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Mike hopes to see the world turned upside down through local communities banding together for social change, especially churches which have recognized the radical calling to be good news to the poor, to set free the prisoners and oppressed, and to become the social embodiment of the reign of God on earth as it is in heaven. He lives with the blessed memory of his wife, in Durham, NC, and has three adult children living in three different states. He also shares his life with the Mt. Level Missionary Baptist Church in Durham, the faculty and students of Shaw University Divinity School in Raleigh, NC, and the faithful fans of Duke and Baylor Basketball in his neighborhood.

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

This morning I heard an interview on Morning Edition about immigrants living in England. In particular it discussed the difficulties faced by third-world Muslims who come to England for the prosperity, not realizing that modern free market capitalism has a flip side. The "freedom" of the modern world is the freedom to choose the products that the powerful and wealthy want to sell to the masses. It is the freedom to choose an image from among the ones being pimped by music companies, television stations, or fashion promoters.

The person being interviewed was Hanif Kureishi, an author and screenwriter and a son of an immigrant. He wrote the film, My Son, the Fanatic, about the reasons some poor Muslim immigrants in the north of England are drawn to rebel against Western culture. For instance, the immigrant's son in the film, a young adult on his way to a potentially promising career, has reached a point of turning away from English culture and ways. He feels compelled to throw away his music and his worldly goods, insisting he would never raise children in England.

Kureishi remarks about the character, “He feels that his father is being absorbed into the West, and therefore the father and the Muslim community are becoming other, are losing their identity. They’ve lost the path. They’ve lost their heritage. They’ve lost their history.”

A very telling line from the film was selected and quoted by the interviewer, Renee Montagne: “They say integrate, but they live in pornography and filth. This place is soaked in sex.”

While it may be an insightful look at the reasons so much resentment exists against the US and the UK, I am more interested in some comments which shed light on structural issues of Western society which most non-immigrants are generally blind to. I'm referring to the issues around the results of the kind of centrifugal force of false freedom that tears apart communities and families, all in the name of individual choices.

Here are Kureishi's remarks in response to Montagne's selection of that quotation.

It’s to do with the shock of the West. If you come from a Muslim third-world country and you come to the West, there is a terrible vertigo that affects people which is to do with the sexuality, the decadence, the drug taking, the broken families, and so on. Of course this is the obverse of the capitalism which we so love and admire and want. And it is also something we democrats often forget to explain to the poor and dispossessed, that there is a lot of other stuff that comes with democracy. And it's very hard for these families and for the people who come from these places to swallow. And they are not prepared for that kind of family disintegration.

This destructive power of capitalism is generally ignored because it can be hidden from the middle class in many cases. But Frontline documentaries such as The Lost Children of Rockdale County and The Merchants of Cool help to point out the way this sort of disintegrative power of capitalism undermines the forms of community which help to sustain people and provide a way to see a purpose for living beyond self-satisfaction at the smorgasbord of entertainment, what Collins and Skover called a "pornutopia" in The Death of Discourse. Sadly, most people who call themselves Christians in the West cannot see that the forces tearing their families and lives apart are the very flip side of the structures of economic life in the West.


Mike Broadway said...

Joette Steger said...
The young Muslim man who felt compelled to throw away his music and his worldly goods reminded me of St. Francis of Assisi, who also gave up all his worldly goods, including his clothes, and a promising career to work with the poor. Thinking of these two young men brings to mind Hauerwas’ statement in “The Servant Community: Christian Social Ethics (1983)” that “we cannot merely identify with the “cause” of the poor, we must become poor and powerless.” Perhaps the young Muslim man portrayed in the movie “My Son, the Fanatic” is closer to God than some of us who consider ourselves Christian. If we are following Christ, should we not all be fanatics?

7:52 AM

Emma P Harper said...

The structural issues of Western Society which most non-immigrants are generally blind to include sex and pornography, drugs, dress, body art such as tatoos. You make the comment and I agree, that you are referring to issues around the results of the kind of centrifugal force or false freedom that tears apart communities and families, all in the name of individual choices that have been set forth by western society.An example of this would be such as body art.This is a form of identity in the younger generation as well as rap music. People have a tendency to be attracted to hip now because it promotes what some call a traditional way of living however this is not always the case.It only promotes the bad side capitalism. Music, Advertisements including sex, sells and is driving factor in selling to the masses of people.

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