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Category Archives: South Park
South Park has roared back to life with a fantastic season premier that nails the way in which symbols of chastity–particularly those from Christian pop culture–are fetishized and eroticized for the purpose of profit. The chief culprit in this is, of course, Disney:
Full episode, here.
In case some of you are wondering what my promised future post on transgender issues will be like, allow me to give you some idea of the general direction that it will be coming from. Now, if you are offended by, well, offensive things, then by all means do not watch this. If, however you don’t mind the crass and the banal, then you absolutely should watch this episode of South Park which centers on Mr. Garrison, the school teacher getting a sex change and the results thereof. I’ll not say more at this point, other than that this episode is social criticism of the highest order.
So, apparently it’s about time to vote again in the good old U.S. of A. and I, of course will not be voting. And for the first time I’ve been castigated by a few of my acquaintances over my non-voting status. I’m curious to see what people here might think about the whole matter. Obviously for folks outside the U.S. there may be some different dynamics at play in how such questions are evaluated in various contexts.
Fundamentally, I simply find it ridiculous that Christians would consider voting in the U.S. a viable way of “making a difference”. The “elections” that we have here are utterly obvious in how they are bought, regulated, and sold. The idea that we can somehow “influence the system” by voting plumbs the depths of absurdity as far as I’m concerned. It’s tantamount to saying that the early Christians should have tried to work within the “proper chanels” to influence the emperor, or the senate. Or even more appropriately, its tantamount to the eight white religous leaders who told MLK to back off and go through “orderly” and “legal” chanels to bring about justice.
I think that for many evangelical Christians in the U.S. the idea that you must “vote your conscience” is inseparable from the meaning of good citizenship. (As and aside, if you find all that many issues or candidates that you can authentically “vote your conscience” on, then you’ve reached a level of moral clarity – or superficiality that is far beyond my humble abilities.) At its core I feel that the common sensibility that we have a moral obligation to vote just utterly fails to acknowledge the way in which our entire “democratic process” is circumscribed within the framework of global capitalism. The idea that we can influence the shape of our political-economic life by voting is ridiculous. All of our elections are either determined in advance by who has the capital, or rendered innocuous by ensuring that candidates are fundamentally no different from one another.
As the chracter Mac said on a great episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, “Who am I going to vote for? The Republican who’s going to blast me in the ass or the Democrat who’s blasting my ass? Politics is just one giant ass-blast!” Or, perhaps more poignantly, in a great episode of South Park, when the elementary school children are responsible for nominating the new animal for their school mascot (PETA forces them to dispense with their evil mascot, the South Park Cows, that’s why they need a new one). So, Kyle tries gets everyone to write in “a giant douche” as their mascot, while Cartman tries to get everyone to vote for “a turd sandwich.” In the meantime Stan gets sick of the whole process and elects not to vote, since he sees no difference between a douche and a turd. He subsequently gets hunted down by P. Diddy and his “vote or die” posse and eventually exiled from the town for being undemocratic. The show reaches its climax when Stan finally realizes that every election is a choice between a “douche and a turd” and he then comes on back and casts his vote for the turd sandwich only to see it beat out by the giant douche by some hundred-odd votes, leaving him still questioning the importance of voting. Fortunately, the whole process is brought to a happy end when P. Diddy and his posse slaughter all the PETA members and South Park elementary is free to bring back the Cows as their mascot.
With Stan and Mac, I find the whole idea of voting in the U.S. to be pure theatrics. The idea that who we vote for, rather than global capitalism actually determines the shape of our lives is just silly. That’s why I’m not voting. I’m trying instead to do what I think really matters in terms of reshaping human life in the face of global capitalism: participate in the re-shaping of human social relations in Christ. Being the church, the place in which the human desires which stand deformed by the forces of production and consumption are healed and made whole is the most important political action that Christians can take.
I recently came across this interesting post by decorated atheist blogger, P.Z. Myers. He related a rather disturbing lecture that was given recently by Christopher Hitchens, in which he definitively wed militant atheism to American imperialism at its worst. Here is a lengthy quote from his post:
[Hitchens] told us what the most serious threat to the West was (and you know this line already): it was Islam. Then he accused the audience of being soft on Islam, of being the kind of vague atheists who refuse to see the threat for what it was, a clash of civilizations, and of being too weak to do what was necessary, which was to spill blood to defeat the enemy. Along the way he told us who his choice for president was right now — Rudy Giuliani — and that Obama was a fool, Clinton was a pandering closet fundamentalist, and that he was less than thrilled about all the support among the FFRF for the Democratic party. We cannot afford to allow the Iranian theocracy to arm itself with nuclear weapons (something I entirely sympathize with), and that the only solution is to go in there with bombs and marines and blow it all up. The way to win the war is to kill so many Moslems that they begin to question whether they can bear the mounting casualties.
It was simplistic us-vs.-them thinking at its worst, and the only solution he had to offer was death and destruction of the enemy.
This was made even more clear in the Q&A. He was asked to consider the possibility that bombing and killing was only going to accomplish an increase in the number of people opposing us. Hitchens accused the questioner of being incredibly stupid (the question was not well-phrased, I’ll agree, but it was clear what he meant), and said that it was obvious that every Moslem you kill means there is one less Moslem to fight you … which is only true if you assume that every Moslem already wants to kill Americans and is armed and willing to do so. I think that what is obvious is that most Moslems are primarily interested in living a life of contentment with their families and their work, and that an America committed to slaughter is a tactic that will only convince more of them to join in opposition to us.
Basically, what Hitchens was proposing is genocide. Or, at least, wholesale execution of the population of the Moslem world until they are sufficiently cowed and frightened and depleted that they are unable to resist us in any way, ever again.
This is insane. I entirely agree that we are looking at a clash of civilizations, that there are huge incompatibilities between different parts of the world, and that we face years and years of all kinds of conflict between us, with no easy resolution. However, one can only resolve deep ideological conflicts by the extermination of one side in video games and cartoons. It’s not going to work in the real world. We can’t simply murder enough Moslems to weaken them into irrelevance, and even if we could, that’s not the kind of culture to which I want to belong.
A clash of whole civilizations is a war of ideas. The way we can ‘conquer’ is on the cultural and economic level: the West should not invade and destroy, but should instead set an example, lead with strength, and be the civilization that every rational citizen of the other side wants to emulate. Yes, there will be wars and skirmishes, because not everyone on either side is rational, but the bloodshed isn’t the purpose. Hitchens would make it the raison d’etre of the whole Western effort.
This whole last third of his talk had me concerned about the first part. He had just told us in strong terms about the failures of religion and its detrimental effect on our culture, and now he was explaining to us how the solution in the Middle East was to simply kill everyone who disagreed with you. He didn’t relate the two parts of his talk, which was unfortunate. I’d like to know whether he thinks the way atheists ought to end religion in America is to start shooting Baptists, or whether he sees other ways to educate and enlighten … in which case I wonder why he doesn’t see any virtue in applying those same methods to Islam. I didn’t ask the question since the line for the microphone was long, and I had a depressing feeling that the solution would involve sending the Baptists over to Iraq to kill and be killed. This is not my freethought movement.
The Hitchens solution is not my solution.
While I applaud Myers for at least having some moral backbone in the face of Hitchens’ ridiculousness, I can’t help but think that Htichens’ perspective is a bit more perversely logical. It may be impractical, and almost certainly is unachievable, but I can’t fault Hitchens’ logic – if in fact he’s correct that it is religion that “poisons everything”. And at this point I’ll cede the floor to some experts who have far more precedent to speak to such cultural issues: Matt Stone and Trey Parker.
In the most recent season of South Park we have been given a wonderful two-part episode dedicated entirely to atheism, and particularly to Richard Dawkins (though you could substitute Sam Harris or Christopher Hitchens and the story would remain absolutely the same since these guys are all pretty much clones of each other).
Anways, upon learning that s/he has to teach evolution in class, the 4th grade teaching, Mr. Garrison (technically now Ms. Garrison, I suppose) throws a moral fit and will only relate evolution to his/her students as a long process of ”retarded fish-frogs” having “butt-sex with a monkey”. So, to rectify the problem, Richard Dawkins is brought in to do some proper scientific teaching. In the process, Dawkins, inexplicably attracted to the now-female Garrison ends up convincing him/her of atheism and the two join forces to rid the world of religion using Dawkins’ brilliance and Ms. Garrison’s “balls” (i.e. he’s an asshole to anyone who questions atheism).
Meanwhile, Eric Cartman, unable to wait for the Nintendo Wii to come out has Butters help freeze him up in the mountains so he can be thawed out three weeks later when the most awesome gaming system in the history of the world is made available to children everywhere. Well, naturally a freak avalanche buries him where he lies frozen in the ground from som 500 years, only to be thawed out in the future – a future in which all the world is atheist thanks to the brilliant Dawkins and the ballsy Ms. Garrison.
However, it does not take long before the Wii-stricken Cartman finds himself embroiled in the vicious wars which are currently raging between the various factions of atheists who war of which answer to the “great question” (which turns out to be what atheists should call themselves) is more scientific. So, as the United Atheist League, the United Atheist Alliance and the Allied Atheist Alliance (this one made up entirely of the now-sentient atheist sea-otters) war with one another and seek to annihilate each other completely, all the while rejoicing joyously at the absence of the foolish religions of the past.
As they war against each other with battle cries of “Our science is great!”, “Science dammit!”, and “Oh, my science!”, Cartman seeks a way to get back to his time so as to finally be able to play the Wii. In so doing he gets hold a of timephone with which he can call the past and ends up letting it slip to Dawkins that Ms. Garrison wan’t born a woman, at which point Dawkins runs vomiting from her bedroom with his jilted tranny lover yelling after him that he’s a going to “burn in hell.” And so the future is saved, with all humans and sea-otters living together in zen-like harmony without the tyrany of atheism!
Peppered throughout are razor-sharp lines like when Stan Marsh questions Dawkins, asking genuinely if evolution might be the answer to “how” and not the answer to “why”, only to be slapped in the dunce chair by Garrison with the dunce cap reading “I have faith.” Or likewise, when Garrison, prior to being converted to atheism by the eloquent Dawkins states that he’s not an atheist because “you can’t disprove God.” Dawkins then responds “Well, you can’t disprove that there’s a flying spaghetti monster either, so should I believe in a flying spaghetti monster?” To which Garrison (channeling the writers, I assure you) responds, “Oh WOW, you’re right! THANK YOU, RICHARD! It’s so simple! God’s a spaghetti monster! Guess what everyone? I’m an atheist!!”
The point, both of all this fun rambling, and this particular episode of South Park should be painfully obvious. The common throwaway line that religion is the source of all violence in the world and atheism would lead to a great era of peace is pure fantasy. So, as Hitchens’ goes on advocating the genocide of religious “fanatics”, I’ll continue to watch South Park and the Daily Show. In an age where all political posturing is nothing more than theatrics, at least we’ll never be short on entertainment.
Here’s a bit of what he said:
I don’t know if any of my gentle readers recall the early Southpark episode where Tweak is out of his mind due to his constant coffee drinking and thinks he sees little gnomes stealing his underpants. It turns out he was right all along, and that there was a gnome civilization living in the sewers (next to Mr. Hankey the Christmas poo I presume).
The other day I was reading some more Radical Orthodoxy. Milbank was faulting Scotus for arguing for the Immaculate Conception because it meant he could not appreciate fully the christmas carol “o felix culpa.” …
Reflecting upon these matters, I was struck by the similarity to the Underpants gnomes. When the children ask the gnomes why they steal people’s underpants, they respond in their cute high-pitched voices, “stage 1: steal underpants. Stage 2: ? Stage 3: Profit!!” Radical Orthodoxy’s method works very much the same way. Stage 1: Scotus says something that Aquinas does not. Stage 2: ? stage 3: Modernity! Holocaust of Nihilism! For the “?” one must imagine the little gnome shrugging his shoulders and making a questioning, wordless, utterance.
Lee, you can be assured that I remember that episode as I have watched them all religously and repeatedly. However, I never thought of all the connections I could make between South Park and Radical Orthodoxy, and so for that, I thank you. If nothing else, this great post has made me throw my inhibitions about discussing South Park in theological posts to the wind. Y’all can look for that in the future.