Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Sacred Cows

In his column defending while criticizing the CCP exhibit Conrado de Quiros revealed that his defense of freedom of expression is limited only to those he finds acceptable.  Expressions he finds unacceptable should be censored
"I grant there should be limits to free expression. You may not flash the dirty finger in public, as Rodrigo Duterte is wont to do, or the very thing the dirty finger is meant to represent, to say “f–k you” at the world. You may not piss on the flag in public to say you are pissed off with this country or its leaders. I myself do not think Cruz’s “RH series” belongs to this box, it is an attempt to say something serious, however what it has to say discombobulates the faithful."
The Philippine Daily Inquirer itself in an editorial states
"Violence should not be condoned, but the vandalism inflicted on Mideo M. Cruz’s “Polytheism” art work at the Cultural Center of the Philippines last Aug. 4—an unidentified couple smashed a penis-motif wooden ashtray glued onto the poster, and tried but failed to set fire to the collage that formed part of the installation—is understandable. The work is deeply offensive to Catholics, and even non-Catholic Christians are shocked and disgusted at the installation’s wooden cross with a movable penis and condom. If all of this does not constitute sacrilege, blasphemy or attack on religion, we don’t know what is."
These two institutions that can only do their work under the constitutional protection on freedom of expression blatantly supports limits to the freedom of other people.  Apparently, it's ok to have freedom of expression as long as you don't express things they find objectionable.

De Quiros' column is entitled "It's Complicated" only underlines his fear of religion
"First off, I’d say that as a general principle, one should be respectful of other people’s religious beliefs. One should be appreciative of, or sensitive to, the passions they generate. At the very least that is so because of the catastrophic consequences of not doing so. The capacity of slights to religion, real or imagined, to cause mayhem, or even war, is plentifully in evidence."
The fact that some religious people do violence because of perceived slight to their religion should not be a reason to tiptoe around religious feelings.  It should be a reason to ruthlessly prosecute any religious person that causes mayhem.  It should give us more reason to mock their religion so that they become inured (kumapal ang balat) to mockery.

The PDI's editorial is titled "Art as Terrorism", because putting a penis in a picture is equivalent to killing people.  The editorial is full of apologia for angry catholics and ad hominem attacks on the artist.
"Predictably enough, Cruz also misrepresents Catholic iconography in order to suit his self-serving and ultimately erroneous thesis. Whatever the excesses of Filipino folk religiosity, it must be said Catholics do not worship images; they venerate them as sensual channels to the divine. Catholics worship God; they accord the Blessed Trinity “latria,” Greek for adoration. They don’t worship the Blessed Mother and the saints. To the latter, they accord “dulia,” Greek for veneration; to the former they accord “hyperdulia,” a higher form of veneration. Therefore, Catholics don’t practice polytheism. Cruz not only misrepresents Catholics’ monotheistic practice; he insults it by using Catholic iconography to poke fun at it."
What is the difference between venerating saints and worshiping them? The end result is the same,  people pray to the saints, the the various incarnations of the Virgin Mary.  Disagreeing with one's interpretation of catholic dogma does not necessarily mean that the other person's interpretation is self serving. 

The funny thing is about the editorial is that it shoots itself.
In the end, Cruz is an “iconoclast.” His art smashes perceived false idols. The danger here is that his art could become arrogant and terror-prone. The Church has experienced a tumultuous history of iconoclastic revolutions across the centuries (the Byzantine iconoclastic outbursts in the first millennium and the Protestant revolts in the second) that have destroyed priceless items in man’s cultural heritage. And the Church is not alone among religions victimized by iconoclasm. Closer to our day, we witnessed how the Muslim Taliban dynamited in 2001 the ancient giant mountain carvings of Buddhas of Afghanistan, a terrorist blow to the cultural patrimony of humanity. 
 It styles itself as trying to protect the cultural heritage of the Philippines (presumably) because the exhibit will rile up Filipinos who will destroy catholic artifacts because they are Taliban (I think).  When in fact, the Taliban destroyed the cultural artifacts of Afghanistan because they perceived them as an affront to their one true religion, which is Islam.

I will give them this though, 
"It is unfortunate that the furor over “Polytheism” has obscured the fact that it’s just one of the works in a larger exhibit, “Kulo,” mounted by curators, artists and writers who have studied at the University of Santo Tomas in connection with its 400th anniversary this year."
it is unfortunate that a single artists work was zeroed in the catholic zealots which  led the closure of the exhibit including the works of other artists.  

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