Congress has censored the gentleman (?) who interrupted the President’s speech last week by shouting Liar.

Good for them.

One of the most terrible things about politics during the Bush administration was that those who should have known better winked at the harsh and even paranoid voices that shouted hatred at him personally. And, alas, now it seems that the other side has decided to do the same. A president, who seeks to extend health insurance to the working class is being demonized as “The Joker”.*

Racism? No, politics.

But there is a blatant racism that is promoted here in Asia. If I were black, I would be ashamed at how American blacks are portrayed by the music and movie industries.

All you have to do is skim the dials and you see half naked people gyrating to music, and most of them are black.

But what is worse is the portrayal of blacks as gang members, criminals, or thugs, in B movies and TV shows. One is reminded of “Hollywood Shuffle”...

Yes, one is encouraged by the fact that black actors are often starring as dignified heroes in many of the better movies. And we get many African films shown on one channel. But these successful films are overwhelmed by American shows and videos  promoting violence and anarchy and lack of respect, and the bad news is that a lot more than ten percent of the perpetrators are played by actors who have ancestry in sub Sahara Africa.

Ah yes, freedom of expression, and all that.

But this ignores that a lot of the worst examples are out there because corporations decided to promote them.

Take the latest MTV Music Awards, where the Kayne West outburst has generated a lot of buzz. That’s about as spontaneous as it gets, right?

Yet while West’s outburst was condemned, a much more serious action that has deeper implications has been ignored by the media: comedian Jack Black said a prayer to the devil to bless the singers there with success.

Of course, this was undoubtedly done as a joke, but the fact that this action was approved by MTV, and the fact that the audience complied, is troublesome on many levels.

First of all, if there is a devil, and you pray to him for success you could get yourself into big trouble (as any fan of horror movies knows).

But then comes a more troubling aspect: That no one present at the affair protested the action. Were there no believers of any sort there? No Christian/Muslim/Hindu/Buddhist  believer who objects to praying to a diabolic symbol or spirit?

But West’s outburst knocked Black’s more serious bigotry off the media radar, so it was not widely reported.

As E!on line notes, none of these things are “spontaneous”:  neither West’s outburst or Black’s “prayer”. They were there to generate publicity and headlines (and profit).

So one suspects that Black’s action was planned and approved by “higher ups” in MTV.

For shock value,of course.

You can almost hear them salivating at the expected uproar, and answering with fake piety:”What’s that matter, don’t you (Christianists) get a joke?”

There is an old concept that such things pollute culture because they poison the respect between people that is necessary for civilization to survive. This idea goes back to the ancient Greeks and Confucius, but is one of the themes behind the communitarian movement.

One of the ideas of civility is that one respects the institution, even if one disagrees with the person. If you are a Congressman who disagrees with the president, you don’t interrupt a speech because by doing so, you are showing disrespect for the office of the Presidency.

One hopes that the President quickly gets rid of the haters among his supporters, and that the Republicans can find a leader among the rabble to do the same.

Yet where is the stress in popular culture on the old fashioned (dare I say “Asian”?) virtues of hard work, civility, honesty, respect for other people, and self sacrifice?  And who will “teach” these virtues if our “poets” and writers and song writers mock them?.

China, when confronted with the corruption of blatant capitalism, is promoting Confucian values again.

Right now, I am listening to Professor Magagna’s podcast on East Asian politics/society, I am struck with their parallel with Roman Catholic social thought, which worries that modern  capitalism often forgets or ignores how it impacts families and societies in the blind search for profit.

So, going back to Black: he prayed to the demonic for success. And this “moment of prayer” was brought to you by corporate America.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Science fiction author Orson Scott Card, in an essay on “Treasure Island” writes:

Isn’t it an odd thing that we now live in an era when it feels almost surprising that Jim Hawkins chooses to act honorably at all times…

We’re so used to heroes with feet of clay that we forget: There really are good people in the world who do not break their word, even when it is inconvenient to keep it; who do the right thing even when nobody is looking, especially when there might be great profit in malfeasance…Why shouldn’t books be written about such people?


But to see those stories, you have to switch the dial from MTV to National Geographic.


*(Yes, I know I have criticized his health care bill, but like other Blue Dog Democrats, it is with the hopes he will rid us of the “money first” ideas that infuse the business takeover of the modern medical profession).


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket.

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