“The cultural tethers of organized religion”: Interview with Black Atheist Sikivu Hutchinson »« My Very First Orgy, and What I Learned There

Is It Okay to Mock Marginalized Religion?

Is it ever okay to mock a marginalized religion, or the religion of a marginalized culture?

PoseidonWhen I posted my recent photo gallery of Strange Religious Imagery In My Neighborhood, I was taken to task for being culturally insensitive. Commenter Raul, who apparently lives in the neighborhood (or at least is very familiar with it), was disappointed in my post. He felt that the attitude it expressed to Latino history and the culture of the neighborhood was disrespectful, dismissive, smart-assed, and ignorant… among other things. (You really should read his comment, as it expresses his point of view better than I can.)

This is my reply.

***

PrecitaEyesMuralCenterFirst: Raul, I do think you have a point. I get that I am something of an interloper in this neighborhood, and while to some extent that’s just the reality of neighborhoods (the Castro was a working- class Irish neighborhood before Teh Gays started moving in), I get that this is an issue, and I try to stay aware of it. I’m friendly to my neighbors (well, as friendly as I am to anybody I don’t know well); I make a point of patronizing neighborhood businesses that have been here a while; I mostly avoid the Johnny- come- lately gentrification businesses (with a handful of exceptions — you’ll get my Dynamo donut when you pry it from my cold dead hands); etc. This is not a new issue to me: it’s an issue I’ve thought about at length, and I thought about it carefully when I was putting together my “strange religious art” post. (I actually went to some trouble to have the gallery not be solely or even primarily about Latino imagery: hence the meditating alien, the Rabbit in the Sky mural, Poseidon, and the triad of Eastern religious symbols on the utility box.)

And I get that critiquing or poking fun at aspects of the culture in which one is something of an interloper can be a dicey proposition. Especially when one is an interloper from the dominant culture into a more marginalized one.

But ultimately, I don’t accept your argument.

Here’s my problem with your argument. Virtually every culture and sub-culture in this country — heck, on this planet — has its own distinct religion and/or spirituality. For most of those cultures, religion and spirituality are deeply and intimately interwoven into the culture.

Church_sign_turn_or_burnAnd many of those religions, arguably most of them, are religions of marginalized cultures. I’ve heard arguments similar to yours about African- American religion: religion is so important to that culture, it’s wrong for outsiders to critique it or mock it, to point out its absurdities and inconsistencies or try to persuade people out of it. Christian fundamentalism is largely the religion of poor people in the American South. Catholicism in America is largely the religion of immigrant or marginalized recent- immigrant cultures: Latino, but also Irish- and Italian-Americans. Judaism. Hinduism. Islam. Wicca. I could go on and on. Either many of the believers in these religions, or the cultures these religions are prevalent in, or the religions themselves, are the recipients of some sort of bigotry or discrimination.

Are atheists therefore not to criticize any of them?

Let me put it this way. If it’s not right for me to criticize or poke fun at any of these religions out of respect for the culture, I’m pretty much left with Episcopalianism.

And while, okay, Episcopalianism is deserving of criticism, and while Episcopalianism is pretty darned funny… that’s still awfully limiting. That doesn’t give me much to blog about. More seriously: Trying to follow this rule would keep me from speaking out against some of the worst horrors perpetrated by religion… and from pointing and laughing at some of religion’s most mind-boggling absurdities.

SilenceIn other words: The argument that critiquing a given religion is culturally insensitive? It’s essentially a “shut up, that’s why” argument. It’s an attempt to cut people off from pointing out religion’s absurdities: not all at once, but one religion at a time.

Now. The devil’s advocate in my head is arguing that it’s okay to critique… but it’s not okay to poke fun. It’s okay to criticize the religions of marginalized cultures… but I have to do it soberly, and with respect.

But the devil’s advocate in my head is not convincing me. As I’ve written before: Humor is one of the single most powerful, time-honored forms of social criticism we have. Humor is a singularly effective tool at spotlighting and deflating pretention, hypocrisy, inconsistency, greed, corruption, willful ignorance, and just flat-out absurdity.

Emperors new clothesAnd when it comes to religion, humor is absolutely crucial to the deflation process. One of the whole points of atheism, as far as I’m concerned, is that religion is the Emperor’s new clothes. Like I said in my Strange Religious Imagery post: People see familiar religions as normal, and unfamiliar religions as freakish and bizarre. So one of the primary points of poking fun at religion is to get people to see their own religion from the perspective of an outsider… and to get people to see that, from the perspective of a non-believer, all religion looks equally silly. (As somebody whose name I can’t remember once said: If you don’t want your beliefs to be ridiculed, don’t have such ridiculous beliefs.)

So the idea that atheists shouldn’t poke fun at religious practices that people take seriously is, once again, essentially a “shut up, that’s why” argument. It’s an attempt to take out of our hands one of the most powerful tools we have at our disposal. (Sort of like asking atheists not to be so angry.) Again, if I can’t poke fun at any religion that’s precious to a marginalized subculture, then I’m pretty much left with Episcopalians. And I only have so many jokes about golf pants in me.

LaughterAnd I don’t agree with your double standard argument at all. By all means, make fun of Judaism. Other atheists do. I have. Just last month, I referred to a specific tenet of Orthodox Judaism as a “belief in girl cooties.” In this blog, I have made fun of Judaism, Catholicism, fundamentalist Christianity, moderate Christianity, “so far left it’s falling off the continent” Christianity, Wicca, astrology, neo-Paganism, assorted other New Agery and woo, belief in telepathy, belief in guardian angels, Quakerism, Deism, Mormonism, Unitarianism, Baha’i, and the Christian theology from the Middle Ages asserting that the Virgin Mary was impregnated in her ear.

And I’ve made fun of atheism. Boy, howdy, have I ever.

It’s a fine line to walk, making fun of the religion but not the culture — especially since religion and culture are usually so closely intertwined. And yes, when a culture is especially marginalized, or when there’s an ugly history of bigoted and hateful mockery against it, or when you’re in the position of being something of an interloper/ guest in that culture, then you have to walk that line more carefully.

Alien meditatingWhich I was trying to do in my Strange Religious Imagery post. The post was somewhat mocking, yes; but I was trying for a gently mocking tone, even a lovingly mocking tone. I passionately love this neighborhood: it gives me joy just to walk around in it, and I show it off to visitors with beaming pride. And one of the things I love most about it is how much art there is everywhere, and how beautiful and strange so much of it is. (I don’t see “strange” as an insult, btw — most of the art I love best is deeply strange.) The point of the gallery was not, “Look at the wacky stuff Latinos in the Mission believe.” It was, “Look at the wacky stuff people believe, and the fascinating ways they turn it into art.” (Again — hence the inclusion of the meditating space alien and so on.)

I get that this post was not the most brilliant or insightful one that I’ve ever written. (They can’t all be gems.) But I do think I had a point to make — the point I made at the beginning of the gallery, about how unfamiliar religions seem weird and silly, but familiar religions seem normal and reasonable until you start looking at them closely. Sometimes I make my points in thoughtful, soul- searching essays… but sometimes, I want to take a lighter tone. And as a writer, if I’m constantly second-guessing myself for fear of offending someone — especially on the topic of religion, which people get offended about at the drop of a hat — I’m never going to say anything at all.

I do hope that people will call me on it if they think I’ve crossed a line, and I appreciate you doing that. But it seems that the gist of your argument is, “we should never criticize or mock other people’s religions, especially the religions of marginalized people, because it’s culturally disrespectful.” That’s an argument I’ve considered. And it’s one that, for all the reasons outlined here, I ultimately just don’t accept.

Comments

  1. Victoria says

    Saying that because Latin culture is an outsider culture we should refrain from mocking its religion is awfully patronizing toward us Latina/o folks. It’s like saying that unlike big strong white people, we can’t handle the criticism because we’re somehow different, less sturdy and more vulnerable to (oh no!) hurt feelings.

  2. CybrgnX says

    I thought you post was very nice and respectful in the ‘aint this odd’ sort way. I got nothing negative from it. I think the dud needs to look in a mirror and start laughing at what he sees there–way to stiff.
    But people in general are not that bright….
    ‘(religion) is way to silly and the (who ever) need to start dealing with the problems’
    is very different from….
    The (who ever) are really stupid mindless idiots for believing that crap and should get some brains’
    One is poking the ideas and the other is poking the bees nest but many do no see or get the point. The poke you did to their art was actually gentle. But they do not see the difference. They need to look in the mirror and smile.

  3. says

    Cool, fair enough.
    However, my point was not to silence you, nor it was a plea to “refrain from mocking, or criticism.”
    I sent you a more detailed reply, I’ll only post it here if you think it will advance the discussion.
    Best,
    - Raul
    To victoria: I think it is even more patronizing to assume my feelings were hurt. That was not the point of my previous comment.

  4. says

    CybrgnX: This is *exactly* the silly divisiveness I was trying to avoid: “The poke you did to their art was actually gentle”. I agree! I only said that it was not that insightful.
    Anyway, it is not “their art”. It is OUR art – all of us can learn from it! Art is universal.
    My point was that folks some times poo-poo something before even learning about what it is first.
    For the record: “we should never criticize or mock other people’s religions, especially the religions of marginalized people, because it’s culturally disrespectful.” Was NOT my argument, and those are NOT my words!!! I would never say something so stupid.
    Twisting my words in order to state a point (that I basically agree with) is unethical and irresponsible if you ask me.

  5. says

    I can personally vouch for the fact that Greta’s neighborhood has some outstanding street art. I think we can admire the talent and craftsmanship that went into creating it, even if we don’t agree with the beliefs that may have inspired it; but that doesn’t mean we surrender our right to disagree with those beliefs. Criticizing a religion common among a minority race doesn’t make you racist, just as criticizing Judaism doesn’t make you an anti-Semite, and so on.
    I think it’s more condescending, not less, to hold back from criticizing someone out of the belief that they can’t take it or won’t be able to respond appropriately. To act in that way, as the columnist Johann Hari said, is to treat religious people as if they were children. I’d rather give people the benefit of the doubt and treat them as mature, rational adults who can take criticism and respond constructively.

  6. says

    Emonmuse: Ok, I think people should c-a-l-m the f*ck down! Who called Greta Christina a “RACIST”?! Come on, who is really playing the victim here?
    The short of it: Is it OKay to Mock Marginalized Religion? A rotound YES! YES! YEEEEESSS!!! I’ll say it in Spanish so everyone understands it: Si! SI! Claro que si!!!
    My point was just this: Do it insightfully! Do it skillfully! Educate yourself first, so at least you have something intelligent to say. Mocking without substance is just plain laziness. OK kiddies?
    Geezzzz…This topic got tired before it even began, and bridges got burned before they even got built. No wonder folks think we atheists are unapproachable, unfriendly and even worse than vegans.
    Move on, there’s nothing else to see here….

  7. Maria says

    Anyway, it is not “their art”. It is OUR art – all of us can learn from it! Art is universal.
    If it’s ours, then why does not Greta Christina, as well as ALL other people have the right to say what they think about this art that belongs to all of us?
    I am very very unsure about what your point actually is, Raul, you don’t come off as awfully clear here. But to me it sounds a bit like you are saying that you have a lot of knowledge about this kind of art, and if people don’t have the exact same knowledge as you do about it, we shouldn’t talk about it at all? We can’t say what we like and don’t like, what we find weird, or not weird, what looks kitshy and funny to us, and what is pretty… and so on, without first having complete knowledge of exactly what it is, it’s complete history, and all its possible connections to anything else? We are not worthy to talk casually about art that you, in your wisdom and knowledge knows to be so profound? We must adhere to your definition of what is insightful and so on?
    No wonder folks think we atheists are unapproachable, unfriendly and even worse than vegans.
    I am not sure that you are helping much either, when it comes to things like being approachable, friendly and bridge-building… o,o

  8. says

    Raul, I understood your original point (and I understand your anger about being misunderstood about it). However, your argument sounds too similar to one of the arguments Greta argued against (can’t find a link): when believers say “You can’t talk about X until you read everything ever written about X”.
    Right, when we comment our first impression of something, we probably won’t say anything too insightful. As Greta said, they can’t all be gems. But so what? Should people allow themselves to open their mouths only on topics they have deep familiarity with?
    Then we’d never learn anything.
    About this “bridge-building”: it is going to happen only if people *talk* about things. Look, it happened here — Greta talked, and you responded, and there was dialog, and people learned things. This is how it all is supposed to work, no?

  9. says

    Well, first, Raul: If I misunderstood the intention of your comment, I apologize. That was certainly not my intention.
    As for what you now say your intention was behind your comment: Frankly, I actually have more problems with that than with how I originally understood it.
    It sounds to me like you’re basically saying two things. First, you’re saying that people should carefully study a religious belief before they criticize or poke fun at it. That’s an argument commonly called “the courtier’s reply”: you can’t accuse the Emperor of having no clothes, the argument goes, unless you’ve studied the history and discourses on his hat and his boots. It’s an argument I reject completely. Here is a response I wrote to that argument a little while ago, Hypocrisy and the “Modern Theology” Argument; here is PZ Myers’s much more concise (and much more famous) response to it, The Courtier’s Reply.
    And second, and much more problematically: You seem to be telling me, “You didn’t say what I would have said if I had been writing that piece — therefore it was not worth saying. Your insights are not my insights — therefore they are not insightful.”
    Despite my self- deprecating joke about how “I should sum these up in some clever or insightful way,” I did, in fact, have a point to make in my original post. And that point was not simply, “religion is weird.” That point, to reiterate, was: Most people see religions that are familiar as normal and reasonable, but religions that aren’t familiar to them often seem weird and silly. Therefore, it’s useful to take a step back from religions we’re familiar with, to see how someone might see it from the outside… and to notice that, from the perspective of a non-believer, it all looks equally absurd. (Yes, it was somewhat clumsy writing on my part to state the insight in the introduction but not to repeat it in the conclusion. So sue me.)
    Now, if you disagree with that insight, or you don’t think it’s interesting, then of course that’s fine. If you’d said, “Hey, here’s some interesting information about the images you posted,” I would have been delighted. (I was, in fact, very interested in the information you shared.) And if you’d just said, “This is boring and stupid,” well, I wouldn’t have written an entire post responding to it. I probably would have just ignored it. Either way, it would have been fine.
    But I have a serious problem with you telling me, “If you’re going to mock religion, you have to do it with insight”… while ignoring the fact that I was trying to do it with insight. It was simply not an insight you personally agreed with or found interesting.
    And finally: Contrary to your recent comment, you did not “only” say that my original post was not that insightful. You called that post “simplistic,” “empty,” “ignorant,” “dismissive,” and “smart ass.” You said that you “hope for more respect of the Latino history and the culture of the neighborhood” — clearly implying that the post was not sufficiently respectful of that history and neighborhood. You didn’t “only” say that my post was uninsightful: you linked that supposed lack of insight to cultural insensitivity on the part of Mission District hipsters. I don’t think it’s reasonable or fair of you to use language like that… and then accuse other people of being divisive.

  10. Bruce Gorton says

    Ebonmuse
    Or as I put it, it is treating people like animals in a zoo – it isolates them into cages we call “culture” and then praises their diversity, as opposed to any given merit.
    Raul
    A frequently missed problem with your courtier’s reply when it comes to mockery is that part of how we learn is through play – which means that mocking something is part of how we gain the knowledge the courtier demands.
    And when it comes to mockery there is another element here, that ultimately if we don’t mock each other, if we don’t engage with each other, then we aren’t really with each other now are we?
    We are two people in the same room quietly ignoring each other because we don’t respect or like each other enough to really talk.
    And this builds resentments, because you see, learning to live with and like people who don’t take us as seriously as we take ourselves is an acquired skill – and a needed one, because frankly, we aren’t all that worthy of being taken seriously.

  11. Liz Highleyman says

    I think the most salient example of this today is the idea that one can’t criticize Islam as a religion, because that would play into the whole Bush/War on Terror/Clash of Civilizations viewpoint. But is it really “Islamophobic” to criticize the religious beliefs of Islam, if you also criticize everyone else’s religion equally?
    I think the flip side of the culture issue is the idea that while it’s OK to criticize the dominant religion of your own culture, those poor “primitives” can’t really be expected to be rational. On the contrary — everyone has the capacity to reject irrational beliefs.

  12. says

    I’ve made fun of the Catholic souvenirs at Lourdes on my blog. I guess that’s more acceptable since Catholics in France aren’t a minority…? (And who could resist making fun of the French?)
    Yet, the kitsch I was mocking is very similar to the stuff in Greta’s post, and is funny for the same reasons…

  13. says

    Okay…*deep breath*. Maria: Art does belong to all of us. We can all learn from it. I didn’t say she “has no right” to do so.
    I’m someone that is passionate about art. All kinds of art. I saw the post as a missed opportunity. Here’s another example: When I was in London I saw a group of (American, not that it matters) students acting in a disrespectful manner. One of them was eating granola while walking around. Someone else pointed at a statue of a lady and said “Looks like she is sitting on a toilet”. I felt just as irritated. Again, missed opportunity. Maybe I was reading too much of the same “vibe” on Greta Christina’s post. But mind you, I’m not the only with selective understanding problems….
    I’m not saying that everyone has to express themselves “exactly” like me in order to be insightful. I said SOME insight would have been helpful. I shared with Greta Christina the image one an art piece that got some complaints: Jesus Christ dressed like Wonder Woman. I’ll be glad to send the link if someone is interested. I felt that if someone challenged me I could give some interesting insights on catholic imagery, the link between comic books and heroism, and imperialism. It was not just “Oh, it is kitch, it’s funny”. There was some substance behind it. I was offering criticism, I’ll work on being more constructive next time. OK? Mea culpa. Please get over it.
    Ola: Like I said before, I don’t use absolutist language yet I see a lot of folks attributing those to this comment I made. “You can talk about X until you read everything ever written about X”. Whoa. Was I really saying that??? No. Some. SOME research help, even a little. It shows you did your homework and makes you golden in my book. Since I’ve been shown examples of how I should express myself I’ll some some examples of my own:
    “This is La Santisima Muerte” She is a syncretism of blah, bhla, blah…it is funny because to me it looks like Skeletor from He Man and the Masters of the Universe. She also looks like Maria Shriver”. Get it? That would have been hilarious!
    Greta Christina: By your own admission you said that your post was not that insightful. I agreed and I caught a lot of flack. It is like when a friend says “Oh, I feel fat! Do I look fat in these jeans? And you say: Yeah honey, seems like you gained a few pounds” and your friend bites your head off. What gives?
    I was very specific about saying I was NOT oversensitive about “hipsters” invading the neighborhood and acting in a disrespectful manner. The reason for that disclaimer was to avoid all these unnecessary comments, yet I was immediately played as the angry, offended, narrow little Latino whose purpose was to censor you while playing the victim “race” card against “my” untouchable art/culture!! Geez, talk about twisting my words beyond recognition.
    Again, that tells me more about the above mentioned “selective reading” that I was guilty of. I guess we are even.
    What I should have said was: “Hey folks, since we are talking about the hood: It is my hope that people take the time to learn about the culture and history of the Mission. It is a source of inspiration for my art”.
    OKay, Okay..I learned my lesson. I will be more careful when providing constructive criticism. I see how some of my words may have come across as “harsh” but somehow the way you write sort of invites it in a “Oh, she can take what she dishes” sort of way. However I was also VERY SPECIFIC about saying that the word “ignorant” was not meant as an insult. My point was NOT to insult you!
    On the same vein: by commenting on your blog I was called condescending, a separatist, a censor, “stiff”, and “not that smart”. You did apologize for “misunderstanding” my post (thank you) but honestly I don’t feel like reading your blog or commenting again. I’m afraid you just used me to state some points you already wanted to make.
    Like I mentioned to you in private: What chances do you have of growing as a writer if you only write for your fan base, or to the ditto heads that are just going to quote you like trained parrots (See Bruce above: “The frequently missed problem with your cortier’s reply…”). MY courtier’s reply?? Sure dude…whatever.
    So yes…the brave Greta Christina defeated the narrow, ignorant artist that was trying to censor her, she continues to laugh and point her finger at the naked emperor, even if she doesn’t know EVERYTHING about ermine capes and tights…truth and reason has prevailed! End of story. We all can live happily ever after now.
    I’m all cozy wearing my footed pjs right now….what did you folks put on this morning? What are YOU wearing?

  14. says

    While I’m pretty unsympathetic to the “you can’t criticize the Other” card (especially as it gets played against those of us who are critical of reactionary Islamism), I don’t get the impression that this is what Raul is saying and I don’t think that he should get his head bitten off over what is essentially a non-hostile critique.
    I also get the fact that Greta is essentially using the “oddness” (to those of us in the “majority” culture) to make this point:
    “Most people see religions that are familiar as normal and reasonable, but religions that aren’t familiar to them often seem weird and silly.
    Bill Maher actually makes the same point in Religulous, actually, though there he was largely using Mormonism as a foil.

  15. says

    I’m reminded of a definition I find helpful:
    Cult: Noun, any religion smaller and younger than yours.
    Personal I find if acceptable to mock any religion in the same way it’s ok to mock any work of fiction.

  16. Bruce Gorton says

    Raul
    Greta, if you want to ban me for saying this, I will revert to the four-year old’s defence – “He started it.”
    Okay Raul, here is the thing about the person pointing out that that woman looked like she was on the toilet: They actually engaged in the art on a far more real way that you did.
    They actually looked at it. What you seem to demand is that people just read books about it.
    Uwe Boll, is apparently a guy who really knows his movies. He is passionate about his movies, he will box people who do not like his movies – and his movies are universally bad.
    You don’t need a degree in film making to know they are terrible, you just need to see them.
    The courtiers response relies on the idea that we are not qualified to call things as we see them. And in your case, it is a means of shutting up thought for fear someone might have a sense of humour, or see something differently to you.
    That is why it was a problem with “your” courtiers response.
    Sometimes we will look at things from other cultures and see them as being funny – well that is perfectly acceptable. It is in fact part of not being a complete poseur, it shows we are thinking about what we are looking at.
    Maybe our thoughts aren’t deep or profound enough for the plastic intellectuals out there, but they are our thoughts.
    There is a war on joy, on humour and on brains going on by pretentious little fakes who claim to be into art and philosophy, while what they are really into? Their own egos.
    And guess what you are coming off as?

  17. Maria says

    I tried to post this yesterday but the forum wouldn’t let me, said something about ‘can’t accept the data’…?? Well, I’ll post my reply now, even though some of the points I made are similar to Bruce’s
    Maria: Art does belong to all of us. We can all learn from it. I didn’t say she “has no right” to do so.
    I agree, you didn’t say that she didn’t have a ‘right to not learn’. You deeply disapproved of her way of expressing herself about a subject you consider yourself knowledgable about, which is as bad, as I see it. You didn’t just disagree or inform which is your right (and I certainly think people should speak up when they don’t agree). You did actually imply pretty strongly that she might as well shut up.
    I’m someone that is passionate about art. All kinds of art. I saw the post as a missed opportunity.
    Who isn’t? As I mentioned in my first comment to Greta’s first post, art is one of my biggest interests. I’ve attended art school for two years, and are at the moment quite sad about not being able to get a studio to work in. I’m certainly no expert, but I have a fairly good basic understanding of art in general, and through history. I have more than 80 000 reference pictures of artwork of all kinds and from all times for my on-going but irregular self-studies in art on my PC.
    Does that mean that I always discuss or comment on art in the deepest and profoundest way possible? Does that mean I have an obligation to never ‘miss any opportunities’ in speaking of art in the “right” way (whatever that is)? No, sometimes I just want to be casual about it and that does not diminish my passion for it.
    Greta Christina was not as “deep” as she could have been, maybe. She still did have a point! The whole thing goes back to this: It is your opinion that she ‘missed an opportunity’, and it’s your opinion that people are, apparently, not suppose to do that when it comes to your passions. You have a right to express that opinion, and it is my opinion that you could have done so in a much nicer way than what you did! You know… in the name of building bridges and all…
    Someone else pointed at a statue of a lady and said “Looks like she is sitting on a toilet”. I felt just as irritated. Again, missed opportunity.
    OK, so you are on a mission to get everybody to respect art for art’s own sake. I’m not, and I probably love art as much as you do. People can have totally silly comments about art, doesn’t mean they are wrong. Maybe it really did look like she was on the shit house, you know? Maybe it is you who miss something when you make yourself blind to the burlesque and the unintentional funny in much of classic art? Art is not holy, and some art could sure use some taking down a few pegs.
    I’m not saying that everyone has to express themselves “exactly” like me in order to be insightful. I said SOME insight would have been helpful.
    Here we go again! You are saying there was no insight there at all. It was! Maybe you don’t think it must be ‘exactly’ as yours, but it apparently must be pretty darn close to yours for you to recognize there are insight at all.
    I felt that if someone challenged me I could give some interesting insights on catholic imagery, the link between comic books and heroism, and imperialism. It was not just “Oh, it is kitch, it’s funny”. There was some substance behind it.
    That’s where I disagree with you.
    The additional info you had on the artwork WAS interesting, I thought so, Greta thought so. That wasn’t what annoyed us about your post. It was that you claimed that your info is ALL we need, and your interpretation of it is what counts. It IS kitsh… also! If someone focus on the kitshy side of things, you storm in to defend it, and want to shove the “real” substance behind it down our throats, while drawing conclusions about how shallow we must be based on ONE post or comment? If you had just added the info and your knowledge (which obviously is interesting) no one would have reacted, many would have been intrigued. But the knowledge you had to offer was drowned in your, to be frank, quite snobbish attitude about how art should be viewed, and at what level it should be discussed.
    No. Some. SOME research help, even a little. It shows you did your homework and makes you golden in my book.
    You haven’t convinced me that it is an honor I should strive for, to be ‘golden in your book’. And if I am wrong and I should indeed strive for this, then please tell me exactly how MUCH research I must do on any given subject before I open my mouth in any venue. Wouldn’t want to screw up, and get crossed out from your book.
    “This is La Santisima Muerte” She is a syncretism of blah, bhla, blah…it is funny because to me it looks like Skeletor from He Man and the Masters of the Universe. She also looks like Maria Shriver”. Get it? That would have been hilarious!
    So, you give two examples of different impressions the same piece of artwork can generate, and in this case, since it is highly subjective things we are talking about here, both are valid. If it reminds of skeletor, it kind of… does.
    You have knowledge – work on your presentation if you really are passionate about getting it out there. And be happy about that people engages themselves in art at all, instead of being so annoyed about that they are doing it in the “wrong” way.

  18. says

    Bruce: No Senor…it was not “MY courtier’s response because I do call things as I see them. This is how this mess got started in the first place.
    Your initial comment came across as patronizing…and repetitive. It seemed to me that you were lecturing me because of something I didn’t say and seemed to me like you just jumped on the bandwagon. You sounded like a trained parrot so I called you that. I felt it was a funny insult and not that harsh…in your own words: I mocked, so I was “with you”.
    let’s clarify- I don’t demand anything. I dont’ ask for people to agree with me or engage with me by having an intellectual conversation or be a Sarah Palin and read ALL available materials. Geez. Actually, some of the symbology I shared in my original post may not eve be in books…academia and the (mainstream) art world pays very little attention to the art of some cultures, so it remains ignored. It took several comments for folks to actually acknowledge that my original comments were actually “interesting”…but none of that was in the original post. Seems to me like Gereta Christina’s gun was already loaded and she was ready to shoot….I just came along conveniently.
    About the kid that poked fun at the funerary statue in London: First and foremost – I kept my mouth shout. I didn’t demand anything from him. I didn’t lecture the kids eating granola. I didn’t force them to engage “the right way”, nor did I challenge them to an intellectual discussion.
    Bruce, how dare you assume I was not *looking* at the statue? And how can you say my experience was not real? I saw it and appreciated its beauty, found it profoundly sad. She had her delicate foot on the head of a grotesque skull…and her head rested on her hand. It spoke to me of dying young, before even getting to experience the world. It also spoke to me of loneliness. The statue seemed sad. I know, marble can’t feel. I’m a rational person and I know that. But to me “she” seemed much like the caged animal you mentioned above. Kids could see her…point, say mean things, ignore her, or just smile and walk away. At the end they get to go home. The statue can’t talk back, it is just a statue after all. And this is just my silly take…do I say it is profound? Hardly…knowledgeable? No…do you have to adhere to my way of thinking because it is the non-plus ultra of British funerary statuary? No…but I went and learned her name. I wrote it in a piece of paper. Why? I least I wanted to know who the young lady was. I’ve never shared this with anyone until now. I rarely share my opinions about art with *anyone*.
    Ok, here’s a confession. Yes, there is more to it than a missed opportunity. To me those kids seemed ungrateful. We all have our own limitations. I have to see the world according to my own. When I was the age of the mocking kids I came to this country with a bag of clothes and not much else. Our first apartment didn’t have the basic thigns 15 year olds take for granted. We didn’t have chairs, a bed, a tve…pretty pictures to hang on the wall. We didn’t have anything.
    My mom was a glorified janitor. Her employers would put her on the back of a U-haul with twenty other Mexican ladies and a bunch of chemicals (with no chairs, no light) and would drive them to burned building to clean and rescue stuff that was still useful.
    Once I went with her. I found a notebook and markers and I allowed to keep them. From then on I would sit on the floor of our apartment to draw horses…because I didn’t know better. I was passionate about art…Who isn’t? Maria says…well, I don’t know if everyone is but I was. Some folks have sports, other music, other movies…art was my thing. Since I lived in such a gray world I was starved for color and those little makers nurished me. I enjoyed looking at books…but I didn’t understand what it was being said in them, because I didn’t know English. So I learned.
    I learned on my own…I studied English by reading “Brother’s Karamazov” because I was available to me at school…and because my teacher wouldn’t teach me much. I’m very proud to know the difference between “to” and “too”. (Sorry CybrgnX…just an observation!!)
    I had imagined Saint Petesburg and Europe, but it took me more than twenty years to actually go there. It was then that I realized that things in books are not real. Call it the Mission District, Manila, London, Venice, Antigua. Yeah…I’ve been to all of these places. When you are in an actual, real place you can appreciate the color, the smell, the light. Most of all, you have a chance to meet the people that live there.
    When I was 18 senior trip was to Mexico…and I couldn’t go because at the time, If had left the US, I wouldn’t be allowed back since I had no documents. When I made it to London my mommy and daddy had not pay for my trip. I was grateful to be there, in the middle of that ancient Abby.
    It was a choice, I wanted to go and learn. Nobody ever came to me and told me I could possibly be an artist. I chose to be one, just like I chose to not accept the religion that was being shoved down my throat from a very early age.
    So, why am I telling you this? So you feel sorry for me? NO..pity me like you would pity a pack of wolves. I’m saying this because I’m very much aware of my own limitations and my own ignorance. English is not my first language. I don’t have a college degree. I’m sure I don’t express myself as well as I would like to. I’m also telling you this because there is a real person behind this keyboard.
    Come on…calling me a “plastic intellectual”? “A pretentious little fake who claims to be into art and philosophy”? That I wage WAR on “joy, humor and brains”. A posseur” That’s fine Sir…I can take it. If my skin was not as thick as an adobe wall I wouldn’t dare call myself an artist.
    I’ve been reading this blog for a while. If I (marginally) provided criticism is because I care and respect. I think Greta Christina’s recent post about men dancing together was incredibly interesting and right on the money.
    If I can’t ask for improvement from rational people I like and respect who can I ask it from? Religious fanatics? Anti-abortionists? Xhenophoes and murderous anti-semites?
    Maria….like I said before, I learned my lesson. I’ll work on my delivery, thanks. I do admit that i was angered by some of your comments and your tone. But hey, I’m not going to respond. I think I’ve said MORE than enough. Right now “I’m going to fucking well let myself be angry”. No…those are not my words. But like Ola said above…”I can’t find the link”
    (But do we really have to resort to quoting Greta Christina’s post and words like trained parrots? Just like some quote bible quotes? I hope not! How dogmatic!)
    Good bye.

Leave a Reply