Monarchy… seriously?

I was reading an old, but good post from Hamilton Nolan – that’s equal parts hyperbolic and entertaining as informative. I’m not sure what it was that made me think how bizarre it is that UK still has people who just are “better” than us mortals — for some unknown reason.

Writing at Gawker, Nolan wrote:

It is amusing to reflect upon the imperial past of England, and the inherent assumptions of racial and cultural superiority that fueled it, while also noting the fact that the UK still to this very day continues to offer slavish financial, political, and cultural support to a tiny family elite notable for nothing except the lineage of the particular person’s vagina from which they slunk. The persistence of the Royal Family, and the worshipful attention that it draws from the British public, is the sort of primitive superstitious voodoo that puts to shame any of the animist rituals that the colonial British would have derided as uncivilized.

The rest of it just gets better.

I am reminded of Christopher Hitchens’ beautiful plea to Kate Middleton to do a 180 and find life as a normal, actual person, not the puppet of desperation with hooks from history propping up this charade for reasons that confound many.

Hereditary monarch, observed Thomas Paine, is as absurd a proposition as a hereditary doctor or mathematician…By some mystic alchemy, the breeding imperatives for a dynasty become the stuff of romance, even “fairy tale.” The usually contemptuous words fairy tale were certainly coldly accurate about the romance quotient of the last two major royal couplings, which brought the vapid disco-princesses Diana and Sarah (I decline to call her “Fergie”) within range of demolishing the entire mystique. And, even if the current match looks a lot more wholesome and genuine, its principal function is still to restore a patina of glamour that has been all but irretrievably lost.

 

 

propThe Free Dictionary: An object placed beneath or against a structure to keep it from falling or shaking; a support.

All due respect

In a post for Big Think, I argued why religious organisations demanding respect miss what that actually looks like.

The case involves a local artist satirising a recent, unrelated news story about sport (called cricket or something). The artist, the legendary Zapiro, chose to depict the god Ganesh due to his popularity in the related country of India. Hindu organisations here in SA are upset and are demanding apologies, respect, etc. etc. [Read more...]

UN Women’s latest campaign is potent

UN Women, a branch of the United Nations, launched a powerful campaign that is both visually potent and thematically discomforting: Using the results of popular Google search terms – which we all utilise everyday on the Internet – the campaign highlights what entries are often being used.

The idea of cyberspace and sexism, of course, is something I’ve focused on before and it is of concern. It is good, then, that we can also use the same platforms to highlight the kind of treatment women still receive and that people still believe about women.

Its visceral nature and that we, as ordinary people use that search bar, makes this campaign powerful.

(If the data isn’t true, please let me know since that would be most unhelpful and only ammo to those who deny sexism and misogyny is a serious problem.)

[HT: Chris Miles from PolicyMic]

 

 

 

Oprah Winfrey and misusing entertainment (and large) platforms

In my latest for Big Think, I use the whole “Oprah denies atheism” affair as a jump off point to examine her larger and damaging approach to thinking.

I don’t view all celebrity as bad. What I worry about is the uncritical or unthinking engagement so many have toward things they adore: From people to video games, nothing is sacred. That doesn’t mean we can’t be sensitive in how we criticise, of course, but neither does it mean our silence for fear of offence.

Celebrities can do good, of course. But we shouldn’t be afraid of calling them out just because their platform is larger than ours or just because they’ve, perhaps, done good in the world. As I indicate, doing good in one area doesn’t absolve you of wrong done elsewhere.

(PS: Please try refer to her as Oprah Winfrey or Winfrey. I have a small annoyance at referring to strangers by first name, who actually have a surname. [Hence, Madonna is fine and is after all her stage name])

Less dude focus, more creativity

I argued that if you care about progress (in general, but specifically in traditionally male-dominated areas), then we need to treat toxic anti-women sentiment as a serious hindrance to progress.

Now many might say that it’s just basic human decency to not be sexist; of course, supporting diversity is not merely about combating the worst vitriolic comments women and other groups receive; it’s not merely encouraging women to go into environments where they might be targets of sexist or misogynistic slurs.

Here, I tried to make it a selfish claim for those who otherwise don’t care or intentionally make marginalised groups feel unwelcome: If you want more great films, more great novels, more great comics, more great games, etc., then you need more great creators. And creators demographic aren’t only one skin colour or sex or whatever. Therefore, we should want more than just white dudes creating beautiful things.

I’m not disparaging talented male creators, but again: the argument is broader than that. Nor is my selfish-focused argument meant to undermine that decency should trump selfishness (assuming this is just selfishness). But should doesn’t translate easily into “is”.

Being a critic and being a fan

In my latest for Big Think, I argue that – in many cases – fandom runs counter to proper criticism.

This can be about films, comics, games, whatever. Passion for the thing can blind us to its flaws, making any form of negative criticism (or, indeed, adaptation) tantamount to an attack in passionate fans’ eyes.

Reasonable, justified criticism is essential to the creative process, which leads to the creation of better, beautiful things (it doesn’t need to be the case that today’s artists are better than the Leonardos of the craft, but it does mean today’s artists try to be and this can be aided by pointing out flaws in the Masters’ works).

Passion is great but can become poison. Sanctifying anything, it seems, is usually a bad move.

In which I don’t join the hype of GTA V – despite loving it

Yes, it’s possible to enjoy and be critical of a thing you love. For my next trick, I will walk and breathe at the same time.

(I’m still struggling with how to respond to the major cultural phenomenon that Grand Theft Auto – as a franchise – has become: given its misogyny, it’s transphobic elements, and its violence. I am still thinking on these specific aspects – especially the horrible treatment of trans people – but I might have more to say on that later [perhaps].)