Thursday, April 24, 2008

DJs in Syria

The LA Times ran a story on its front page on Tuesday about a trend I sure would not have heard about otherwise: American music on the radio in Syria. Not just music, but DJs speaking both Arabic and English.

despite the political and military tensions, the rhythms and textures of daily life here are increasingly meshing with those of Western nations. On the streets of Damascus, people breezily draw in American sounds, sights and icons, making them part of their own cultural DNA.

In a land viewed by the Bush administration as an associate member of the so-called axis of evil, 50 Cent floods the airwaves.
The focus of the article is a DJ named Honey Sayed, who has many counterparts in the West - cute and bubbly, and willing to talk about anything. Almost anything - politics and religion are no-gos, and the state monitors her to make sure of that.

She has an interesting perspective on the relationship between her country and mine:

In February, she spoke at a Washington think-tank forum sponsored by the Rand Corp. about media in the Middle East.

"What's not fair is that the flow of information is one-way," she says she told forum attendees. "You know Syria politically. But we know your music, we know your clothes, we know your movies, we know when Tom Cruise jumped on Oprah Winfrey's chair when he was in love with what's-her-name."
The article doesn't go into exactly how she thinks this is unfair, which is too bad - that's a rich topic. I think she's right, but I'm not sure exactly what she means. My guess is that because all we know is the politics, we end up afraid, whereas they get to enjoy our culture. Our government is restricting our freedom to engage Syrians culturally - which is unfair to Americans. Here's an argument against the Bush-Rove politics of fear - it's restricting our ability to enrich our own culture, to live as fully as possible. We should have the freedom to travel to Syria, to do business there, if we want. Isn't freedom what conservatives keep claiming is their raison d'etre?

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