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Ed Driscoll

Forget It Jake, It’s Braziltown

April 12th, 2010 - 3:04 am

The New York Times has an article on James Cameron, who seems to have internalized his role as the auteur behind the Rousseauvian ecological themed Avatar to a degree that hasn’t been seen since Clayton Moore acted in real life like he really was the Lone Ranger personified. Or perhaps it’s the ultimate example of what blogger Val Prieto calls “Omnipotent Tourist Syndrome,” combined with the Hollywood celebrity’s public “Mini-Me” identikit persona that Roger L. Simon discussed in Blacklisting Mystelf.

In any case, the photo of Cameron at the top of the Times article has to be seen to be believed; Hot Air dubbed it “Photo of the Day,” yesterday. It depicts Cameron going native — really native — with the Arara tribal natives of Brazil, wearing red face paint and a some sort of yellow tribal hat that Carmen Miranda would have killed for, while posing with for Times’ photographer.

Then there’s this:

The focus is the huge Belo Monte dam planned by the Brazilian government. It would be the third largest in the world, and environmentalists say it would flood hundreds of square miles of the Amazon and dry up a 60-mile stretch of the Xingu River, devastating the indigenous communities that live along it. For years the project was on the shelf, but the government now plans to hold an April 20 auction to award contracts for its construction.

Stopping the dam has become a fresh personal crusade for the director, who came here as indigenous leaders from 13 tribes held a special council to discuss their last-ditch options. It was Mr. Cameron’s first visit to the Amazon, he said, even though he based the fictional planet in “Avatar” on Amazon rain forests. Still, he found the real-life similarities to the themes in his movie undeniable.

The dam is a “quintessential example of the type of thing we are showing in ‘Avatar’ — the collision of a technological civilization’s vision for progress at the expense of the natural world and the cultures of the indigenous people that live there,” he said.

Mr. Cameron said that he was writing a letter to President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva urging him to reconsider the dam and that he would press for a meeting with the president.

Good thing Cameron wasn’t around to block progress in the 1910s; the California city that has put tens of millions into his bank account would have been just another dusty small town.

In his latest article at Pajamas, Victor Davis Hanson compares the current “Great Recession” with FDR’s Great Depression. As I think Virginia Postrel noted in 2009, America,  in sharp contrast to the 1930s, was a comparatively wealthy and technologically far advanced nation before the economy really hit the skids in the fall of 2008, just in time to give Rahm that proverbial crisis to prolong exploit.

As Postrel wrote at the end of 2008,  “Oh the thrill of imagining a Great Depression. It’s an opportunity for Great Design and Really Cool Government.” But a big difference between the ’30s and today was that the original Depression-era America was much, much poorer and rural overall, with a much greater disparity in wealth and technological benefits between cities and the hinterlands. That was a nation that was still struggling to bring the same sort of infrastructure, such as electricity, roadways, sanitation, telephones, radio, etc. that cities took for granted, to rural America. Projects such as Hoover Dam and the T.V.A. played key roles in modernizing their respective regions in the 1930s, just as William Mulholland’s engineering efforts to provide water to Los Angeles did in the teens.

In those eras, progressives such as Hoover and Roosevelt seemed genuinely concerned with their namesake philosophy, modernizing the nation and advancing it towards a technological future. Today, James Cameron makes a very comfortable living from technology that couldn’t have been dreamed of during the Depression, but utters radical chic quotes such as “I believe in eco-terrorism.” He’s determined to prevent the Third World from creating the infrastructure that makes possible something approaching the same level of day to day comfort that he — and most of the rest of the rest of us in America — take for granted.

As Tom Wolfe noted at the dawn of this century, the average American with even a modest amount of success, let alone Cameron’s wildly good fortune,  “had probably never heard of Saint-Simon’s, but he was fulfilling Saint-Simon’s and the other nineteenth-century utopian socialists’ dreams of a day when the ordinary workingman would have the political and personal freedom, the free time and the wherewithal to express himself in any way he saw fit and to unleash his full potential.”

But today’s utopian-socialists seem determined to put an end to that. Both in the developing world, and here, oddly enough.

Tell me again, other than looking for a replacement for “liberal,” a word that fell into disrepute right around the original Great Recession of the late 1970s, why do they want to be called “Progressives” these days?

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