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Archive for May 2nd, 2010

mia “born free” / bureaucratic banality of evil

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I really don’t know what to make of MIA’s “Born Free” video. (Can’t easily embed it so you’ll have to go here if you want to watch it…) I think I generally agree with Voyou Desoeuvre’s analysis of the political content / message. The use of redheads as the persecuted minority group is the first problem. Following from what Voyou argues, racism relies about arbitrary distinctions that in the end aren’t all that arbitrary, when considered historically… Voyou is right – socially constructed categories aren’t any less real for being socially constructed. (See also, for instance, the infamous “brown eye / blue eye” pedagogical experiment, a favorite of Oprah and a symptom of self-hating liberal do-goodery, which relies, like most “progressive” liberal arguments on a sense that I too could be a victim of racism… Which really, in the end, isn’t all that true….)

But even beyond all this, as a short dystopian fiction, the video certainly is strange, especially at the end. To my mind, staging the killing of the prisoners as a bizarre sort of game on the part of the guards humanizes the brutality in a way that leads this video in the wrong direction… The starkest horror of the sort of situation that is being half-allegorized here is, I think, the horror of cold bureaucracy rather than individual or aggregated sadism. This displacement – from the filing and list-keeping of state terror to the helmeted insanity of the guard gone wrong – is the same sort of thing that made Abu Ghraib into an ironically safe subject for media and political discussion, as it was a story grounded in human perversity (even if structurally-facilitated perversity) rather than the boring mechanics of everyday terror.

Anyway, you might want to take a look at Coetzee’s old piece on the representation of torture for more if you’ve never read it. Probably deserves a post in itself, as it’s not an uncomplicated piece of writing both in terms of the argument and Coetzee’s personal situation vis a vis these issues… If I get a bit of time perhaps I’ll write something up…

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May 2, 2010 at 11:21 pm

Posted in music, torture