Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Carnival Catsup

My absence from the blogging keyboard has resulted in a lacuna with regard to recent blog carnivals that have featured my posts. So now it's time to play catch-up.

At the moment, I am reading a fascinating book by Toni Johnson-Woods, who teaches media and communications at the University of Queensland, called Blame Canada! South Park and Contemporary Culture.

Johnson-Woods' approach is mostly from a lit-crit perspective, rather than looking at South Park as a political or sociological phenomenon (although she does touch on those aspects, as well). In this she differs from, say, the University of Virginia's Paul Cantor in his essay, "The Invisible Gnomes and the Invisible Hand: South Park and Libertarian Philosophy," or Brian C. Anderson in his book, South Park Conservatives. But that doesn't make Blame Canada! any less interesting.

Johnson-Woods relies heavily on 19th-century Russian literary theorist Mikhail Bakhtin. She asserts that South Park is an example of what Bakhtin calls "carnivalesque." She quotes his definition:

Carnival brings together, unifies, weds, and combines the sacred with the profane, the lofty with the low, the great with the insignificant, the wise with the stupid.... These carnivalistic categories are not abstract thoughts about equality and freedom, the interrelatedness of all things or the unity of opposites. No, these are concretely sensuous ritual-pageant "thoughts" experienced and played out in the form of life itself, "thoughts" that have coalesced and survived for thousands of years among the broadest masses of European mankind. This is why they were able to exercise such an immense formal, genre-shaping influence on literature.
With that in mind -- and keeping open the option of writing a longer review of Blame Canada! in the near future -- I return to the subject of blog carnivals. (How's that for a peg?)

To start, Divided We Stand United We Fall has a nice round-up of last week's various carnivals in a post entitled "Friday Flotsam," announcing that on April 23 there will be a new, anniversary edition of the Carnival of Divided Government.

Three carnivals included my submission of my post on Pope Benedict XVI's economic thoughts:

Profound Gratitude
hosts Catholic Carnival 114 (that's longevity for a blog carnival!).

Framing the third Carnival of Principled Government with the festival of Passover as a celebration of liberty, Principled Discovery says this about my pope post:
Rick Sincere offers an analysis of the Pope's new book criticizing the West for exploiting the Third World. Take time to read the older article he includes about the Hidden Causes of Third World Poverty. He raises some interesting issues which we can see even within our own borders with the forced redistribution of wealth.
The Ward View (motto: "We hold no cows sacred") adds a subtitle to the latest Virginia Blog Carnival: "The Taxman Cometh."

As it happens, The Washington Times ran a front-page article on Pope Benedict's new book on Saturday, headlined "Pope's book sees capitalism as 'cruel.'" In it, AP reporter Nicole Winfield writes:
"Confronted with the abuse of economic power, with the cruelty of capitalism that degrades man into merchandise, we have begun to see more clearly the dangers of wealth and we understand in a new way what Jesus intended in warning us about wealth."

Benedict continues that message in another chapter on the biblical parable of the Good Samaritan, and the need to love one's neighbor. In it, the pope decries how the wealthy have "plundered" Africa and the Third World, both materially and spiritually, through colonialism.

He criticizes the lifestyles of the wealthy, citing "victims of drugs, of human trafficking, of sexual tourism, people destroyed on the inside, who are empty despite the abundance of their material goods."

Rich countries continue to do harm to the Third World by giving aid that is purely technical in nature, he says in the book. "This aid has set apart religious, moral and social structures that existed and introduced their technical mentality in the void."
The book, already published in German, Italian, and Polish, will become available in the United States on May 15. That is when we will be better able to judge it for ourselves.

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