Paris Hilton in Mecca
For years now, people have been complaining about how the Saudi government is ruining Mecca with its obnoxious renovations. Thanks to runaway consumerism, the ancient city is overrun with luxury hotels, an awful clock-tower looming over the Ka’ba, and numerous malls and public toilets where holy sites used to be. The latest news is that Paris Hilton’s fashion empire has opened up a store in Mecca, and Muslims worldwide are again disgusted at the apparent poisoning of our holy city.
There are plenty of reasons to despise the Saudi custodianship of Mecca. Their ruling brand of extreme Sunnism, enforced by police squads of skinny teenagers in khaki uniforms, oppresses any Islamic traditions that fall outside its approval, including not only Shi’a but in fact many Sunni practices. The holy city isn’t a bastion of gender equality, and the ongoing development has only exacerbated its economic inequality. For poor pilgrims who have saved their entire lives to make hajj, it’s impossible to find accommodations anywhere close to the Great Mosque.
I’m all for the struggle to make Mecca a truly holy city of peace and justice; this fight matches the struggle of hajj, our own efforts to perfect our character and do better in the world. My problem is when people frame their opposition to the present Saudi version of Mecca as a call to restore a more just past, a return to an imaginary innocence that Mecca supposedly lost in the 20th century. I’m sorry, but that innocence never existed. Apart from the Ka’ba, Mecca is just another city. The people of Mecca—the pilgrims, the authorities, and the regular folks who just live there—have never been anything other than people. Whatever rottenness you can find elsewhere in the world exists in Mecca, and it’s not a Wahhabi invention. Long before Islam and throughout Islam’s history, Mecca has always been a host to unjust power, poverty, greed, racism, sexism, and intolerance. Paris Hilton doesn’t bring anything new to the city.
This Week in Drake
Earlier this afternoon I had the idea of starting a new tumblr column called “This Week in Drake”. I asked if you thought that was a good idea, and you made your opinions very clear. “No,” you said, adding, “no,” “uh, no,” “nope,” “die,” “are you guys putting different things in drake then?” and “fuck no.” To which I’d respond: YOLO. And so, without further ado, here’s This Week in Drake:
- DMX is back and to celebrate that fact he’s doing interviews. One of his talking points is Drake, whose haircut he doesn’t like. This is only like a 3/10 on the DMX outrageousness scale (remember when he was like “What the fuck is a Barack?”) but it’s still pretty funny. (Full disclosure: Once my friends told me a story about being 14 and smoking pot in the woods in rural Pennsylvania and then having DMX & his crew appear out of nowhere on ATVs. I don’t remember the exact details can you imagine how insane that would be?)
- Paris Hilton put out a new song that can only be described as post-Drake. I know this sounds ridiculous and maybe you think I’m doing that thing where you take something lowbrow and act like its a serious work of art, so let me make clear: Hilton’s song doesn’t approach Drake’s in terms of quality. But thematically it’s all there: Hilton’s “Drunk Text,” with its repeated insistence that “It was just a drunk text,” would make a great b-side to “Marvin’s Room,” a song built around a voicemail asking “Are you drunk right now?” Both songs talk about easy, meaningless sex in a way that suggests that it’s simultaneously emotionally unsatisfying and also something the artists are going to keep doing, thus perfectly encapsulating the best and worst effects of technology.
- Drake went to the gym, played some concerts, and posed like he was peeing.
- Major Label A&R execs apparently met recently to be like, “Hey, how can we make a video that Hanson is super psyched about… Oh and Dan Bejar, Bill Callahan, and puppies are all busy the day we film.” They came up with Waka Flocka’s new video for “Round of Applause,” which features the world’s cuddliest rapper (Waka) and Toronto’s very own, surrounded by ass ass ass ass. Drake even does a little bit of acting in the clip*, playing some sort of crime boss in an ill-advised semi-plot about Waka Flocka trying to save a girl from herself. Anyway, the video’s cool.
*Side note: A lot of people seem to think I’m only interested in Drake because he played a boy in a wheelchair in a Canadian soap opera for teenagers. Which, no, sorry, I’ve never even really seen that show. (Are you guys all Canadian or something?) I’m interested in Drake because he’s a weirdo who makes weird decisions that seem terrible on paper (e.g. centering a song around a voicemail from an ex-girlfriend) and they totally work. It’s not ironic; I’m not one of those suburban kids wearing a Tupac “Thug Life” shirt. I just think Drake is a talented, morose dude with confidence issues, and that’s probably my favorite type of singer.