Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Is it OK to like M.I.A.?

Listening to: Radio 1

Those of you who follow Dee's blog would've seen her comment about the implications of liking M.I.A....and it got me thinking...are patriotism and liking M.I.A. mutually exclusive?

Now I don't really have to introduce M.I.A. do I? I'll assume that you've read the Wikipedia link and already know as much about her as I do (or more), so let's move on.

At the after-party of the SL Soc ball in Cambridge, the presumably BBCD DJ played 'Paper Planes'. One of my friends said "What the...how can they be allowed to play that?!" But no one (to my knowledge) went and told the DJ to change the record, so it played on. I wasn't really sure how to respond to my friend at the time, but I think now I know...I think they should be allowed to play it. Let me explain.

As far as I'm concerned, M.I.A. is a Sri Lankan who is labouring under the misconception that our national forces are deliberately harming our peace-loving citizens. There are many like her, both inside and outside Sri Lanka. Do I hold that opinion against her (and others like her), or hope that the actions of our people will speak louder than the words of those who oppose the military offensive, and that she (and they) will eventually see the truth? Do I disown her, a fellow countryman, because of her views, or do I hope that she will one day see past the lies and feel proud to call herself Sri Lankan, the same as I do now? Do I disregard her concerns as being pro-LTTE propaganda, or do I try and understand why she's saying what she is? Do I disallow myself to be swayed by the infectious rhythm of 'Boyz' for fear that I will be deemed a traitor, or do I appreciate her talent for what it is (it doesn't matter whether you like her music or not - she has achieved star status because of her music, and that should be commended)?

M.I.A. is just one of many 2nd generation expat Sri Lankan Tamils, encouraged by her parents to cultivate a notion of hatred towards the Sri Lankan government. If we respond to her hatred with similar hatred, what reason does she have to change her views? My favourite verse from the Dhammapada comes to mind -
Na hi verena verani
sammantidha kudacanam
averena ca sammanti
esa dhammo sanantano
Yamaka Vagga #5
The English translation being -
Never here by enmity
are those with enmity allayed,
they are allayed by amity,
this is the timeless Truth.
So there we have it. Maybe I'm rationalising, I don't know. I am a patriotic Sri Lankan, and while I won't go so far as to call myself a 'fan' or buy music or go to a concert of hers, I do like some of M.I.A.'s music, and I don't see a problem with that.


  1. I actually don't think MIA is pro-LTTE at all.
    There's a LOT of misconception about her music, because of the fact that her dad was a terrorist and because the subject of her songs is war. And the shotguns and lines are often misinterpreted as threats than cynical parodies.

    She's already said, this is not about the LTTE, it's just a non-violent perspective from the eyes of the Tamil civilians. Listening to her music, I really didn't interpret any of it as pro-terrorist either.

  2. mp - ok :-)

    Mak - you're right, I think a lot of the labelling that goes on is because her father was an LTTEr. She may support the idea of a separate state because of the opinion she has of the SL govt, but she hasn't openly condoned the actions of the LTTE, so I'm gonna give her the benefit of the doubt. As for pro-terrorist views, I think the LTTE flag makes a brief appearance in one of her old videos, but she toned that down after the Brits questioned her (in accordance with the Terrorism Act).

  3. http://www.dailymirror.lk/DM_BLOG/Sections/frmNewsDetailView.aspx?ARTID=41044


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