Akon Drama and the aftermath

This post is a reaction to the Akon drama and the comments by "Voice in Colombo"  found in http://landlikenoother.blogspot.com/2010/03/what-akon-understands-well-and-indi-few.htm

Any idiotic action disrespecting a religion, triggers an equally idiotic and opposite religious chain reaction
- Anonymous (if not one else said this before, then it could be me)

I was wondering after having a look at the news item here -> http://www.dailymirror.lk/index.php/news/images/2588-outrage-.html

If some image is truly offensive according to my taste, I would not reproduce the same, and have it as a wall decoration when I am having a press conference against the said image; especially when the “unacceptability of the image” is the core issue being discussed. If at all, I would have them handy so that any concerned party can have a look in private. An offensive image is offensive no matter who displays it. Anyway that is my logic. The religious minds work differently. Yet, I can’t help but wonder if the images are truly offensive to them, or are they just using them as an excuse to organize violent mobs and hold politicalized press conferences? Why do we always find red herrings to go after, leaving the real issues behind?

After a "pious" mob attacked a TV station in Sri Lanka in relation to this matter, it seems that Akon has responded to this drama in this manner “I was not aware that the statue was even on the set of the video until now. I would never set out to offend or desecrate anyone's religion or religious beliefs.  I myself am a spiritual man, so I can understand why they are offended, but violence is never the answer and I am disheartened to hear about what happened yesterday in Sri Lanka."

The politically correct response from Akon is not a surprise, and I am sure there were people who helped him to put his thoughts in to words, even if they are his own. This is pretty much a canned response that I have heard before from similar quarters in response to similar situations that involves other religions. It is ironical that Buddhists in SL are receiving a lecture from Akon about non-violence. (viz. “but violence is never the answer and I am disheartened to hear about what happened yesterday in Sri Lanka.”) Akon gained some extra popularity mileage from the drama, which actually is not really deserved according to my taste, as I do not see him as a good artist or a role model from the little that I have seen. What gain the Sri Lankan Buddhist community had from the drama? Probably some egoistic satisfaction that “we got Akon to apologize, wowee” and feel good about receiving a canned response from a set-menu of politically correct responses. Apart from that, they proved Buddhism is not very different from other world religions, (followers are “offended” at slightest irreverence toward their religious symbols) and there is a established Buddhist “Church” in Sri Lanka, that has a lot of say in who can come in to this country and what can they do etc etc, which can be good thing or bad thing based on how you view it.

In a “Voice in Colombo” blog, the blog owner is asking an open question. "Is it ok for producers of the music video, to use a Buddha statue in the backdrop of that video?" Due to the very long answer I have to give, I would actually avoid properly answering. The question itself is based on the assumption that good/bad and true/false are absolute measures. However the short incomplete answer would be that it is obviously NOT OK, given the consequences, and any wise person would avoid it. But hey, in my second thoughts, if a religious community can be provoked so easily and big uproar can be created, and then pacified as quickly by sending a canned apology few weeks later, that would be an instrument of advertising. Obviously I am answering the question from music producers point of view, and that perhaps was not the intent of voice in Colombo. Due to the long list of perspectives, I would stop at that.

Rather than going by rights or wrongs, I like to use rights and freedoms as the yardstick for measuring the acceptability of actions.

I believe Akon’s music directors should have the freedom to use whatever they please as the backdrop of their video. The Buddhists who are willing to get offended should have the freedom to get offended and do whatever an offended people do. The sanga sabha should have the freedom to use whatever they desire as the backdrop of their wall in the press conference. However, all these freedoms should end where the rights of someone else begins. As the saying goes “Your freedoms end where my nose begins”

So we should reflect on this drama and see who has violated the “rights” of someone else.

In my personal opinion (which actually does not matter much), Akon, the Buddhist mob, and Sanga Sabha did things which I do not approve of and I would label as “bad taste”. However none of them violated my rights or anyone else’s, barring that the mob hurtled a few stones at the TV station, which could have been dealt with the law of the land, if police were to do their job.

So this entire discussion revolves around “tastes” and “values’ rather than rights or wrongs.

The government’s action of not allowing the visa to Akon and yielding to the pressure of Buddhist mob is a loaded topic, and I would not go there. There are arguments both ways and it is a slippery slope.