Category Archives: Opinion

The Standard For Female Beauty

The accepted standard for female beauty in Western societies is a woman or a girl who, no matter what her other physical attributes are, must also be thin.  Kate Moss, Angelina Jolie, Carolyn Murphy, Miranda Kerr, even Lady Gaga are all thin and are considered so by the most stringent standards that one can apply to this thinness.  Their talent has absolutely nothing to do with their dress sizes, and exists apart from what the scales say when they step on them.   These women, the three models–who are celebrated for their beauty alone and perhaps for how much the camera can do with them–aside, would not be as celebrated if they were not as thin as they are.  If clothes did not look good on them, from sweat pants to bikinis.  Every leading designer and fashion house in the world will say that the reason they employ thin women is because clothes look better on thin women.  That the drape of fabric falls more gracefully over a thin frame; that thin necks, square shoulders and flat stomachs create silhouettes which show clothes in their most alluring forms.

Even veteran designers like John Galliano, who is haute-couture’s froemost costumer, choses thin girls to wear his clothes when they walk down his runways.  I reference Mr. Galliano, because I would think that the theatricality of his shows and the wildly creative genius of his clothes, would make up for the non-thinness of the women wearing then. If the purpose of couture is a celebration of sartorial beauty, and if there was no existing standard of what female beauty is considered to be, would designers chose not-thin women to be the mediums for their creations?

This piece is not about what female beauty is, but about what the standard for beauty in Western societies is.  From high fashion and glamour–couture, popular music, film–to merely parochial representations of fashion and glamour–women newscasters, women on television shopping channels–we are simply shown that not-thin women are not beautiful.  Will the number of people who do believe that not-thin women are beautiful,  even were their opinion a majority one, ever be in positions from which they are likely to change or influence this standard?

Immanuel Kant, is his Critique Of Judgement, says, “Now, where the question is whether something is beautiful, we do not want to know, whether we, or any one else, are, or even could be, concerned in the real existence of the thing, but rather what estimate we form of it on mere contemplation (intuition or reflection).”  I wonder if the “estimate we form of” whether a woman is beautiful or not can be freed from the images of the women with which popular culture is glutted — the images of women who are thin like the women I mention at the beginning.  The women who conform to this upheld standard of beauty, of glamour.  Can there just be “mere contemplation” in an age and in societies in which the opinions people hold come to them not from what they perceive, but from what is perceived for them and then given to them?

Gabourney Sidibe, the actress who was nominated for an Academy Award in 2009 for her role in Precious, has so far been one of the few actresses — persons who are part of the world of glamour and beauty — who has embraced her “not-thinness” and hasn’t made a huge effort to slim down, though even she has spoken about losing weight for health reasons.  The truth is that it would probably be in the best interests of her commercial appeal were she to do so.  Jennifer Hudson, who won an Academy Award for Dream Girls and was not-thin when she won, has now gone to not-quite-thin-enough and is a spokesperson for Jenny Craig.  Queen Latifah, whose early career took off, even though she was not-thin, is now also  a Jenny Craig spokeswomen.  The apologia of these women for their not being not-thin anymore, is that they lost weight to be healthier and to feel good about themselves.  To feel good is important, because only the direst misanthropes do not depend on being accepted to feel good.  So does losing weight make these actresses feel good about themselves because they live a in culture where thinness is celebrated and is held to be one of highest considerations when judging beauty?  Or does being thin, really mean being healthy?  Would Jennifer Hudson feel the same need to lose weight if she lived in Mauritania where girls are force-fed (the practice is called leblouh) prior to being married because stretch marks are considered marks of beauty and the fatter a woman is the sexier she is considered to be and therefore is more accepted?

Kate Moss was never not-thin before she became Kate Moss, Jennifer Hudson was never thin before she became Jennifer Hudson.  Jennifer Hudson should not have to change her appearance to conform to a standard any more than Kate Moss should have to change hers if she were in Mauritania.  The fact that the people who employ Jennifer Hudson, feel that she must be thin is a reflection of this standard, and also of the not-thin people like she, who help to perpetuate that standard by becoming thin.

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THE OLD GUITARIST by Pablo Picasso

If there is genius in Picasso, I think this monochromatic painting from his Blue Period (1901 – 1904) is evidence of it. The way the various shades of blue brood.  The way the head is bowed to reveal the sadness and moribundity of the man; his torn tunic, his bare feet and his open mouth are further evidence of his dereliction.   Yet in spite of his circumstances, Picasso shows him holding the guitar upright.  The fingers with which he plays the guitar are fine and delicate and graceful. The hands still work, though all else may be lost. This is where the beauty is in this painting, in the way he holds this guitar, this instrument of his art. I can stare at this painting for hours, because even though Picasso may not have, I see hope in it. And I believe that the man’s music, like Picasso’s art, will continue to live long after the man is gone.

THE OLD GUITARIST (1903) IS ON DISPLAY AT THE ART INSTITUTE OF CHICAGO.

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Israel And America’s Holy War

One of the most powerful and richest lobbies in the United States is the Zionist lobby or the Israel lobby. This lobby is composed of three formal lobbying groups – AIPAC, Christians United for Israel and The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Yet most Americans, and I don’t mean the New York Times reading elites, but educated Americans who form opinions on a number of social and political issues and who should therefore be at least nominally aware of what influences their government, do not even know that this lobby exists. These same Americans, however, know of the existence and political influence of the NRA and the “oil lobby”, the “tobacco lobby”, the “military lobby” and other lobbying groups which exert significant influence on the entire political system in this country, from electing politicians to advancing policy. These lobbies are routinely denounced, and not just by academics and insiders.

There is a reason for this… the Zionist lobby, spends a lot of influence and money to make sure that they are not known beyond the circles in which they operate. Knowledge of its scope would, they fear, lead to whispers of denunciation of this hypocritical and non-secular lobby and would in time cause these whisperings to increase to a volume which would be impossible to universally ignore.

This relationship between the United States government and Israel is perpetuated by coins on one hand and religion on the other. The Zionist lobby gives money to Democrats, Republicans and to anyone who will take it; and as is well-known, when money is given, then the offices which that money has guaranteed must satisfy conditions set by the donors. What is also virtually unknown is that the cohesive power of this particular lobby makes bedfellows of politicians with as widely differing political views as Barney Frank, who is an openly homosexual representative from Massachusetts and Gary Herbert, the Governor of Utah, who has spoken out against making sexual orientation a protected right saying, “”We don’t have to have a rule for everybody to do the right thing. We ought to just do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do and we don’t have to have a law that punishes us if we don’t.” Though, ironically he heads an executive branch of state government and is reported to by people whose job it is to make laws. I will say that democratically, this lobby does seem to be able to “cross the aisle” with no vitriol directed its way. A wonderful achievement.

Why is this important? It is because we all know that the American political system is the richest in the world and that politicians, however idealistic they may be, need money to be elected and most often they don’t care where the money comes from. I’m sure Barney Frank wouldn’t accept money from the NRA or the Christian Coalition or openly support them, but he does voice the ideology of the Israel lobby and do their bidding. Incidentally, today on the Christian Coalition’s website, there is a link inviting visitors to, “Join our campaign to stand with Israel today”.

It is with organizations like this with which the main problem lies, and by organizations like this, I mean Christian organizations or organizations with the word Christian in them. I maintain that the United States’ unequivocal support of Israel actually hinges on both money AND the Christian religion. This IS a Holy War, though no politician would openly admit it. If we cared to penetrate deeper into this injustice towards Muslims and Muslim states, especially Palestine, (even though historically the United States has NEVER allied itself with a Muslim state without expecting that state to ultimately do it’s bidding or make available its resources) we would discover that maybe Christian organizations and politicians would be less likely to persist in their narrow-minded support for Israel had not Christ been born in what is now Israel. America, as one of the largest and certainly the most powerful Christian country in the world, has to do everything to protect this hallowed ground. So American politicians, irrespective of party affiliation, are only too happy to accept money from the Israel lobby and obediently carry forward their agenda. Two purposes are served by this, America’s Christian ideology is carried forward and the political campaign chests are filled. The Judeo-Christian hegemony is maintained. This time the American government has been paid NOT to say, as was said to Saddam Hussein by Ambassador April Glaspie when America learned of Saddam’s troop build up close to the Kuwaiti border, “But we have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts”.

I have, however, often wondered what would happen if the entire Congress, right-wing, anti-semitic politicians and left-wing, kush initiative supporters, with the President of The United States leading them, openly came out and said to both Israel and Palestine, “But we have no opinion on the Israel-Arab conflict”, with the same vehemence with which they clandestinely endorse AIPAC and the Zionist lobby. Would this 60 year-old war end? Would Israel, knowing that the most powerful army in the world was not at their beck and call, give the Palestinians their little bit of land? Maybe not, but I am sure that Muslim states around the world would realize that the United States was truly their friend or at least willing to begin to be their friend in more than just a token way. The United States does what it has to to keep their religion, myths and relics alive and unfortunately it is only the Muslim states who honestly call this a Holy War and admit that they are fighting to keep their religion and its myths alive. It is NOT that Muslim states attack us because they envy our freedoms (the Scandinavian countries are far more liberated both materially and socially, but they are not under attack from Muslim states or terror groups), but are merely attacking a purportedly secular country who openly chooses Judaism over Islam, who openly sides with a lobby who pays them to provide their interest group with $3 billion worth of arms each year. Arms that have been used by the Zionist state to kill thousands of Muslim Palestinians.

It makes for wonderful rhetoric when Barack Obama says, “To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.” If the President really wants to be a friend to Muslims and end terrorism, he shouldn’t concern himself with spending more American money and resources to fight yet another unwinnable war, but merely unclench his fist too on the question of Israel and go to Muslim states and offer his hand to their leaders and people. But know that as long as the Israel lobby is allowed to direct America’s foreign policy in the Middle East, Muslims around the world will know that even though one hand is offered in friendship, the other remains behind his back with fingers crossed.

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To THE INBETWEENERS…

…for its profanity, its filth, its brazenness, its absurdity, its charm, its brilliance, its wit, its piss-taking, its warmth, its rudeness, its sexiness, its women — particularly Will’s mum and Neil’s sister — Neil’s father, Jay’s father, Mr. Gilbert and Pedo Kennedy… to Will, Simon, Neil, Jay and to the beautiful and irreverent humanity of their lustful clunge chasing.

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Islam And The Futility Of Trying To Reconcile Its Tenets With Democratic Principals

Adherents to the Koran are forced to believe that there is but one creator. One God from whom all life comes and to whom all life is ultimately sacrificed. The Koran, which I have read in its entirety, insists that you must believe in this creator and live your life serving him and obeying his edicts, or you will be known as an unbeliever, an infidel, and as such will not be entitled to either his mercy or his blessings and a place in his heaven.

In Christianity, which is what the American system of government and our ideas of freedom are founded on — all protestations to the contrary are feeble (polygamy is not permitted, only Christian holidays are nationwide holidays, public officials and judges for the Supreme Court are always sworn in with one hand resting on a bible) — is also primarily a monotheistic religion. However a belief in the Trinity is encouraged and promoted – the Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit are acknowledged and prayed to. Christianity also permits its devotees to pray to more than the one deity. For instance if you do not like the look of The Virgin Mary, or think that her blessings do not come fast enough, you can pray to St. Jude or if you want a letter guided safely to its recipient, to St. Anthony. Islam permits none of these flights of fancy, and as such is even more intolerant of departures from what is prescribed in the Holy Book. To emend the words of George W. Bush, as far as Islam is concerned, you are either, “with Allah or against Allah”.

This belief in the one creator, the one God, which is hammered into children from loudspeakers five times a day in certain Islāmic countries from the time they are very young, must undoubtedly create havoc in the minds of these same children when as adults, they are suddenly “given” freedom. They are now asked to place their trust in “more” than one person to act as arbiter in their lives. More than one dictator, ergo more than one God. How do they make the intellectual shift so that two contrasting beliefs or “deities” — God and government — coexist in minds that have from very young been fecundated with the idea of just one ultimate power? Can they make this shift? Can they believe that BOTH a Shia and a Sunni, though they may govern in different ways or pass different sentences upon a crime, kneel down and pray to the same Allah? Or in the case of Egypt, which has just had a marvelous revolution to remove the dictator Mubarak, even make the much broader leap, and believe that a Copt can govern according to Islāmic principles, in a state where there is not just one Muslim head who acts as ultimate arbiter? This is at the root of the Islāmic states’ inability to implement the basic “idea” of democracy, and embracing the idea must come “before” its principles can be applied universally in the state.

Historically, and more persistently since the early sixties, subsequent to the wide democratic drives and nation building that the West has indulged in, there have been almost no Islāmic countries in the world in which democracy as we know it in the West, has been successfully orchestrated and in which truly democratic systems of government have thrived. And for those who might cite Turkey as an example, I would only say that democracy in Turkey is shaky at best, and that Turkey is far too “European” a country in so many ways to qualify as an Islāmic state, hence Turkey’s repeated attempts to gain membership in the European Union. Drinking is not proscribed by the government, the use of the hijab isn’t in much use among its women and the principles of sharia law and finance are only now gaining widespread purchase.

In Morocco the people treat their King as a supreme leader and many wonder if he isn’t chosen by God to govern them. In Pakistan all attempts at democracy have failed and there is either military rule, dictatorship or chaos. In India, the world’s largest democracy, and a country with the third largest Muslim population after Indonesia and Pakistan, staunch Muslims are marginalized and there is very little representation of Muslims in government; their Muslim Vice President, who has about as much power as Dennis Kucinich, maybe less, notwithstanding. In Jordan there is a “benevolent” King in power. In Indonesia, the largest Muslim democracy in the world, the first condition for running for the office of President is that the candidate, “must believe in THE one AND only God.”

I would argue that the West’s lust for “democracy” to succeed in Islāmic states will probably only be satisfied by a sort of marriage between a benevolent dictatorship, in which the tenets of the Koran are upheld by the dictator, and a Western treasury which controls the purse strings, thereby insuring no gross accumulations of wealth by the dictator, which is how these dictators have historically caused their regimes to be brought down by the people whose livelihoods and taxes they have trifled with. Is it lost on our wonderful democracy lusters that the reason revolutions occur in Islāmic states, isn’t because the people want democracy instead of a dictatorship, but because they do not want one man to egregiously misuse the funds of their state.

The West has backed dictators before and still continues to do it surreptitiously. So maybe it is time for those countries in which democracy works best, to stop verifying Einstein’s definition of insanity and truly do some good for the people who live and breathe under the Koran’s influence in Islāmic states and to stop pretending that democracy is palatable to people whose religious ideology is the least democratic in all of organised religion. You can either have democracy — governance shared by many — or religious ideology in which all governance is concentrated in the hands of one man, one God, not both. Many imams and Koranic scholars vehemently support this thought. Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world. Can democracy and all the gross inequalities it has bred in uneducated and refractory societies really persist in its constant failure to improve the lives of ALL the people in these societies?

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