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     Volume 8 Issue 56 | February 6, 2009 |

  Cover Story
  Writing the Wrong
  Ekushey Grantha   Mela
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Writing the Wrong

In the Name of Love

Sharbari Ahmed

I have been drawing a blank. I didn't know what to write about. The world is in chaos and I feel powerless. Yes, this sounds suspiciously like the beginning of very sincere, but bad poetry written by a sixteen year old in her basement hang-out. I think right now many people feel like they are at the mercy of events taking place a world away, like those affected by the US' rapid economic decline and it's the basic stuff that suddenly matters more. Like if that packet of beef hot dogs at the German butcher is going to send the weekly grocery budget into a tail spin. Things that we might have not blinked about before. Maybe that is why I cannot seem to pen a more complex sentence. I am worried about things that are not that complex. Money, lack of it, specifically, also hatred (I know some people think that is complex, but it is just fear. And fear, what is that, really? No, I am actually asking because I have no idea. I guess it's just plain attachment.) love (that definitely is not complex, it's just hatred and fear turned on its ear, right? Oh dear), and community.

Bono and Mary J Blige

People are belt tightening and hunkering down for a frosty Dickensian winter. Gazans are trying not to get wiped off the face of the earth. Israelis are trying to justify wiping them off the face of the earth. A 5.8 earthquake hit a town in Peru that was already devastated by one last year. The Chinese PM visited Cambridge and got a shoe thrown at him. He claims this will not affect the UK's relations with China. Must have been a Chinese made shoe. Qaddafi has been elected as the President of the African Union. He wants a United States of Africa. That should be interesting and alarming for white folks worldwide. But the World Bank will have a field day. Now they can destabilise one economy, instead of several separate ones. One stop continental destabilisation and counter-production, a developmental organisation's dream.

As much as people have been inspired and motivated by Obama's victory to come together and hold hands and love their enemies, events such as the holocaust happening in Gaza and other parts of the world, indicate that Obama is not enough. I think any rational person knows this. It really is, in the end, up to the man/woman/child in the mirror. Politicians have failed, organisations have failed (exhibit A: the UN's lack of resolution concerning Gaza), the media has failed.

The only way to end as much of the strife as possible I mean let's face it, I do not think that the human imagination has evolved enough to envision a world with no deadly conflict is build on what brings people together. Unifying forces. Obama is one, but he is human, and therefore, by definition, subject to the same foibles and weaknesses the rest of us are. I have been thinking about this a lot and I feel the only unifying force that will draw and tie people to one another disparate peoples is art. In all its forms but mainly through the collaborative process of making music and films. In the 21st century these media are the most far reaching.

I know this is not a revolutionary concept at all. Bono Vox of U2, George Harrison before him and artists like Asian Dub Foundation (one of whom is Bangladeshi), who came together partially in response to the BNP--the other one, the British National Party, a fascist party that is intolerant of people of different religions and races--wait! Maybe it's the same one. The Beastie Boys (three nice Jewish boys who have spoken out consistently against the racist treatment of Arabs throughout the world) are a rap group who have actively been using their art to further the agenda of peace and love for all mankind.

To that end they have all collaborated with other artists and people who are distinctly different from them, as artists who are imaginative and flexible do. One day while surfing the net, I found a youtube video of George Michael singing Queen's Somebody to Love, one of the most heartrending odes to love I have ever heard. It's a tough song to deliver, especially when the person who made it famous is Freddie Mercury. But GM does it perfectly. I know there are similarities between GM and FM, both are flamboyant, gay, showmen, with astonishing range and scandalous personal lives, but their voices are very different. And so is their style. GM took this hard song with all it's dips and turns and made it his own, with Mercury's band, Queen, backing him up. He, if it's not too blasphemous to say so, made it better.

Upon seeing this, I started thinking about the concept of collaboration and how it is healing and actually a tangible form of the evolutionary process. Someone tuned me into David Bowie's (white, male, English, sexuality up for grabs) collaboration with Gail Anne Dorsey, one of those rare musicians who can play bass and sing at the same time, on the song under Pressure at Madison Square Garden. Gail Anne is a black, female, bald headed, gorgeous creature with a voice like thick cream. They sang together and made the hair on my arm stand up. It was beautiful, seeing them together, and hearing them move thousands of people.

So I started searching for more of these collaborations and I came up with many, but one of the ones that also stood out for me was Mary J. Blige (the new queen of soul) and U2 singing the band's song, One. One of my favourite songs of all time, a haunting, melancholy song precisely about world unity. Mary J's style is a mixture of hip hop, R and B and old school soul and U2 is, well U2; scrappy Irish boys whose work was influenced by the strife they saw around them everyday. They come together on this song and make it their own, again but this time with the help of Mary J. Blige and thus, opening it up for people who listen to Mary but not to them.

Films are another unifying force. Someone pointed out to me yesterday that all the malevolence between Pakistan and India somehow does not prevent Pakistanis from seeing Bollywood films and enjoying them. I know Muslim-American filmmakers who count Woody Allen, a famously neurotic Jew, as one of their influences. People want to be entertained, plain and simple, and want to reap the benefits of creativity and are willing to put aside their ferocious differences to do that. Make 'em laugh, make 'em cry, just make people see things from another perspectiveand usually making them laugh and cry helps that alongand you are one step closer to peace. The big kind, the one that seeps into every last corner of this beautifully disparate planet and renders it whole.

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