Fortune Cookies for Human Rights

You know, I was minding my own business in this classy Chinese restaurant, engorging myself on their copious buffet, had my fill, and was handed the bill with an accompanying fortune cookie.

This fortune cookie (the one to the left) really existed, and I never saw the like. I am used to fortune cookies containing old sayings, universal aphorisms, little smippets of wisdom, and sometimes a blandly optimistic prognostication of what the future holds.

I would never have expected one to wield a statement on human rights. But there it was, printed in blue and white, plain as day. The other side of the fortune cookie says “Learn Chinese”, and teaches the phrase “Excuse me”, followed by a list of six lucky numbers. Four of those numbers are too big to use in Lotto 6-49.

Here in the United States and Canada, our culture seems to take human rights for granted. The rights of stray dogs seem to get more attention than the free speech rights of protestors, worker’s rights and so on. We seem to feel more for an abandoned puppy than for an abandoned child these days. I am not sure how animal rights seem to have more cachet in a culture where I have heard about human rights offices and Public Interest Research Groups around North America being defunded or closing altogether, while animal shelters appear to have the status of five-star hotels. How do we get to a point where we have seemed to forgotten about all the struggles that gave rights to minorities, women, and aboriginals, just treating them as though they have always magically existed?

No-one in this world has rights without a struggle, nor lost them without taking their short-lived nature and fragility for granted. The fact that we now have to look outside of our culture to places like the Middle East for examples of human rights advocacy tells us of how far we’ve fallen, and of how dysfunctional our own culture has become.

A much more human-rights-friendly coverage of the Middle East protests appeared, ironically, in Pravda. They seem to quote Al Jazeera more openly, and more often. I know this is far from a human rights advocacy newspaper, and they have their own line of propaganda, but you have to look elsewhere in Pravda for more obvious examples.

Crappy Album Covers #93 — I actually think I get this one …

cac_01_riotThis CAC must be the fodder for dozens of CAC blogs; and the singular most common reaction is something like: WTF? They just don’t get it. In Riot’s 1981 album, their third, is the head of a cuddly harp seal on the shoulders of some guy.

Those bloggers are totally off the mark. This is totally understandable. I believe it is a statement on the tendency of urban-dwellers to feel more the rights of animals than for the rights of humans.

If you are down-and-out, alienated, rejected by society, you will find this world a cold, harsh place. But if you walk around wearing the head of a seal, at least people will think twice before smashing your brains in with a club. Who knows, you might even score sympathy points with the chicks this way. At least more points than previously. Yes, I get it. “Fire Down Under” must be a tome about man’s need to overcome alienation by dressing up in cuddly animal costumes of those perceived to be endangered species. Yes, I am making excuses for this cover.

Riot’s expoitation of seals as a hobbyhorse even extends to 13th CD, “Army of One”, released in 2006. I noticed the motif in at least three of their albums.