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Thread: Sensible article in the Guardian

  1. #1
    Senior Member Senior Member English assassin's Avatar
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    Mar 2004
    London, innit

    Default Sensible article in the Guardian

    What's wrong with being an MTV martyr?

    Andrew Anthony
    Thursday June 2, 2005
    The Guardian

    In the 1980s, a couple of years before American capitalism finally won the cold war against Soviet communism, I found myself on a coffee brigade in Nicaragua. My fellow "brigadistas" and I were an odd bunch, made up of southern softy liberals, northern Militant Tendency Trotskyists, well-meaning Christians, a couple of hardcore Stalinists, greens, anarchists, assorted anti-Americans and the plain curious.
    All of us were told by the British organisers of the trip that the very worst thing we could do while up in the impoverished hills of Matagalpa was to commit an act of "cultural imperialism". As it turned out, this meant anything "western", such as women not wearing bras (which, of course, had been the global practice until the west exported the bra to the world).

    Some of the brigade members kept a keen eye on any behaviour that could be deemed culturally suspect. And I recall my dismay when I was informed by the brigade leader that it would be imperialist to hold a big party for our hosts on our last day picking coffee. Naturally, the campesinos were desperate for a party to relieve the backbreaking monotony of their lives. But the idea was that we should not corrupt the indigenous culture with our decadent western values.
    So instead of the men, women and children receiving our food and drink in exchange for their hospitality, the campesinos had to make do with what they did every Saturday night. And that was for the women and children to stay at home while the men spent their spare money at the local bar, where they drank until they collapsed.

    Ever since then I've had my problems with the concept of cultural imperialism. Like most people with a healthy suspicion of global corporations, I find the high-street ubiquity of McDonald's and Starbucks a little depressing. But before I launch into an internal tirade, I remind myself of what predated them. Do I really want to see the return of the Wimpy bar and greasy spoons selling instant coffee?

    Clearly, cultural diversity is a good thing, if only so that the world does not become an unrelenting facsimile of Boise, Idaho. But just because something is not American-influenced doesn't in itself make it desirable, in the same way that the opposite doesn't necessarily make it undesirable.

    Perhaps the American export that is seen as the most pernicious is MTV. It's often a crass celebration of the most mindless materialism, and you can pick it up on satellite around the world. The nationality of the presenters may change, but their happy, shiny faces remain the same. As does the music. As such it can seem like a propaganda channel for the western way of life, the very soundtrack of global capitalism.

    Of course, it's the MTV generation, with all its blank idealism and acquisitive habits, that will fill Live 8 in July, which no one seems to mind. For while it's culturally imperialist to protest, say, at Robert Mugabe's attempts to starve his people, it's OK once Africans are at the point of starvation to intervene.

    But leaving that little paradox aside, the problem with the cultural imperialism analysis is that it ignores the free will of anyone who wants to embrace western culture. They can only be victims of western thought control. Take the case of Shaima Rezayee, the video jockey on an MTV-like programme in Afghanistan. She was one of the first women to drop the veil on Afghan TV after the fall of the Taliban. She was sacked from her job a few months back. A couple of weeks ago she was shot dead in Kabul.

    Before an arrest has been made, an article in this week's New Statesman attacks the press reaction: "British newspapers loved the story, portraying Rezayee as a photogenic, Madonna-loving martyr to the anti-Islamist, pro-western cause." Actually, hardly any newspapers covered the story, but I can't see what is wrong in portraying someone as a photogenic, Madonna-loving martyr to the anti-Islamist, pro-western cause, if that's what she was.

    Certainly she had drawn constant and aggressive criticism from conservative Muslims who complained to her employer, Tolo TV. According to one report, Rezayee lost her job after a male colleague asked her to hold her legs up. This is supposedly a deeply offensive comment in Afghan culture. However, the man who made it remained in employment.

    In the New Statesman piece, the writer goes on to reassure readers that female broadcasters across the Arab world are not running similar risks. Apparently, women on television can wear what they want in Muslim countries, or at least they can on Al-Jazeera, the TV channel the writer visited. The writer ended with a warning about Rezayee's legacy: "... to turn her into some sort of MTV martyr does a disservice to other Muslim women".

    To which one can only ask, why? Is it culturally imperialist to suggest that Rezayee might have been killed for what she wore and said? And how can that be a disservice to other Muslim women? The truth is that women are severely limited in their lifestyle choices off and on television through most of the Muslim world. If you want, you could argue that such a situation is good for society at large, but you can't say it doesn't exist, or that women like Rezayee aren't taking a dangerous stand.

    At the moment, and for many years, the Wahhabi billionaires of the House of Saud have been doing their utmost to export the idea that women should not be seen, and that if they are seen, then as much of them as possible should be concealed. To this end they have funded religious schools, mosques and just about every cultural institution throughout the Muslim world. As much as I have doubts about the term, I suppose you would have to call this massive Saudi project cultural imperialism - though, strangely, it's seldom described by that name.

    Whether it's preferable for women to expose their midriffs or cover themselves completely is, I would like to think, a matter of individual choice. Yet many of the same people who sympathised with Shabina Begum, the teenager from Luton who won a court of appeal ruling to wear a full-length jilbab instead of the shalwar kameez school uniform, will spare little concern for the murder of Rezayee.

    It may turn out that she was not killed for religious or cultural reasons. But if she was, as the Kabul police suspect, then Rezayee deserves to be an MTV martyr. For she would have died for a freedom that women in the west take for granted. To forget that would be a disservice to all women yet to attain that liberty, and in particular to Rezayee herself.
    Very wise. As I have said before, no one actually FORCES the world to drink coca cola do they? I don't understand why the left has such a cultural cringe myself. Something to do with the use of victimhood as a political tool maybe?
    "The only thing I've gotten out of this thread is that Navaros is claiming that Satan gave Man meat. Awesome." Gorebag

  2. #2
    Humanist Senior Member A.Saturnus's Avatar
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    Oct 2002

    Default Re: Sensible article in the Guardian

    You can look at it from this side: no country that has a McDonald's ever was at war with another country that has a McDonald's. Maybe it's time to consider McDonald's to get the Noble Peace Prize?


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