In my last post I wrote about the impact of marketing decisions by major labels on youth worldwide who consume so-called "urban music." A great point was raised in response on the Hollywood Progressive blog about the responsibility that people in urban communities have for their own condition. After all you can't blame all the ills of the hood on rap music & the Record Industry right?
Right. People must take some degree of responsibility for their own condition, otherwise that condition cannot be anything but hopeless. It's not popular to say in some progressive circles, and while I might not agree with his delivery, Bill Cosby was basically right - we need to look in the mirror at the issues plaguing our communities in order to find genuine solutions. Everything can't be blamed on "The Man," "The Record Biz," "Rap Music" etc.
That said, I don't think we can ignore the impact of our cultural life on our material surroundings. You can't eat twinkies all day & expect to grow up to be an Olympian. Neither can you fill your mind with images of nihilism and decay and expect it won't have an impact on your sense of self and thus your place in the world. Positive thoughts won't necessarily save you from a killer tornado, but negative thoughts may well lead you to smack your neighbor and wind up in jail.
There are some in society who would like to lay the entire fault of poverty at the feet of the poor and they are wrong for doing so. But even if you accept that a society must take responsibility for it's own condition & upliftment, it does not help a community to better itself, when someone is profiting from it's depravation. Canadian MC Baba Brinkman in his excellent production titled The Rap Guide To Evolution, argues that in communities where young men have a lack of access to opportunity, there is a concurrent rise in violence. I can't help but wonder, in how many of those communities is that violence glorified for profit by outsider? And what impact does that dynamic have on efforts to stem that violence?
If we accept that art has an impact on the human mind & spirit, then we have to question what the images we sell our youth are doing to them. There are more poor kids per capita in a developing country like Ghana than in the US or France, but the latter two have higher rates of depression. Why? What is it that makes young women feel like they need to be bone thin to be beautiful? Or makes young men feel like they need to bust-a-cap to be cool? If money can't buy you happiness, at least it can help you make bail...
I believe in the right of an artist to say damn near anything they want. But I also believe in the necessity for we the creative community to question whether the pimping out of our cultures is something we are willing to stand by. Or do we believe enough in the power of what we do, to demand something better. In the end it's not just urban communities that need to take responsibility for themselves.