Friday, September 10, 2010

Cultural Airbrushing...

Post-modern censorship has come up time and again in conversation for me, recently. So much so I feel compelled to attempt to put all my thoughts down in a blogpost, perhaps to clarify the issues for myself, if not for anyone else.

What do I mean by Post-modern censorship?  Well basically, the picking and choosing of things we like in culture and society, and then the discarding of everything else because either it doesn't suit us, or it outright offends our sensitibilities.

Ok, so I hear some of you already saying that you have every right to pick and choose from the wide range of options out there - might I suggest this is because you belong to the "Options Generation"; the children of Baby Boomers, who were offered many choices by their parents and told that "there is always another way".

This way of thinking has many advantages!  First of all, it gives the individuals a sense of empowerment, a sense of freedom from restriction, and open possiblities; which is life-affirming!  It also opens the doors for lateral creativity, new modes of thinking and doing (and let's face it Gen Xers/Options generation people are nothing if not lateral thinkers).  And it does many other great things besides, which I won't bother to list.

The flip side isn't as pretty (flipsides never are), and it's all too easy to just ignore the negative side of being able to pick and choose whatever suits you...

The negative side involves the things that are discarded when choices are made.  In choosing clothing from a wardrobe, this isn't a problem, the clothes you don't choose hang there to be worn another day and no-one will care much in 50 years time what clothes you wore.

In other areas, that which is discarded can be forever lost to the impoverishment of culture and history.

And this brings me (finally) to the main thrust of this blog post.

Recently, in the news, there was the story of the Principal who changed the words of the popular children's song "Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree", to replace the word "gay" with some other word.  This was done because, apparently, the children would burst out laughing whenever the word "gay" needed to be sung.  However, instead of explaining to the children the context and meaning of the word "gay" at the time the song was written, the Principal chose to simply censor the word - which if taken up by Principals and others across the country would soon see the original version of the song forgotten and lost.

The same happened with Little Red Riding Hood, in which the wolf is no longer hatcheted to death by the woodcutter, but sits down to tea with everyone after threatening to eat old granny (both unrealistic and completely removed from the original communist analogus origina of the story.

Just this week at my children's school there was the school concert in which the various classes sung songs from popular music throughout the 20th century.  One of the groups was to sing "Oh Happy Day!" but with the line "when Jesus washed my sin away"  replaced by something else.  I was, personally, appalled by this action because that happens to be one of my favourite gospel songs, but that's beside the point here.  In the end they had to change back to the original wording for copyright reasons (I believe0.  What I don't understand is, if those words were a "political correctness" issue - as argued by the teachers, then why sing that song at all, why not simply choose a different song?

Many have heard about he changes to the popular Enid Blyton books, including changing a character's name from Fanny to Franny...

There are so many issues with this kind of censorship!  First of all we are losing language - in it's original meaning and context.  We are devaluing the works of authors, storytellers and lyricists.  We are side-stepping opportunities to really teach children about societal change (and yes, I understand censorship relfects societal changes but when we censor do we explain the context and meaning in which the uncensored work arose and was popularly accepted?).  We are attempting to chnage history, which is almost inconceivable!  We don't like the name that author choose, or the concept that lyricist was promoting, or the new connotations of that word (which didn't have those connotations when it was written), so let's pretend those "mistakes" or "faux pas" or "ugly social attitudes" were never really a part of us, we didn't come from that distasteful place, it never happened.  We're all clean and perfect and in absolutely NO WAY offensive to anyone, ever.

Most offensive of all is the laziness of this kind of censorhip.  The attitude of, "I don't want to create my own song or story or culture, so I'll just take that one and chops bit off it to make it fit my needs for now - and the bit?  I'll just chuck them aside because they don't suit me right now"...

Political Correctness is no reason!  It is merely an excuse for butchering what is rather than acknowledging what was, and how we have changed and moved on as we learn - more than anything, it fails to accept humanity in all its imperfect, ever changing beauty.  It's simply another form of airbrushing.  Cultural Airbrushing.

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Good Job!