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M.I.A. - A Beautiful Reflection of the Besieged Tamils of Sri LankaTim King Salem-News.com
"It was about bringing information to the people, I knew something and I had experienced it" - M.I.A.
(SALEM, Oregon) - I am the first to admit that I'm extremely judgmental of entertainers who have the attention of large numbers of people but fail to do the right thing with it. I suppose it is tied to the fact that as a child, I watched music bring an end to the Vietnam War. Few mediums are this powerful.
Singer and actress M.I.A. (Tamil: மாதங்கி 'மாயா' அருள்பிரகாசம், Mātaṅki 'Māyā' Aruḷpirakācam) is the only frontline entertainer today of Tamil heritage and after seeing her talk about the struggle of her people, and by that I mean the recent Tamil Genocide in Sri Lanka, I'm left with the impression that she can be a real force in demanding change and accountability.
Many have seen the film Slumdog Millionaire and are familiar with her presence, and few haven't heard the song Paper Planes which I came to know before ever seeing the film.
In a 2010 interview with 98.7 FM .com Rockerrazzi.com in LA, M.I.A. talked about how living through grueling circumstances and having to flee Sri Lanka as a refugee has a great affect on her writing.
She said in regard to her music, "I think its been ages that I've kind of been doing music but didn't consider myself a musician, when I think about it, I still want to get into the art."
She too hopes that music can be a key to unlocking freedom for human beings. M.I.A. said, "When I feel the pressures or the limitations of the industry, we need to throw the processes out, we need to find different ways to go about it".
The hot U.S. news item at the time was the state of Arizona legislating laws against illegal immigration. Being from a minority population in Sri Lanka, she says it is easy to relate to the plight of the person trying to find their way to the U.S. in order to escape oppression.
When asked what her message to President Barack Obama would be in regard to anti-immigration sentiments in this Southwest border state, M.I.A. said, "I can't even get past the thought that we're moving backward in time"
Mathangi Arulpragasam's father, Arul Pragasam, is an engineer, writer and activist. He and her mother Kala, are both of Hindu and Sri Lankan Tamil descent.
M.I.A. was born in the UK, but her family moved to the town of Jaffna in northern Sri Lanka was she was six months old. This is where her father became a political activist and founding member of the Eelam Revolutionary Organisation of Students (EROS), a political Tamil group that worked to establish an independent Tamil Eelam in North Eastern Sri Lanka.
It is this quest for the state of Tamil Eelam in northern Sri Lanka; deemed necessary after the country's Sinhalese Buddhist government started literally outlawing historic Tamil culture; implementing a single language law, etc., that led to the Genocide of possibly more than a hundred thousand Tamil people two years ago.
The 'sin' of the Tamils was to simply defend their lives and culture. Their military defenders were the local government, the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam).
For thirty years this group attempted to resist peacefully, following the teachings of Ghandi, but Sri Lanka kept taking their rights and by 1977 it turned violent.
In the end, the Tamil Tiger resistance fighters were branded 'terrorists' and since that designation was accepted by the US, UN and EU, their ability to politically maneuver was stripped. The Presidential Administration of George W. Bush saw to this, and set the stage for the Genocide carried out by the forces or Sri Lanka President Majinda Rajapaksa.
Talent for a New Century
M.I.A. began her entertainment career in 2000 as a visual artist and designer in West London. She rose to prominence in early 2004 for her singles "Galang" and "Sunshowers", and has been nominated for an Academy Award, two Grammy Awards and the Mercury Prize.
M.I.A. is an amazing, ambitious performer, and the fact that she also raises awareness of human suffering, while highlighting the absurdity of occupation and racism toward minorities, means her talent is put to use in a way that matters. Her attitude is angry, stark and real.
I am intrigued by India and Sri Lanka and we are increasingly integrating with writers, activist groups and other newsmakers in this part of the world to better inform western people of developments and problems taking place that are in many cases, directly tied to U.S. interests.
The United States has an obligation to the world, not just to itself, as has always been the case. Since the U.S. finds the world well suited to exploit, it will need to find itself in a better position of reciprocation that takes into account, a much greater respect for nature.
We carried an exclusive report from Nepal this week: The Himalayas-Once Moaning, now Groaning , by our writer, Arun Shrivastava; detailing the environmental degradation of this mystical region of the world.
That article and others like it bring to light the need to focus on real change in the direction of business practices; first and foremost, while there is still a planet to work with.
Right next to the U.S. in the pack of sharks is the U.K. and much of where Sri Lanka and India stand today, is a result of so many years of British occupation. It is not to say that there were not positive influences and kind Britons, but let's face it, Hanoi has beautiful buildings but really little to thank the French for. Same in India, people who were not so controlled would have had a different destiny.
As it is, one can easily gather by watching the above referenced movie, there is rampant poverty. 'Third World Democracy' which M.I.A. references is not something most people on this side of the world understand. I learned a little about it in Afghanistan, particularly during an interview with then-Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski who came over to Kabul to visit Oregon National Guard soldiers. He talked about how democracy can indeed exist in the east, but it is never going to be a Jeffersonian style democracy.
Now, as the future of the U.S. hangs in the balance with an overriding debt crisis and increasing pieces of America being bought up by everyone from China to the Mexican Los Zeta cartel, it seems fair to wonder how long this style of democracy can last.
In my opinion, the dumbing down of the public through lackadaisical media sources and even worse, ones that are possibly blatantly criminal in their actions; ala Murcoch's News of the World, are at the root of the problem.
Even if they were biased and off track, my childhood memories of American broadcasting include lots of news from far away places; Vietnam, Central and South America, etc., in fact that is one of the reasons I entered the business in the first place. But we Americans in particular have lost our connection with the world and today those without a passport can't even go to Canada or Mexico for the day. This, as NAFTA laws keep the large shipments of meth flowing up from Mexico.
People in third world countries who have to scratch and claw to survive, live among the results of western colonialism. They are people I respect and I hope and pray for. I hope that a better day can come for the impoverished and needy, deprived and exploited children and adults of this world. I have to wonder if the imprint of that poverty is so intense, that the line "Bona fide hustler, making my name" is inevitable. If so, our goal as human beings is to ensure that people someday get past the point of feeling like their success only equates to a negative, unavoidable guilt.
Those governments that have security and peace become quite possessive of it and the military industrial complex that takes or gives that security is vastly out of balance.
Because that complex is so well funded and institutionalized, it is a hard one to fight. That is why I am particularly moved by M.I.A. and all other rappers and hip-hop artists from parts of the world that are in turmoil. It is an expressive type of music that reaches minds and changes hearts, and if the lyrics involving murder are troubling, then be disturbed, because that is how it shakes out.
People who are egregiously massacred and who live every day with the knowledge that their childhood friends, their family members, their communities and schools, have been tortured, murdered, degraded and destroyed.
Sri Lanka has acted at high levels of shameful murderous superiority, and their crimes are really against each and every one of us alive today. Because political bargaining is paramount, the ability to negotiate is imperative. The branding of the LTTE as terrorists, just as in the case of Hamas, is simply wrong. It is the western world's way of keeping their enemies from the negotiating table, and countries like Israel and Sri Lanka find almost infinite power through their 'friendly' relations with countries like the United States, it sure hasn't done the Tamil population much good.
And those just learning about this need to know that Tamils are very prominent in neighboring India. In fact Salem, India is in the state of Tamilnadu, India. Facts like this keep pressure on the Rajapaksa regime, and mounting numbers of agencies and individuals remain more determined than ever to see the Sri Lanka government taken to The Hague to stand trial for war crimes. What they did, based on the evidence, is well beyond reprehensible.
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