Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Lady Gaga... Liberation Theologian?

In the March 12 issue of TIME, pop icon Lady Gaga was featured in the "10 Questions" portion of the magazine. Interestingly, the interview focused less on her work as a musical artist and more on her efforts to put an end to bullying.

What fascinated me about the interview was Lady Gaga's response to the first two questions:
You just launched the Born This Way Foundation. Is it aimed at preventing bullying?
This is not an antibullying foundation. This is a youth-empowerment foundation. This is about combatting meanness and cruelty. This is about inspiring bravery in young people and their parents and culture worldwide to work toward a kinder and more accepting society.

Isn't inspiring kindness the same thing as combatting bullying?
We do not make a distinction between the bully and the victim. Each person is an equally important and valuable member of society. What the foundation is about is a transformative change that is going to take a long time to affect the overall culture. Bullies were born this way too.
A line in each answer reveals something most interesting and exciting. First, Gaga claims that her foundation is not against bullies, but rather for kindness. It is not about labeling people good or bad, but claiming good and bad behavior, which can be enacted by all. Second, Gaga explicitly states that she does "not make a distinction between the bully and the victim. Each person is equally important..."

Gaga's principles resonate extremely well with the movement of Liberation Theology. While vacuous attacks have painted Liberation Theology as a mere social agenda, it is not. Liberation Theology is fundamentally about oppression amongst all races, classes, and genders. Both Gaga and Liberation Theologians recognize that both the oppressed and oppressors are caught in a dynamic of violence; and both are in need of liberation.

Though he may not be considered a liberation theologian, the Brazillian philosopher and educator Paulo Freire has contributed much to the liberation movement. His major work, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, offers insights the dynamic between oppressors and the oppressed. Here are a few that my friend Stephen pointed out to me:

Dehumanization is the fundamental characteristic of the oppressed-oppressor dichotomy, liberation is the restoration/creation of the humanity of both.

In order for there to be true liberation, the oppressed must not turn around and become the oppressors: In order for the struggle of the oppressed against the oppressors to have meaning, “the oppressed must not, in seeking to regain their humanity (which is to create it), become in turn oppressors of the oppressors, but rather restorers of the humanity of both” (44)

Kind of sounds like Lady Gaga, doesn't it?

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