Genocide, Violence and Oppression: Alive and Kicking, Says M.I.A.

Musician M.I.A. has a message for you: genocide, violence and oppression are alive and kicking.

For those unfamiliar with her, M.I.A. (or Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam) is a musician known for her experimental music, as well as her political lyrics. Born in London, her family moved to their native Sri Lanka when she was six months old. While her father worked as a political activist, she was displaced until the age of eight due to the country’s civil war. She moved with her mother and siblings to India to escape the violence, and eventually she and her siblings returned to London as refugees.

Unsurprisingly she is extremely vocal about her political views. She has routinely denounced the war in Sri Lanka and its human rights abuses against Tamils, as well as the UN’s handling of the situation. She additionally spoke out against President Bush’s “War on Terror,” commenting, “You can’t separate the world into two parts like that, good and evil. Terrorism is a method, but America has successfully tied all these pockets of independence, struggles, revolutions, and extremists into one big notion of terrorism.” Several years ago, she paid several visits to Liberia to participate in efforts to build schools for former child soldiers.

Her politics have come with a price though. Despite having an apartment in Brooklyn, she was barred from entering the U.S. in 2006 because of her father’s involvement with the Tamil Tigers. Although she has had little contact with him, she was branded a terrorist by various media outlets.

She is vocal about the Third World through her lyrics with lines such as “I put people on the map / That never seen a map” or “I don’t want your attention / under Submission / Out of frustration I’ll do it / I’ll scream for the nation.”

Her new music video “Born Free” is provocative, to say the least. In it, armed soldiers storm into an apartment building, and terrorize and beat residents with batons. They eventually grab hold of a red-haired man, shoving him into a bus filled with other red-haired people and drive off, passing a wall painted with red-haired men and the phrase “Our day will come.” Finally they are shoved out onto a deserted land and are forced to run through land mines, with the fallen subjected to beatings.

What is the purpose of this video? The soldiers have American flag patches, and one victim dons a keffiyeh, yet there is no particular struggle addressed. But by addressing no specific struggle, she addresses all struggles. It is sadly common to hear about violence and oppression in the Third World, whether it be the disenfranchisement of indigenous peoples in the Americas , Nigeria’s recent massacre in the Plateau State, or the proposed “Kill the Gays” bill in Uganda. Such devastating headlines can result in the First World’s desensitivity to such events, with white people assuming that violence and oppression inevitably happen to the brown “other.” But by showing white red-haired people brutalized for no discernible reason, the video induces shock and horror. These reactions are typically most strong among people who can identify with the victims physically or geographically.The Holocaust is the most popular example of genocide and brutality, in part because the victims’ appearance is not dissimilar to white people of the First World. No doubt many white people of the First World read up on current events and are aware of harsh realities of the Third World, but these stories are still framed as events happening to the “other” — a distant world with little connection to the First World. By demonstrating white people suffering brutal violence, white viewers cannot automatically “otherize” them and are forced to consider the reality of violence and oppression. And awareness is the very first step to action.

Watch her new video here. (Warning: Contains graphic violence and brief nudity)

Care2 Human Rights Petitions:
Continue Progress on the Human Rights Council
Stop Ethnic Violence in Nigeria
Stop Housing Discrimination in East Jerusalem
Urge Senators to Support Nuclear Arms Reduction
Ensure the Participation of Indigenous Peoples in UN Climate Change Policies

j.appleseed, Flickr


Sagana W.

A Brave Soul that expresses her true feelings, love her.

Roger R.
Past Member 7 years ago

A Genocide Database must be set up to report Abuse and Genocide JUST REWARDS can be delivered. Suggestions?

Klaudia S.
Past Member 8 years ago

love m.i.a.

Jessie M.
Jessie M8 years ago

I'm looking forward to her new album and hope she comes to my city on tour!

Julia W.
Julia W8 years ago

Amazing, powerful, intense stuff. Thank you MIA, thank you Care2 for sharing the work.

Mark Lloyd
Mark Lloyd8 years ago

Thats what we need more of the expression of the reality for many of the people across the planet who do not have a voice. If you wish to close your eyes to the truth it is best that you exist now!

Tekla Drakfrende
Tekla Drakfrende8 years ago

Every voice is needed

Laura W.
Laura W.8 years ago

This video is about silent genocide of the Tamils last year May 2009, where over 50,000 people were massacred in a month, in this massacre without witness, where NGOs and independent reporters were barred. This genocide was conduct by the Sri-Lanka government with the Support of India and China. There were well over 300,000 people were incarcerated to Nazi-like concentration camps, where people were picked up and shots, where women were constantly raped by the security forces. And this whole genocide was hidden from the rest of the world. Visit the URL, wher you will see naked tamils were being shot, similar to MIAs video

Elyssa - June Smith
Past Member 8 years ago

Love M.I.A. one of the truthful artists out there. Doesn't censor anything, because it is the reality.

Ellinor S.
Ellinor S8 years ago