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« More Music from the Inbox: 22 May 2012 | Main | Study: Loud Music Leads to Risky Behavior »
Tuesday
May222012

Brace Yourself: I'm on Lady Gaga's Side for This One

One of the great things about traveling is that you're able to get out from under all the political, social and cultural biases that we have at home.  Often we don't even realize that we have these biases, but trust me, they're there.  

Here in Singapore, far from the long shadow cast by America and removed from status quo thinking in Canada, I'm seeing things in a refreshing light.  And Lady Gaga is helping to clear my vision.

One of the big stories in the region is the opposition Gaga is seeing to her tour. Churches in South Korean prayed that she might be smitten by God.  And in Indonesia, Muslin hardliners have forced officials in Jakarta to issue a ban on her sold out show on June 3.

Back at home, my reaction might have been "Hah!  Glad to see she's having a hard time. DIE, GAGA DIE!"

However, if I'm honest, this literally translates as "I'm not a fan of her music and her pop ilk so I'm engaging in some very jolly schadenfreude."  That's petty and stupid.  I now see that there are bigger issues here.  MUCH bigger.

Stay with me on this.  

The ruling secular authorities across the strait from where I am now having been trying hard to create an image of tolerance and fairness.  They want to be known as a government that is willing to defend the rights of citizens against extremists, an important fact in light of the terrorist bombings that have killed so many in Bali and other parts of the country.  They want to show that a democratic tradition is being developed in the country and that democratization it hasn't stalled in one of the most populous nations on the planet.

Critically, this means defending the rights of those in the minority when the chips are down--minorities such as those with the interest and money to see a concert by a major pop star.  

However, there are signs that point to the state apparatus is becoming more integrated with religious organizations with agendas.  This is worrisome.

For example, just two weeks ago, they bowed to the demands of hardliners in the Islamic Defenders Front (the FPI), cancelling a lecture by Irshad Manjit, a liberal Muslim activist.  "Corrupting values!" they cried.  And so he was banned.
In the case of Lady Gaga, extremists wanted her banned because her outlandish behavior and stance on gay rights are a corrupting influence on the youth of the nation.  They were successful, despite her popularity with a sizeable portion of the population.
Indonesian police have once again stepped outside of their bounds as neutral protectors of the population, ordering that the show not go ahead.  (Not that this is unusual when it comes to music.  There's plenty of protection money paid out by nightclub owners to keep them safe from religious hardliners.)
While it's easy to dismiss Gaga's problems here as a mere music news story--so she courted controversy and lost. Yawn--it much more than that.  This story is indicative of a deeper issue involving everything from democratization, personal choice and the imposition of hardline religious ideology by a minority on the majority in a major Asian nation.
There's the real fear that if the extremists have their way with Gaga, they'll continue to become bolder and bolder. They've already bombed Bali, one of the most peaceful places I've ever been.  If they see the government bending, what are the chances of more violent vigilantism in the name of their beliefs?
This Gaga issue is more than just a concert.  As crazy as this might seem to people reading this back home, itt's qute literary about the future of Indonesian democracy and the welfare of its people.
Go, Gaga, go.  You may not get to play Jakarta but just the fact that you're trying to play in the region is encouraging for democracy.  (I can't believe I just wrote that, but from where I am on the ground right now, it's true.)
Note:  I'm in Singapore for the Music Matters conference.  Gaga's manager, Troy Carter, is set to speak later this week.  I can't wait to see what he has to say about all this.

Reader Comments (2)

Looks like the show will indeed go on tonight.
http://rt.com/art-and-culture/news/gaga-allowed-second-show-881/

May 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNscafe

Alan, Irshad Manji is female. She is Canadian and used to have a show on citytv that centred around LGBT ideas and interests. Just thought you might want to edit your entry there.

Regards,

One of the Morrissey fans you ticked off many years ago on cfny


@Stacy_M

:)

May 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterStacy M

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