At any rate, the award-winning Irish writer Colm Toibín (at right, photo by Bruce Weber) in his London Review of Books writeup of a new book on the priest sex scandals in Ireland, The Ferns Report, describes his experiences "At St. Peters," an Irish Catholic boys' school, during the 1970s. It turns out that a lot more was going on than Toibín, at the time a young man growing increasingly aware of his (homo)sexuality, fathomed. In fact, one of the coolest priests he came across turned out later to have been a...monster. But it wasn' t only the boys these men of the church had their eyes on; another priest rubbed his face against young girls' jaws and groped their thighs... But I'll let you read Toibín's account, which is most damning of the Irish Catholic Church hierarchy. As was the case here, they turned their heads or closed their eyes or took perfunctory measures, and let the abuse rage on. A quote:
When the Ferns Report came out, I was eager to read it because I had known these three men. I had believed that the problem lay in their becoming priests. If they had gone to Holland or San Francisco, I believed, they would now be happily married to their boyfriends. But as I read the report, I began to think that this was hardly the issue. Instead, the level of abuse in Ferns and the Church’s way of handling it seemed an almost intrinsic part of the Church’s search for power. It is as though when its real authority began to wane in Ireland in the 1960s, the sexual abuse of those under its control and the urge to keep that abuse secret and the efforts to keep abusers safe from the civil law became some of its new tools.
In the same issue of the London Review of Books, writer Jeremy Harding, in his "Diary from Paris," discusses the recent uprisings in France. He begins by noting a linguistic curiosity, which was that the verb used in graffiti to provoke the rioters, "Riot" or "Stir yourself up"--"Émeute-toi!"--was reflexive, which marked a change from earlier uses of the word "émeute," such as "faire une émeute" or "émeuter." Obscure as this sounds, Harding goes on to link this to the main point of his article, which is that the main beneficiary of the uprisings has been Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, not the rioters (who've only received the usual lip service), and that the empowered Sarkozy will view his increased popularity as capital to enact his ultimate aim, which is to impose a kind of "Anglo-American" neoliberalism on France, at grave cost to the society. A quote:
The riots may make the country readier to face the fact that it is ‘multiple’, even if the idea is disagreeable. In that much, the rioters will have achieved something, even for their own. But the episode will do more, I guess, for Sarkozy. He’s made his position clear about the rabble, and cleaning out the bad guys from the estates with a power hose – and most recently about the vices of polygamy among the Africans in France – and altogether he’s caused a stir. But his most significant point was apparently rather mild by comparison, and nothing much has been made of it. He was appearing on a TV programme about a week and a half into the riots, and remarked that the problem with the underprivileged suburbs was that they’d always been approached within the framework of ‘social policy’ – benefits and patch-up funds of various sorts – when really it was a ‘jobs policy’ (‘politique du travail’) that would revive them.§§§
The recent issue of The Nation features excerpts (translated by Maureen Freely) of the speech that Turkey's greatest living writers, Orhan Pamuk (at left, gave after receiving the Peace Prize from the German Book Trade Association. The piece is entitled "In Kars and Frankfurt." Pamuk, the author of Snow, The Black Book, and other novels, is on trial in Turkey for "insulting Turkish national identity" because of his comments detailing the Turkish genocide against Kurds and Armenians and other ethnic minorities. Pamuk discusses the relationship between Turkey and the EU, which has become fraught as some European nations have hedged on admitting to their union a nation whose historical and cultural links to them extend back millennia, yet whose contemporary religious, political, economic, and social character in many presents a sharp contrast. One quote:
Having grown up in a Westernized secular family in the European part of Istanbul, it is not at all difficult for me--or people like me--to believe in the European Union. Don't forget, since childhood my football team, Fenerbahçe, has been playing in the European Cup. There are millions of Turks like me, who believe heart and soul in the European Union. But what is more important is that most of today's conservative and Muslim Turks, and with them their political representatives, want to see Turkey in the European Union, help to plan Europe's future, dreaming it into being and helping to build it. Coming as it does after centuries of war and conflict, this gesture of friendship cannot be taken lightly, and to reject it outright would be cause for huge regret. Just as I cannot imagine a Turkey without a European prospect, I cannot believe in a Europe without a Turkish prospect.
It's been a good while since I've watched a music awards show. I used to like catching them when I was younger, because I was actively following the various major entertainers and R&B, hiphop and rock groups that were on the scene and enjoyed the spectacles, the minstrelsy, the musical performances, the gaffes, the cognitive disruptions, even the basic dish of who was seated next to whom, who was making clear they had beef, and so on. Nowadays I still do listen to a lot of current music, especially hiphop and rock, but I long ago gave up on the awards shows, since they are basically stuck in the same groove they've been in for a while, and to tell the truth, there're just too many of them for their own good. Music awards, in my opinion, really have no meaning anymore (certainly they have nothing to do with aesthetic quality, even under the broadest understanding of that term) except as means of validating the mass consumerist spectacle and commodity machine these folks are contributing mightily to. (And in this they're quite in line with most folks in our society.)
So I missed the Vibe awards, which both Knightbird and Clay Cane blogged about. But I have kept coming back to the photo at right, of Ludacris clad in Confederate symbols, as the face of Martin Luther King, Jr. (and Malcolm X, according to Knightbird) looms in the background. Talk about cognitive and visual dissonance! Supposedly he was rapping about Georgia, to add insult to injury. But then, even if there weren't a Black face in the background and even if he weren't rapping about Georgia, the very fact that Ludacris would clad himself in the very symbols and iconography of a sign system whose reason for being was to ensure the enslavement and domination and murder of Black bodies, Black people, Black men like him, just boggles my mind. Perhaps he is or was unaware of the history of the Confederacy, its brutal approach to free Black people or Black Union soldiers or Black fugitive slaves, or of its enduring power for Southern (and American in general) racism and white supremacy, or even of the more recent battles to remove the Confederate flag and other symbols of that system--because it wasn't just a culture or a nation in rebellion, but an entire system of thought and way of life, realized in political and social terms. Perhaps he really is just that ignorant, or indifferent.
Either way, seeing this image turned my stomach because of the sheer power of its assault. The Ku Klux Klan, the Southern League, the White Citizens' Councils, any of those groups could easily have devised this image. I understand the concepts of appropriate, reappropriation, irony, détournement, and so forth, but I seriously doubt that Ludacris was taking any of these into account. As Knightbird wrote, "I said during the performance that we need to get colored folk off TV, if this is the shit they are going provide to our community. It is getting so painful to watch black folk on this anymore, but I swear this Confederate Flag wearing brotha just blew my mind." Clay wrote,"I guess this docile negro dwarf thought he was representing the ATL, but no one educated him that the people that support the Confederate wouldn't have his colored ass on TV!"
I totally agree. I also think about all the young people who saw this and thought, Oh, the Confederate Flag really isn't so bad, because Ludacris had it on, and he's Black and a rapper, and if he's wearing it, it's nothing more than a fashion statement. Yeah, right. I hope that someone spoke to Ludacris about his free and very offensive ad. Rap on, Deluded-crous...
Lastly, here's another kind of spectacle. I haven't watched Trading Spouses or any shows like it in quite a while, but this Crooks and Liars clip from a recent episode has to be seen to be believed. It's so outrageous--well, I won't say any more, but definitely watch it to the end. The screeching behemoth, a "warrior" for Christ, decides that she's willing to compromise her "faith" after all. Gastrointestinal bypasses, for the righteous or unrighteous, don't come cheaply! (The direct QT link is here.)