Opinion, by Michael Royster

RIO DE JANEIRO – It has been ever so well reported, throughout the civilized world, that James Cameron, aka the Avatar Guy, has been to visit the Brazilian Amazon and has had an epiphany, namely the vision that Na’vi is a real place on the planet called “Amazonas” in Portuguese.

The Curmudgeon, aka Michael Royster.
The Curmudgeon, aka Michael Royster.

He has also learned that they are going to build a HUGE dam in the Amazon, fittingly called “Belo Monte” or “beautiful mountain”, because after the HUGE dam is built there will be an even HUGER lake rising upstream, so you either live on a beautiful mountain or build an ark.  Downstream, on the other hand, a bend of the mighty Xingu will allegedly diminish into a stream only slightly wetter than the mouth of the Colorado River.

According to the news, Cameron made his film without ever visiting a tropical jungle, he just imagined it.  But once he saw one, and saw real people who resembled, in their innocence, what he had imagined as the innocent Na’vi people, he was overcome by emotion. 

So he called all the reporters and photographers he knew (their number is legion) and had himself filmed with orange “warrior” paint stripes on his cheek, looking out of place and out of shape in a photo, joining in some native dance in celebration of the fact that they had just killed a poisonous snake which had fallen out of a tree near his wife.

The Curmudgeon wants to know, what gives Cameron the right to parachute into the jungle, look around and become the defender of the supposedly naïve people his film was supposedly about?  Or, better, what makes newspapers print all this fluff about Mr. Cameron and show him in this embarrassing photo, as if he’d discovered…Avalon?   

President Lula has called him a “palpiteiro” which is best translated by the (once only Yiddish now English too) word “kibitzer”.  A kibitzer is a guy who appears at some game and offers unwanted, usually meddlesome advice to the players about how they ought to play, even though the kibitzer himself may not know very much about the game. 

Maybe Lula is right, maybe Cameron doesn’t know much about what’s gone on—he’s certainly meddlesome.  Or maybe, just maybe, Lula is wrong.  This is one of Lula’s pet mega-projects, part of the PAC infrastructure program.  It’s also causing the diversion of a major river, just as will Rio São Francisco mega project that has generated so much heat and is even dearer to Lula’s heart. 

Cameron is doubtless well-meaning, he is a celebrity enjoying his well-deserved fame, who has come to Brazil and found a just cause to promote.  The unspoken corollary, of course, is that there is no cinematic celebrity in Brazil who has been ready, willing or able to meddle, thus incurring Lula’s displeasure.  Why? Probably because all Brazilian films are financed by the Federal Government’s Culture Fund.

However, the Curmudgeon notes that most lawsuits seeking to halt this project are filed by members of a branch of the Federal Judiciary, whose principal function is to face up to the Federal Government, and who are never reluctant to do so. The Curmudgeon feels they are far more likely to get results than a foreign kibitzer.  So, hold up on hewing down trees to build your ark.

Michael Royster, aka THE CURMUDGEON first saw Rio forty-plus years ago, moved here thirty-plus years ago, still loves it, notwithstanding being a charter member of the most persecuted minority in (North) America today, the WASPs (google it!)(get over it!)


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