special-3--2007
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PRRRRROPAGANDA!

11 November 2007

Lars van Schagen, an ex-fellow animation student at the HKU, honours the site today with a delightful little strip depicting Melville's real source of inspiration. An unprecedented muse was his, so it would seem. I've been having wonderful discussions with Lars lately on the nature of stories, science, reductionism and dogmatism. My thanks for both!

My mom had arranged tickets to a musical in Nijmegen called The Pelican. This was not to be your normal happy-go-lucky high school student musical or magical Joop van den Ende fairytales, but a serious drama depicting the lives of half a dozen plus three groups of martyrs who died for their Christian faith in the previous century. The piece was performed by a Polish group and set up by the 'Church in Need' organisation, who collect money and do charitable things in the world with an emphasis on spreading their faith. With my illustrious background in mind, I was obviously more than willing to watch the musical. In all honesty, I like theatre so there was no objection there and I am open to any sort of thing in that field. It could be good.

And artistically it was very nice indeed, with a mixture of song and dance; very involved and exciting and lasting no longer than an hour and a half, so it never got boring. There were definitely some inspired bits using props and scenery and displaying high stamina and powerful singing voices. Symbolically however, it was a blunt instrument. The martyrs were set up like Jesus Christ with insulting facility; using the same famous lines as their lord spake on the cross. The tone of the piece too was far too uncritical and willing to heap adulation upon the martyrs. Really, in this day and age it is quite egregious to laud a mother of three who sacrifices herself willingly to bring yet another child into the world; leaving quite defenceless and under strenuous circumstances her offspring. But no; it was an act of religious love, so it must be rewarded with the highest possible praise. I could not help in all of these cases to marvel at how dedicated most of these people were to some random superstition, that they would give their lives for it. In many cases, contrary to what the play wanted you to believe, there were obviously more things playing in the martyrs' demises, but you still have to wonder why anyone would stick to something as ephemeral and meaningless as one's principles when faced with death. Dying to save someone else, or to not inflict hurt upon another, is of course an entirely different matter. But simply dying on principle? Their bravery rivals their idiotic stubbornness.

Nevertheless, I quite liked the play, as I said, because there was also an inspired Nazi dance in it. That always tickles one's fancy. Less amusing was the absolutely shameless propaganda that the Church in Need organisation put in front of it. We were time after time entreated to donate money to them, and got an unwanted viewing of a ten minute film about the necessity of the programme. I cannot stress how utterly disturbing and despicable this movie was. The first few minutes hit the nail right on the head; as they spoke of a world torn apart by religious zealotry and the inability of people to set aside their differences and beliefs. Then, however, came the proposed solution: help us spread the word of Jesus Christ! Because our faith is the one true faith, we own the truth and it must be spread to all! I believe even the makers of the film realised they shouldn't at that point connect the two dots too rigidly, or it might be too easy for even the most uncritical of viewers to see the huge contradiction between them. So they didn't pursue the topic too much and instead indulged in glorious music and imagery of crosses and chanting African children. The amazing thing was that the 900 strong crowd ate it up. I don't think a percentage of them understood how hugely contradictory this message was. This confirmed my suspicion that this whole event was a home tournament. These people were already part of the faithful flock and the movie was a monumental display of self-indulgence unto the masturbatory. No one else would be able endure without resisting such an over-the-top torrential onslaught of propaganda, and not flinch and feel the desperate need to point out that the hand of the victim is in this case also the hand of the assailant.

And that, I think, is what all good theatre should be like. Massively disturbing and generating within the viewer the need to vent it all in one's webcomic rant. Let 'em come!

Roderick.