Category: Culture

Modernising The ‘Seven Deadly Sins’ – » The Australian Independent Media Network

Not Such a Medieval List: Seven ‘Deadly Sins’ in The ‘Modern World’

I referenced some examples above, but it is clear that, despite the church losing its power, the concept of the Seven ‘Deadly Sins’ is by no means dead. These actions, and the emotions behind them, are still taboos enforced by the modern priesthood of corporations, Tories and the media. Not all of the originals are still used: some refinement was necessary. But the concept of keeping the peasants in line remains on glaring display. We cannot tax super profits, reform negative gearing, or challenge the status quo in any way without being accused of one of the Seven. So little has changed in the last thousand years.

Source: Modernising The ‘Seven Deadly Sins’ – » The Australian Independent Media Network

‘War on woke’ pits corporate elites against conservative politicians

Culture war warriors don’t need to look at data. Their problem they aren’t just ‘alternative facts’

It was a remarkable day in politics when assistant attorney general Amanda Stoker, personally intervened to have ‘anti-racism’ removed from an Australian Human Rights Commission tender. She worried the term was associated with Critical Race Theory. Stoker had no beef with the idea that racism is something Australians should be against. So why oppose a theory that seeks to understand and address racism at a systemic level? The problem appeared to be that this theory is beholden to the bogeyman of the ‘woke revolution’. This incident reflects a growing political engagement in a ‘war on woke’ in Australia. The call to arms is issued from the bastions of right-wing conservatism. Sky News leads the way in claiming that every progressive cause, from climate action to anti-racism to feminism, signals a capitulation to woke ‘lefty lunacy’. Scott Morrison was not far behind when he attacked identity politics. All of this malarkey about gender, race and sexuality undermines morality, freedom and the Australian way, he proselytized.

Source: ‘War on woke’ pits corporate elites against conservative politicians

From Trump to Boris Johnson: how the wealthy tell us what ‘real folk’ want | Gary Younge | Opinion | The Guardian

ben jennings illustration

Rightwing populists weaponise culture as a way to protect privilege

Finally, all too often the rightwing cheerleaders for these “ordinary folk” are more embedded in the elites than those they attack can ever be. When George W Bush, who is teetotal, is the man you’d most like to have a drink with, an Old Etonian Bullingdon boy like Boris Johnson is able to get away with posing as a man of the people, and Trump can get the modern equivalent of $140m from his dad and still claim he is a self-made man, something is seriously wrong.

Or as George Clooney put it about Trump: “I grew up in Kentucky. I sold insurance door to door. I sold ladies’ shoes. I worked at an all-night liquor store. I would buy suits that were too big and too long and cut the bottom of the pants off to make ties so I’d have a tie to go on job interviews. The idea that I’m somehow the ‘Hollywood elite’ and this guy who takes a shit in a gold toilet is somehow the man of the people is laughable.”

via From Trump to Boris Johnson: how the wealthy tell us what ‘real folk’ want | Gary Younge | Opinion | The Guardian

Risorgimento! – » The Australian Independent Media Network

And just as the new King replaced that deceased King, so too must we replace the old dead Australian culture with a new one … just as a language will absorb sounds and words from another tongue and “convert” them into common words of the dominant language, so too must we allow our culture to do the change.

via Risorgimento! – » The Australian Independent Media Network

How the Opera House debacle has highlighted misogyny and gambling addiction in Australian culture

What Jones means is, he is not sorry for having berated a woman in power on air, he is only sorry about the impact it had on some people. He admits he was tough regarding the NSW Racing’s apparent right to advertise on the Sydney Opera House because it was important to him. But why is this issue so inflammatory? Advertising gambling of all things on the Opera House is surely not as important as other issues like human rights. So the reason why Jones felt so strongly about it doesn’t add up. Or at least the level of outrage expressed by him surely doesn’t match the issue at hand.

When Julia Gillard’s father died, he suggested that he had “died of shame” and then later apologised (like he did with Herron). Jones will keep bullying and harassing women in power because there is no consequence to his behaviour. Jones keeps his job.

Don Burke kept his job. Kyle Sandilands kept his job after asking Erin Molan (Footy Show presenter) whether she had breast surgery and suggested that no one is listening to her segment. Australia tolerates misogyny as long as these men are still in jobs. It is embedded in our culture. The second cultural cringe is our appetite for gambling, especially in NSW.

via How the Opera House debacle has highlighted misogyny and gambling addiction in Australian culture

The Alan Jones-Opera House row proves Sydney is in thrall to the gambling industry | Tim Costello | Opinion | The Guardian

The sails of the Sydney Opera House will be lit up to promote a horse race under Racing NSW submission to the Opera House.

The Jones performance shocked many for its sheer brutality but it should not come as any surprise. He has long been a promoter of the gambling industry and also has commercial interests in racing.

No jurisdiction anywhere in the world inflicts as much gambling harm and losses on its community as New South Wales and the Opera House advertising stoush just highlights how the industry uses its power and connections to stand over government and get whatever it wants, irrespective of the harm caused.

via The Alan Jones-Opera House row proves Sydney is in thrall to the gambling industry | Tim Costello | Opinion | The Guardian

The Culture of Hate

protesters, many dressed in fatigues and wearing shirts that identified them with groups such as Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, Bikers for Trump, the Alt Knights, and a militia group called American Patriot the III%, gathered in a gravel parking lot in Deposit, New York. They had come for the “Second Annual Ride for Homeland Security.” Pickup trucks, cars, and motorcycles were adorned with American flags. Deposit, a depressed rural community in upstate New York with a population of 1,577, is located at the confluence of the Oguaga Creek and the West Branch of the Delaware River near the border with Pennsylvania.

The protesters, several driving all night, planned to ride past a small community called Islamberg, an enclave of two hundred mostly black Muslims in nearby Hanover, with seventy acres of farmland and woods. The community, with its modest homes of wood and cinder blocks along dirt roads, is a punching bag for right‐wing conspiracy theorists.

via The Culture of Hate

Junot Diaz and the Rot That is Bourgeois Culture

Personally, I find the status-consciousness of our culture repellent. It saturates the society, soaking every institution and even the public spaces between institutions, as in the value-judgments we constantly make (even half-consciously) about others’ clothing or looks or confidence. In a sense, status-consciousness fuels our world, determining our behavior through its implicit presence in social and institutional norms. (For if we act contrary to norms, we’ll have a lower status.) This is to say that anti-democracy fuels our world, for the principle of respecting status/authority/power is opposed to that of respecting the equality and potential rationality of all people. Moreover, as I just noted, the people we end up admiring are usually precisely those who don’tdeserve to be admired, given the qualities it takes to succeed in a capitalist world. To quote the historian Albert Prago, “in an amoral society, the amoral man is best qualified to succeed.”

via Junot Diaz and the Rot That is Bourgeois Culture

Who decides which stories are told? It’s the men in charge – Analysis & Opinion – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Back of woman's head in a lit up dressing room.

Cultural leadership not about replicating the past

But cultural leadership is not just replicating the past — it is about trying to imagine and create something new.

And it’s the scale of what we are missing as a consequence that is so breathtaking.

Yes, it’s the talent, experience, sensibilities and the insights of half the population. It’s also the creation of characters and narratives that fail to resonate with half the audience.

And above all, it’s the chance to turn that map of our identity into something where we can all see something of ourselves, to capture more of the texture and variety of who we are as a people, and how that is changing and being enhanced constantly.

via Who decides which stories are told? It’s the men in charge – Analysis & Opinion – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

‘Change is coming’: Sampa the Great wins the Australian Music Prize


The Birds and the BEE9 has an openness to the future. It’s not turn-up music, it goes super deep. We’ll still be playing this 50 years in the future, you and your kids will be, too.”

via ‘Change is coming’: Sampa the Great wins the Australian Music Prize

Changing the whitewash channel on Australian television – Analysis & Opinion – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

People of non-Anglo backgrounds are vastly underrepresented in Australian TV, a new study shows.

Source: Changing the whitewash channel on Australian television – Analysis & Opinion – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Festivals of India

1. Kill or get killed – Bani Festival, Andhra Pradesh

Celebrations are a way of human life. But some are so strange, it questions the very definition of the concept. The Bani Festival celebrated at the Devaragattu Temple in the Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh illustrates the point. Every Dusshera, hundreds of lathi-wielding devotees from Andhra and Karnataka gather at this temple to hit each each other on the heads at midnight! Drenched in blood, these men go on with the celebration till the beak of dawn, to commemorate the killing of a demon by Mala-Malleshwara (Shiva). According to the temple priest, this festival has been celebrated for over a 100 years, and earlier axes and spears were used instead of lathis! This year, 56 people were injured during Bani. Medical attendants and policemen are deployed during this festival but they mostly remain spectators, in the face of the the extreme frenzy.


2. Festival of the Snake – Nag Panchami

India shares a very old bond with snakes. These frightening beings have played a prominent role throughout Indian mythology and folklore.  India is known to many still, as the Land Of Snake CharmersTill date, the fifth day of the lunar month of Shravan  is celebrated as Nag Panchami across India and Nepal. Live Cobras, without their venomous fangs removed, are worshipped! Priests sprinklehaldi-kumkum and flower petals on their raised hoods. Devotees feed them milk and even rats. It is popularly believed that snakes do not bite on Nag Panchami.


3. Play of the Tiger – Puli Kali, Kerala

Puli Kali, celebrated mainly in Thrissur dictrict of Kerala is one colourful spectacle bursting with energy. Performed by trained artists, Puli Kali is celebrated on the fourth day of Onam. Painted in bright yellow, red and black, performers take to the street, dancing to traditional folk beats. Every year, thousands of people gather to watch this unbelievable sight.


4. Pushkar Camel Fair – Pushkar, Rajasthan

Held every November at the time of the Kartik Purnima full moon, the Pushkar Camel Fair is a particularly spectacular sight to behold. For five days, over 50,000 camels are shaved, dressed up, paraded, entered into beauty contests and races, and traded. Add to that an array of musicians, dancers, acrobats, magicians and snake charmers to entertain the crowd!


5. Fire-Walking – Theemithi, Tamil Nadu

Fact, they say, is stranger than fiction. The ritual of walking on fire proves it. Originating in Tamil Nadu, the practice of Theemithi has spread to Sri Lanka, Singapore and South Africa as well. Theemithi is part of a larger ceremony stretching over a two-and-a-half month period where parts of the Mahabharata is re-enacted, totalling up to 18 distinguishable rites. The festival of Theemithi is a celebration of Draupadi, wife of the Pandavas. After the Battle of Kurukshetra, Draupadi walked across a bed of fire and emerged as fresh as a flower. Theemithi is a re-enactment of the same, and is believed to grant a wish or blessing by the goddess.


6. Tossing infants from the roof for good luck – Maharashtra and Karnataka

At times, faith takes over our reasoning and makes us do things without ever questioning them. The bizarre practice of baby tossing has been practised in India for years by both, Hindus and Muslims. At Baba Umer Dargah near Sholapur, Maharashtra, babies are dropped from a height of 50 feet, and caught in a sheet held by waiting men. A similar custom is observed at the Sri Santeswar temple near Indi, in the state of Karnataka. This ritual has been followed for over 700 years and is believed to bring prosperity to the family. The National Commission For Protection Of Child Rights is investigating these cases. According to organizers, no injuries have been reported so far.


7. Hooking the flesh and piercing the body: Thaipoosam, Tamil Nadu

Faith is a precious ray of light that pulls us out of our inner darkness. The same faith, at times, takes on frightening proportions. Celebrated in Tamil Nadu and parts of southern India during the Tamil month of Thai, Thaipoosam is a festival that honours Lord Murugan (or Kartikeya, the son of Shiva and Parvati) receiving a lance to destroy the evil army of Tarakasura. Following a 48 day fast, many devotees pierce their bodies with hooks, skewers and lances called vel. Some even try pulling tractors or other heavy objects with the hooks in their skin; others pierce their tongue and cheek to impede speech and thereby attain full concentration on the Lord. They enter into a trance during such piercing due to the incessant drumming and chanting. The horrifying sight is definitely not for the faint of heart.


8. Facing the raging bull unarmed – Jallikattu, Tamil Nadu

If Bull-Fighting reminds you of Spanish matadors, think again. A more rustic and dangerous form of the sport has been played in India for over a century now. Jallikattu is a part of Pongal celebrations. Jallikattu bulls are raised wild and special care is taken to feed and exercise them, so they develop into sturdy beasts fit for fighting. Hundreds of men chase the bull, trying to snatch the prize from its horns. Unlike Spanish bull-fighting, the bull isn’t killed in Jallikattu. It is the matador who is left vulnerable, because he cannot carry weapons and the bulls’ horns are sharpened. In the past two decades, over 200 people have died indulging in this dangerous sport. In May 2014, the Supreme Court of India banned Jallikattu.


9. Rolling over food leftovers – Madey Snana, Karnataka

Casteism has been one of India’s oldest problems. While the society has changed and condemns such unwarranted discrimination, many still hold on to it.  The Kukke Subramania Temple has a strange centuries old tradition called Madey Snana or Spit Bath.  Those from lower castes roll on the floor over food leftovers of Brahmins on banana leaves, to rid themselves of various ailments. This practice was banned in 2010, but it had to be lifted in 2011 after protests by the Malekudiya tribe.The ritual has been categorised as a blind belief in the proposed Karnataka Prevention of Superstitious Practices Bill (2013) after progressive leaders and liberals in the state upped their ante against the controversial practice.


10. Cannibalism and Necromancy – The Aghori way of life, Banaras

The formidable Aghori Sadhus of Banaras are easily recognisable in their long matted hair and bodies smeared in ash. Their way of connecting to God is, very subtly put, off-beat. These monistic saints believe in renouncing the world by finding ‘purity in the filthiest.’ This leads them to eat human remains after cremation and have intercourse with corpses. They are believed to be posses tantrik powers of healing. 


11. Animal Weddings – Appeasing the Rain God

Just as they had shown in Lagaan, rains are a big deal in India. A lot of lives depend on it. No wonder no stone is left unturned to please the rain god into sending his showers of blessings. Frog weddings have been reported in villages across Assam and Maharashtra, while in Karnataka, donkeys are married. Some places have even reported dog weddings. These weddings are a big celebration where all Hindu marriage rituals are observed and the marriage is conducted by a priest.


12. Cow Trampling Ritual – Govardhan Puja, Madhya Pradesh

Cows are sacred to the Hindus. This devotion is taken to a whole new level at Bhiwdawad village, in Maharashtra. The Govardhan festival is celebrated on the occasion of Enadakshi, a day after Diwali. Villagers decorate their cattle with flowers, colours and henna, and lay down on the ground letting allowing cows to trample over them! This ritual takes place after a five day fast. The whole village fathers to witness this spectacle, which they believe will move the gods into answering their prayers.


13. Hanging by hooks – Garudan Thookam, Kerala

This ritual art form performed in Kerala’s Kali temples is as fascinating as it as shocking. Dancers dress up as Garuda, the vehicle of Lord Vishnu who quenched the goddess Kali’s thirst with blood after slaying Darika the demon. After the dance performance, they  hang like eagles (Garudan Thookam) from a shaft, by hooking the flesh on the backs! These hanging ‘Garudas‘ are taken around the city in a colourful procession. This ritual is carried out on Makara Bharani Day and Kumbha Bharani Day.


14. Plucking hair out by the hand – Kesh Lochan of Jain saints

Most religions consider Moksha or redemption as the ultimate end of all human endeavours. Ignorance, according to Jains and Buddhists is what stands in the way. In many texts, hair is often read as a metaphor for human illusion, attachment and vanity. Upon their initiation, Jain monks and nuns renounce their worldly attachments by painfully pulling out each strand of hair from their heads. The wounds are then covered in dried cow dung ash to heal.


15. Fun by deception – Dhinga Gavar, Jodhpur

At first, the Dhinga Gavar festival may strike you as strange. But then you’ll realize how much fun it might actually be. A part of the Rajasthani Gangaur festival, Dhinga Gavar is only celebrated in Jodhpur. Shiva’s consort, Parvati (Gangaur), had once playfully teased him  by dressing up as a tribal woman. Gavar is considered to be the playful side of Gangaur. After sunset, statues of Dhinga Gavar are put up at 11 locations, all decorated with up to 30 kgs of gold! And that isn’t all. Offerings of cannabis are made to the diety! Wait, there’s more. Women take out processions, dressed in all sorts of costumes – Hindu gods and goddesses, police, saints, dacoits and what not – carrying lathis to hit people with and protect the statues! It is a popular belief that any unmarried man who comes near these women and is stricken by the stick gets married soon.


16. Fighting fire with fire – Agni Keli, Mangalore

Every year in the month of April, the Festival of Kateel Durga Parameswari Temple is celebrated over 8 days. Of the many themed performances during this time, the centuries-old tradition of Agni Keli is the most intriguing. Hundreds of bare-bodied devotees hurl flaming palm fronds at each other. Spectators watch as these men attempt to set one another ablaze! Those who suffer burns are then sprayed with water of the kumkumarchana.


17. Smashing coconuts on the head – Aadi Festival, Tamil Nadu

Every year, on the 18th day of the Tamil month of Aadi, thousands of devotees flock the Mahalakshmi Temple, Mettu Mahadhanapuram, in the Karur District of Tamil Nadu, to willingly allow the priest to smash coconuts on their heads for good luck and health. As the story goes, 187 coconut shaped stones were dug out at the location of the temple. During the Raj, the Britishers wanted to build a railway track across the temple and villagers were against it. To test their devotion, the British struck a deal: if they could break these stones on their heads, the course of the railway line would be changed. The villagers succeeded and the temple was saved. The tradition has been followed till date, despite warnings by medical practitioners.


18. Immersing in barrels of water – Varuna Yajna

The rains bring forth new life. And when it turns its back on us, many turn to the Rain God. Varun is the Hindu God of water. The Varuna Yajna has been performed across Maharashtra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu to appease him into bestowing rains upon his people. The yajna is performed by temple priests immersing themselves in barrels of water and incanting Lord Varun’s name one lakh times.


19. Self-flagellation – The Mourning of Muharram

This will make you very, very uneasy. Muharram translates into ‘forbidden.’ It is the holy month of remembrance and mourning. Mourning begins on the first day of the month with a 10 day fast and culminates into The Day of Ashura (tenth day), when Shia Muslims carry out the ritual of mass self-flogging to commemorate the martyrdom of Hussein, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad. In a terrifying display of devotion, men mercilessly whip their bodies with blades attached to chains till they are are soaked in their own blood. In their state of religious trance, they claim they do not feel the pain.


20. Worshipping weapons – Ajudh/Astra Puja

It happens only in India, right? A part of the Navratra celebrations, Ajudh or Astra Puja is an occasion to pay one’s respect to all tools, machinery, gadgets, implements and especially weapons. The rituals vary but this puja is observed across India.


21. Exorcism by marriage – Human-Animal Weddings

If you’ve watched the Exorcist, you know how frightening it is to get rid of spirits that haunt you. But in India, we have a jugaad for it: marriage. In many parts of the country, girls born with a tooth, or those born with facial deformation are believed to be possessed by ghosts. Marrying an animal, typically a dog or a goat, is believed to rid one of spirits and bad omens, and at times, mangal dosh.


22. A celebration of menstruation – Ambubachi Mela, Guwahati

At the Kamakhya Temple in Guwahati, the object of reverence is the vagina of the Mother Goddess. According to legend, when Sati, the wife of Lord Shiva, jumped into the fire, unable to bear her father’s insult to her husband, Shiva went into a terrible rage and did the terrible Tandav Nritya, carrying her corpse. Parts of her body fell to the earth, forming Shakti Peeths. The Kamakhya Temple was formed where the Yoni (vagina) fell. Every year around June, the Goddess goes through her menstrual cycle. The temple remains shut for three days, and is believed to turn red. This is the time when the Ambubachi Mela is celebrated. This tantrik fertility mela attracts thousands of tantriks,aghoris and  sadhus from across the world, displaying their formidable psychic powers. The colour red – red flowers, vermillion, red cloth – stands out during the rituals. The maddening display of magic and mysticism makes for an extraordinary spectacle.


23. When the Gods dance amongst men – Theyyam, Kerala

We’ve often been told that God lies in each of us. But how many times have you seen God possess a human body? Those who have witnessed North Malabar’s Theyyam ritual worship will know how intimidating it can be. Dressed in elaborate make up and headdresses, dancers perform to drumbeats and incantations reciting  myths and legends, of the deity of the shrine. As the beats become more intense, the metaphysical combines with this realm and the dancer metamorphoses into the deity or the Theyyam.  In their ‘possessed’ state, they dance on fire, bless devotees and perform miracles. Sometimes, a cock sacrifice is made and an offering of blood is made to Theyyam. Once dancers are out of the fervent trance, they have no recollection of what transpired during the possession.



24. Wedding without a bridegroom – Puberty ceremonies

Marriage is a big deal in India. Especially if you happen to be a girl. And that’s how a girl attaining puberty becomes a social occasion celebrated with great pride and enthusiasm across many Indian states. In a  bid to announce the sexual maturity and readiness for marriage, the girl’s family dresses her up like a bride and conducts a ‘marriage’ ceremony sans the groom and vidaai. Friends and relatives are invited to bless the ‘bride’ and shower her with gifts. This ceremony also includes other rituals that last for several days, during which she is kept in a separate room, and not allowed to meet any men, including her father or brothers.