Public Comment

The Brand Vultures – Keds & Co.

By Chime Tenzing
Tuesday June 29, 2010 - 01:26:00 PM
Tibetan Buddhists are outraged at the use of the Dalai Lama's picture on Keds American sneakers.  See Commentary below.
Tibetan Buddhists are outraged at the use of the Dalai Lama's picture on Keds American sneakers. See Commentary below.

Keds’ new-fangled line of sneakers called 'Tibetan Buddhist Shoes' bearing images of the Dalai Lama, the Buddha, holy mantras, Tibetan national flag and other sacred images is a gross denigration of the faith which has millions of followers around the globe! 

The disparaging act of Keds’ consumerist attitude has hurt the sentiments of millions of Buddhists around the globe with its new line of “Colorful and Beautiful” canvas shoes .Keds’ blatant attempt to capitalize on the growing ‘fad’ for Buddhism & reverence for the Dalai Lama in the West failed to gauge the consequences of its myopic vision, which was the result of its profit-centric, market driven strategy and greed for easy and quick bucks! It has nauseatingly overlooked the importance of respecting the values and ideals of the faith which has a growing follower’s world over during this time of crises of all sorts in the history of mankind! This is how Keds’ chose to reward the Holy Man who tirelessly travels across the globe to preach global peace and universal harmony! 

As rightly pointed out by one of my fellow Buddhist brothers - Bhuchung D. Sonam - “ We live in a 24x7 interconnected world where information is available at finger's click. Thus people at Keds cannot feign ignorance about these sacred images and their importance in Buddhist culture and their roles in the practice of the dharma. Hence Keds’ Buddhist shoes are affront to Tibetans and a total disregard to their cultural values”. In the Buddhist context, Keds has committed an unpardonable sin by taking the sacred images of Buddha, the Dalai Lama and the holy Buddhist scripts out from their rightful places to the grubby American feet and neon-lit streets. With this single act of sacrilege and blasphemy, Keds has invited the wrath of the irate deities and would inescapably earn bad karmas for the future of its much treasured company. 

Instances like this is not uncommon to the common men. In the recent past, the famed Indian painter M.F.Hussain had to face the wrath of the Indian Hindus for his paintings that allegedly denigrated the Hindu gods and goddesses. The irate and the devout Hindus charged against him as “in the name of artistic freedom Hussain had painted Hindu gods and goddesses in a manner, which deeply hurt the sentiments and sensibilities of patriotic Indians”. Apart from a complete ban on his paintings in India, Hussain had to flee home to Qatar on a self-imposed exile for the fear of his life. This clearly, like Keds’, is the consequence of the myopic vision Hussain was cursed with when he used his “creative freedom” at the cost of others! 

Also, not so long time ago, we were all inundated and fed by the headlines and controversy surrounding the controversial Danish cartoon on Prophet Muhammad. At that time the news piece that most of us read and re- read went something like this - Much ink and, unfortunately, some blood has already been spilled over the Danish cartoon controversy. The controversy burst ‘out of proportion’ to the extent that it had claimed some precious lives in the crossfire that ensued. The Danish editors should have known—in fact did know—that the drawings would provoke an outcry in the Muslim world. However, again like Keds’, the editor saab somehow overlooked the consequence and eventually ended up paying a heavy price! 

There are instances in the past as well about Christians suing art gallery over ‘blasphemous’ statutes of Jesus Christ. To share with you one instance, the sculpture of Christ with an erection by a Chinese artist Terence Koh was charged with denigrating Christ and outraging public decency. Emily Mapfuwa, a 40-year-old Christian who was offended by the artwork, launched a private prosecution against the gallery for outraging public decency and causing harassment, alarm and distress to the public. Mapfuwa argued that the Baltic would not have dared depict the prophet Muhammad in such a way. But the Christian Legal Centre - an organization that aims to "promote and protect the biblical freedoms of Christian believers in the United Kingdom" - agreed to pay her legal costs! 

Unlike people from other respectable creed, the Buddhists may be inherently grounded in the philosophy of Ahimsa and non-violence, but that doesn’t mean we are less human beings and thus less sentimental. The dishonorable precedent set by Keds would not only provoke Buddhist brothers and sisters, but it will also stir the sentiments of every sane religious practitioner of all the faiths in the world .As a self-effacing and a humble Buddhist myself, I forewarn Keds not to tread on the dirty path lest it should face a similar consequence meted out to the culprits as cited in the above instances. While I beseech and implore to the brand vultures at the Keds not to hurt the sentiments of the millions of Buddhist the world over, I urge my fellow Buddhist and Tibetans, especially in America, to call it quits for all that Keds has to offer for you to cover up your ‘unholy’ feet with their ‘holy canvas shoes’!