Bad Boy, R&B Entertainer, Chris Brown. While Brown’s lyrics continue to ooze sadistic violence and hate-filled contempt for women, any expressions of contrition and remorse (especially as the price of entry to this country) should not be taken seriously.
HATE, NO LESS THAN LOVE, seeks outward expression. The observation is neither new nor profound, but it’s true. Just consider how much happier and more productive the world would be if only love could be expressed. If hatred’s dreadful energy could be sealed-up completely within the haters themselves – transforming them into tiny black holes of negativity from which nothing hurtful or destructive could ever again escape.
Unfortunately, hatred is seldom satisfied with just one victim. Indeed, it is the corrosive effect on the individual human personality that makes hatred’s outward social expression so devastating. One has only to look at the photograph of Adam Lanza, the 20 year-old perpetrator of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, to see how completely self-hatred can hollow a person out. Behind Lanza’s unnervingly wide eyes there is a terrifying absence. Hatred has created the perfect mechanism for killing 20 children and 7 adults, at point-blank range, with a Bushmaster .223 calibre XM15-E2S rifle.
Adam Lanza - A terrifying absence.
The expression on the face of Chris Mercer, the 26 year-old responsible for the deaths of 9 students at Umpqua Community College, in the US state of Oregon, just last week, is similarly blank. As if all that was worthwhile in this young man has been utterly consumed, leaving only an all-consuming rage against the god he blamed for his increasing isolation and despair. Neighbours describe Mercer “sitting alone in his room, in the dark, with this little light.” On 1 October 2015 even that little light went out. “Are you a Christian?” Mercer is alleged to have asked his victims – before pulling the trigger of his Taurus .40 calibre pistol.
What is it about the United States that generates these mass shootings? Is hatred hollowing-out a whole nation? Will the world soon be faced with an American gaze as blank and pitiless as Lanza’s and Mercer’s. Or, has the United States already reached that point? And, if it has, when did it happen – and why?
In her powerful historical anthem, My Country Tis Of Thy People You’re Dying, the Native American songwriter, Buffy Sainte-Marie, refers to “the genocide basic to this country’s birth” – boldly rendering the whole of US history as an exercise in externalised hatred. In similar vein, President Abraham Lincoln, in his second (1865) inaugural address, speculated that the still-raging civil war might represent God’s judgement on the morally flawed American republic:
“Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said ‘the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.’”
Not that the massive death-toll of the American Civil War was enough to slake the thirst of American hatred. As the African-American chanteuse, Billie Holiday, revealed in her haunting 1939 recording of Abel Meeropol’s poem, Strange Fruit, that cup was far from empty:
Southern trees bear strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees
Tragically, all the violence inflicted on African-American men has not prevented them from projecting their anger, hurt and self-loathing onto African-American women. Hatred has a way of sucking-up and kicking-down: celebrating the perpetrators’ violence by encouraging its victims to become victimisers themselves. Usually by unleashing pain and suffering on those even lower-down on the social pecking-order.
Chris Maurice Brown was born in Virginia, and raised in a household where this sort of male-on-female domestic violence was commonplace. Sadly, the 26 year-old R&B entertainer has gone on to replicate the dysfunctional behaviour he experienced as a child in his own adult relationships. Even more problematically, he routinely validates the objectification of women, along with the violence it both inspires and excuses, in his music. Brown’s critics have characterised many of the lyrics of his recordings as hate speech against women.
Convicted of assaulting his partner, Rihanna, in February 2009, Brown has found it increasingly difficult to perform overseas. His planned 2015 Australasian tour will proceed only if the Australian and New Zealand authorities grant him a special entry visa. New Zealand Campaigners against domestic violence are urging the National Government to keep him out.
It is difficult to fault their argument. While Brown’s lyrics continue to ooze sadistic violence and hate-filled contempt for women, any expressions of contrition and remorse (especially as the price of entry to this country) should not be taken seriously.
Love expresses itself in forgiveness. Hatred, by contrast, just doubles-down.
This essay was originally published in The Press Of Tuesday, 6 October 2015.
There are various photographs of these people. How on earth you can tell that there is nothing behind their eyes, or anything else from those photographs just by looking at the faces I don't know. I suspect though that it's something like confirmation bias. It sort of spoils the rest of the column – at least for me, whose has been arguing about violence and access to firearms on American websites for far too long now. Cheap trick sorry.
A good article, Chris Brown is a monster who is using his entertainment fame to pretend contrition to the general public, why ?, because it works on a section of any community and Brown and his ilk escape from the facts. The government get my whole hearted support to stop this guy from coming to NZ. Naina Mahuta from Labour has also been critical of his proposed visit. As far as I know Labours leader has been stum.
GS: you can't tell from photos, must meet the person in person! Doesn't show up in photos.
Guerilla Surgeon, you are wrong, it is Chris Brown, he is a good looking young man, it was not a confirmation bias, it was the article and its words that was the confirmation.
Anonymous - since when did the leader of a party have to make a statement on anything and everything and not leave it to a spokesperson? I think we can take it that if Nanaia Mahuta has expressed criticism, her colleagues are likely to be in agreement.
@Guerilla Surgeon - You nail it exactly.
And I add that Lincoln's speculation is utter nonsense, pasta only knows what it adds to the discussion: exactly nothing.
I think you are right GS. Photos lie too often.
But I think Chris is right about Brown. His words alone condemn him.
The photos are certainly evocative. The white kid looks as if he is trying to make himself grotesque and the brown kid looks as if he is trying to appeal to disaffected youth who will buy his rap or whatever.
Dame Tariana Turia says Chris Brown should be allowed to perform because he is prepared to talk about his problems and how he is trying to get in control of himself. Her opinion should count. She has been a dedicated worker with young people for years.
He would like to come here; he's prepared to give a particular message to our young people. Our young people listen to people like Chris Brown. They don't listen to me.
"I mean, I was involved in family violence [prevention] probably for a good 12 years of my time in Parliament. All the programmes that we put out there, nothing changes."
Probably if he comes, he will do some good and also speakers can influence him to change his language about women. Why should National be prosy and tight-lipped wanting to bar him, ignore him. That's because the RW white upper classes do that with all social problems. Oh dear, have you heard the news, the natives are revolting! Aren't we lucky we aren't like them. Showing understanding for Chris, coupled with an earnest and honest desire from him to speak against violence and how to control the 'red rage', would produce more deterrence amongst his male fans, and female, than banning him.
Yes Charles, his words do condemn him. But his words are how he makes money, so he's not going to change that without some strong incentive. I don't think he should be allowed into the country for this reason, because until you start hitting these guys in their pockets you're not going to get much joy on the rehabilitation front :-). It still allows for the possibility he is repentant. But I'm not a mind reader, and I can't actually tell from the photos :-).
Chris, I heard a far more cogent explanation of mass shootings by gunmen than "hate". And it is far more frightening: it is narcissism.
Watch Anne Manne: Epidemic of Narcissism. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QBO7B1RSR8A
In this talk she recount how Breivik after shooting 80 people and showing no remorse was only interested in a minor cut for which he insisted the police give him a band aid. It was all about him down to the most minor detail. In prison all he does is complain about things that he thinks he is entitled to.
On the hate thing, I have listened to rap lyrics for years, and the thing which stands out is "I" "me" and offensive labels for anybody who is not "I" "me". Maybe Brown does not hate, maybe it is just low empathy narcissism. Hate may not even enter the equation, everything that is not Mr Brown being mere untermensch, not worhty of bothering his huge self esteem.
The incredible thing for me was the support of these supposedly influential Maori women and yet you managed to write the whole article without even mentioning their endorsement of Brown or the double standards that are shown. By the way Billie Holiday would never have been allowed into New Zealand either at least after about 1950 and 'Strange Fruit' was totally atypical of her output-recorded for a tiny Commodore record label it represents her being used by the left-not unusual.
Fascinating watching rational beings coming down so hard on words of one man while the war brouhaha overseas drives me mad. The endless stories of pitiless fighting and destruction is a fail for the human race.
If Tariana feels Chris can be used in some program to reach out to the young, just bow to her greater wisdom without nasty sneers if it doesn't show immediate results. It is not an easy message because competitiveness, use of power and strength, self-centredness, anger and violence are everyday themes of present NZ.
Again jigsaw, you rush in where others fear to tread. Quite rightly. Billie holiday tried to get Columbia records to put the record out, but they were too scared of adverse reactions in the Southern States. So she basically had to go to a small label if she wanted to get the song issued. In no sense was she used by anyone. That song was inspired by an actual photograph of a lynching, which although they were on the decline by 1937 or so when it was written, was still going on fairly regularly in the South. Something you somehow forgot to mention. It was her most popular song pretty much for ever, selling over 1 million copies. She sang it even though she was afraid of retaliation from whites. Because she thought it was important. That bastion of the left Time Magazine called it the song of the century. Christ you've only got to watch it on you tube to see how powerful it was. You seem to think that somehow she was not politically aware? That's typical of you right-wing people, you think that somehow working class people can't think for themselves. God what utter bullshit and drivel you write sometimes.
You obviously have little real knowledge of Billie and her life and music and further your ability to twist statements and infect them with your own bile shows just what a bitter and twisted individual you are. She recorded quite a few things for Commodore which was a tiny label that began out of a record shop. The large record labels controlled everything as did the song writers in those days. This is of course the reason that she made popular so many songs that were not great and often had crap lyrics. Her ability to infuse these songs with real class was her gift. Strange fruit is not a great song-whatever the message. Of course there were lynchings going on in the southern states at the time. The world was then as it is now, full of injustice. If you know anything at ALL about Billie's personal life you will know that she was at that stage being increasingly influenced by various bastards who controlled her life through drugs and that the effect on her voice was showing more and more. By the early 1950s it was already wrecked and by the end of her life a mere croak. No I don't think that she was very politically aware-not in the way someone like Frank Newton or John Hammond were but then I doubt you read much around such topics.
You seem unable to resist inflicting your nastiness on the rest of us-mere discussion is somehow beyond you.
Happy to go in where you attempt to tell the rest of us your propaganda. You turn small scraps of truth into huge distortions - and with such ease.
GS- I doubt that you ever let facts spoil your point of view but page 209 of John Hammond's book -' ...before she left Columbia however she (BIllie) did a bizarre and successful record 'Strange Fruit' and 'Fine and Mellow' for Commodore. Because Columbia felt that the lyrics of 'Strange Fruit' were too strong for the distributors to handle, particularly in the South........she was released to record with my full approval for Commodore. I never liked 'Strange Fruit' myself and urged Columbia to have it recorded elsewhere. In many ways I think the song hurt Billie as an artist, although there is no doubt that its shock value helped her career.'
So not only did Columbia not want to sell a record with those lyrics their artistic adviser(Hammond) wanted another company to record it. Hammond as you should know was on the board of the NAACP at that time.
Interesting jigsaw, if YOU knew anything about Billie holiday, you would know that she was politically aware.
"Holiday was also brave. It was her idea to record Strange Fruit, the febrile account of a southern lynching that became her most successful record, cutting the song (written by a white man) for a New York independent when her label refused to sanction its recording . At a time (1939) when “there was no chance the lynching of blacks would ever appear in a film, no matter how it was reported in newspapers”, its depiction in song became a cause célèbre."
Your quote from Hammond's book only reinforces my point, she was politically aware, and determined to record the song. If he and presumably you don't like it and Columbia records didn't like it – tough – that puts you in a huge minority. But the main point is that you refused to allow her any agency at all. She was definitely aware of what she was doing, largely because she suffered from discrimination.
"In 1944, a naval officer called her a nigger and, her eyes hot with tears, she smashed a beer bottle against a table and lunged at him with the serrated glass. A little while later, a friend spotted her wandering down 52nd Street and called out, "How are you doing, Lady Day?" Her reply was viciously blunt: "Well, you know, I'm still a nigger."
I can't understand the rest of your post. Her voice was still brilliant when she recorded that song. The fact that it was wrecked by the 1950s is neither here nor there – completely beside the point. Did you just put it in to show off? And if you think my comment to you was nasty, it's probably because you've insulted someone who whatever her faults, was a much better person than you. I suspect you simply got offended because I called your post bullshit and drivel. I should have added insulting. But that's par for the course for you right-wingers, you never want to give any working class person at any credit for being aware of the problems surrounding them. I'm surprised you didn't say "she was being led by the nose by her union leadership." Oh, forgot you pretty much did.
His the difference between you and me jigsaw. I call your IDEAS drivel. You respond by "what a bitter and twisted INDIVIDUAL you are." In actual fact I'm quite a happy chap on the whole. But your ideas are still drivel.
No you are what I guess you will always remain, a illogical lefty ofay who wants to make political capital and use Billie Holiday even after her death-just disgusting.
Calling other people's opinions bullshit and drivel is about as far as your logic goes. Quoting stories like that about Billie is a waste of time as there are just as many in any other direct other direction that can be quoted-at best they are second-hand. Her life was a tale of self destruction caused by the people around her using her for their own purposes just as they used her with that song-just as you are using her memory. From that time onward she sang few if any medium tempo and up tempo songs and that was a shame as material like 'Miss Brown to You' while just a scrap of a song was a classic compared with 'Strange Fruit' but then you knew all of that didn't you. Not much you don't know is there?
I wouldn't say happy you were happy - smug certainly and abusive.
I must confess jigsaw you leave me a little afraid. You are so extreme right. Angry, self-interested, suspicious, dogmatic and authoritarian. I worry that people like you might one day be in charge of this country. You have an innate suspicion of ordinary people, to the point where you deny them any agency. You assume that they are just doing as they are told, as I said – being led around by the nose. And yes I called your opinions bullshit and drivel, and then I pointed out why they were. Using sources that know a great deal more about her life than you do. And using sources that gave her some credit for being aware of what went on around her. To you though, we are just puppets.
I still maintain that calling someone's opinions bullshit is a damn sight less abusive than calling an individual disgusting bitter or twisted. However, because you did this I have now replied in kind. And for the record, the world has judged "Strange Fruit" and you are in a distinct minority. No doubt you would much rather she sang songs with no political meaning at all.
I will not reply to you again on this thread, partly because Chris may well shut us down again, partly because I'm sick of your abuse.
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