June 1st, 2005

[BRIEF NOTE] All I'll Say About Oriana Fallaci

Read this excerpt from her Rage and Pride.

Sometimes I would see the image, for me symbolic (therefore infuriating), of the big tent with which one summer ago the Somali Muslims disfigured, smeared with shit and profaned for three months piazza Del Duomo in Florence. My city.

A tent raised to curse and condemn and insult the Italian government that was hosting them but would not give them the necessary documents to run around Europe and would not let them bring into Italy their hordes of their relatives. Mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, pregnant in-laws and even the relatives of their relatives. A tent raised next to the beautiful building of the Archbishop’s residence on whose sidewalk they kept their shoes and slippers which in their countries they line up outside of their Mosques. And with their shoes and slippers, the bottles of water with which they wash their feet before prayer. A tent raised in front of Brunelleschi’s cupola and next to the Baptistery with Ghiberti’s doors of paradise. A tent, furnished like a primitive apartment: chairs, tables, chaise-lounges, mattresses to sleep on and to copulate, ranges to cook the food and stench up the piazza with the smoke and smell. Thanks to the usual unconscionable Enel who cares about our works of art as much as it cares for our countryside, the tent was furnished with electricity. Thanks to a tape recorder, enriched by the coarse ugly voice of a muezzin who punctually exhorted the faithful, deafening the infidels, and suffocated the sound of the bells. To add to this, the yellow lines of urine that profaned the marble of the Baptistery. (By gosh! They have a long "spray" these sons of Allah! How did they manage to hit their objective, which is separated from the street by a protective fence, hence almost two meters distant from their urinary apparatus?) With the yellow lines of urine, and the stench of the excrements the huge door of San Salvatore was blocked and the Bishop unable to use it. The exquisite romanic styled church (built in the year one thousand) which is right behind Piazza del Duomo and that the sons of Allah had transformed into a shit-hole. You know it well.

Apart from finding the overheated rhetoric that she uses ironic given the reception that Italian immigrants a century ago received (in the United States, France, Argentina, et cetera), and not questioning what happened in Florence since I haven't been to Florence and haven't witnessed the situation, what strikes me is her lack of empathy. Fallaci says it herself: these are poor, desperate refugees. They're not comfortable tourists respectfully visiting foreign coutnries for a spell, they're people trying to escape a country that has become as close to a Mad Max wasteland as possible in our reality and find secure refuge somewhere, trying in the meantime survive as best as they can. And yet, she generalizes so insanely broadly and offensively from this single unrepresentative situation.

I don't read this passage as bold defiance of a multiculturalist orthodoxy, or whatever other establishment one would like to cobble together as a slur. How can you do that? The only way that this passage can be realistically read, I think, is as an example of Fallaci applying the classic strategy of dehumanizing a group by identifying its members as behaving like animals. It doesn't matter whether or not the allegations are true, or whatever the circumstances are. The only thing that does matter is showing up those animals as monsters undeserving of our sympathy.

I don't think that Fallaci should be prosecuted. I think that she should be allowed to hang gherself with her own words and those words' consequences. She might once have had a grand career as a journalist, but now she's deserving of no one's respect.
  • Current Music
    Faithless vs Eurythmics, "Sweet Insomnia" (Thin Gold Chain)

[BRIEF NOTE] More from Spokane

Spokane mayor Jim West, who last appeared here as the mayor of Spokane notable for anti-gay policies who was chatting up teenagers-cum-journalists online, is trying to defend himself.

"I am a conservative. I am not a closet liberal pretending to be a conservative," West said. "What is wrong with somebody having an alternative sexual orientation being a conservative? Can a...gay or black be conservative? I think they can."

It's quite possible to be gay (or bisexual, or lesbian, et cetera) and to be conservative. West's acceptance of a definition of conservative that excluding individual conscience and objective morality, I fear, still strikes me as being as morally useless and self-destructive as a Jew in 1920s Germany accepting race theory as suitable first principles for public life. As a rule, it's good not to adopt ideologies requiring one to hate oneself.
  • Current Music
    Mehdi Touzani, "Mystère X"

[MUSIC] Mylène Farmer, "C'est une belle journée"

Mylène Farmer's 2002 single "C'est une belle journée," released as a single off of Mylène's 2002 greatest-hits CD Les Mots, resonates with me. In the Francophone world, Mylène's albums regularly sell hugely. The C'est une belle journée single ranks #38 on the list of the top 100 best-selling singles in France in 2002, and was her last big hit before this year's indifferently reviewed though popular Avant que l'ombre.

The song follows one of Mylène's better musical formulas, starting quietly with a warbling synth line that expands into a lush melody underpinned by a quiet beat, with her fine breathy voice almost speaking the lyrics. It's a rather atmospheric song, I think. Too, the video, a cartoon following a stick-figure Mylène and her confused dog through a day, is amusing. But is anyone surprised to discover that it's the song's lyrics which first caught me?

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It's amazing how a song described by one fan site as "[l]e thème du suicide sur une musique entraînante" (the theme of suicide set against music) can be so cheery. I'm not sure why I find it so cheery. there is a certain poetry to the lyrics: "Oh philosophie/Dis-moi des élégies" has a bleak grandiosity to it, and "[m]ordre l'éternité/A dents pleines" is an interesting tactic to apply to the afterlife. The song ends with Mylène announcing her imminent departure from this plane of existence:

La vie est belle
Comme une aile
Qu'on ne doit froisser
la vie est belle
Et je vais là

There is some ambivalence in this text, though.

Allongé le corps est mort
Pour des milliers
C'est un homme qui dort...
A moitié pleine est l'amphore
C'est à moitié vide
Que je la vois encore

Mylène claims that the glass half-empty is what she sees, but the very fact of allowing for a different interpretation suggests that there's other ways to go about this. Life is "belle," after all.

The clincher for me, though, might be what I so closely associate with "C'est une belle journée". I bought the single at an Archambault store on rue Sainte-Catherine in Montréal, during my brief two-day stay in that city in August 2003 en route to Queen's University. Back then and there, for the first time in a long while, I felt as if anything was possible: I'd escaped the Island and all of its negative associations, and I was destined for a very specific and prestigious near-term future and for different and greater things after that. Everything that I had achieved, and everything that I would achieve, would at last be up to me. "C'est une belle journée" appeared at just the right time to capture this mood of existential freedom for me. While I haven't lost that mood, things were never quite so clear as they were then.
  • Current Music
    Mylène Farmer - C'est une belle journée (Frollo's Ejay Remix)

[BRIEF NOTE] Tom Cruise and Scientology: Dangerously Deluded

Tom Cruise is a dangerous fool.

Tom Cruise has criticized Hollywood pal Brooke Shields' "misguided" use of the anti-depressant Paxil, while declaring the actress' career as over.

In an interview with Billy Bush on the TV show Access Hollywood, to be screened on May 26, Cruise speaks of his disappointment to learn Shields used Paxil to fight post-natal depression following the birth of her daughter Rowan.

Shields is currently weaning herself off her medication so she and husband Chris Henchy can have another child.

Cruise, who claims to have helped people fight drug addictions through his controversial Scientology religion, says the Suddenly Susan actress should have used vitamins to help her feelings of despair.

Cruise says, "Here is a woman, and I care about Brooke Shields because I think she is an incredibly talented woman. You look at, where has her career gone?"

Despite the Minority Report actor's declaration her career is over, Shields is currently receiving rave reviews playing murderess Roxie Hart in the London theatre production of Chicago.

Cruise maintains, "These drugs are dangerous. I have actually helped people come off.

"When you talk about postpartum, you can take people today, women, and what you do is you use vitamins. There is a hormonal thing that is going on, scientifically, you can prove that. But when you talk about emotional, chemical imbalances in people, there is no science behind that.

"You can use vitamins to help a woman through those things."

Brooke Shields' reply is classic.

"Tom Cruise’s comments are irresponsible and dangerous,” she said. “[He] should stick to saving the world from aliens and let women who are experiencing postpartum depression decide what treatment options are best for them.”

Speaking from personal experience, anti-depressants certainly create their own issues. My month on Paxil wasn't a happy one, as my Island friends who knew me at the time can confirm. But then again, a crippling depression that had dominated most of 1997 lifted with remarkable speed that September when I began taking Zoloft. The anti-psychiatric prejudices of Scientology--and, one notes, of Scientologists--are unfounded in reality.

One shouldn't expect sanity in a cult which holds the belief that evil aliens blew up people who had been thrown into volcanoes 65 million years ago with nuclear bombs. The Church's criminal activities, as described in Time in 1991, do suggest that Scientology isn't in contact with any ethical sense. While I can't endorse the approach of European countries towards Scientology--the strict regulation of the Church and its activities--I don't disagree with the underlying impulses.
  • Current Music
    Pet Shop Boys, "Go West"

[BRIEF NOTE] The First Sexual Revolution?

I've very recently come across a remarkable story connecting the Marquis de Sade with the storming of the Bastille. To wit:

On July 10, 1789, the Marquis de Sade, who was imprisoned in the Bastille, had an argument with his jailer. It would seem after 12 years of imprisonment the Marquis was suffering from severe gastritis and was quite bloated and puffy. He had been asking for coffee, due to its remarkable ability to clear up such blockages. He was denied his coffee and to make matters worse they took away his rump cushion.

The Marquis de Sade grew insolent and grabbed his toilet funnel, using it as a megaphone. He cried out to the people on the street "The government is cutting the throat's of political prisoners inside the jail!"

Historians have always pondered why the rebels stormed the Bastille, as it only held a small handful of political prisoners most of them aristocrats like the Marquis. After the Marquis' outburst, rumors began to fly. The King had imprisoned rebels and was slitting their throats.

10 days later the rebels stormed the Bastille. Of course, they found only a few prisoners like the Marquis, but more importantly they found a huge cache of arms. Without these arms, most historians agree, the French Revolution would not have been successful.

If this is not an urban legend and the Marquis de Sade did in fact trigger the storming of the Bastille, making the Paris mob an armed and militant force for perhaps the first time, I would have to admit to being rather surprised. Is it an urban legend, though? I ask my readers for help.
  • Current Mood
    very surprised indeed

[LINK] Oh my

So that is why they shut down the Yorkdale TTC station earlier this evening. I thought, listening to the speakers as I was travelling south from Eglinton, that there had been another jumper.
  • Current Mood

[LINK] More on the Mari

Finland's Helsingin Sanomat reports that the Russian Federation has rejected the European Parliament's recent resolution on the situation of the Mari people. Responding to claims that the Mari, a Volga Finnic minority, are being persecuted by a the reactionaries controlling the government of the Mari autonomous republic, the Russian Foreign Ministry has claimed that Mari as a population are not likely to be victims of criminal actions, made the now-traditional counterallegations about the positionsw of Russophones in Estonia and Latvia, and claimed that the Parliament lacked the quorum necessary to come to a decision.