Friday, 29 April 2011

Musing over the future

This morning's drive to work spawned an idea in my mind about the future of this blog. But like all good things, it will have to be synthesised repeatedly until it's properly Hegelian.

Watch this space.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Life After Easter

Today's episode of Things I Think About And Find Someone Else Writing About is all about
Life After Easter over at Jesus Radicals. Take this quote, for instance.

If Jesus came to Earth only to die for our sins and to be resurrected to conquer death, He never had to utter a single word; He never had to call a single disciple; He never had to perform a single miracle. None of the actions of His life had any impact on His death and resurrection. We cannot, as the unfortunate Apostles’ Creed, brush off the life of Christ by only remembering that “He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried” and so on. We must ask ourselves, and each other, what happened between the birth and the suffering? And what does that mean for us?

Herein lies my single great objection to the relentless, single-minded pursuit of "Souls! Souls! SOULS!" that permeates much of contemporary protestantism and is little more than a hyper-distillation of selected passages from Romans. It's a reminder that Jesus commanded his disciples to "make disciples" and not "mark notches." It's also a reminder that disciples are more than just people with a stamp in the divine passport. Disciples are required to obey their master, and he gave just one command; one simple, emancipatory, command.

Love one another.

The conversion to disciple does not entail endless and effortless drifting through a cloudy afterlife, but requires immediate and sustained action on the part of the new disciple. Life after Easter is work, to bring about the kingdom of God through mass obedience to the command to love, and all that this entails. Life after Easter is profoundly material.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Sucker Punch as Apocalyptic

I'm convinced that Sucker Punch (yes, the movie) can be read as apocalyptic. On the surface it's easy to see it as a video game, or source material for costuming, or as a trivial action-fest. But it has all the features of apocalyptic literature.

From memory, my preferred definition of apocalyptic is a text written to an oppressed people, from the point of view of a single mediator who collapses the dualism of space and/or time. The text is meant to be encouraging (inspiring?) for the oppressed people, telling them that ultimately they'll have victory.

And if you've seen Sucker Punch, this ought to pop out of the screen at you. The girls in the institution are oppressed by the orderlies (including the crucifixion of lobotomy), making them an ideal community as audience. The mediator is Baby Doll. She's the only one who sees both sides of the dualism (even the multiple layers of the heavenly aspect of the dualism). Through her the heavens are revealed, but they are only directly visible to her. All the action sequences that take the place of the dance scenes are those heavenly revelations. They feature dragons, beasts, fires, wars, earthquakes and other symbols common in apocalyptic literature. At the end of it all, there is a victory (no actual spoilers here), complete with an epilogue of encouragement and inspiration to the fellow characters, and to the cinema audience.

None of this makes the film any better or worse as a film, but it gives a new way of reading the film. Contrary to Christian apocalyptic, in which the "weapons" for Christians are acts of faithfulness and love, in Sucker Punch the weapons are entirely sexual. As Baby Doll dances, she immerses herself into the heavenly world of symbols, but is actually using sexual titillation to fight back against the men who oppress her, manipulating them. On the other side, also, the oppressors use sex as weapons, but sexual violence of forced prostitution. If anything, the message of the film is for the girls who are forced into sex slavery to use their sexuality against their oppressors in order to achieve freedom. Outside the film, this isn't the best way to overcome oppression, but it's within the frame of reference of the film itself.

So Sucker Punch is apocalyptic, quite overtly. I'd love to have the time to analyse it more thoroughly. The symbols of dragons, Nazi clockwork zombies, warrior robots and so on are interesting choices for the men in power (the mayor, the orderlies, the father, etc.). And so is the choice of the old man as angelic messenger who lays out the missions and dispenses wisdom. If you go to see it, watch it as apocalyptic.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Politics is about looking seriously at maps

Campbell Newman is quitting the Lord Mayoralship of Brisbane to run as a candidate for the Premiership of Queensland. Regardless of the ship he's spinning, I quite like the importance his spin doctors have placed on maps, and the pointing-at thereof.

LNP parliamentary leader Jeff Seeney (left) says he is keeping the seat warm for leader-in-waiting Campbell Newman (right).The ABC reports today about the move, along with a great picture of him and Jeff Seeney pointing at a map. It's very commanding, as though the leader is receiving advice from a trusted lieutenant. And yet, it's casual, over a coffee (branding included at no extra charge).

Julia Gillard meets with former prime minister Kevin Rudd in Brisbane today.
Pointing at maps is important. It shows strategy and team work all in the same image. After all, we need to remember how well it worked for Julia and Kevin.

I think the problem for Julia and Kevin is the lack of coffee cups. That glass of water just doesn't convey friendliness at all.

Today's lesson in politics is therefore: give a great impression about team work and leadership by getting together in public with a colleague and pointing at maps. Having coffee on the table, consumed or not, is better than water.