“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!


amelia said...

way. to. be. i think your post encapsulates many of the ways i felt (and feel) toward privileged people with radical politics in general; namely, easy for you to say, you big toolbox.

i remember being incredibly surprised by the proportion of ltte revenues coming from abroad...do they actually know what they're financing?

Rebecca said...

opinion differs on that question. it's hard to say, because the Tigers have so many front organizations and change them so often that who knows whether their donors are aware of the true recipients of their money.

then again, there are lots of cases of Tiger-front 'charities' threatening to do things to people or their families, in places like Canada or Britain, if they don't contribute. those people for sure know what they're financing, and they don't necessarily want to finance it, but who's going to say no when you're dealing with murderers?

i want to stress that i have a rather liberal (more than most sinhalese certainly) opinion of the LTTE's platform and ability to govern and right to become a legit entity.

however: kidnapping adolescents, and killing your opponents, and terrorizing villages do not endear them to me.

indi said...

thank you for not romanticizing the Tigers. Especially with MIA people think its cool, but I don't see them listening to MC Bin Laden. At the same time we have to work with the LTTE so, er, yeah

Chandare said...

This could change the face of whole Rap community ,literary.Ja Rule doesn't have to pretend he has street cred.Anybody could get a bullet hole like 50 cent."The game" could easily shoot some EPDP niggas!Nas could kick some serious Jay-Z butt.Just sign up with LTTE .It will end the child conscription shit we have here and easily boost street cred of aspiring rappers.Just call M.I.A biaaatch!

Anonymous said...

you need to f'ing relax and get off your f'ing high horse. its not like MIA goes on the record about her supposed support of the LTTE, not like there is anything wrong with that if she did. for the record, she denies support for them when asked ,and promotes non-violence as a path to political disagreement. but my point is, is dat if some other bitch was to go around with a f'ing sri lanka flagg wrapped around her praising da goddamn Gov't, none of you hoes would say 2 shits whether she's supporting civilian bombing, army rape of Tamil women, political disenfranchisement, state-sponsored tamil pogroms, etc. so relax ur f'ing selves you hypocritical bunch of tools.

and don't give me any bunch of crap dat the GoSL is better than the LTTE. anyone who knows anything about the SL conflict, knows that to be full of horseshit. argubably, its the GoSL is worse, since they have been democratically elected and is the STATE. don't be f'ing actors, recognize a spade for a spade.