Sunday, May 30, 2010

M.I.A. Hits Back

New York Times journalist Lynn Hirschberg published an inflammatory piece in the NYT Weekend Magazine last week on the Tamil pop star M.I.A. Hirschberg, in a piece largely derivative of Tom Wolfe, condemns M.I.A.'s support for armed resistance by oppressed minorities, obsessing at rather boring length over the fact that M.I.A. isn't poor herself.

M.I.A., for her part, has struck back in quite amusing fashion by posting Hirschberg's phone number on her Twitter account, so that Lynn is now spending much of her time fielding requests from M.I.A. fans for the star's phone number.

My Gut Reaction: If Ms. Hirschberg is the best the NYT can do, it is no wonder journalism is on the rocks. The article is basically an overwritten rip-off of Tom Wolfe.

Analysis: When one gets down to it, what really seems to bother Lynn Hirschberg is that M.I.A. retains class loyalties despite now being wealthy. One cannot help but think that Hirschberg, who one cannot help but suspect is at least moderately well to do, is basically pissed off that someone from the upper reaches of her own class might actually ally with the poor. How pathetic.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Misplaced Priorities

A recent blog post by the animal rights group In Defense of Animals (IDA) complains that the nation of Zimbabwe is planning to sell baby elephants to North Korea. In the face of two countries that continually engage in human rights abuses, the most this group can find to complain about is an elephant.

My Gut Reaction: One cannot help but wonder whether IDA, upon learning that Nazi Germany was using the skins of Jewish people to make lamp shades, would not congratulate the Germans for no longer using animal leather.

Analysis: It is worth remembering that Zimbabwe and North Korea are two of the worst human rights offenders in the world today, as can be demonstrated by looking at the 2009 Amnesty International Annual Report. In its section on Zimbabwe, the report characterizes the country as having undergone "an unprecedented wave of state-sponsored human rights violations," pointing to post-election violence and the disappearances of dissidents. Similarly, North Korea faced issues such as executions, prison abuse, and widespread food shortages.

In the face of such atrocities, to focus attention on animals seems short sighted, misguided, even warped. Although one does not want to see animals suffer, in the end the interests of humans must trump those of animals. To do otherwise risks devaluing the lives of humans, rather than advancing the interests of animals.

What is particularly disturbing in this case is that the countries in question are both populated by non-white people. One cannot help but wonder whether the group in question would be so quick to focus on the interests of elephants if the populations of Zimbabwe and North Korea were largely Caucasian. Indeed, many people in Africa have come to have unflattering opinions of the environmental movement, as they believe that many white environmentalists value the life of one elephant over those of one hundred Africans, as Barack Obama reported in his memoir Dreams of My Father.

This is not to claim that the animal rights movement is composed of conscious racists. Most would be horrified at such an accusation, and would never think of themselves in such a way. However, it is worth wondering whether the hidden structures of societal racism could be, however subconsciously, affecting their attitudes, with results they never intended.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Jamaica in Flames

According to BBC News, Jamaican authorities are trying to restore order in the capital city of Kingston after bloody clashes with forces loyal to drug lord Christopher "Dudus" Coke. Among the inhabitants of Kingston slums such as the Tivoli Gardens area, Coke is seen as a Robin Hood figure and defender of the people.

My Gut Reaction: When will we ever learn?

Analysis: This round of violence started when the Prime Minister of Jamaica, Bruce Golding, agreed to extradite Coke to the United States, where he is wanted on charges of running a drug trafficking network. As with Mexico, our attempts to enforce our draconian drug laws have spilled over into outright violence in another country. As the BBC reports, thirty-one people have died in Kingston.

What is it going to take for our government, and the American people in general, to realize that trying to legislate what people put in their bodies only leads to shattered lives? In the United States, this manifests itself in terms of a massive incarceration rate. In the third world, however, blood flows as governments seek to appease the American government and come across as allies in the War on Drugs.

To be fair, not all of the blame lies with the United States government. As Jamaican expatriate blogger The Field Negro points out, Dudus had amassed a great deal of support from the Jamaican government before the extradition order went out by renting out his gang, the Shower Posse, as political hired guns. The ruling party found the guns they used for political enforcement turned against them.

Nevertheless, the American government requested the extradition, and bears a certain level of responsibility for what has happened in Kingston.