Friday, 29 January 2016

Release the doodles and boobies!

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani is in Europe and it's not without some controversy. 

In Italy, along with talk that wine wouldn't be served at an official dinner - something the French refused to go along with - certain statues were covered to avoid offending the visiting president. The question is...why? 

According to several publications, Italian politicians have called this cover up an act of 'cultural submission'. This criticism is attributed to 'some Italian politicians' though I can't find a direct quote. 

What I find strange is that both the Italian and Iranian governments have said they didn't request the cover up. 

So, why do it? 

Well, because someone somewhere thought it was a good idea to pander to religious sensibilities. 

It wasn't. 

Covering up works of art because someone is religious is without merit. It's achieves nothing good, and makes us as a species, worse off. 

I had a friend say that if the Italians are willing to do it, and the Iranians are willing to have it happen, why is it a bad thing? 

Forgetting that it happened without any official request, it's a bad thing because it reinforces the idea that pandering to religious sensibilities is okay. It's a bad thing because it puts art in a category that suggests it's shameful and that it should be covered up. It suggests that it's okay that someone's superstitious nonsense is a priority over common sense. 

We're living in 2016. This isn't pre-renaissance. This isn't the dark ages. How did we ever get to the point were it was thought that some statues should be covered up lest they offend someone? The whole idea is absurd. 

The problem here is, once again, religion. Specifically Islam. You may ask how, given they didn't request for this to be done, and that's a fair question. 

Islam (or followers of) has become well known for being less than tolerant of ideas it doesn't agree with. Just ask Kurt Westergaard, Salman Rushdie, or the staff at Charlie Hebdo, to name a but a few. 

I'm aware that the threats and violence these people have faced aren't to do with uncovered statues, but they *are* because of the religious sensibilities of Muslims. 

Now we live in a world where people don't want to do anything that might upset Muslims. This has come about not because Muslims have made a reasonable case for why certain things shouldn't be done, but because of violent and deadly reactions to things such as cartoons. If you want to convince someone of something, you should do it with reasoned argument and discussion, not fear of death. 

Because of this we find ourselves in a situation where works of art are being covered up despite no one officially asking for it to happen. We're so keen to avoid upsetting followers of the supposed religion of peace, that we're falling over ourselves to protect them from things they didn't even ask to be protected from (and nor should they!)

It's ridiculous. 

So let's not. Let's not think it's okay to pander to this nonsense. Let's not reinforce the idea that religious people get to decide what other people can draw, or sculpt, or paint. Let's not be okay with the absurd idea that someone's religious beliefs should be considered special anywhere other than inside their own heads. 

Let's not cover them up, let's release the doodles and boobies! 

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Why the impact of David Bowie's death was different.

On January 10 the world lost one of it's great music superstars. 

Just six days prior, I lost my mum.

Both David Bowie, and my mum, Vera, died from cancer. David's death was felt around the world, possibly by millions of people. We heard terms like 'outpouring of emotions' and 'tributes flooding in'. Local radio stations and music channels dedicated time to playing David's music, and sharing sound bites of people talking about him, as well as quotes from David himself. 

As far as I know, my mum's death didn't make the news anywhere. 

Do I think this is wrong? Do I think my mum has been treated unfairly? Not at all. 

My mum was an amazing woman. A true champion of life, and it was an absolute joy to have known her and to have been not only a part of her life, but a result of it. You can read about what became her final act of life here

I think if you read the above, you'll agree that she was an extraordinary person. 

David was also an extraordinary person. His life touched millions. He influenced countless musicians that came after him. Chances are, if you like a modern music act, they were directly or indirectly impacted by David Bowie. 

In the aftermath of the death of David Bowie, amongst the aforementioned 'outpouring of emotion' came what's become known as the 'grief police'. People who have taken to social media to tell others how they must grieve, if they must grieve at all. 

There are two things I'd like to comment on.

The first being the difference between the impact of my mum's death, compared to the impact of David's. (Or Alan Rickman's or Glenn Frey, who I found out while writing this has just passed away, or any 'celebrity' for that matter). It's quite clear that mum's death had a much smaller impact on the world than David's did. Does that mean David was a better person? Does that mean David was loved more by his family than my mum's loved her? Not at all. What it is, is that David's life was very different to the life my mum lived. Through his music he became known around the world. He was 'famous'. My mum wasn't famous. She lived what was, at least compared to David, a simple life. This difference doesn't bother me. I'm not sitting here thinking that my mum's death should be acknowledged the world over, like David's was. The difference in the impact of their deaths is indicative of the difference in the lives they had, not in their value as people. 

The second thing is people telling others how they should grieve. No. Just no. I don't want to assume to tell someone how *they* should feel about someone else's death. I have no idea what impact David Bowie, or anyone else, had on the life of someone else. I have no idea how someone used David Bowie's music to make their life better, or to get into music themselves, or whatever impact it had. Sure, that person may never have met David or may not have known David personally, but does that mean David's life didn't have a significant impact on theirs? Not at all. 

Every life is different. Every death is different. Every death is different to different people. It's not for us to tell others how they should react when someone dies. It's up to them to decide. If someone wants to sit on the back step and cry quietly, so be it. If someone wants to send a series of tweets or to make their Facebook status an epic devotion and tribute to someone who had an impact on be that too. How does it hurt anyone else? 

Life is a wonderful thing. It's short, but also the single longest thing any of us will ever experience. I love that mine has been impacted by great artists from around the world. Some I've met, many I haven't. Some who'd even died before I even knew of them. 

Whether they be a singer, actor, painter, writer, comedian, sculptor, director, poet, or dancer, if your life has not been impacted by an artist whose death has moved you to grief, I feel sorry for you.  

Saturday, 9 January 2016

My mum

My mum is buried next to a man named William Saunders, an 'American Negro'. I remember mum telling me that she would be 'neighbours' with a black guy from America. What I didn't know is why she chose that spot.
Devenish cemetery is a small country town cemetery. It's laid out like any other. All the graves grouped together, kind of in rows. However, about 30 metres beyond the last row, across the dirt, right up against the back fence, on its own, is the grave of William. An 'American Negro' according to his gravestone.
William died in 1918 and because he was black, he wasn't allowed to be buried with the whites. That he was buried there at all shows, apparently, that he was respected. Maybe he worked for a rich local family, I'm not sure.
When mum visited the cemetery to choose her plot she saw William's grave and asked why he was out there on his own. When she heard the story of him not being allowed to be buried with the others in the cemetery, she thought that wasn't fair, and wasn't good enough. She chose to be buried next to him so he was no longer on his own.
Now there are two graves beyond all the others, across the dirt, right up against the back fence.
In a way this is mum's final act and I think it's a beautiful and amazing way to sum her up.

William's grave stone. You can see he's labelled 'American Negro'. That's why he wasn't buried with everyone else in the cemetery.

Mum and William, side by side at the cemetery's back fence. It's a very dry, Australian bush cemetery. 

Showing the distance between Mum and William, and the rest of the cemetery. They really are out there on their own.

The main part of the cemetery is separated into religions. Mum and William are in the 'ALL OTHERS' section. You can see this sign on the left in the picture above.