“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”
In popular culture, there is continually a debate on whether celebrities are role models. Does Rihanna or Meryl Streep have the right to speak on political matters? Is there an inherent responsibility of popularity, leadership, or influence? Does politics belong in sports, music, art, or entertainment? What’s the unwritten requirement of fame and power? Should people speak up and should we allow it?
Fathers – Sho Baraka
“Never reach a goal by pulling others down
Royalty is much more than a throne and a crown
Your knees should be hurt from praying with your people
Your shirt will be wet from crying over evil”
Sho Baraka – Fathers, 2004
The very first time I heard these lyrics, it shook me to the core. In rap, we hear an extensive references to royalty, kings, queens, and gods of their respective genre, location, or sound but rarely etiquette on the throne. Sho decides to give us a new, more benevolent image of praying with/for your people and caring for them.
We always see people desperate to make it to the top. They often make it there and pray for simpler times. So many people are fighting their way to “success” but shortly after bombard us with tales of loneliness, addiction, and depression. Being a king isn’t what it’s cracked up to be as paranoia, fear, betrayal and other burdens run rampant. We’ve seen Drake climb his way to being the most popular hiphop artist on the planet then turn and complain about never finding true love or friendship for his last five bodies of work.
Granny Gwen constantly told me that a king cannot lead an empty kingdom. A leader cannot lead without his or her followers. It doesn’t matter how great your message is without someone to listen. This makes me think about the responsibility of those with fame and power to value their fans/workers/customers and supporters. We owe our positions in life to the support and experiences from other people. Nobody is truly made into who they are in solitude. Even the glass of orange juice you drink in the morning took hundreds of people to make.
This mutual dependency exposes the center of leadership as being service. Due to the interconnectedness of us all, action or inaction will affect someone whether you have involvement or not. We more strongly support brands we connect with, people who have similar views, and someone who looks like us. The self-interested part of ourselves looks to the outside world for ways the form/confirm our views of the inside world (ourselves).
The following was a comment in response to some of the backlash Bandcamp received from donating its percentage of profits from all purchased products on Friday February 3rd 2017 to the ACLU in response to the Muslim Ban.
“The bands you like and the books you read and companies whose products you enjoy are all run by people who hold opinions on how the world should work and how other people should be treated. Some of them are going to make those views more specific than others, but everyone’s got their line-in-the-sand where they’re not going to be able to keep it to themselves any longer. In a world where everything is influenced by political decisions, ‘staying non-political’ actually means defaulting to the status-quo and endorsing what’s happening in the system – expecting people who sell you things to do that, no matter how harmful the system might be to them and things they care about, is unreasonable. This applies to you too, of course – you have every freedom to stop supporting Bandcamp and to explain why you don’t agree with them, but by doing so you are being just as ‘political’ as them – we all are, that’s the point. Pretending that you’re advocating some higher plane of art when you’re really just maintaining the status quo is dishonest and unhelpful. It’s not as if Bandcamp ever even pretended to be apolitical. Their entire business model is a reflection of their social and ethical convictions, which they happily explain every year when they publish their accounts.”
– Richard Rutherford
While this could be said a million different ways, I do believe Mr. Rutherford said it in a powerful way. The truth is, we live in a political world and everything is politicized. We shouldn’t hate people for using their platforms for bigger things. Some of the most significant figures of our time (Muhammad Ali and Michael Jackson) used their platforms for speaking for others and some might argue that’s what truly made them the greatest of all time.
This was not to force someone to change their views or all of a sudden rise up. It is a reminder that there is no such thing as inaction. Progress or stagnation, some things you can align with, while others you won’t. Both are fine. I just wanted to respond on belief of the people more upset with protesters than the issues they are protesting. The moment we realize that speaking out against injustice shouldn’t anger us more than the injustice itself, the better off we will be.
Remember: The first things that get banned in an authoritarian governments are the media and the arts. The question is why?
Who are some of your favorite public voices? Who do you think are the leaders of today’s movements? Do you have a favorite piece of artwork that stands to make a statement? Please remember to be respectable and leave a comment in the comment section below.