Saturday, May 28, 2005

Bob Ellis: No Laughing Matter

(Courtesy of Eyeteeth)

No Laughing Matter: Mr. Hussein's Underpants
by Bob Ellis

Will showing Saddam Hussein in his underpants help our cause in the Middle East? Not among the culture that invented chivalry, to wit, the Arab culture, and believes you must treat your enemy with honour. Not among the Red Cross, who thinks it a breach of the Geneva Convention. Not among European editorialists to whom images of naked people being tormented and killed, in Abu Ghraib and elsewhere, bring thoughts of the Holocaust. Not among those civil libertarians who value trial by jury, the right to a lawyer and a pay phone, and release on bail before one's day in court. To all of these it shows barbarism, a conquering army of ignorant rednecks out of control.

Imagine, for instance, a photo of the naked Colin Powell urinating on the floor. Would that help our enemies' cause? Some in the US apparently think it would. Show your foe humiliated, abject and helpless and his followers will give up the struggle.

The followers of Jesus of Nazareth, curiously, did not abandon their cause after his whipping, buffeting, mocking, stripping and crucifixion. The followers of Che Guevara still revere him despite the photos of his shooting, his slow agony and his death. The supporters of John Tyndale did not cease to read his English Bible after his public burning at the stake. Where do Americans get their silly ideas?

From, I guess, their own culture, which is a culture of humiliation. In Little League Baseball, Gridiron and the Spelling Bee, humiliation is the norm. In high school corridors and summer camp, in the secret societies of Harvard, Yale and Princeton, in the army, the navy and the airforce (as in An Officer And A Gentleman) you shape up or go under. On American Idol, The Weakest Link, The Apprentice and How To Marry A Millionaire, on Jerry Springer and Jay Leno and Fox News and, yes, on Oscar Night, you are measured, apparently, by your ability to withstand humiliation, defeat and mockery. The Simpsons and South Park, Seinfeld, Married, With Children and the films of Woody Allen record and celebrate this tendency. Films like Rocky and The Green Mile and Million Dollar Baby revel in it. The all-American concept of Winners and Losers (losers are the 98 percent who are not millionaires) reveres it.

To Read the Entire Essay

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