Tuesday, December 31, 2013

According to the poet Leon Bloy, "Joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God." May your new year be filled with joy.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

"Naturally the common people don't want war: Neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country." -- Hermann Goering at the Nuremberg Trials

Monday, December 23, 2013

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Of Ducks and Dynasties and Dollars

I've only seen Duck Dynasty once. Actually, I only saw about 10 minutes of it, enough to conclude that it was inane and contrived--essentially a cartoon without the expense or craft of cartoonists. Thus, I was mystified when I noticed that Papa Smurf, the elder of the Duck Dynastars, appears to have been elevated to guru status among Evangelical Christians. He may eclipse Kirk Cameron in the panoply.

I'm reminded of a film from the late 90's entitled EdTV, in which an "ordinary guy" agrees to have his every waking moment broadcast on television. The film was a prescient commentary on the then nascent trend of reality TV. The film's core message is delivered when the protagonist, having learned an important lesson, says, "It used to be that someone became famous because they were special. Now people are considered special just for being famous. Fame, itself, is its own virtue."

In the last day or two my newsfeeds have lit up with opinions regarding the headline news that the patriarch of the Duck Dynasty was been removed from the program due to "anti-gay" statements he made in an interview for that bastion of Christian morality, GQ magazine. His statements (yes, I admit I took the time to read them) were not unlike what one might expect to hear in a Sunday morning sermon at Mark Driscoll's church. Pretty boilerplate conservative Evangelical stuff that could have perhaps been delivered more artfully.

But the A&E Network, which owns Duck Dynasty, suspended him. Sarah Palin is predictably outraged, calling it "an attack on free speech" perpetrated by "intolerants." In actuality, 'twas capitalism that killed the beast. A&E, and its programs and celebrities, are in the business of selling advertising. If one of its stars makes public statements that alienate or offend a segment of the viewership, thus potentially impacting the bottom-line for the advertisers and/or the price for which the network can sell advertising minutes, the network and the star must express the appropriate amount of calculated contrition. As Ned Beatty, portraying an uber-capitalist television executive, says in his brilliant soliloquy in the film Network, "You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, and you will atone!"

The patriarch of the Duck Dynasty isn't a free-speech martyr. Rather, he is being reprimanded by the corporation for breaching terms of his contract and damaging the profitability of the brand.

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Moment

The moment when, after many years
of hard work and a long voyage
you stand in the centre of your room,
house, half-acre, square mile, island, country,
knowing at last how you got there,
and say, I own this,

is the same moment when the trees unloose
their soft arms from around you,
the birds take back their language,
the cliffs fissure and collapse,
the air moves back from you like a wave
and you can't breathe.

No, they whisper. You own nothing.
You were a visitor, time after time
climbing the hill, planting the flag, proclaiming.
We never belonged to you.
You never found us.
It was always the other way round.

- Margaret Atwood