Wednesday, March 16, 2005

It all started in the house meeting. After we've gone through the long list of practicalities, O – a quiet and shy Columbian boy – said he wanted to say something. He asked if we could take down the pictures in the stair way, because he finds them difficult to handle. The pictures are of M, photographed as a priest conducting some of the seven deadly sins; they were taken by a friend for an art project. This is the religion of my parents, he said, and for me this is not nice to see the priests in this way. There was a murmur of surprise and approval: yes, of course. But R did not agree, he was really shaken by it: for me this is art, these are just good pictures, what's wrong with them? This is like having censorship.
They stayed to argue about it in the kitchen. O said he didn't support the Catholic Church but for him this is about his family.
Next day I woke up with a loud argument from the living room. When I came in I saw someone had put a picture of the pope, and wrote underneath "I really hate boring white walls, let's put decorations". On the picture someone else wrote in pencil: there will be no peace in this house… beware the idea of March. And on the top corner of the pope was a sticker of two horny girls having fun. OOOOPS.
What do you think of my art, said R.
I think you should take it down, I said.
I don't want to offend nobody, he said, but I want to provoke. I want us to have a discussion which is more than the superficial level of jokes and food. And I want us to have free expression. I want to test my mind all the time. That's why I call myself anarchist.
But that's just empty expression, said S. You wouldn't want to live with pornography on the wall. I personally don't mind P’s Christmas swastika decoration, but I wouldn't like to see anarchy symbols all over the place.
Why do you think I don't want to live with punks? Said R.

Later, after R took the poster down and apologized to O, we talked about it with P. "It's strange" he said, "I don't get it exactly. I mean, if I hang something on the wall about Allah shagging John the Baptist, and Md. will say it offends her, then I'll understand and take it down. But he says it offends his parents. Well this is not his mother's house. So why should he care?" but religion is very complex, said J. "you don't have to tell me this. I grew up as a catholic. I know the whole thing. There are four Catholics in this house. I was brought up as an altar boy, I was preparing to be a priest. I know it too well. And R too, he grew up under Catholic oppression in Poland. For him to respect the priests is offensive. But I should speak with O about it, as one catholic to another. I guess it's a cultural thing".
And later he said: "we're 11 people in this house. Once the discussion stops being functional and starts being personal, it can go quite bad. I really don’t want it to happen".

One house: eleven people, eight countries, and three religions (but only one believer) . Are we really that different? Most of the time it doesn't feel like that.

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