Thursday, August 29, 2013

Syria, Thicke, and Cyrus

Yeah I'm talking about it.

Everybody's up-in-arms. Everybody has something to say. If it's not about the ridiculous (or shameful, or brave and commendable) performance of Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus at the VMA, (for reasons of sexism, racism, slut-shaming, etc.) or about Syria, the Arab Spring, and the debated potential for World War III, then it's about which of the two is more important. Even in humour, that seems to be a thing. So here's my thing: They're BOTH important.

Pop Culture
Honestly, I didn't know this song existed until I heard Jian Ghomeshi interview Robin Thicke on CBC last week (listen here), and I've seen way too many naked girls (she wasn't naked anyway) and arrogant men with no dancing skills making un-coordinated moves at them to be even slightly alarmed by the performance. It was just a publicity stunt... which would be completely in line with Thicke stating (about his video for Blurred Lines) in his interview on CBC: "...and uh, you know luckily I'll be able to put my kid through college, so... thank you everybody out there." I guess we all have to do what we have to do, eh? I hope his kids are happy he did it. I don't find the VMA performance shocking, nor to I find the Blurred Lines video shocking. It's not any different than the ads on bus shelters, the covers of magazines in grocery store checkouts, or the TV shows that sell us pop-culture and shock-culture along with consumables.

It's everywhere. Is it surprising that there's political pandering all over the place, and leaders seek to align themselves most favourably, and all the rest of us hang on their words, trying to predict when the next World War will come, and where it will cause the most damage? No. We're just people being scared.

The Combination of War and Pop Culture
This is where things get real, for me. We feed our children war in their cereal in the mornings. We pump up the controversy to make money and make hype for our egos and our wallets. We lounge around with slave-made technological devices typing our arrogant thoughts onto our blogs (yes that's me) and we post slogans and alarming articles to our Facebook pages. A few notices come my way every day, just relating to significant ecological threats to my own tiny corner of this province. There are so many of these alarming news items that they are now as cluttered as the stage of Miley's teddy bear performance (were there white teddy bears or only black? People can't remember; this seems to be a topic for debate...) and we don't know where to look.

Look here: Drone Operator describes how he killed more than 1600 real people remotely, from a desk on another continent.

That is real.

People don't just train for the military by playing video games, they also kill people using similar technology. And it looks like a video game. We have lost touch with ourselves as humans. War IS pop culture. Pop culture IS war. Robin Thicke is wrong. This is not just entertainment. This is where we play out the real wars that are really killing real people. War is entertainment. And we are OK with that.

We're all about healthy body-image and promoting good, safe sex for our kids; helping them to feel good about themselves and brave enough to stand up to bullies. We're all about giving them emotional, intellectual, and physical weapons to protect themselves, but WHEN do we, as parents, stand up for them? When do we stand up for ourselves?

When do we, as a global culture, stand up and say NO MORE?!
When do we, as a global culture, stand up for US?

It's not even about not buying guns and barbies, or telling our children to be kind to each other.

It's about maybe not buying anything at all. It's about realizing that every single item we buy, use, or promote has a political, cultural cost.

It's about realizing that this little laptop - in its materials alone - has cost our culture and our future much more than I paid for it. The media it accesses costs untellably more, again.

It's about realizing that we can't just shield our children from the pop culture that we consume ourselves; we have to LIVE the way we want the world to be.

It's about knowing that Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke are us.

It's about knowing that the Syrian rebels and Al Qaeda and the al-Assads and the Obamas and the little girl sitting in her Syrian house wondering who Robin Thicke's children are... are us.

It's about knowing that when she dies, a piece of us dies, too.

We can't tell other people to change.
We can only change ourselves.

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