with things like public displays of Christmas images, but then I wasn't a Jew or a Muslim or an Atheist. To tell you the truth, I feel that the backwards-bending that public institutions are now doing to be "all-incluisive" to be far more offensive, because it's obvious that they're pandering to these neglected religions in order to make amends. I was looking on line for some farm animals to go with a toy barn I'd bought at a yard sale for my niece, and first I discovered that my toy barn was made in England, and then I read that although it originally included a pig among the farm animals (and the five sound buttons were for a chicken, a cow, a horse, a sheep, and a pig) the manufacturer has since removed the pig from the toy "to avoid offending Muslims and Jews." They've apparently substituted a donkey in the newer units. Now I want to try to buy that pig. I mean, seriously...is this what we're coming to? Worrying about whether someone will be offended by a toy pig in a farm set? Have they also altered the lyrics to "Old MacDonald's Farm?" Will we need to search the black market for Porky Pig cartoons? (On that note, my brother also took issue with our showing my niece some classic Bugs Bunny cartoons, fearing she'd see Bugs as a gay transvestite who gives Elmer Fudd an erection then causes him to blow Daffy Duck's (who's black, so this is racist, too) beak off. Dude, lighten up, SHE'S FREAKIN' TWO!!! I've watched gobs of Bugs Bunny cartoons, and not only did I grow up straight and normal, without ever shooting anything, but I've kept a love of classical music because of it!)

It seems to me that, these days--maybe always--the people who can shout the loudest are the ones who get their way, because the people who just want to be able to go about their lives retreat from all that noise. When I flip through the channels on the TV, all I find are people shouting. They're not really saying anything, they're just shouting.

So I'm not going to shout with you, 10000li. I'm just going to repeat that I feel like mainstream, everyday religion is in forced decline in the United States, and that it's being supplanted by fanaticism.

Masquerading as a normal person day after day is exhausting.
Magpie House Comics
http://www.hirezfox.com/km/

Stand up for moderation

10000li's picture

With all due respect, then, Mama Fisi, it is the moderates who must take a stand.

It is a tautology that most people are average, but this is an important fact to remember when one is faced with the disproportionate reporting of the actions of extremists. As Majel Barret reminded Trekkies often (I even heard her say it in person) the purpose of “Star Trek” was to sell toothpaste. This applies to news reporting as well, over TV, radio or print. Fox News, MSNBC and all the rest exist to provide a medium for extracting money from advertisers. The news must be focused on the titillating, shocking and controversial – and if the story is none of those, then it must be re-packaged to appear to be so.

If you feel like moderates don’t have a voice over the MSM, you are correct, but this is because moderation doesn’t sell toothpaste.

I propose that a little research will show that the same groups, such as Fred Phelps and his family, end up on the news more often just because their actions attract attention, not because they represent a trend toward a new majority view.

But, keep in mind, however, that one reaction to the Phelps gang was for some motorcyclists to basically provide white noise to overwhelm the chants and taunts of the Westboro loonies. There you can see, then, that some moderates who did not want to sit back and let the extremists take over figured out a way within the law to decrease the extremist’s negative effect.

Moderates have the same opportunities to get out the message that we all would rather just get along and go about our lives in peace. When you read something in the paper about some nuts thinking they need to change the zoning laws because a mosque is about to be built in town, you can write a letter to point out that most Christians are happy that other faiths have the chance to worship in their own place, in their own way. When you see that someone wants to protest Chick-fil-A over something or other, then get in line and buy more Chicken Sandwiches. When a toy company suspends pigs from their barnyard line-up, buy farm sets from another company.

But keep in mind, however, that the reason the company dropped pigs was because they wanted to make more money. They really don’t care about the religious sentiments of their customers beyond the extent that offending such religious sentiment might prevent their customers from opening their wallets. Other companies might discover that they are picking up more business precisely because they do have pigs in the box. It’s part of the ebb and flow of commerce, and I wouldn't try to read too much into it regarding the triumph of political correctness.

I lived in Singapore for about a year. It’s very educational to live in a place with real religious diversity. Hindus, Christians and traditional Chinese all get to have their icons displayed in the malls during the holiday season, and the Muslims just put up with it (because, as you know, their religion prohibits icons). The closest experience I’ve had in the USA was when I arrived in Brighton Beach, New York City, just in time for Passover, and the grocery stores had big ads about their specials on Passover foods, and Easter foods, at the same time. The owners may have been Jewish or Christian, but their goal was more fundamental than any religious consideration: Get people to spend money.

So, remember companies exist to make money, including news reporting companies, and what appears to be a PC trend is probably just selective reporting.

Follow The Money

Mama Fisi's picture

What you say is true, 10000li. Everybody gets up in the morning to make money. (OK, mostly everybody.) That's why the pandering bugs me so much--on the surface they say it's to be diverse and fair and to respect the feelings of others, but down deep they're just trying to make money. Channuka (sp?) was never a very big deal in the Jewish calender until merchants started to make it into a Christmas-for-Jews holiday.

And yes, it's usually one or two loud people with big lawyers who cause the trouble for the rest of the town when they insist the creche be removed from the courthouse square, or that the parks system not give cut branches to the Jews to build religious shelters for one of their holidays (slips my mind which one, sorry 'bout that) or that the local church can't use the town's bucket truck to decorate the evergreen on the church's lawn. I mean, really--who's actually being harmed by any of this?

There's a lot of divisiveness resulting from "diversity."

Masquerading as a normal person day after day is exhausting.
Magpie House Comics
http://www.hirezfox.com/km/

Now, now, let's not criticize Hanukkah

Kevin Long's picture

>>What you say is true, 10000li. Everybody gets up in the morning to make money. (OK, mostly everybody.) That's why the pandering bugs me so much--on the surface they say it's to be diverse and fair and to respect the feelings of others, but down deep they're just trying to make money. Channuka (sp?) was never a very big deal in the Jewish calender until merchants started to make it into a Christmas-for-Jews holiday.<<

It's not fair to criticize a religion for increasing or decreasing the importance of holidays, and they don't need to answer to anyone for that. Thanksgiving is a big holiday here, but not in Europe, where it originated. It's religious in origin, but Jews and Muslims and Sikhs and everyone is welcome to it. In general, most Americans don't celebrate the birthdays of saints the way they do in Europe. In fact, we Christians have *no* solid idea of when Jesus was born, so we elected to do it in December so it'd coincide with the big pagan Roman celebrations at that time of year. That way we'd stick out less and be less likely to get killed. So, arguably...

Religious festivals increase and decrease in relevance over time, and they're for the benefit of the believers, not outsiders. If Hanukkah has more relevance now than it did 1000 years ago, well, life is a lot different now than it was 1000 years ago, right?

>>And yes, it's usually one or two loud people with big lawyers who cause the trouble for the rest of the town when they insist the creche be removed from the courthouse square, or that the parks system not give cut branches to the Jews to build religious shelters for one of their holidays (slips my mind which one, sorry 'bout that) or that the local church can't use the town's bucket truck to decorate the evergreen on the church's lawn. I mean, really--who's actually being harmed by any of this?<<

I'm not aware of any church that isn't allowed to put a manger scene on their own property. There's about a zillion laws that protect this right, actually. Putting it on a courthouse has become an issue in the last 30 years or so. Some communities have gotten around this by putting a Menorah up alongside a nativity scene, and any other religious symbols from whatever other religions might have a holiday that coincides that year (Some religous calendars tend to wobble a bit. Hanukkah always starts on the 25th of Kislev, but the 25th of Kislev is not always on the same day in December). Not a whole lot of communities have opted for this, however, and even in ones that do, opposition for a display of religious symbols (Even done in an egalitarian sense) is increasingly opposed in the courts.

I do feel this is giving an unfair representation to the 5% or so of Americans who are self-avowed Atheists. The founding fathers never intended the nation to be anti-religious, just not to give an unfair advantage to one over another. In fact, the First Amendment *SPECIFICALLY* relates to the Federal government picking a religion *only.* States were free to do so, and indeed Virginia and a couple others had official churches well into the 19th century. The legality of this was never questioned, but it *was* considered increasingly unseemly for states to have official religions.

I don't think States should have official religions either (Or if they do, I think they should pick almost-extinct ones as a kind of cultural preservation thing: Florida could be Zoroastrian, and Oklahoma could be Mandean, New Jersey could be Samaritan Etc.), but I do think the intent of the article has been deliberately subverted in the service of an undemocratic few.

And I don't actually blame Atheists, who are, on the whole, no more or less evangelical than the rest of us. I blame a very small minority that I dub the "Anti-Theists:" people who utterly oppose the very concept of religion itself, and will use any means to destroy it. A lot of Atheists I know - and pretty much every Agnostic - feel that bunch goes way too far.

Sincerely,

Kevin Long

http://www.kevin-long.com

Force at the polls

Kevin Long's picture

>>It seems to me that, these days--maybe always--the people who can shout the loudest are the ones who get their way, because the people who just want to be able to go about their lives retreat from all that noise. When I flip through the channels on the TV, all I find are people shouting. They're not really saying anything, they're just shouting.<<

In theory, you need 51% or more at the polls to win, but in fact you don't. I don't mean the Electoral College (Which kicks ass, by the way!), this works at a state and local level as well.

Let's say you've got a standard state, the standard deviation of voters tends to line up with about 30% on the left, about 30% on the right, and about 30% who don't really give a crap. Usually about 50% of eligible voters turn out. Folks under 18 can't vote. That's about 23% of the population on average. Thus in a hypothetical state of a million people, the vote comes down to about 192,000 voters, who, statistically will line up about equally on opposite sides of any issue. This waxes and wanes a bit - it's more in presidential election years, and it tends to skew right a bit more in short wars, or in times of early economic distress, skew left a bit more in long wars and long economic distress, but on average. Likewise, there are occasional issues that'll *really* light up the polls, but on average, this is how it works.

The way this system is manipulated is when an outside group manages to rally people around some particular issue. The actual issue doesn't matter, abortion, prohibition, unions, gay unions, clothespins that have springs in them as opposed to the other kind, whatever.

Now, these people are invariably a minority - let's say 1% - and because they're obsessive about their one issue, and don't give a crap about anything else, they'll vote for whomever panders to their special need the best. So if I represent the Americans Against Thai Food Coalition, and the Democrats arent' willing to play ball, but the Republicans are, I'll tell my whackjobs to vote Republican.

Suddenly my 192,000 to 192,000 becomes 192,000 to 202,000, and the Republicans win. If the Republicans pull a Richard Nixon, and make a lot of promises they have no intention of keeping, then in the next elections, I tell my whackjobs to vote for the Democrats, and they win by the same 10,000 votes. This doesn't work *all* the time because occasionally there are other issues, crises, etc, but in off-year elections it almost always works.

For the fringe whackos, it's not about having a majority, it's about preventing your opponents from getting a majority. This means that the minority becomes disproportionately valuable and has to be pandered to, and this is how the basic concept of democracy is subverted by people who don't like spicy peanut-and-cucumber based foods. And other lesser groups.

Sincerely,

Kevin Long

http://www.kevin-long.com

The Festival of Lights

Mama Fisi's picture

Incidentally, I wasn't criticizing Hannukah--a lot of my Jewish friends have told me that it's not one of the more important holidays in their religious calender, and that they kind of resent the fact that marketing has made it into a second sort of Christmas simply because it happens at the same time of the year.

Masquerading as a normal person day after day is exhausting.
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