The Corner

Since We’re Talking Avatar

I suspect that many conservatives are overestimating the appeal of Avatar’s politics as such. Rather, Avatar’s neo-primativist aesthetic is appealing, regardless of any contemporary political resonance, and that romantic primativism (as opposed to specific policy content) is what is really appealing about liberal feel-good environmentalism, too. It’s the pose, not the policy.

Avatar, Dances with Wolves, A Man Called Horse . . . Why do we dream of becoming primatives? My guess is that in stereotypical tribal cultures status inequality, while great, is fixed, and therefore not much of a source of anxiety, while in liberal cultures status is fluid and largely self-determined, and therefore a source of great anxiety. Nobody really moves up through Navii society, but nobody moves down, either. If you’re not the chief, the dauphin, the high priest, a top soldier, or the mate of one of these, you’re part of the undifferentiated horde. (And Pandora’s hoi polloi are less individually differentiated than are the various forest monsters.) This has more appeal to status-anxious moderns than many of us might imagine.

Of course, in these fantasies the adoptive primative brings certain sophsticated-world privileges with him, and therefore ends up a high-status member of the primative society he joins. (And therefore gets to bed down with a big blue Zoe Saldana. Not a bad trade-off for plumbing, if you ask me.) A Man Called Horse would not be nearly as attractive a fantasy if Horse had remained a slave to the end.

Romantic primativism has deep appeal across the political spectrum. Jonah, as our in-house authority on the aestheticization of politics, is well positioned to appreciate this. I’ve spent a fair amount of time researching and writing about the kook fringes of American politics, and you’d be surprised at how rabidly environmental certain of the neo-Nazi elements are. My guess is that, left, right, or kook, people are most drawn to political enviromentalism because of the romance of the primative than are drawn to the romance of the primative because they really care about cap-and-trade vs. carbon taxation.

Most Popular

White House

Hell, Yes

Editor’s Note: If you would like to read more pros and cons on voting for President Trump, further essays on the subject, each from a different perspective, can be found here, here, here, here, and here. These articles, and the one below, reflect the views of the individual authors, not of the National ... Read More
White House

Hell, Yes

Editor’s Note: If you would like to read more pros and cons on voting for President Trump, further essays on the subject, each from a different perspective, can be found here, here, here, here, and here. These articles, and the one below, reflect the views of the individual authors, not of the National ... Read More
Elections

Late Campaign Stops Don’t Seem to Do Much

Growing up in New Jersey, we called nights like tonight – where there were expectations for hooliganism -- vandalism, breaking windows, and perhaps even arson, “Mischief Night.” In Detroit, they called it “Devil’s Night.” In 2020, Americans just call it “Friday.” On the menu today: wondering ... Read More
Elections

Late Campaign Stops Don’t Seem to Do Much

Growing up in New Jersey, we called nights like tonight – where there were expectations for hooliganism -- vandalism, breaking windows, and perhaps even arson, “Mischief Night.” In Detroit, they called it “Devil’s Night.” In 2020, Americans just call it “Friday.” On the menu today: wondering ... Read More

Searching for a Sign

I’ve been waiting for almost six months to see a Biden-Harris yard sign in my neighborhood. Finally one -- just one -- appeared about two weeks ago. It is large and proud. The homeowners even equipped it with a spotlight, so that it is visible at night. I’m surprised, because liberal political yard signs ... Read More

Searching for a Sign

I’ve been waiting for almost six months to see a Biden-Harris yard sign in my neighborhood. Finally one -- just one -- appeared about two weeks ago. It is large and proud. The homeowners even equipped it with a spotlight, so that it is visible at night. I’m surprised, because liberal political yard signs ... Read More

Another Pollster Sees a Trump Win

The Trafalgar Group’s Robert Cahaly is an outlier among pollsters in that he thinks President Trump will carry Michigan, Pennsylvania, or both, and hence be reelected with roughly 280 electoral votes. (I explained his thinking here.) Last week another pollster, Jim Lee of Susquehanna Polling and Research, ... Read More

Another Pollster Sees a Trump Win

The Trafalgar Group’s Robert Cahaly is an outlier among pollsters in that he thinks President Trump will carry Michigan, Pennsylvania, or both, and hence be reelected with roughly 280 electoral votes. (I explained his thinking here.) Last week another pollster, Jim Lee of Susquehanna Polling and Research, ... Read More
Economy & Business

Daylight Savings Forever

Before I became a parent, I didn't have especially strong feelings about the time shifting by an hour twice a year. Like most people I was aware of the downsides -- increased car accidents, schedule confusion, etc. -- and I figured it would be better to knock it off. But I didn't feel personally offended by ... Read More
Economy & Business

Daylight Savings Forever

Before I became a parent, I didn't have especially strong feelings about the time shifting by an hour twice a year. Like most people I was aware of the downsides -- increased car accidents, schedule confusion, etc. -- and I figured it would be better to knock it off. But I didn't feel personally offended by ... Read More