Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The curious habits of man

Ezra Pound wrote:

.. When I carefully consider the curious habits of dogs
I am compelled to conclude
That man is the superior animal.

When I consider the curious habits of man
I confess, my friend, I am puzzled...
The last few days, we have had ample opportunity to study the "curious habits of man" in the USA.As if we did not have enough to discuss in terms of unprecedented Afro-American and women Presidential candidates, disastrous wars, international isolationalism, corrupt World Bank presidents and collapsing real estate prices !

All these topics were wiped out by a roughneck radio talk host called Don Imus and his description of young, female, black athletes as "nappy-headed ho's". For those of us who had no idea what that expression meant, we were subjected to an analysis ad infinitum of every nuance of those words. Apparently it was a disparagement of black women, a phrase coined by African Americans themselves as part of hip-hop culture. As the whole world knows by now, Don Imus has been fired by his media employers CBS and CNBC. The firing has drawn battle lines between two groups - the defenders of free speech on the one hand, and the advocates of Political Correctness on the other. They both miss the point, which is that Don Imus was paid to be outrageous, because that's what we, the People wanted. And we, the People wanted it so badly that corporate America, represented by the likes of American Express, Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola paid CBS megabucks in the way of sponsorship, reveling in the publicity that he earned from a long litany of outrageous ethnic and tasteless slurs. Yes, he was paid to say these things as long as the ratings came in - and paid not just in hundreds of thousands, but.... (wait for it)..... 10 MILLION DOLLARS A YEAR ! And he was ultimately fired by the networks, many days after his remarks, only because the sponsors pulled their money. It wasn't good taste that ultimately won, it was just market forces. Don Imus was no longer good for detergent sales.

We thought the Don Imus story would never end, but of course it did run out of steam. However, no sooner had the networks stopped coverage on that burning issue, the Virginia Tech shooting hit the news waves. And, somewhat predictably, amongst the outpouring of grief for the loss of life, the hoary issue of Gun Control came to the forefront again. Oh yes, we were told once again .." It's not guns which kill people, it's people who kill people.." Surely that's true as far as it goes, ignoring the obvious fact that without guns people would find it just that little bit more difficult to kill. It takes more effort to bludgeon someone to death than just pull a trigger, but hen we run into the objection that the U.S. Constitution is supposed to guarantee the "..right to bear arms.." But does it ? The Second Amendment to the Constitution reads "..A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed..."

Anybody with a credit card being able to buy lethal weapons couldn't be further from the concept of a "..well regulated militia.."

Surely the Constitution needs updating, after all there have been twenty-seven amendments to that august document, including the abolition of slavery. But no, we will continue to prove that Ezra Pound was right to be puzzled.


Anonymous said...

Many thanks Kaisar - a well-articulated point of view. I am getting to think there is no end in sight for this predicament where television and detergent sales determine everything. I am a successful marketing executive, but would like to think that I could play a more proactive role in forcing companies to design intellignet products and not just media campaigns.

Anonymous said...

I am also writing anonymously like the last reader. I disagree with your implicit suggestion that Imus was not at fault because the expression is popularized by hip-hop artists. Anyone who popularizes such notions is wrong, and one cannot seek refuge in the wrongs of another.

Kaisar Ahmad said...

I certainly did not blame hip-hop, which reflects social reality. Imus did not use hip-hop, he abused it and patronised it. But all I was trying to say was that irrespective of what taste level he represented, ultimately he was only fired because his multi-million dollar sponsors were afraid he was running out of a market