No Walls: No courage = No Victory

RE:  Richard  Armitage, British Actor @RCArmitage

Dear Richard,

It is of course your absolute right to choose what to write and what to delete on your timeline and I would always respect your choices and freedom of speech or lack of it, just as I hope others respect mine. I feel compelled however to express my deepest sadness to learn this morning that you have also deleted the very first tweet you sent to Mr Trump with the images of the Berlin wall and the #nowalls tag.

When I ponder on the Annals of History, I always end up with the same reflection: How many awful trends, atrocities and human suffering could have been avoided if only more people had been courageous enough to make their voices heard in the face of evil, greed and pride? I often imagine myself living in those episodes of history and try to honestly gage what I would have done in those situations; what I would do now, if a similar situation arose. This is a mental exercise I do often to pluck up the courage to speak up when I know it matters; when I know it counts. It is scary and it comes at a price, but I am not here to win a popularity contest. Life is too precious, too exquisite to simply settle for that. I guess, I do what I’d call a “John Proctor” drill. God knows this world is becoming an increasingly hostile place and the time may well come again for all of us to make such impossible choices.

I feel we are very much on the onset of such a situation, but as in previous chapters of history, for so many of us our attention is focused on all the wrong things, the trivial things, things of no real consequence to the wellness of humanity and this world in general. So many of us have become complacent and voyeurs in others’ lives whose reality is so much worse than our own and yet, we often dismiss it as not our problem. It is their life it affects after all, not ours.

The whole world is watching, because the whole world is looking for answers, the right answers. In a world where social media has such predominance and worldwide reception, it seems to me it is the optimum platform to make some waves which in turn create bigger waves that ultimately can pulverise some of these issues threatening the very delicate balance upon which our world stands today.

I was so elated when I saw you tweeted that hashtag to Mr Trump. It gave me hope that things can change; that there are those like yourself who act on their sense of responsibility to the wellness of those beyond ourselves, responsibility to stand up and be counted as another voice who is prepared to risk everything for a reality so much bigger than our own, and yet so intrinsic to our own. It blew me away to learn that someone of your popularity and following would have the courage and character to stand up to Mr Trump and speak up. After all, when I do so, I am not really risking all that much, or at least not yet, but for someone like you, there is much more at stake. The ripple that your wave will create is multiplied by the thousands, whilst mine may initially have some impact but soon dies away.

There are so many youngsters and adults even who wait by your side every single day, virtually anyway, to hear what you have to say or not say. So many completely at a loss as to what to make of what they see in the news and in their towns, on their doorstep. So many seeking direction from voices like yours, voices which belong to individuals that are already placed in a strategic spot to be able to change the course of events, to influence through their gifting, their work, their mere presence, the very fabric of history.

Perhaps I am mistaken and the ripples that your tweet to Mr Trump created are not as powerful as I believe them to have been, but I am certain that the effect of you taking that tweet down will be monumental. I fear that it will take the wind out of the sails of those who are inspired by and aspire to emulate the behaviour of the people they see as role models, exemplary, trust-worthy. Not to mention that Mr Trump’s following and anyone who is watching will regard it as a retreat. Another battle won. Let’s go on our merry way to win the whole war.

I do not sit here in judgement. How could I? I know nothing about your circumstances besides what we read in the media and what you put on twitter. You obviously have your reasons for your change of heart. I am no one to judge you one way or the other. As I said at the beginning, it is your absolute right to do as you will. I simply wanted to share my sadness this morning as one of the thousands of people who are inspired by your character, integrity and moral and social conscience, that you have retraced your steps on what I felt in my heart to be a gigantic leap of courage and extraordinary behaviour in this current climate of self-exultation, self-absorption and self-glorification, qualities which Mr Trump is the true champion of.

With my love always,

Mercedes Underwood

 

NOT ALL THOSE WHO WANDER ARE LOST

“Let’s not censor too much, and yes we must speak our minds and the truth; but we must also ‘watch the destination of our words’ and understand the ‘fuel propelling it’. It could be anger, it could be hatred. Sometimes it’s provocation, sarcasm, humor. Sometimes it’s just to be contrary to what everyone else is saying. Just stop and think before you hit ‘send’.”

Extract from Richard Armitage’s blogpost which you can read fully here https://www.cybersmile.org/blog/richard-armitage-hobbit-human-condition-social-media

 Dear Richard,

At the bottom of the piece published yesterday on the Cybersmile Foundation blog we were kindly invited to give feedback. If you mean what you say, which I believe you do, and you are truly up for bringing “debating society” back to schools, I assume you will also be open to and welcome this feedback as a means of extending the conversation that you have started within this online “community”. You are right, it is impossible to know how one’s words will be received when we don’t have the addressee face to face, but it is also true that by the same token, we must not be too harsh in judging the motives of those who speak online against us or the people and things we care for. I always say that none of us are the sum of our tweets, and we MUST take the time to peel off the layers of people’s souls, before passing sentence and assuming it is only ill intent that fuels their “negativity”. There is a fine line between that and advocating censorship so that we protect ourselves from anything that challenges our own views.

Like you, I spend hours, days, editing what I initially write, and as a passionate lover of languages and words, I am fully aware of the repercussions words can have, but in a society where high profile men and women have such platforms, influence and effect on collectives and societies, I refuse to assume that the majority of people who are controversial, critical or in some people’s eyes negative, call it what you will, do it with the sole purpose of being contrary to what everyone else is saying.

“Not all those who wander (from the flock, the herd, the masses) are lost”. How very wise and inspired those words were. Often those who wander, wander because they are able to see what others can’t or won’t; what others conveniently choose to ignore, because it is in their interest to do so, because it is safer to stay in the confined safety of the pen than to venture out, or because conforming to what the majority are saying will get them where they want to go or simply because it is not in their nature to rock the boat as they like to enjoy a trouble free, peaceful life (what an impossible contradiction). Departing from the trodden path takes great courage and it is one of the most costly things a person can do in life. Costly because they will lose everything and people whom they hold most dear in the process, but also a worthy crusade because they will gain the elusive peace and incomparable joy that comes with knowing that you have been true to yourself, to what drives you and what you believe in. It is a tough gamble, but when done for the right reasons, it sure pays dividends to risk it all on that one hunch.

History has taught us, or perhaps not all of us, that when we ignore those who wander; those who are contrary to what the majority are saying, it is often to our own peril and at an unforgiveable cost. The way I look at those who wander, who are often contrary, is not because they are trying to draw attention to themselves, which a few are, but because in being contrary they are raising the alarm, spreading awareness of those symptoms in people, relationships, communities, social tendencies which if ignored, can develop into a full blown condition which often brings the most intense of suffering, humiliation, and devastation.

I consider myself one of those people who is “contrary”, but not because I seek to draw attention to myself, so not who I am, but because the things I speak about matter to me at times more than life itself. I can’t help it. It is the way I’m wired and boy do I feel wired at times? I feel this power, electricity within to say the things I do, because I believe there is a valid discussion to be had about them, because to feel those things in my heart and not bring them to the table would be to deny who I am and the ability to change those things which I can. I have been on twitter and WordPress for years, and to this day I only have a handful of followers because I have raffled a few feathers; I have refused to buckle under pressure and swim down-stream because everything in me was shouting out “Change course, take a step back and look at what is ahead where the majority are heading.” Nevertheless, the few who are kind and brave enough to stick around and read what I have to say, know they are getting someone who will not be tossed by the waves or the direction of the wind. I’d rather fight alone for my convictions than be in the company of thousands who repeatedly change their true colours like Autumn leaves.

I absolutely love and respect your insights and it pains me that such a wonderful human being as yourself has suffered so at the hands of bullies. I love how you have opened up this forum where we can express, discuss and challenge our own opinions but also learn to  accept that when others’ opinions differ from our own, it doesn’t necessarily mean we are to see them as the enemy or someone we need to knock down with our nasty, rude words and witch-hunts until they speak no more.

I applaud you for that. It takes courage to make a stand and try to be a light in all this darkness so many are encountering in social media, and no doubt putting yourself in this spot will cost you, but I think what you will gain will be so much more valuable than what you lose.

Take care my friend and keep up the good work.

Mercedes Underwood X

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FEEDING ON THE VERY EVILS WE CLAIM TO HATE IS LIKE TRYING TO CURE A CANCER WHILST WE GO ON SMOKING – Part 3

You have probably guessed by now that my two previous posts were referring to Richard Armitage’s recent choice of role in the third Season of the TV Series  Hannibal directed by Bryan Fuller, which is, it seems, extremely popular in the United States. Please believe me when I say that I have never before opposed something without actually having experienced it first, apart from the obvious pits such as drugs, binge drinking, promiscuity to name but a few. It is with great reluctance and much apprehension that I embark on this seemingly unjustified rant, as I have nothing but sheer admiration for Richard Armitage the actor but more so the person, but try as I may, I cannot bring myself to watch anything related to this series, beyond trailers, short YouTube videos of the two previous seasons, scenes from the film Red Dragon, or to read sections of the book it is based on by the same title written by Thomas Harris.

Let me put my reluctance into context. When I first started researching on this, the first thing that came up was a video which described Hannibal, the TV series,  as “Disturbingly Delicious”: disturbing referring to the stark, vivid,  shocking imagery related to the crimes committed by some of the characters, and delicious because there is this kind of generally accepted vibe going on in social media amongst many supporters of this series, including its producers, that murderers who torture, mutilate & eat their victims, is  fair game as the subject of laughter and banter. If you don’t believe me or think  I exaggerate, look no further than on #Hannibal, the twitter feed of the program, or google reviews such as this one which says, I quote,  “See, the trick is to hide all your gore and carnage within a pristine baroque palate of gorgeousness. And then make people want to vomit.”

http://uk.ign.com/articles/2014/06/05/hannibal-8-12-extremely-disturbing-moments

Personally, I think that although the Horror Genre is not for me, it is valid and an art form in its own right, and I appreciate that some enjoy it as a way of escapism; can’t quite bring myself to describe it as entertainment. Maybe if as a society we begin to ask ourselves the tough questions such as why do we live in a world where people get such a kick out of watching the most violent of murders and even cannibalism, we will begin to be able to tackle the problem of violence, suicide and even terrorism.

Nevertheless, with each new Horror program that is produced, the boundaries of what is acceptable as an art form seem to be pushed further and further with a complete disregard for the effect some of these programs and the hype they create may have on those watching who are mentally unstable, incapable of discernment, the young and easily impressionable, etc. We all put our hands to our head when we watch the news of yet again another savage murder, killing spree at the hands of a person/persons who on the outside seemed like a “normal” balanced individual. I am by no means blaming these type of programs for a murderer’s actions, clearly, but many agree on the effect that violent graphics and behaviour in video games have on young and/or vulnerable individuals, so how is a TV program centered on such horrific violence any different?; why is it exempt of any responsibility? It is no good hiding behind the argument of the program being certified 18. We all know many youngsters and even parents do not pay any attention to these restrictions or guidelines, so let’s not pass on the bucket of responsibility. We all must do our bit, surely! What hope is there for aiming to become a balanced and healthy society, if we all happily shift the blame on someone, something else; if we turn a blind eye on what is so obviously detrimental to a healthy society? The blind leading the blind springs to mind (no pun intended with regards to the relationship between the characters of Francis Dolarhyde and Riba, the blind woman, though now that I mention it….maybe topic for another blogpost though highly unlikely)

There has been much talk recently in the news about the responsibility of sports men and women who many children, teenagers and even adults see as role models. Whether we like it or not, we live in a world where individuals are becoming increasingly isolated as we spend a large amount of our time on social media, on the internet, or simply away from other people. The sense of unity, support and oneness which make for healthy, strong communities is ebbing away, and so as people, we are becoming isolated islands in a big, dark scary ocean instead of many cities or states which are quite diverse but joined together under one continent or country. We are therefore plodding along alone and often frightened, because we no longer have that support network or sense of being anchored safely by our emotional and physical bond to others. As a result, the most vulnerable, the most naïve can’t help but look up to the so-called “role models” in our society and be guided by their actions, attitudes and behaviour. If the pillars of our society, the movers & the shakers, and particularly those who regulate and are at the height of the entertainment industry have no scruples in putting together or allowing a program which homes in on evil of demonic proportions, can we trust our youngsters, the mentally ill, the mentally vulnerable to apply censorship filters to something which potentially may trigger violent behaviour in them? I don’t think so. Violence breeds violence. I think most of us can agree on that.

But if that wasn’t enough deterrent for responsible talented adults from jumping on the ever increasingly popular and widely accepted money-making wagon of Horror movies and Horror TV series, let’s then focus on the issue of making violence appear sexy or appealing. I cannot begin to tell you the number of tweets I have recently read of people who admit to actually “falling in love”, admiring and even feeling sorry for some of the characters, mainly the psychopaths at whose hands the most violent and horrific of acts take place. Many speak of these characters with utter admiration based on how highly intelligent, charismatic and even endearing some of them are. For the morally discerning and mentally balanced person it is easy to draw the line between fiction and reality, to tell the innocent from the guilty and  the victim from the psychopath, but what happens when a person who is not mentally healthy or who is not mature enough finds it impossible to draw a clear line between these polarized principles which are so obvious to the rest of us? With such charismatic and highly intelligent characters who are able to draw in, during the Hannibal series, even those who are supposedly in authority and responsible for bringing the killers to justice, how can we expect a vulnerable impressionable individual to not elevate these characters to role model status even to deity status? It happens. We often witness on the news loners/bullish gangs who go on a rampage in the name of this, that or the other, completely losing perspective on the boundaries of what is right and what is wrong, of the very blurry line that sometimes  lies between the circumstances that define someone as the victim or the perpetrator.

Richard’s recent casting together with the recent introduction to the upcoming 3rd season of actor Zach Quinto has launched an avalanche of excitement round the Twittersphere centered along the fact that since these two actors are so “hot” and “sexy”, Hannibal must now make for compulsory wiewing. Richard Armitage himself said during an old interview about the issue of violence in “The Hobbit” films: “Peter Jackson always had this debate with his design team and the actors that you can’t undersell violence. It needs to be as shocking and violent as it really is, but you can’t glorify it or make it look sexy or appealing”.

I am pretty certain Richard is going to find it absolutely impossible to not play to the millions of fans’ expectations who are eagerly waiting to see a “sexy” Francis Dolarhyde do his thing. The eroticism in the #Hannibal series and the film ” Red Dragon” where Ralph Fiennes played the character of Francis Dolarhyde is undeniable and no doubt part of its wide appeal. I have nothing against that. It clearly has its place when done carefully, tastefully and responsibly, but when you mix eroticism with extreme violence and the characters playing both are ranking in the top places of magazine’s sexiest men lists, we have a serious problem. So much for not making violence look sexy or appealing. I know this would never be Richard’s intention in accepting that part, far from it, but how can it be helped? When you read fan’s tweets, this is exactly what is pulling in most of the viewers who are expectantly waiting for the 3rd Hannibal Season to be aired. I just think Richard is far superior, classy and better than all that. But I am just a fan, right? So who am I to have my say? Well, seeing as I have already had a fair share of abuse, aggression and disrespect on my twitter account from Hannibal fans (which ironically only serves to confirm and validate the points I share here), I feel it is necessary at this point to point out the obvious: THIS IS MY OWN PERSONAL OPINION WHICH I TRUST I AM ENTITLED TO, AS I BELIEVE I STILL LIVE IN A DEMOCRATIC SOCIETY WHETHER FREEDOM OF SPEECH IS HIGHLY REVERED AND RESPECTED (#JeSuisCharlie,  for those who have already forgotten). At no point have I been rude or disrespectful to the person of Richard Armitage, whom by the way I admire and care for greatly. I hope that this transpires from my two previous posts on this subject.

I leave you now with some extracts from the very many reviews I have read on the Hannibal Series. You can make up your own mind, just as I have! In an ideal world, I would have preferred to reserve my judgement until the series is broadcast and I get to see for myself whether I am talking nonsense or not, but I just cannot bring myself to watch it, though I have really tried. Whatever the outcome, there are two things I already know for sure: the first one is that Richard will give his absolute best and all in that role and will do it for artistic purposes and as a personal and professional challenge. The second thing is that his character will be oozing sex appeal as will others’, and inevitably sex-appeal and violence will be married together by the least discerning as a valid and appealing trait/behaviour which one can emulate and even look up to. The rest is history, and as it is often the case, we will look back at history and learn the lessons we couldn’t learn whilst they were staring us right in the face.

The last thing television needs is more serial killer dramas. (emphasis is mine) But when they’re this well made, this smart and creative and unexpectedly funny? Then, yes, more “Hannibal,” please.” More from http://www.hitfix.com/whats-alan-watching/review-nbcs-hannibal-serves-up-delicious-second-season-course

“In the end, this show is not about cops and killers or even reality and dreams. It’s about how art affects the mind and body. It explicitly likens its subsidiary serial killers to striving artists (emphasis is mine) struggling to perfect their style and be noticed by the public and appreciated by critics (the FBI). The killers work in mixed media: wood, steel, soil, plants, flesh, bones, teeth. When Will describes an especially elaborate murder scene as “a canvas made of bodies,” in which “each body is a brush stroke,” he’s describing Hannibal itself.” Read more from http://www.vulture.com/2014/02/tv-review-hannibal-season-2.html

“Even with all the vomit-inducing states of death it presents, the most unappetizing part of “Hannibal” is its lack of humor. Viewers need a break from all that darkness, and there’s very little to laugh at except the gastronomic episode titles, which include “Aperitif” and “Amuse-Bouche.” In seriously exploring what drives people to kill, “Hannibal” serves up a meal too heavy to enjoy each week.” http://articles.redeyechicago.com/2013-04-03/entertainment/38255785_1_hannibal-lecter-graham-bryan-fuller