Missing In Action: An Essay on Diaspora.

There has been a lot of talk about town regarding this music video clip of late. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been asked now if I’ve seen it, and what I thought of it and if I’d be interested in writing something about it.

I hadn’t seen the clip until today, and had chosen deliberately not to see the clip until now for a couple of reasons. I do this sometimes. Let me explain.

One of my all time favorite pass times is trying to decifer why people think what they think.

One of my other favorite pass times is seeing how long they think what they think before they change their mind.

This can actually be quite fun.

Epistemology has been my bag for as long as I’ve known the word exists and that the word is very cool.

Here. Have a diagram before I continue:

Now, the reason I mention epistemology with regards to M.I.A.s clip for Born Free is probably obvious to those familiar with the term. Part of the debate over the nature of knowledge is a debate between epistemological externalists on the one hand, and epistemological internalists on the other.

Bare with me as I have a crack at explaining this…

‘The Externalists,’ bless, think that factors deemed “external”, i.e. outside of the psychological states of those who gain knowledge, can be conditions of knowledge.

For example, an externalist response is to say that, in order for a justified true belief to count as knowledge, it must be caused, in the right sort of way, by relevant facts. Such causation, to the extent that it is “outside” the mind, would count as an external, knowledge-yielding condition.

Internalists, contrariwise, claim that all knowledge-yielding conditions are within the psychological states of those who gain knowledge.

Right. So now if you’re struggling to wrap your head around that one I do encourage you to google the topic further or pop round to my place for dinner some time as it’s really not half as complicated as you might think.

Basically, I think we choose what we know. As much as I think we also choose our own prejudices and hang ups. The only people I’ve ever known to believe that  red heads are a truly inferior species– are red heads.

I don’t actually really ever think about it.

I’ve got my own hang ups to consider, which, interestingly enough, piss off if you tell them to.

Now I had an interesting chat with a red head friend of mine many months ago now when we first became neighbors. I noticed that conversationally she would refer to herself as a “Ginge.” I found this interesting as I’d never had a red-headed friend who referred to themselves, or rather, defined themselves continually by their hair colour. I asked her why she did this and from memory, she said because red heads stand out, because red heads are ostracised, because they’re the minority. I still disagree.

Everyone’s a fucking minority. That’s why people seek solace in clubs and tribes. It makes them feel bigger, braver, like there’s more of them, like they’re safe.

Now I know the Brits can be quite unforgiving towards redheads. And this friend of mine has spent a fair chunk of her life there so I suppose can be forgiven for dragging the stigma back home to Australia where people take the piss out of everything– not just red heads– Pick a topic, pick a physical attribute. It all gets knocked here. That’s how we roll. Tall poppy, hack, hack. Whatever…

I do go searching through youtube this afternoon, however, to find evidence of a TV program my sister found rather entertaining when she was bouncing around Brighton with her lover a couple of years ago. There’s actually not a lot on youtube about redheads, excepting some American comedienne whose not very funny and oddly a lot of links to a Pelvic Organ Prolapse Support Group.


I did find this though,

So in continuation of my argument. I think that a persons expectations change the way something is perceived.

I do. I really do.

If you anticipate pain, tragedy, disaster, prejudice, rejection, etc., you’ll find it. You’ll find it everywhere. And if ones entire modus operandi is based purely on the cruel shit kids said to them in school might I remind you my nickname was “Toady” for like, years. Thanks boys.

And I’ve moved on.

I really have.

But what of M.I.A.? What’s she trying to say with this clip? And is it really as offensive as everyone is making out? I’m not so sure.

I did notice that there were no women on the bus. Only blokes. And I thought this worth a mention as I suppose a red head would only notice the absence of blondes and brunettes… But there are no women on that bus.

The sex scene is also a subject of offense for many, which I find confusing as it looked both consensual and kinda fun. I think what I’m supposed to be offended by is the fact that the couple are overweight and middle aged.

I don’t however.

Keep it real people. Please. Keep it real.

Now I don’t really like guns or violence to be fair, but in my humble opinion, that’s entirely the point of this clip. By highlighting the ugly we talk about it, we think about it. It becomes important.

More important that this sort of shit:

So with that in mind let’s take a wee look at M.I.A.s cultural roots in an effort to explore Born Free. Thanks Wikipedia.

Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam (Tamil: மாதங்கி ‘மாயா’ அருள்பிரகாசம்; born 18 July 1975),[1] better known by her stage name M.I.A., is a British songwriter,record producersingerrapperfashion designervisual artistpolitical activist, and artist of Tamil Sri Lankan origin.

An accomplished visual artist by 2002, M.I.A. came to prominence in early 2004 through file-sharing of her singles “Galang” and “Sunshowers” on theInternet.[3] She released her Mercury Prize-nominated debut album Arular in 2005. Her second album, Kala, was released in 2007 and obtained Gold status in the United States according to the RIAA. “Paper Planes,” a track from this album became a chart favourite in 2008. She has been nominated for twoGrammy Awards and an Academy Award.

Her compositions have been noted to encompass various genres, often with political lyricism and artwork. M.I.A. has described her music style as being “other”.[4] In addition to her work as a graphic designer, providing artwork and photography for releases and as a director of music videos, she has also experimented with documentary film and in 2008 released a collection of her fashion designs. She is the founder of the record label N.E.E.T.

In 2009, Time magazine placed M.I.A. in the Time 100 list of “World’s Most Influential people” for having “global influence across many genres”.[5]

Mathangi Arulpragasam was born in HounslowLondonEngland to Kala and Arul Pragasam.[6] Her family is of Sri Lankan Tamildescent.[7] When she was six months of age, her family moved back to their native JaffnaSri Lanka. Motivated by his wish to support the Tamil militancy on the island, her father became a political activist, adopting the name Arular, and was a founding member of theEelam Revolutionary Organisation of Students (EROS), a political Tamil group that worked to establish an independent Tamil Eelam.[8][9][10] Her stage name, M.I.A., stands for Missing In Acton.[11]

Because of the Sri Lankan Civil War, the first eight years of her life were marked by displacement. Contact with her father was strictly limited, because he was in hiding from the Sri Lanka Army.[11][12] As the civil war escalated, it became unsafe for the family to stay in Sri Lanka, so they relocated to ChennaiTamil NaduIndia, moving into a derelict house, with sporadic visits from her father.[12][13]During a period when her family temporarily resettled in Jaffna, the war escalated further and her school was destroyed in a government raid.[10][14] In 1986 she, her older sister Kali, younger brother Sugu, and mother moved back to London where they were housed asrefugees.[12] She learned English in the late 1980s, on a council estate in MitchamSouth London.[9]

Arulpragasam graduated from London’s Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, with a degree in fine art, film, and video.[15]She currently lives in Bedford-StuyvesantBrooklyn, New York, in the United States and is engaged to Benjamin Zachary Bronfman (aka Benjamin Brewer), environmentalist[16], ex-singer and guitarist for the band The Exit, son of Edgar Bronfman, Jr. the CEO of Warner Music Group, and a member of the Bronfman liquor dynasty.[17][18] M.I.A. gave birth to a boy on 11 February 2009, naming him Ikhyd Edgar Arular Bronfman,[19] just days after performing at the Grammy Awards.

Ok. So now you know what you know because you choose to know what you know…

I wonder though, if M.I.A.’s clip is in any way more offense than this:

Or this:

Or this:


Or this:


Or this:

The list goes on…

“There is a war between the ones who say there is a war and the ones who say there isn’t.” – Leonard Cohen.

2 Responses to “Missing In Action: An Essay on Diaspora.”
  1. Aaron Darc says:

    I adore this video. It’s so tiring when people consume things as Shocking™, like Gaga, when really they’re not, because we’re simply projecting a safe idea of “shock” onto it. This clip is actually shocking – it’s provocative. It’s a classic highlighting of inequality by inverting norms and hence showing they’re inequality because, through the contrast, we see that norm. “Imagine if it was reversed” everyone says. Well, exactly. That’s what it wants you to do. There’d be an uproar, right? But there’s not really. Not REALLY – not the kind of uproar it would be if it was reversed, nothing remotely similar.

    Which is what is fascinating, because we can see oppression not just through the struggles of the powerless, but the safety of the powerful. We don’t have to get upset by this, because at the end of the day it doesn’t represent any kind of reality – metaphoric or literal – so we can consume it as fantasy. We can carry on all we like, but it doesn’t mean anything, because when push comes to shove it represents nothing about our actual lives. What a lovely position to be in.

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