Petition to Disband the Artane Band

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I just started a petition: Disband the Artane  Band.
It is no longer appropriate, with what we now know, about residential institutional child abuse at St Josephs Artane, that this band, should be still in existence, wearing the uniform of that institution – St Josephs Industrial School Artane, and making statements that they are proud of their history when in actual fact, the vast part of that history was engulfed in horrendous human rights breaches upon children, including child sex abuse at St Josephs Industrial school, Artane, where the band was founded.
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We who are the survivors should not have to endure the ordeal of this band in that uniform, parading around Croke Park, or any other public place. This is a constant active reminder of our ordeals and every effort should be made for this to stop.

Our lives, in those institutions, matter. What happened to us matters. We have a right to get on with our lives to recover and to heal. The Artane Band, in its present form, is a major obstacle to that process. No other band of its type would be allowed to get away with what they are getting away with. The band is still under the control fo the Christian Brothers through the Artane Music School.

If enough people sign my petition, we can make a difference.

Here’s a link to the petitionhttp://www.care2.com/go/z/e/Awo8W/zoyY/CRT_0
And here’s a link to share it on Facebookhttp://www.care2.com/go/z/e/Awo8x/zoyY/CRT_0

If there’s anyone you know who might be able to help me spread the word, please let me know. Thanks so much — I really appreciate your help!

Kind regards,  Gerard Mannix Flynn
Artistic Director,
Farcry Productions

 www.farcryproductions.ie

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Pity the Children

nora_somebodyAs the Spotlight film opens in Dublin we are now facing into yet another sex abuse scandal in a foster home in the south east of Ireland. Covered up and facilitated by the HSE. You have to ask yourself after all the issues of child abuse in this country – how could this possibly happen? How can the State be so negligent? How can the State be so indifferent? And here we have yet another fine display of mock-shock-and horror from the HSE, the Government and certain TDs. Shame on you. There is not a child safe in the land because of your failure to care for the most vulnerable.
What is the famous catch phrase…oh yes, ‘ we failed to hear your cries’ (Bertie Ahern’s famous remarks)
Enda Kenny’s famous remarks about the Magdalene women with tears in his eyes? Many of the women are still waiting, many  have already died.  And Minister Lynch’s remarks that we’re heading towards a public inquiry beggars belief and goes to show how far removed she is from what is actually taking place here.  Its an act of disassociation. … What is the point in having Ministers for Health, Ministers for Children, Ministers for Justice when the perpetrators and the enablers of these outrages will never be brought to justice? Never face any consequences and no child is protected by the State. 
There is talk now of public inquiry and people being brought before the Public accounts committee. Here again, the State is investigating itself and we all know where that leads. What did our last public enquiries bring us? Massive fees, massive bills and no real truth or consequences.  Robert Fisk’s great title ‘Pity the Nation’ comes to mind here except in this instance its ‘Pity our children’.
The same culture that is evident in Spotlight uncovered by the Boston Globe. The same evidence that is being uncovered in the Ryan Report, the Ferns Report, the Murphy Report, we all know will be found to have been at play here in this foster home child abuse scandal. For the many good people out there who foster children and protect the vulnerable stand up, do you hear me, stand up and show leadership here. Don’t let the good work that I know many of you do be undermined by abusers and a weak State and Civil Service. Your reputations are seriously on the line here because this investigation is going to have to include all fostering and all foster homes and protocols and guidelines around children .
The Nation owes this person and her mother an apology.  It would be a travesty for the Taoiseach or any Minister now to utter such words or even the HSE. This needs to come from the mouth of our very own President, Michael D Higgins who would understand the failing of Government and State here. The President has the confidence of all the people and the credibility internationally to make this statement.
 
Where are all the child agencies? Where was Bernardo’s on this? They seem to come very late with their statements.  Where is Amnesty International on this? This has all the hallmarks of dread with the dark hand of the State and its agents all over it.
We can be very grateful to the whistleblower here who has taken enormous risk cause we all know what happens to people who tell the truth, the honest truth and have to whistle blow in this State.
 
Spotlight Trailer:

Mother and Baby Home Commission of Investigation – Info

TraffickedA Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby homes and a select few County homes has been established.

If you were in – resident, worked in or had connections with any of the Mother and Baby homes on the list below between 1922 and 1998  the commission would like you to get in contact with them.

You can write to their confidential committee or meet with them in person.  They are looking to hear from former residents, employees and others with relevant information to hear about their experiences.

List of Institutions under Investigation

(1) Mother and Baby Homes as follows:
1) Ard Mhuire, Dunboyne, Co Meath;
2) Belmont (Flatlets), Belmont Ave, Dublin 4;
3) Bessboro House, Blackrock, Cork;
4) Bethany Home, originally Blackhall Place, Dublin 7 and from 1934 Orwell Road, Rathgar, Dublin 6;
5) Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home, Tuam, Co. Galway;
6) Denny House, Eglinton Rd, Dublin 4, originally Magdalen Home, 8 Lower Leeson St, Dublin 2;
7) Kilrush, Cooraclare Rd, Co. Clare;
8) Manor House, Castlepollard, Co Westmeath;
9) Ms. Carr’s (Flatlets), 16 Northbrook Rd, Dublin 6;
10) Regina Coeli Hostel, North Brunswick Street, Dublin 7, and
11) Sean Ross Abbey, Roscrea, Co Tipperary;
12) St. Gerard’s, originally 39, Mountjoy Square, Dublin 1.
13) St. Patrick’s, Navan Road, Dublin 7, originally known as Pelletstown; and subsequent transfer to Eglinton House, Eglinton Rd, Dublin 4, and
14) The Castle, Newtowncunningham, Co. Donegal.

(2) County Homes
A representative sample of those County Homes selected by the Commission as both fulfilling a function with regard to single women and their children similar to the institutions at (1) above and where the extent of the operation of this function is considered to merit their inclusion for the purposes of the investigations set out at Article 1(I) to (VIII) above having regard to factors such as the number of relevant births, the duration of such operations and the typical length of accommodation period of these mothers and children.
1Historical and official sources may refer to these institutions by various names, and in some cases the Homes may have moved premises during their period of operation.

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CONTACT
FREEPHONE: 1800 806 688
EMAIL:  info@mbhcoi.ie
POST:   Mother and Baby homes
       Commission of Investigation,
        73 Lower Baggot St, Dublin 2
or
P.O. Box 12626, Dublin 2
All identities will be held in confidence.  
For more detailed information please see www.mbhcoi.ie

Rest in Peace, Christine Buckley

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Christine Buckley gave hope and living voice to the many who suffered in silence in Ireland’s Residential Institutions and throughout their lives.  She will be greatly missed but her strong voice will be heard forever.  Rest in Peace.

Then they put me into a car zoom zoom, beep beep over O’Connell Bridge, past the Ha’penny Bridge, along Capel Street Bridge. All alone all along the Liffey I cried like the canal to the gates of Goldenbridge. At Goldenbridge, the nuns said that they were my sisters now. ‘Now, now, stop that crying or we’ll give you something to cry about. Christ didn’t cry. Christ wasn’t a whinger.’ I cried, I screamed for me ma, yelled for me da. Then all the kids there started to cry like me. We screamed through the clatters in the face, the lashes across the back of our legs, the smashing of our heads against the doors.
‘Mary is our mother now and God is our Father. Repeat, Mary is our mother now and God is our Father. ‘Tis the Divil that has you all crying. ‘Tis the Divil so that we’ll be getting out of here, only the Divil. James, that’s a lovely boy’s name. Stop that crying now. Silence is golden, boys and girls. Silence is golden. St James, a lovely saint.’
I rocked back, I rocked forward. I rocked in silence for a day, for a week maybe two. I cried until I was dry. I bit my lip; I bit my nails; I pissed the bed; I rubbed my eyes; I bit the boy beside me, I bit the girl beside me. They both bit me back. The nuns and the priest battered us all. Screamed at us that we were bold and evil and that they were going to put us into the washing machine to wash our souls of sin, souls of sin, souls of sin. I rocked back and forth till one day somebody came and picked me up into their arms and took me back home, to my ma, to my da and all the family and another new baby. Silence is golden, golden, in Goldenbridge. Ssssssh.  (James X)

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New Memory

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Past Trauma, New Memory and the Now

We are shaped moulded by yesterdays, past generations of our families hand down formed rituals as facts to live by. Generation after generation, commemmoration after commemmoration. Rigid to custom, tradition and strict rule.  Ireland and the Irish State draws from a similar past for its authenticity. As a people we seek our identity in a past that is overwhelmingly tragic.  We are baptised by and large into a faith based on suffering, sacrifice and death with a promise of everlasting afterlife. Our very bones carry the memory of a traumatic past, not of our making, and we are captured and held hostage by it and, as we face into this commemmorative decade, we must ask ourselves – who we truly are and what we would like to become in the future? What new memory can we create now that will change that perception of ourselves as victims and survivors which keeps us from true ownership of ourselves.

In Ireland, change comes about with great reluctance, resentment and vindictive consequences.  We have had the case of Savita, the X case, the child abuse issue, the nursing homes, the banking issue, the planning issue, the Northern troubles, not to mention the Limerick City of Culture and the issues of Temple Bar Cultural Trust – yet, no new way is forged.  We remain childlike, hapless.  We jump up and down and shout outside the Dáil, re-elect the same people and on it goes. Yet no lessons are learned.  No new way forged.  We all complain about RTE, The Abbey Theatre, yet we still watch and we still go.  Disappointment seems to be our sedative.

Appeased by our own complaining, we saunter fatalistically along with our false image intact.  Uncomfortable? Of course.  But alcohol can take care of that. On we go, until somebody mentions any of these institutions or individuals and then the backlash begins.  You are accused of having ‘sour grapes’.  You’re accused of personalizing.  The keepers of ‘no change’ make you out as a loose cannon.  Negative, destructive, dangerous.  A threat to their cosy number.  And we all sing the chorus line ‘Sure it’s not that bad, ah sure it could be worse’. “lets move on’. Or in the immortal words of Pat Cox “I’m determined to hit the reset button’.  Not address the problem, not learn from the problem but simply “reset” so the problem seems never to have happened – that’s the Irish way.

So what do you do with themes like the role of memory in making theatre.  The challenge of commemorating historical events? Well, you simply make something new.  Something that will grow and be free.  Big and open.  The making of new memory.  New ackowledgement of the immediate now.  Your now.  Our now.  How you feel rather than how you think.

The challenge is not so much about the challenge of commemmorating historical events like 1914, 1918, 1916, 1922 , the Lockout, the Battle of Clontarf.  It’s about how you set yourself free from them. And how you free them from us. Create a new legacy.

We have to remove ourselves by all means possible from our own institutionalisation.  Otherwise the continued indoctrination of our collective memory by the State and other agents through the spectacle of event commemmoration will succeed in reducing us to spectators, lookers on and not the true owners of our own history.

Theatre events are made from interrogated memory, from memory which is investigated and creatively interpreted.  The burial of active memory and conscious recall is a form of conditioned self-censorship.  In a way, we have to save memory from being consigned to memory. We must resist adopting the ruling class memory of a magic nostalgic masquerade which separates us from truth.  Their version of our memory is akin to a closed down thing. Coma induced.  Our conscious memory struggles to be switched on.  So tread softly cause you tread on my memory.  Memory cannot be told ‘thus far and no further’.  So let new memory arise. Without interference and without baggage.  Memory is not a thing of the past.

Facebook, Google, Twitter, Linkedin and their like, they are the enemies of live human memory.  The mobile phone and other machines have the potential to erode and take over our relationship with our memory and private self.  Synthetic history has begun – out there on the world wide web.  In our hands, on our persons, in our houses, in our environment – our intimate relationship with our private selves and self discovery, that mystery, that journey is being surrendered to triumphant capitalism and consumerism.

“No Escape” at the Peacock Stage some time ago, and also part of this symposium, is, in my view, an exercise. An excuse for the lack of  artists’ involvment in exposing State terror and church inhumanity as well as society’s indifference to what went on in State institutions in this country.  The theatre makers in this case take a whitewashed State document – the Ryan Report- take witness statements and do a kind of pageant enactment which turns real events into theatre commodity.  Rendering the struggle for truth and justice into a night out in the theatre for the elite cultural class.  It is easy to move an audience to crying and feeling sorry for what happened to the poor kids in the institutions in this society.  It is much more courageous though to enrage a public in order to change this society.  In this instance the State Theatre, used a State document in furtherance of its own self-service and appeasement.  True story and real events are stolen from the owners.  The authentic voice is silenced and we are estranged, again. Orphaned again. This time from one of the few things we can truly call our own   – the memory and experience of what happened to us.  The theatre in this instance kills the possiblity of inclusion for an entire generation and a deeply oppressed class.  The struggle is betrayed and all of the uncomfortability of Irish society is laundered out, made safe.

New memory can only arrive with true authenticity.  An uncontaminated platform.  It won’t hold or lend  itself to the notions of those with no real true cultural credibility who float about, aloof.  New memory will seek the risk taker. The brave.  The daring.  Not those who lick up to the Arts Council or other funders who wish to continue to promote the lie of the status quo. The fake of the State.

The Risen People, the show, set out to make new an old play, an old story about a past real event.  The primary purpose of staging the work at the Abbey Theatre, the State Theatre is the acknowledgment of the anniversary of the 1913 lock-out 100 years ago.  This meaning gets lost at the Abbey Theatre because of the failure to acknowledge what they have created, which is the ‘theatre of commemmoration’ and not the theatre of the Risen People.  What now needs to happen here is a process of disentanglement from versions of the work to a celebration of the new possibility for a new public that will carry a lasting memory of commemmorative theatre that has meaning and healthy acknowledgement of real events in our city.

The future generations have a right  to be free from a contaminated institutionalised collective memory that enslaves them and closes down the possibility of past as a celebration.  Our task is to rescue and recover historical memory and events from the brutalised past and transform them into celebratory events.  Free of the brutalised memory. Now is the time for a new hour, a new day, a new memory for a new time.

The Myth of History

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Glad to see that Margaret Skinneder is being given her rightful place in our history. The women of Cumann na mBan and all the women who gave service and duty to the cause of Irish Freedom are being sidelined in these forthcoming celebrations. The public now have an opportunity to demand, as per the proclamation that they all fought for, that full equality and recognition be given to the women of Ireland and indeed the children of Ireland who gave their lives in the cause of Irish freedom in order to end oppression.

There simply cannot be a two tiered system of commemoration that favours a body of men over a body of women. The example here from the archives shows a deep prejudice and a continued inequality that is still very much part of today.

The commemorative committee of the Government and the commemorative committee of Dublin City Council along with county council throughout the country, who are charged with organizing commemorative events need to be very mindful of these inequalities.A soldier is a soldier, male of female. A revolutionary is a revolutionary.

All too often as in the case for instance of the Algerians who fought in the 2nd world war against the Nazi’s for the French, were sidelined because of race, creed and colour and were never to this day, given full recognition or their pensions.

Addressing these issues will give commemoration and remembrance ceremonies greater meaning and can be instruments in confronting exclusion and championing inclusion.  Above all, it must always be about mans inhumanity to man and that war and violence changes little.  If a person goes out to fight in the hope of a better life and in the victory of that the homeland that they fought for, discriminates against them in favour of the new ruling class as in the case of Margaret Skinneder and her pension rights and parity of esteem, well then all we are doing is continuing the same regimes. The same kind of rule.  The same type of authoritarianism. The same kind of class, gender and economic divide.

The words of the proclamation have yet to see themselves entirely in action.

President Michael D. Higgins address at the Abbey Theatre yesterday, clearly identifies these historical and present fault lines.  Don’t read and weep.  Read and do something.  The above images are just some of the women who gave their lives in death and also gave of their time through out their lives for the Irish people and humanity in general.  We should know them as our own and keep them close in our hearts and in our minds and always attempt to do a little in honour of the lot that they have done.  Learn their names and learn their good deeds.  And we can change this society for the better.  History as a myth…broken.

UN panel grills Catholic church. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jan/16/un-criticises-vatican-coverups-child-sex-abuse-catholic-priests?CMP=twt_gu

Theatre of Memory Symposium, Abbey Theatre – Irish Independent http://www.independent.ie/entertainment/books-arts/higgins-laments-exclusion-of-women-from-history-29924269.html

The Politics of Philomena

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The most startling thing to emerge from the premiere last night of Philomena was the lack of any questioning around accountability for the theft of a child, in this instance Anthony Lee from his mother Philomena, who was incarcerated in Sean Ross Abbey for 4 yrs in the 1950s.  The whole issue of criminality was avoided throughout the entire film and there was an uncomfortability in the Q & A emanating mostly from Steve Coogan, who was making every effort to be inoffensive in his efforts to appease Catholic sensibilities.  It would seem to me that Mr Coogan, producer, co-writer and star of the movie, didn’t really understand the politics of the issue of the banished babies and the criminal trafficking of children for profit out of Ireland and other countries that was perpetrated by the Catholic Church and religious congregations.

What happened here was that like many other children, Anthony Lee was taken from his mother without informed consent and for over fifty odd years the Irish Catholic Church, Religious congregation and indeed the State itself, concealed the whereabouts of mother and son from each other.  Yet, what we watched at the IFI premiere last night completely avoided the global issue of the “banished babies” of Ireland.  Nobody so far has been held to account for this practice; there have been no Garda investigations or Interpol investigations; nobody from the national Airlines (Aer Lingus) or Pan Am airlines that actually trafficked the children out of Ireland have been confronted. Indeed, this whole issue has been slightly saccarined and turned into a warm human interest story rather than a story of organised, joint-venture criminality.

The whole reality of this film is sentimentalised through a naive catholic spiritualism.  A lot of it is cliched and it never really deals with the horrendous tragedy and evil of what was perpetrated on thousands of mothers and their abducted children to this day.

The story of Philomena is based on true events.  True events that happened to generations of people and, while this abduction of children was going on in so-called Mother and Baby homes, there was also the rape torture and inhumane treatment of tens of thousands in what are now known as Ireland’s residential institutions.  The Mother and Baby homes like Sean Ross Abbey, Bessborough, Castle Pollard etc. formed part of a network of compounds where individual citizens were incarcerated and exploited till they died, made good their escape or somehow found themselves miraculously released.

The trauma of what took place in these institutions still permeates this society through the suffering of the individuals who were incarcerated there.  That suffering continues as many mothers seeking to find their children and many children seeking to find their parents are still not being given access to their personal records, to their authenticity, to their origins. There is an indifference, a disregard and a continuous punishment in the way Religious Congregations and indeed the State continue to behave around this issue, which borders on contempt.  There was an opportunity in Philomena to address these issues but the writers of the script chose not to do so.

This undermines the credibility of the movie and does a great disservice to this single story and to the big story because after all this tale is one of thousands of similar tales that are now emerging as part of Ireland’s social and criminal history.

Despite the warmth of the film and the good reception that it received at all the film festivals so far (Toronto, London, Venice) somewhere, the real issues that are at the centre of this story, the hard cruel facts, that unheard story, that brutality, uncomfortable as it is, has to be heard, has to be owned has to be accounted for.  It is not just the story of Philomena and Anthony Lee, it is the story of a society and as such the secret history of Ireland and the Irish State and religious institutions cannot be so simply packaged in a feel-good, heartfelt portrayal of real events that have not been dealt with so far.

We had to drag the apology from the Taoiseach in relation to the Magdalene Laundries and large parts of the truth have still been avoided in the massive whitewash of the Ryan and McAleese Report. The complete indifference and lack of consequences for all those that were involved in the criminality and abuses that were described in the Ferns, Murphy, Cloyne reports etc. There is a great danger here of assuming that we have dealt with these issues and that there is some measure of closure on them, but still the Church and State continue to deny wrong going and the myth that everybody was just trying their best in very difficult times continues to be perpetrated.

Judy Dench gives a fantastic performance as does Steve Coogan, the whole cast excelled themselves and it is a good movie, but that’s all it is –  a good movie, an entertainment, a night out in the cinema.  It doesn’t ask anything of us, it merely brings us along in a sad-warm way.  It’s a road movie that is very satisfying.  The danger here is, is that it smothers the ongoing issue of what’s happening in Irish society and elsewhere and can give further credence to the school of thought that wishes to put this whole issue behind us and let us get on with it.

Adoption Rights Alliance and other such organizations and individuals are desperately seeking information and the rights today for open access to all of their paperwork, their birth certificates, medical records etc.  They are seeking their truth that has been held from them all their lives as it was for Philomena Lee and her son Anthony Lee.

The film will certainly throw light on all of the issues that I’ve mentioned above and it will find its place in the cultural representation of Ireland’s social history, albeit from a British perspective and sensibility. This is a British movie, but what’s not uniquely British about it and what came across last night in the Q & A and in the movie itself, was its unwillingness to ‘go there’.  While I welcome the film, I note its lack of responsibility to the overall story, its insistence on the sensibility of the human story at the cost of the politics and the truth of the issue.   When, in actual fact what you have here is organized criminality on such a scale that it should really warrant a massive European, if not global investigation or tribunal, not dissimilar to that which is conducted by the United Nations into crimes against humanity because that is what this is.

With due respects to all of those who were involved and with deep respect to Anthony Lee who died searching for his mother – who died being told a lie by the very people who thieved him from his mother and continued that thievery by robbing him of his mother’s whereabouts – this story is not just theirs; it is all our stories. And unless you deal with this story in the way you would deal with any fascist of dictatorial regime, like the institutional Catholic Church, like the institutionalized Irish State,   all you are doing here is facilitating and enabling the closing down of the story, the othering of the story and the perpetration of further suffering.

There were comparisons made last night with the Magdalene Laundries so on so forth, but you can’t compare ongoing trauma and truth with films that are by-and-large commercial enterprises to the story of institutional tragedy.  The story of Philomena Lee is essentially a political one involving a sovereign state and its inactions to protect its citizens and a global church that professes Christianity love, truth and respect, but is engaged, in this instance, in joint venture acts of appalling inhumanity and cruelty.  It is up to us, the cinemagoers to inform ourselves to the highest degree on all of the issues that are missing from this film.  That said I would urge you to see the film because some truth in all its horrors still manages to reach out and touch us. Perhaps because of what we already know in relation to the culture that still exists in our country.

It will take some time for society to extract the truth on this whole issue.  Memorials at the Garden of Remembrance, Magdalene Sisters films, and films like Philomena can never be a substitute for the truth the whole truth, and nothing but the truth in fact sometimes such films can damage truth and authenticity as they can perpetrate the lie that it was ‘all done in good faith’. This film will now be promoted by Harvey Weinstein and may possibly even win an Oscar, however there is always the possibility that it could damage the ongoing advocacy for truth and accountability.

With all that in mind – please go.  And when you come out of the cinema, get involved, demand answers.  Seek accountability.  Don’t let the Church or the State off the hook. What happened here was on an enormous scale and that enormity has not been reduced, but has been added to by the continuous refusal of the congregations of nuns at the centre of the Mother and Baby homes who were willfully engaged with the theft, trafficking and sale of children to be held accountable, to hand over the many documents and files that they have in their possession.  These documents need to be given to their rightful owners without any hindrance whatsoever. Everybody has the right to their own information. The lie that is about that these documents were lost through fire damage or floods etc. needs to stop.  People have memory. The congregations duplicated many of its documents. Every child had a passport forged.  People know.  Including Aer lingus, Pan Am and emigration.

In essence the film is about secrecy which forms an unbroken web. That secrecy is never challenged.  And even the cinema goer is asked to accept that secrecy.  It is this very secrecy that gives rise to gross abuse in society, from the institutions of the state, the institutions of the church and the very institution of the family and here right before us in the IFI that secrecy is well maintained by the cultural industry and the film community.  This is far too serious an issue to be turned into mere entertainment.  Philomena the film is not Rabbit Proof Fence, or Los Ninos Robados.  It is a vehicle for the desires of Steve Coogan and the advancement of his career at the expense of a real truth, a real politic.  Mr Coogan needs to be aware of this, that in doing what he did he places himself firmly on the side of those oppressive regimes that wish to keep us all silent, all stunted and childlike and all contained.

This story and the thousands of stories like it will one day escape from this place and find a place where their truth will be heard, understood and accepted.  To avoid is to deny.  To deny is further injustice.  The struggle and the search for truth continues. Mr Coogan had an opportunity to inform the public.  He chose instead to protect the wrong doers – the Irish State and the Catholic church.  He needs now to correct this if he is to have any credibility.   He needs to inform himself of the reality by speaking with those many people who are desperately seeking their children, desperately seeking their mothers.  Its important to note that Philomena Lee didn’t write the book. Didn’t make the movie.  And the problem now is that the story is in the hands of unscrupulous, unprincipled Tinseltown merchants.  And we all have an obligation here to ensure the right thing is done and that the truth is told. Only then can a society grow. Only then can true faith be meaningful.