Saturday, July 17, 2010


There is a segment in the Tim Burton classic ‘Mars Attacks!’ where Richard Norris, a teenage boy from Kansas, inadvertently discovers the seemingly invincible invading Martian army’s weakness: the noise of Slim Whitman’s song “Indian Love Call.” Playing this song causes their brains to burst.
Had things been otherwise, I would have regretted Latina superstar Jennifer Lopez’s official "withdrawal" from a concert in a European territory currently under military occupation, claiming she never would have agreed to perform had she known the "relevant circumstances" surrounding the intense political situation.
Jennifer Lopez was scheduled to perform in Turkish-occupied Cyprus, an area that neither the United Nations nor the European Union recognize as an independent sovereign state, owing to its illegal invasion by the Turkish military in 1974 and the forcible extirpation of its Greek inhabitants from their homes. Understandably, multiple Hellenic and Cypriot politicians expressed anger after reports surfaced claiming Lopez had agreed to perform at a swanky hotel in occupied Cyprus on 24 July. Various Greek lobby groups in the United States immediately swung into action, protesting vociferously at a concert, which they felt, was a political act, J Lo’s gyrating ponderous posterior in fact being an instrument of recognition and legitimisation of an undemocratic, military regime. And why would it not be? After all, Jennifer Lopez is not averse to embroiling herself in political scandals. Look at the time she was a Maid in Manhattan for instance and got herself involved with that crisp and polished politician Ralph Fiennes. It took the considered genius of an eloquent twelve year old boy with a penchant for impromptu public speech delivery to extricate her dextrously from the ensuing media fracas.
Now, the Amnesty International award-winning star, for her work in raising awareness of the murders of women in Mexico, has shied away from controversy in Cyprus. As one of her representatives stated: "Jennifer Lopez would never knowingly support any state, country, institution or regime that was associated with any form of human rights abuse." Taking a moment’s pause, J Lo took advantage of the situation in order to add: “All that matters is/ That you treat me right/ Give me all the things I need/That money can't buy yeah,” Her horrified representative hastily continued: "After a full review of the relevant circumstances in Cyprus, it was the decision of management to withdraw from the appearance. This was a team decision that reflects our sensitivity to the political realities of the region."
As soon as he was able to mouth a full stop, J Lo was at it again, this time observing: “Ain't it funny how a moment could just change your lifeAnd you don't wanna face what's wrong or right.” And then, as the tide of Turkish protest massed and heaved, she stood up as the deific diva that she is, held out her hand and preventing the wave of vexation from crashing upon the beach of belligerence, intoned: “I'm real, I thought I told you, I'm real, even on Oprah, That's just me, Nothin phony, don't hate on me, What you get is what you see.”
Which brings me back to my original point. Had the seductive songstress achieved the same calibre of musical virtuosity as Slim Whitman, then our strategy of boycott and removal would have been incorrect. In that situation, the only solution would have been to unleash J Lo upon the unsuspecting occupying military hordes and watch their brains explode one by one. After three minutes of singing and gyrating there would be no more army occupying Cyprus. Problem solved. Unfortunately, J Lo displays nowhere near the tonal range manifested in “Indian Love-Song.” Instead, despite her menacingly inciting her audience to vocal terror through chants such as “Let’s Get Loud,” her true penchant lies in the propagation of such feel-good messages as “Life is meant to be big fun/ You’re not hurting anyone, nobody loses.” This is definitely not the message we would prefer to be sending to those big bullies in jackboots across the Green Line.
Jennifer Lopez and/or her entourage’s decision not to lend legitimacy to the illegal regime in occupied Cyprus is a laudable one, though it is questionable whether it has anything other than symbolic effect – though this is much needed at a time when more than ever, Greek people feel abandoned in so far as the sympathies of the rest of the world lie. It is also questionable whether ‘artists’ should be embroiled in sensitive and explosive political controversies of this nature. After all, where does one draw the line and how can one determine consistency in political stances? Would Jennifer Lopez or any other exquisite starlet be compelled to cancel any future concerts in Israel on the grounds that this legitimises its illegal annexation of the West Bank? What about Kosovo, a breakaway region whose ‘nationhood’ is not recognised by a multitude of countries. And indeed, do singers, assuming they can get a visa and have access to electrical current for the purposes of their microphones and amplifiers, boycott the Transnistria, Chechenya. South Ossetia and Abkhazia as well? Say the names of these regions ten times fast and you get a rap rhythm that far surpasses the efforts of Puff Diddy, a J Lo ex. Maybe it just all depends not on the righteousness of the cause, or the heinousness of a particular regime but rather, the projected magnitude of negative fan and media feedback. Imagine the fall in ratings of the E! Channel, if instead of its usual insightful commentary into the sordid lives of Hollywood sexpots, it was instead compelled to screen documentaries about the political history of modern Cyprus, in order for fans to comprehend J. Lo’s decision not to lend credence to its invaders and honour them with a visit.
At any rate, I am pleased that she who has described herself as “able to serve coffee using my rear as a ledge,” has denied the enslavers of Cyprus, the felicity of such a privilege. After all, as J Lo states, she judges “people on their smell, not their looks.” And believe me, J Lo knows her scent. After all, the scents she has released on the market include “Glow by J. Lo, ” “Miami Glow by J.Lo,” “Love at First Glow by J.Lo,” “Sunkissed Glow,” and “My Glow.” This being so, there is no reason to doubt that J Lo is the know and that vis a vis the illegal regime in Cyprus, she smells enough rats to keep her away.
It is wishful thinking to posit that music speaks an international language that transcends other worldly considerations such as politics and conflict. Not only do songs convey cultural and other messages but they can also be used and twisted for this purpose, much like Hitler used the presence of athletes at the 1936 Berlin Olympics in order to legitimise his regime. Granted Jennifer Lopez does not need ill-gotten funds from the pillagers of Cyprus. Yet her stance reinforces for us all that once in a while, there do exist people who are willing, for what ever reason, to abjure gain and take a principled stand.
Tomorrow, when I march, as I always do, with the ever diminishing crowd, to the steps of Parliament House, in order to protest the occupation of Cyprus, I will do so, adding along to the well-worn chant of “Justice for Cyprus,” “Justice from J. Lo” as well. And I will carry her effigy draped in the Cypriot flag, curves measures to the millimetre. For as the great goddess herself pronounces: “It is a shame to call someone a diva just because she works harder than anyone else.” Let’s get her here at the Justice for Cyprus Rally next year.

First published in NKEE on Saturday, 17 July 2010