“Me Is Amazing”
Misguided Irrational Anger?
my informed angle…
For those of you who are over 30 and/or living under a rock, there’s this hip new singer on the “rap music” scene. Or, at least for a while, they were saying she was a rapper. NO! We cried. She’s a hip-hop singer-songwriter. Or maybe pop, considering how pop-ular her music is getting. Regardless of genre, as Jonah said, she’s getting way overexposed.
And! Thought I don’t know much ‘bout music, or anything else relevant to her story, I know a lot about Sri Lanka. Guess what? She’s Sri Lankan! And a hot young revolutionary Tamil! Her dad was LTTE! Isn’t it exciting for the music world to have a brown-person rapper, and the child of a real live terrorist too?
Well, folks, I’ll leave the discussion of her music to other people. Suffice it to say that I’ve heard her album, so have several peeps here, I like it, they like it, it’s a big freakin’ music love party. Except for that most Sri Lankans would rather listen to John Denver. In fact, that’s exactly what one person said. So: her music is good.
But. This business about “Sri Lankan” has got to stop. I’m practically more Sri Lankan than Miss International Artiste. To wit: she left here when she was seven. Has spent none of her adult life here. Also: let’s not romanticize the LTTE, especially let’s not use their cachet to sell bloody records! (Bloody indeed.) I have a pretty damn liberal attitude about the organization, and would like to see them become a legitimate political entity, and believe that they have done good things; viz., tsunami reconstruction: hella organized! Good on ya, fascists.
She hasn’t lived here and frankly her ‘revolutionary politics’ to me are offensively naïve. There are thousands of young Sri Lankan Tamils who grow up in ‘exile’ (voluntary) because their families had the money to leave the country. Whether they left due to Sinhalese, government, terrorist, Tamil, or economic pressures, they left. They jumped ship. They took their families elsewhere and pay lip service, to LTTE platforms and demands. They contribute thousands of dollars a year to the LTTE and its fronts.
The drain of capital (especially human) from this country has been the single most tragic aspect of the war—which, it bears clarifying, consists not just of government vs. LTTE but instead a decades long snarled web of different Tamil and Sinhala insurrections. That’s right, the bloodiest years of the conflict were the JVP (Sinhala Nationalist Marxist) uprising of the 70s. That wasn’t the only JVP uprising. The LTTE emerged as the premier Tamil nationalist group only after about 15 years of brutally murdering and/or subsuming other militant and non-militant Tamil groups. They got to be the ‘voice of the Tamil people’ by killing all the other speakers.
What does this have to do with M.I.A.? As I said, no personal resentment; the album is good. However. By capitalizing on the saleability of her father’s notoriety (which may not have been her choice—marketing being not always artists’ own decisions) she and/or her backers shamefully profit from a national tragedy of unthinkable size and longevity. That is at best crass and at worse horribly disrespectful. (It kind of doesn’t matter whether her father was in the political wing or shooting old women in the head; it’s the name recognition.)
In addition to that, this is a Western person. (Anyone ever heard the term ‘coconut?’ Think ‘oreo’ and you’ll get it.) Lankan-born she is, but her political beliefs are the result of an exile/diasporic upbringing. Bully for her if she finds personal strength and empowerment in the aims of groups like the PLO and the LTTE. Shame on her if she praises their tactics. Yes yes, she’s a musician and not a politician or an activist. If she thinks she is, her work is the worse for it.
Still it angers me that so many diasporic, entitled SLan Tamils continue to financially and politically support the Tigers when they have no intention of living in accordance with their ‘views’. Or rather, I don’t see London-born Tamils lining up to buy homes in Kilinochchi (the de facto Tiger “capital”) or reestablish their families’ farms in Jaffna. The LTTE-proposed Tamil homeland of Eelam would be, and is, a wretched place to live—the more so because 30 years of guerrilla war have left the region economically devastated, the land riddled with mines, and the people terrorized and displaced.
Diasporic Tamils have financially and ideologically driven the LTTE. Locals are much less pro-Tiger than Londoners. I am not making this up—it’s been studied. So, rah rah for standing up for oppressed peoples, boo to “liberating” those people by stealing their homes, abducting their children, destroying their livelihoods, etc. It’s very easy to be pro-Eelam, or pro-Tamil-rights, or pro-what-the-fuck-ever, when you don’t have to live with the results.
M.I.A., wherever you are, I have no idea what fraction of this persona you created or consented to inhabit, but, in the words of our generation… don’t be a tool!