White liberal guiltlessness (and some stuff about Avatar)

This is an old link but one I meant to share a while back because I enjoyed it. Giovanni Tiso notes that critical discussion of both Avatar and past injustices against Haiti are being decried as inappropriate, the former because hey, it's just a movie, and the latter because a tragedy is no time to try to hash out our complicity in Haiti's poverty.

Similar backlash occurred after 9/11 in the U.S., when any attempt to analyze whether U.S. policy had contributed to the rise of Al-Qaeda was treated as heartless political pandering. It's just another instance of the tyranny of the OR, where it's assumed one can't be both analytical and sympathetic. I would hope we're able to appreciate that real-life is more nuanced than that, even if we can't tolerate that level of complexity from our mass entertainment.

Besides, I’m a consumer of information just like everybody else, of serious, sometimes cataclysmic front page news that bleeds into entertainment news and back again, a phenomenon made even more pronounced by the design of Web pages and aggregators and by the nature of hypertext if, like me, you get most of your news online.

In that environment, it is quite natural that James Cameron should accept an award in the name of a people that is indigenous only to his head, and that it should be greeted at best with a collective smirk or shrug or guffaw, since after all it was done in the spirit and logic of the times, while actual political statements of demonstrable historical urgency, like Peter Hallward’s, attract offense and derision. And this same spirit and logic will dictate that an immense human tragedy that weighs on the shoulders of the international community should be consumed as an act of God, outside of history, in the same present tense as entertainment, asking of us only that we fill that void with as many random quick fire donations - think of the convenience of texting for relief - as we can fit in the course of our normal activities and in the time allotted for caring for such things.

There is only one thing worse than white liberal guilt, and it’s white liberal guiltlessness, demanding that history not be ‘brought into it’, that memory be erased. We must fight that. And, yes, give, and give discriminately.