To the American humans (I identified them as American due to the derogatory term for marines) the indigenous species Homo Pandorus of Pandora commonly called the Na’ vi are considered barbarians due to their tribal based culture, spirituality, and refusal of modernization. Even though their society is primitive to modern humans, their beliefs reflect those of the American (and many others) tribal cultures on Earth before their colonization. Indigenous Americans were known to worship the Earth as well as flora, fauna, and like the Na’Vi people have rituals of sacrifice involving fauna for religious and consumption purposes.
The comparison between the Na’ vi of Pandora and Indigenous Americans of Earth both respect and worship nature. The Na’ vi have a unique organ called Tsaheylu, which allows them to connect deeper with flora and fauna of Pandora something, not even tribal or modern humans can’t do. The Tsheylu is why they will possibly never change their cultural beliefs because through this connection they can bond with not only flora and fauna but there deity and ancestors as well.
The Na’ vi has several cultural norms and values, such as their spirituality and nature. Like humans, the Na’ vi people are knowledgeable and resourceful. Their care of life demonstrates the benefits of the Na’ vi how they feel the spiritual connection with the trees, animals, and air. Even their language has a cultural norm and values. Na’ vi approach each other by saying, “I see you,” meaning I see you for who you are inside and out.
This is also reflected in Yoga when using the term Namaste. The Na’ vi also uses their bodies as a vessel for communication with animals and a way of extending their consciousness to other living things.
The Na’ vi is no different than humans. We have some of the same values and norms. The RDA Corporation in the film shows the economic issues that arise within cultures. Pandora has resources valuable to RDA and is willing to use military-style force to obtain these resources. Most humans would not agree to destroy another indigenous people way of life, though it has been repeated throughout human’s history. Some say this film is compared to the European genocide of the Americas. Character Jake Sully is hired by the RDA to assist with learning the way of life with the Na’ vi. You quickly go through the enculturation with him, learning their culture. During this enculturation, he starts to understand their values and way of life. Jake also begins to see the greed within the RDA and defends the Na’ vi way. Another social comparison I saw was willing to die for what you believe in, such as spiritual and religious beliefs. The Na’ vi is ready to die for the protection of the Tree of Souls their connection to Goddess Ewya. Humans have also killed in the name of religious beliefs.
Instead, if you are human or Na’ vi both have aesthetic imperfections. One cultural difference between humans and Na’ vi people is how they address gender. The Na’ vi people have women in leadership and spiritual roles. They even teach their women to hunt and kill for protection. Some human cultures do not allow their women to be in any leadership role. I also believe the film explores the cultural difference within the human race regarding the environment. Pandora, a planet with virgin rain forests, beautiful creatures, and interconnected spiritually and RDA determine to destroy it. Within the human race, there is an argument brewing sometime now regarding climate change. Some believe Earth is in danger due to climate change and the destruction that comes with an advanced society.
Cultural relativism is the principle that others should understand an individual’s beliefs and activities. There are several to explore in Avatar. One is the Na’ vi who has tried several times to get the humans to understand their way of life. Due to RDA’s greed, they refused to understand the importance of the Tree of Soul. The RDA has also tried to get the indigenous people to understand the importance of the resources on Pandora. Due to Na’ vi way of life and belief on how they are connected with nature, they also failed to understand the ideas and activities of the RDA.
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