Saturday, 29 March 2014


When Birdie Africa lies, he gets hurt. When police officers lie, he gets hurt. When government officials lie, he gets hurt. And when I wonder how much it must hurt these people to lie in the first place, I conclude that it surely cannot. These are authority figures who will do anything to pull the wool over our eyes, and when they act with such recklessness as to tear the wool away, they are forced to masquerade their lies as the truth, and our truth as lies. And it is painfully clear to us onlookers: their body language, their thought processes, all betray the fact that these men (in this case, they are all men) know the falsities of their claims. It is not the specific fictions in which they place their faith, but the theory behind them - that these fictions are necessary, that lying is the truth. Those who are employed by the people to serve the people end up serving only themselves. The picture of moral ambiguity which Jason Osder paints in the first half of Let the Fire Burn, pitting a deplorable policing service against a nonsense (and neglectful) cult, is extinguished entirely by the barbarity of the imperious authorities and the vengefulness of their minions in the second half. They commit an act of racial, religious, though mostly common democratic suppression in an act of brazen machismo and barefaced fear. Not a thought is given to the killing, both unintentional and intentional, of innocent people, children included; not a thought to the destruction of dozens of properties, again belonging to many innocent people; not an eye is batted thereafter, not a conviction attained. The villains and the victims are all too clear to those among us capable of seeing them, for that is plainly the truth. But those who are incapable of seeing them, or at least interpreting them as truth, are those police officers and those government officials. They serve themselves by lying, and by masquerading their lies as truth. The fire burns on, and not just along Osage Avenue, West Philadelphia. It burns on here, now, everywhere. And we're the victims, and that is the truth.