Avatar Film Group Week 11:
Sunday February 23rd, 2014

Warning! Major Spoilers!


Postman Header

Week 11 Recap by Eli Williamson-Jones

• update 2.28.14 - We were thrilled to find out David Brin gave the Avatar Film Group some good press on his Google+ profile yesterday after I forwarded him a link to the site. Read my full analysis of The Postman and Brin's TED talk below.

Brin Google

This week we decided to watch an adaptation of David Brin’s sci-fi novel The Postman. The setting is 2013 post apocalyptic America where a wandering man and his mule journey the wastelands of the west searching for a better life. Communities across the devastated country have become like kingdoms in the dark ages. Giant gates now guard the entrances of towns much like they did for castles in Europe. The postman is played by Kevin Costner and he eventually is captured by a marauding militia that forces slaves to mine in their concentration camp. Their leader is like a cruel king who indiscriminately kills anyone disobeying him.


Eventually Kevin Costner's character escapes and uses mail and a uniform found in an abandoned delivery truck to pass himself off as a post man working for the newly formed government of a restored United States of America. This gets him entry into some of the communities he passes along the way along with free meals and companionship. The people he meets are hungry for hope which is why they believe his story and even seek to be made postmen to join his cause.

After a surprise battle with the leader of the militia, the postman escapes with his lover to a hideout in an abandoned cabin. Upon returning to the surrounding communities, the postman discovers that one of the mail carriers he inducted into the cause, has established a network of postmen making deliveries between the towns. The myth of the reestablished United States has grown and has incurred the wrath of the militia leader who targets the postal carriers and the postman, now elevated among his piers as a living legend.

battle field

The movie ends with a smack down between the villain and the hero, but not before coming perilously close to an all out war between thousands on a battle field. And at one point in their conflict, the hero says, “wouldn’t it be great if wars could be fought just by the assholes who started them? We could settle this right here, you and me.” Villain: “Well, unfortunately it doesn’t work that way.”

In this scene we catch a glimpse of David Brin’s hope for humanity; that higher consciousness can win out over our darker nature, with people at the top using those at the bottom as pawns to satisfy their war lust. We see a little more of Brin’s idealism for a more hopeful future in his TED talk: The Horizon of our Dreams, which we watched after The Postman. (click highlighted paragraph links below to hear the exact quote from his talk)

Is civilization a progression? When were there better days? You have the standard model of looking back and this is in almost all human cultures, there was a golden age from which we fell from a state of grace closer to the Gods. (Garden of Eden) Nostalgia is a plague infesting our civilization right now and not just on the right, there's plenty of nostalgia on the left. But I'm not claiming this is wrong because 99% of cultures believed it. But we have been coming up with a rebel notion that a golden age if it exists in any place and time exists in the future. And we may not build it but we will build the grandchildren capable of building it or build the builders of such a civilization.”

“…we’re holding the planet in our hands, were already doing it, we’re like gods. We can destroy this world are we can save it. That's pretty impressive stuff. And we're choosing between the world of soilent green and one in which we can build magnificent things and include everybody. So what's the next thing? What's next? the fundamentals of the human civilization we have to get down, we have to nail it. The fundamental human civilization is shaped like a pyramid. 99% of human cultures until our time had lords lording over surfs below. And this was the standard human culture and it is in a tractor state meaning that given opportunities, some guys are going to figure out how to set this up and then set up their harems, and I'm sorry ladies, we are all descended from those harems.

The point is there's an alternative and its only been proved in the last 200 years though Pericles hinted at it, and it’s a diamond shape social structure in which the well off and empowered middle-class outnumbers not only the rich but outnumbers the poor and it’s the first time that it's ever happened. And some of you will get angry when I describe this because you’ll say we’re not living up to it, but your dream of wanting to live up to it is part of it. And so we have a situation in which not only is it diamond shaped and always under threat and presently under extreme threat, but all our ancestors faced this threat. But also there’s churn within, social mobility; a child need not to inherit the social status of the parent. This is the dream and it's been more true than it ever was before that, and it had better get more true than it is. But the diamond also rises and that's the whole idea of the positive sum game; where everybody does well and a few people do better than others but that isn't the dominant thing, it isn't the dominance that we see in the traditional pattern. The problem with the diamond is that it's unstable. And so we have the dance of cooperation and competition that I’ve written about, but somehow in the competition among the species and among the individuals in nature, you wind up with the circle of life; ecosystems that have the appearance of cooperation and nature is filled with these levels of competition and cooperation.

Competition being transcended by cooperation comes into play at the end of The Postman. In the last fight, the villain states; “great men are made by other great men. Patton had Rommal, Grant had Lee and I get you.” This is the competition model that even hints at good needing evil.

Postman Fight

But after the postman defeats the villain, he seeks to replace the pyramid system with that of the diamond. “It doesn’t have to be this way. We don’t have to kill each other. There’s going to be new laws. Law 1: no more killing. There’s going to be peace!”


In the light of David Brin's hopes that our world will someday transition from a type 0 to a type 1 civilization, might The Postman be seen in a more encompassing light? The fragmented, chaotic and war torn landscape of America could be symbolic for that of our world. And just replace the American flags who the militia leader tries to burn, with the Earth flag and a desire of the postmen that they are agents of a newly established government that seeks to unite fragmented states into a united nation. Could a similar movement of unseen hope uniting humanity play out in our near future? Would the pyramid model of society be the greatest obstacle of such a movement in the same way it was in the movie? Or will the more conscious citizens in this pyramid society challenge the leadership as they did in The Postman? Can the last battle be avoided like the movie by a great hero of the pyramid society waking up his people from their nightmare to become the dream of world spirit? Only time will tell?


David Brin's hope the pyramid society can be replaced by the diamond, is the same hope that inspired me to start the Avatar Film group. And there are countless films capable of raising our consciousness from the pyramid into the diamond level that I believe are created in the hopes of elevating the hero journey of Americans and world citizens towards a level in which a grass roots challenge to the pyramid structure of American exceptionalism could potentially succeed in transcending it.


Like the Na'vi in the movie Avatar, these hero's are spread out all over the world and are guided by a more spiritual consciousness where we are no longer imprisoned by boundaries of ego, religion, politics, race, class, gender or sexual orientation. We are united in our more beautiful vision of humanity's potential fully realized on Earth when the pyramid system of oppressive competition and war is finally replaced by the diamond of a global country united in the cooperation of peace.

diamond earth

After the movie, we played a short from Jason Silva's collection at Test Tube. This one is called Existential Bummer: