I seem to constantly be surprising myself.
In my tender youth, I decided that once I was old enough I was going to vote for the NDP, which you might say is the closest thing Canada has to a Socialist party. They were the party of social justice, who would ensure the continuity of all the feminist principles I had eagerly imbibed.
Well, that youthful desire suffered a stunning reversal once I attained my 18 years of majority, and firmly cast my vote for the Conservative party. I could almost see my youthful self looking on in tight-lipped disapproval.
In a similar vein, when I looked forward to my brilliant career, I did not anticipate that one day I would become an ardent champion of that form of entertainment known as the beauty pageant.
Don’t get me wrong. I can’t say that I’ve ever cosily settled in with a big bowl of popcorn on the couch to catch the latest beauty pageant. They seem silly and fatuous, aptly exposed by the line in the movie Miss Congeniality when Sandra Bullock’s character is asked what she wishes for: “Harsher punishment for parole violators, Stan. Oh, and world peace.”
But of the top ten things I ever thought would spark a widespread riot, killing hundreds and displacing thousands, a beauty pageant was, sadly, not among them.
The catalyst for the recent rioting in Nigeria was an article written by the unfortunate Isioma Daniel, who opined that the Prophet Mohammed, so far from disapproving of the pageant, would indubitably have taken a wife from among the contestants. At the risk of attracting a fatwa, let me say that I’m sure the lucky girl would have been just thrilled to figure as the centerpiece of the Prophet Mohammed’s extensive harem.
We may draw one of two conclusions from this statement: one, Isioma Daniel is, regrettably, not among the great thinkers of this century, confirming my decision to cancel that subscription to the Nigerian Evening Standard, or, two, Isioma Daniel is a dangerous heretic who, in the interests of public safety, should be killed immediately.
Reasonable people, I think, would go for Option One.
Others, such as Mamuda Aliyu Shinkafi, the deputy governor of the Nigerian state of Zamfara, seem to feel that "it is binding on all Muslims wherever they are, to consider the killing of the writer as a religious duty," in conscientious pursuit of Option Two.
You might think that this illustrates the unbridgeable gulf that separates the enlightened West and fanatic Islam. But you would be wrong.
On my local radio station, the resident leftist, the likeable leader of Montreal’s black community and a man who’s never met a tax he didn’t like, lamented Western “insensitivity” and the imposition of “Western values.”
I’m not really sure how Western is the Miss World pageant, whose winner last year was Miss Nigeria – just as I’m not sure how an attack on the World Trade Center, the final resting place of scores of non-Americans, was an attack solely on America. And I’m not sure how closely the Miss World pageant represents Western culture, when its organizers claim a viewership of over 2 billion. To put that in perspective, that’s over twice as many worldwide viewers as the SuperBowl commands.
I’m not saying that beauty pageants represent the apex of what Western culture has to offer. And I’m not saying, either, that Western entertainment is always erudite and thought-provoking. But it’s just that – entertainment. And judging from the large viewership that the Miss World pageant enjoys, that’s something people in less fortunate cultures wish they had more of. It certainly seems that the Nigerian people could benefit from a touch more light-hearted frivolity, and a tad less murderous extremism. The Arab News has castigated the pageant as “unedifying,” and undeniably they have a point, but I don’t see Nigeria churning out high art.
Don’t get me wrong. I still won’t tune in to this year’s Miss World competition. But I would far rather call a culture my own that embraced vacuous insipidity, over violent fanaticism.