Thursday, January 14, 2010

Everything is meant to be

I saw a recorded programme, recently aired on the telly, of the rise to fame of Susan Boyle. Now, let me say, I like Susan Boyle. I cried with everyone else when her "Britain's Got talent" Youtube video was doing the rounds. I loved the way in which she strode onto the stage; the way she belted out "I dreamed a dream" - which I had never heard before. I loved the whole thing - and Simon Cowell's comeuppance and everything.

So now these days, she has a lot more make-up on; her unruly eyebrows have been plucked to death and her lips glossed. I saw that her money-makers have seen fit to squeeze her into rather tight fitting evening gowns and do her hair in strange ways to give her a rather peculiar look of unwilling glamour. Her voice is still as powerful, but they seem to have forced her to slow everything down to a very dull pace, so that now, "I dreamed a dream" sounds like a deeply meaningful, exceedingly dull funeral dirge - along with everything else she sings. They seem to be trying to milk sentimentality out of every syllable, every cadence, every note and it has turned a really fresh and exciting singer into tedious commercial slush.

But that is not what got me so mad. What got me mad was the constant going on about how "it's never too late to have a dream". Teary-eyed middle-aged to rather well done Americans, waving banners, and turning dumpiness into some kind of hitherto unheralded virtue. Except, they seemed not to have noticed that the dumpiness on Susan Boyle - the very thing which made her so appealing in the beginning, is now airbrushed - (or maybe I am confused and maybe that is what they are all aspiring to!)

At the same time, in real live TV time, images of Haiti's trauma and misery are appearing on the news. Collapsed buildings, devastated lives, death and deep, profound suffering. And some of these poor destroyed people are trying to make sense of a universe so vicious and cruel, that it all just completely beggars any kind of belief in a kind, or even vaguely compassionate deity, or ordering force.

And that is why I so passionately hate the crass, platitudinous, air-headed nonsense which would have us believe that "Everything is as it is meant to be". "There is a reason for everything". It just isn't and there isn't. To even think so is callous in the extreme.

This is why I am such an admirer of an organisation like the "Gift of the Givers Foundation", led by Dr Imtiaz Sooliman. I first came across them, when I was living in Pietermaritzburg, many years ago. And I have watched them, down the years, responding immediately to any situation where there is human suffering. They don't care whether the people affected are Muslim, or Christian, or Atheist. They don't care a hoot what or who you are. They simply care that you are suffering.

What they do (and what they seem to do extremely effectively and efficiently!) is muster massive amounts of support from wherever they can, and take that support in the form of blankets; water purification tablets; medical supplies etc immediately to the people who are suffering. They don't believe "everything is as it should be". They believe that suffering can be made less. I think they are wonderful and I am constantly astonished by how quick off the mark they are with help in the most dire situations. What astonishes me about this organisation is that they just go ahead and do it, with no pomp, no ceremony. They just go and do what needs to be done.

Watching various ageing Americans in their "I Love Susan Boyle" T-shirts, telling me how "dreams don't have a time-line" and "it's never to late to dream your dream" and how "everything that happens is meat to be" against the Haitian backdrop just brought into sharp relief how bland, how meaningless and how totally lacking of content and depth popular culture is. You can't air-brush what's going on in Haiti. There are no bright lights, or happy endings. It is all just raw, utterly meaningless suffering.

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