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February 18, 2009

Blood, beats and the rhythm of rage

Some coincidences in life are funny.

On Monday night, while watching Media Watch, host Jonathan Holmes made me re-think my reaction to SRS (henceforth You-Know-Who). He was blasting off an Australian journalist for her ‘opinion’ column where she suggests beating up members of a political party because she didn’t agree with their opinions. Holmes’ exact quote, “That’s not opinion…that’s hate mongering.” It was pretty much what I had written in the gadha post. It made me re-think my reaction. Even though we are justified in our anger towards You-Know-Who, violence-against-violence is NOT the answer. What then is the answer to fear, frustration, anger and a sense of persecution?

The answer came through a series of coincidences…

Partner was out for an official dinner last night – read, bingeing with the blokes – and I was sitting at home with a massive headache. After losing the throne of Therebor and being beaten by the hordes of Mordor for the eighth time (Xbox 360, The Battle for Middle Earth II), I took my hurt ego and hurting fingers to watching some TV. Now Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) is one of the best channels here. It shows really good documentaries and it’s the only channel that gives equal representation to the multicultural Australia… Australians, Indians, Koreans, Indigenous; it has ‘mixed’ reporters/news readers. So last evening, I came across a documentary on Rio de Janeiro; rather the favelas – shanty towns aka slums – of Rio. It was the drums and music along with the images of dancing, bedraggled children that made me sit up.

It was like looking at Mumbai’s Dharavi again… plastic and human refuse, thatched huts that look like an ugly, mismatched mosaic in aerial shots, dogs and children generally lying around, poverty… and corrupt, corrupt police. While Rio creates images of exotic holidays for most – ignorant me included – there is a prevalent drug culture there. A drug-gang culture. To combat the drug-gangs, Rio has the military police, which can even put Delhi/Mumbai police to shame with its corruption and ruthlessness. If we hear about fake ‘encounter killings’ in Mumbai, the Polícia Militar (literally, military police) – under the garb of flushing out drug-gangsters – is also known to shoot innocent people at “point blank range”… often wrongfully. Or perhaps intentionally, no one can stop them.

The documentary was called ‘Favela Rising’ and was about the Grupo Cultural AfroReggae. Who are AfroReggae?

“…a Brazilian cultural group from Rio de Janeiro. Forged out of the police massacre of 21 people in their local community in 1993, they have gone on to establish an international profile for their pioneering work in taking young people out of the drug/gang culture of Rio de Janeiro’s favelas (shantytowns).”

It’s a cultural group that takes on the police and the drug gangs through… Music. Their songs talk of politics, murder, police, drugs and they dance their desire for life. AfroReggae strongly believes that “hatred breeds violence”. It was stuff out of movies, only this was not fiction: The sheer will power of one man – Anderson Sá, former drug dealer and the man who started AfroReggae in 1995 in the favela, Vigário Geral – to move people, to make a difference. As Anderson’s fiancé says in the documentary, “He is so determined to save the world, he does not think about himself.”

Because, like us, Anderson was and is, pissed off.

21 people assassinated by the police
Our people killed by luck of draw
Hatred breeds violence, I’ve had enough
Yet my pride still resides in Vigario
I love my community
But I’m pissed off.

From the song, I’m Pissed Off, AfroReggae

The people in the favela don’t blame anyone. As one old man said, “We don’t blame the government anymore. We realise that the society, people, the police, religion, us….we all have to do something if we want things to change.” Much like blaming LK Advani, Sonia Gandhi, the gaping economic chasm, Hindiusm and Islam or the billion-plus population of India will not help.

It’s like taking a crap: if you don’t wash your bum, no one else will wash it for you. Or wipe it (Australia, toilet papers here!)

Whether it is media-mongering thugs like You-Know-Who or roadside eve teasers. Blank Noise Project does it’s own peaceful thing for handling eve-teasers… Bangalore-based rock band Thermal And A Quarter (TAAQ) are doing their bit for tackling You-Know-Who and other similar death eaters. The newsletter from TAAQ was the other coincidence. I was sitting and watching videos of AfroReggae on YouTube when G-talk announced a new mail.

“…it’s time to unlock our chords, vocal and all. For nearly a month, Bangalore has been rocked by a big protest against the self-appointed moral police. While mostly everybody was throwing hate back at the hate-mongers, we came up with our strongest response: One Small Love. This unusual protest song is about making a difference through random acts of love – to unexpected people, in unexpected places, in unexpected ways…”
You can hear One Small Love here and can download it here. Check out AfroReggae’s MySpace page as well…it doesn’t matter if you don’t understand the language. Dance along.

CNN-IBN journalist DP Satish wrote on his blog that the best way to deal with You-Know-Who is to not give them publicity. While it is a good idea to not give them any hype, it will be silly to not discuss the issue. We will not make such issues or such people go away by not discussing them. The idea is to KNOW, so that we know how to react. While the media and bloggers did provide You-Know-Who with a global platform, they also informed people. Perhaps the next time those at the receiving end will be better prepared. Perhaps instead of just one man speaking out against You-Know-Who and other death eaters, more will stand up and refuse to let them have their way.

So many people making themselves heard and reacting is a good sign. Perhaps eventually, we will not need help wiping/washing our bums. And if what it takes is singing and dancing to the rhythm of rage, so be it.

Disclaimer: This blog/post does not in any way seek to infringe any copyright of JK Rowling or the Harry Potter trademark. Just in case her lawyers decide to sue the blog owner, the use of You-Know-Who and ‘death eaters’ is duly attributed to JK Rowling. Thank-you for a phrase that describes evil so well, even though there is nothing magical about these evils. As a gesture of good will, the blog owner will soon be buying Tales of Beedle the Bard as well.

PS 1: Thank-you for the comments on the previous post....despite the numbers who end up reading this blog, not many react or interact. That is fine! Even if you choose not to comment, it would be nice if you pass on the One Small Love link to friends and people. Tks!

PS 2 : Check this out as well….LOVE the music.
See the
AfroReggae in action, click on the video.

12 comments:

apathetic bliss said...

so glad you're back...they are fabulous!

Eve* aka JB said...

Bliss = hello! did you mean TAAQ or AfroReggae?! Would say that for both y'know!

Sree said...

So technically today is V day for you.Whatever coincidences led to erase that long borne hit n run list.Eventhough after the initial surprise etc,never took it as a serious thought of urs.hmm.

New years eve I was walking thru the streets of Bangalore(MG RD)and there was this man standing with a "Hugs for free" board.Maybe the AR Rehman wave.Music sure does good things to people.Or things conveyed thru music.

Eve* aka JB said...

Sree = 'hugs for free'? really? i didnt know that.and didnt get the valentine's day thing. Also, honestly, if You-Know-Who were to ever attack me or people around me, i am not going to sing songs to them, i will hit them.
But, music and dance are perhaps the best way of telling people that they really dont have to take it.

Goofy Mumma said...

We need to help ourselves, no doubt, take an initiative and do things. But we also cannot let ourselves get physically abused, with the government doing nothing, right?

Kartikey said...

JB,
Also watch the movie 'City of God'.

I am not so certain about the importance we accord to songs during troubled times. Especially when crimes against women are greater than the beating of women we saw at Mangalore.

Because of media attention, people feel relaxed enough to write songs about violence. Their poems/songs/voices are more likely to be heard by the masses.

However, the cliche 'something is better than nothing' applies here; at least something is being said and done about this violence. And maybe, it will trickle down to the poorer women who don't go to pubs but have hard times in dingy kitchens.

Eve* aka JB said...

GOOFY MUMMA: So what do you suggest? A dharna outside the parliament? In August 2007, we -- some of us who had never met each other, only through blogs -- started a blog called 'The Indian Shitizen'. the idea was simply to help ourselves.

For eg. We could say that we have a lot of poor people and the government does nothing for them. So we can write blogs and shrug our shoulders. OR... we could do something as simple as collecting old socks -- the ones that have a brother missing -- and give them to poor people.

OR, those who own restaurants can collect their leftover extra food and feed some homeless. OR your and mine old tee shirts which we dont wear? Give them to Red Cross or Salvation Army...or the beggar kids you and I see... Government approval is not needed.

As for getting physically abused: MOTIVATE people you know. If you are going out in a group, know and THINK about what you might/will do if attacked. And do it.

Carry a small pair of scissors -- Fiskars has a nice, lethal,pointy end --- or even a tough nail file. USE IT. Self-defense manuals say that women should always walk with their keys or some pointed object in their hand when approaching a car in a dark basement or parking area. Sincerely, do you do it??

The govt cannot provide private security to all of us and neither will removing one group help. Of course it will be a good beginning and a very good one at that...but what when others arise?

Eve* aka JB said...

KARTIKEY: I agree with what you are saying. However, I do think that understanding the DIFFERENT aspects we are dealing with is important.

On one hand, it's about loss of freedom of choice - the pub incident. On another, it's inequality - the women in dingy kitchens. Then there is the rape issue. All are aspects of what women face and ALL need to be dealt with. If perhaps some are starting out with handling the pub issue - the loss of freedom of choice -- I dont see anything wrong in it.

For eg. slums have both the lack of proper medical care as well as lack of proper sanitation. But to say that we cannot provide health care because there is no sanitation or to say that sanitation won't help because there is no health care is not a feasible idea. All issues, big, small, insignificant, need to be dealt with.

Then again there is the entire issue of religious righteousness... That is also enmeshed in the issues regarding women. Ideally, one needs to deal with all issues... but if we start at one point, whichever it may be, is not half bad an idea.

As for "singing songs"...it's called spreading the message. Whoever gets it, acts on it.

I mean c'mon, do women standing in dingy kitchens or maids who are regularly beaten up by their husbands -- I had a 50-year-old cleaning lady like that -- really care about women who are crying about their 'right' to visit a pub???

OR... women who are forging ahead in corporate lives are thinking about women who have babies and have to stay happy only looking after their husbands and kids???

The reality is that both versions of a woman's reality exist in this country. We deal with both and all... Perhaps songs will reach out to one section, who might be motivated to help the other.

Sitting and wringing our hands that there are SO many issues definitely won't help. THAT is what I think..what say?

Sree said...

"Hugs for free" was something out of an AR Reh music video i think.But then how can we think that these in the name of religion goons will understand music?They might listen to a Bhajan and then maybe hit the lady who sung it in a no sleeve dress.
I used to walk with a folded wrist mainly out of fear and the need to protect myself.Its not just about the physical hurt.We need to guard our emotions from being hurt.The wrist fold kept me in alert than otherwise.I support part of your idea where women/men make a group and get lessons on self defense and discuss ideas on how to protect themselves,the group being available to each other on call if a need arise apart from pepper spray n scissors n blades.
I was also thinking about the followers of this group.Should be out of the need for money.ah..donno.No gathered thoughts there.

Sree said...

The last line"this group" meant the Sene.

Mamma mia! Me a mamma? said...

Another brilliant post, JB! Quite an eye-opener, this. Sounds a lot like 'City of God'.

While I do love what AfroReggae is all about and I commend them for spreading the ove and making a difference, I still feel that self-defence is a woman's right. If someone decides to paw me, I certainly am not going to open my arms and hug the nastiness away.

But yes, when it comes to raising an awareness about an issue, or starting a campaign to spread info, music, creativity and uniqueness have everything going for it!

Kartikey said...

Yes Eve,
I agree.
I have been singing as well and I know that it reaches out to people.

You say that the pub issue is a start; I agree. Why not? From this, we could reach out to other sections.

You have also said that the woman in the kitchen or the slum would not bother about the slum-going woman. Yes. She could be 'targeted' as per her needs. But I do feel that woman need to be brought under a common denominator. Else a woman could pose problem for another woman who is 'not-my-type'.

This happens; it happened in Delhi.
The 'woman in power' indirectly asked women to avoid rape by being discreet. Happened very recently. happens and repeats. Happens and repeats.

You have said that singing and wringing our hands won't help. You are right but I never said this. We could talk about sex-education; in songs, films. We should not raise furor over censorship for a few months and then hibernate for ten?

One of the biggest hurdle for 'sexually liberated' (I would say 'normal', as designed by biology) men and women is... a woman.