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Behind dark glasses

Publication Date : 25-03-2013


Sunglasses, or shades, are wonderful things. Aside from the chic and fashionable look that they quite often give their wearers, they protect the eyes when the sun beats down mercilessly on the multitudes, hence the name given to a certain brand of sunglasses when sports cars called Sunbeams roamed the streets.

At the beach, people wear sunglasses and, of course, Speedos and bikinis, too.

Sunglasses protect, however, not only the eyes, but also a lot more. Sunglasses-sporting celebrities, especially old-school movie stars, are kept tantalisingly incognito wherever they go and whenever they want to keep over-zealous fans and paparazzi at bay. The effectiveness of such a measure, however, is difficult to gauge.

Sunglasses shield both swollen eyes from too much crying and their conspicuous absence from public attention at funerals, which explain their popularity on such sad occasions.

In Taiwan, gangland etiquette dictates that “family” underlings appear en masse to pay their last respects at the funerals of their deceased bosses. On such occasions, gang members are often seen wearing sunglasses, of which the purpose is not to keep swollen eyes from public view, but to prevent identification by police officers deployed on rooftops, by members of a rival gang, and, worse still, by members of the press wielding ridiculously bulky long-distance lenses.

Given the myriad possible uses and abuses of sunglasses, President Ma Ying-jeou kept gossip columnists guessing when he attended Pope Francis' inaugural Mass at the Vatican last week, sporting a modish pair of shades. “Why did he and the first lady do that?” they asked. Some have conjectured that he might have been diagnosed with cataracts, some have argued that only victims of glaucoma need such protection when they attend a religious ceremony, while others have said they could not care less even if they went in their bathing suits.

An easy, common sense answer would be he and the first lady wanted to protect their eyes from the scorching overhead sun during the open-air Mass. It appears to be the most plausible explanation. Whether or not it was appropriate, in terms of church etiquette, to be dressed in what might be perceived as a somewhat causal manner on such an occasion is a question perhaps better left to Catholics and church leaders. Once a churchgoer, President Ma surely knew what he was doing. Incidentally, the pope was wearing his Fisherman's ring, but not sunglasses, at least when he celebrated Mass. But then, we must allow for personal differences.

President Ma may or may not continue to wear sunglasses during public appearances. But that, perhaps, is none of our concern, so long as he, a president said to be raised in a Catholic tradition, sincerely serves his people, especially after hearing the pope's homily.

In that homily, the pope said: “Let us never forget that authentic power is service, and that the pope too, when exercising power, must enter ever more fully into that service...He must be inspired by the lowly, concrete and faithful service which marked Saint Joseph and, like him, he must open his arms to protect all of God's people and embrace with tender affection the whole of humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important, those whom Matthew lists in the final judgment on love: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison. Only those who serve with love are able to protect!”

For starters, the president, after promising to help the champion baker who has to have the icing on the cake in the form of an advanced degree, might consider whether to help the person who has a doctoral degree but has to make a living by selling deep-fried chicken fillets in the street.


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