Biased against the Catholics?

I think that if there’s one thing that all those who oppose the closure of the ‘Kulo’ exhibit in the CCP prove, it is that they aren’t so much pro-art and pro-expression as they are anti-Catholic. It seems as though anything the CBCP does right now gets the ire of those who call themselves “liberal” or “pro-choice”. It’s probably because of their staunch opposition to the RH Bill. But my question is this: if Mideo Cruz had painted penises on other icons, would those same liberals be clamoring for “freedom of expression” too?

Let’s remove Catholicism from the picture for a moment. If Cruz’s artwork depicted Muhammad with a penis for a nose, would those same liberals argue that taking it down impedes upon the artist’s freedom of expression? I think Mideo Cruz is a coward for picking on what is arguably the “tamest” religion, since Christianity preaches that we turn the other cheek and love our enemies. If he really wanted to make a statement on polytheism, why not include Islam? Or is he scared of the violent tendencies by which Muslims vehemently protect their faith? But let’s veer away from religion. What if an LGBT icon was endowed with condoms and penises? What if it was painted on a blue eagle or a green archer? On Manny Pacquiao? On Jose Rizal? I’m willing to bet that we’d see people moving to the other side of the fence.

It seems as though we have to wait until we are personally offended before we come to realize that we can’t and shouldn’t live in a world where people throw shit at each other “in the name of art”. Because of people’s biases against the Catholics, they pounce on the closure of the exhibit, calling it “tyranny” and “religious bias”. Art is a powerful medium because it makes use of images, and images, as the cliche goes, are worth a thousand words. Art’s line should be drawn when it offends the sensibilities of sensitive sectors of society, regardless of whether they make up the majority or the minority (although extreme minorities are a different story). Governments can and should remain secular, but it should also be ethical and moral to an extent. Not that they tell us what’s right and what’s wrong, but that they establish certain boundaries as to where some rights begin and others end.

Artists are free to express whatever they want. If they want to hang photos of religious figures surrounded by prostitutes in their homes, then by all means, they can. Public locations, however, are a different story. Furthermore, government institutions such as the CCP should not endorse  religious indifference and intolerance, or any form of indifference and intolerance for that matter. Just as governments should not forward the beliefs and the ideals of any specific religion, so too should they refrain from attacking or offending religions.

We should all learn to grow up and stop waiting before we get offended before we take action. Society would be a better place if we all learned to stop the fight before anyone gets hurt. There’s never a good enough reason to paint a penis on an icon.

    • jayvee
    • August 12th, 2011

    Couldn’t agree with you more.

  1. I appreciate the detached manner in which you tackled specific aspects of the issue, Lance. I find that quite difficult to do when touching on religion and its significance in a serious issue as this.

    I’d like to add something:

    “Just as governments should not forward the beliefs and the ideals of any specific religion, so too should they refrain from attacking or offending religions.” …and from facilitating such attack or offense.

    • John Cortez
    • August 12th, 2011

    You made a strong point, Lance. Well explained, how I wish this can be published on a local news paper. May God continue to bless your wisdom.

    • Anita Alisaca
    • August 13th, 2011

    rejoinder lang: let’s totally get religion out of the picture. what if MC placed that penis in the Philippine flag? would they still clamor freedom of expression?

    • I was thinking of writing that down although I think there are laws that prohibit the defacement of the Philippine flag. I’m not too sure though. Thanks for the point!

    • Daryl Zamora
    • August 13th, 2011

    You can send this to mainstream publications. The Inquirer might publish this. You’re not referring to a particular work of theirs, but opinions like this are interesting. 🙂

    • Crisanto S. Diaz
    • August 15th, 2011

    You hit it. I believe MIdeo Cruz and officials (who permitted the exhibition) of CCP are anti-catholics. If Cruz did it to other religions like Islam, baka nagtatago na siya.

    • avante
    • August 21st, 2011

    If Mideo Cruz drew a penis on prophet Mohammed and Muslims rallied to take it down, yes, the liberals would still react and ask for the protection of this free speech. I don’t see how you could surmise that just because someone else did the censoring, liberals wouldn’t object. Liberals objected to the heavy media censoring during Martial Law among so many other examples. Please answer your own question on how they would.

    The question really is: If you hypothetical scenario would become true, would Muslims/ people of other religions act in the same way? And if they did, would it pressure the CCP to close the exhibit? I think not, none of these groups have the political capital and this is exactly what’s so oppressive about the Catholic hegemony. LGBT communities etc don’t have the political capital do so and that’s why their interests are always dismissed because of Church interests.

    When you actually do study about art which I suggest you do, you’ll find out that Art is more than about a lovely picture in a thousand words. If all art was about was about being agreeable enough for general consumption, then all we’d have was PG movies. Perhaps that was in the 15th century, but the movement of postmodern art has been to challenge the meaning of images that are common place today including those of religious icons. Try finding out first what “pastiche” is and you’ll finally understand how these combination of images are used as social criticism.

    The role of a cultural arts program funded by the government particularly in the Philippines is to fund good art that otherwise wouldn’t be funded. Whether it’s native indigenous art that’s ignored because of being outdated by Western methods or postmodern art that’s too new for an outdated society, it should be able to invest good local art . By “good”, I mean by postmodern art standards since it’s clearly unfair to use” “traditional” standards to evaluate something that was created to fit “modern” and not traditional standards. I am afraid that the public institution of art that you describe sounds too much like the Cultural Revolution of Communist China where the only role that art played was for social harmony as the Communist Party envisioned. What is happening now is that acceptable art now seems to fit into the social harmony that the Catholic Church envisions.

    The art that you envision becomes art that is on the check list of the majority and the dominating institutions. That may be your view on art.. but I find this extremely sad because

    Art is avant garde.

    • Media censorship during Martial Law was an extremely different scenario. I don’t think you can draw a proper analogy with what’s happening now because the government was hiding crimes against humanity from the people.
      I think that other groups would definitely be pressuring the government and the CCP to take it down too, if the blasphemed icon was Mohammed or an LGBT icon. The rallies would sprout out by the dozens outside the CCP grounds. No doubt about that. As for political capital, that gives even more reason for the government to treat them with respect–because they have power. The Church does not choose to oppress others with its power; it merely forwards the interests of those who side themselves with her, as it speaks for them. Granted, not all Catholics share this view. However, the Church stands by her own values, as defined by its official teaching, not the teachings of others.
      I agree that art is avant garde, that it seeks to cross boundaries, and redefine social norms. The question is, though, should it do this at the expense of taxpayers’ money? Cruz’s art isn’t just avant garde anymore–it’s become blatantly offensive attacks, pretty much a legalized form of slander. Social institutions are made to reflect the views of the people, and considering that the Philippines is mostly Christian, then there is no place for anti-Christian art in a public institution. So what if my view of art is similar to that of Communist China? Why should that be considered something negative?
      We can give art all these fancy names, roles, and titles, but in the end, it’s really just a form of expression. And the same way that there are limits to the ways we conduct ourselves in public, the things we’re allowed to publish in the newspapers, so too should there be limits to the pictures we paint and hang in our government institutions. Art doesn’t always have to be on the checklist of the majority, but publicly displayed art should be because we’re the ones who pay for that.

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