PSA: Hip Hop & The Corporate Thievery of Democracy, Part II:
Hijacking Freedom in a Post-COVID World
As we begin to understand corporate tactics and their immediate effect on people and culture, we can unearth exactly why a $15 billion dollar industry thriving off the creativity of poor people isn’t eradicating poverty as it grows. The answer is simple: creative energy requires solidarity to benefit everyone. Building solidarity takes time. A corporate-run society keeps people engaged in the idea that time is scarce by selling us a false narrative… solidarity? Ain’t nobody got time for that. This is a Catch-22.
The flawed logic of time-scarcity was exposed when the COVID pandemic hit, forcing schools to close, work schedules to pause, and the masses to quarantine themselves pending further instructions. Navigating our mental health was challenging across the spectrum, from feeling isolated to somehow feeling connected through the common experience of isolation. Quarantining gave some of us time to think outside the box of our daily grind and open a window of clarity on how we should return to our lives. Others were desperate to return to business as usual. Whichever the case, our free will is now at stake like never before. Why?
Because time doesn’t actually exist. Objectively speaking, that is. Time is a subjective experience that we are taught is something to follow externally, not something we create and follow inside of ourselves. It’s not our fault. We’ve been conditioned by other people’s schedules since we were born, from our parents, through school, and by the time we reach voting age (more on that later), we are primed to fully depend on our work schedules for physical survival.
Corporate strategists know and exploit this for all its worth, controlling communal solidarity through our personal decisions on both an individual and collective level by incentivizing our sense of reason between short-term and long term solutions. Short-term answers are an easy temporary solution because they give us emotional gratification. We will pay money for convenience even if that means accepting harmful side-effects. Just think if we’re willing to ignore the long term consequence for a quick fix, how much easier is it for corporations to employ their vast resources to exploit our comfort-addictions?
The tech industry is the latest corporate force wreaking havoc on our sense of time. Just like a slow-loading website or (ahem) virus can throw our whole equilibrium off, attention spans are getting progressively shorter with each successive generation, making it all the more reasonable for us to pay more for faster returns…and the algorithms know it. Corporate logic pays people to leverage the profit-motive, reinforcing time-scarcity to normalize a transnational corporate agenda across all classes of people.
So it’s a no-brainer why short-term reasoning is normalized throughout our daily lives via entertainment, education, economy, etc. — because thinking this way actually requires no brain — er, processing power. If the standards for intelligence remain technologically-based, computers will outperform humans every time and the tech companies will be the only ones who profit. It’s already happening. The Bill Gates Foundation started investing in the digital automation of education back in 2012, and the pandemic gave corporations all the more reason to keep the trend going. Look no further than the closure of public schools and the rise of charter schools using public funds while making deals with private interests to fund their technology. We are forging ahead in the market at the expense of our ability to think critically about where we are heading.
When emotional gratification is valued more than emotional literacy we have a major system-bug in the works. STEM vs. STEAM discussions illustrate this bug and who has the foresight to include Art (and Humanities) as an essential subject to balance the current academic curricular shift towards Science, Tech, Engineering and Math. If we do not learn how to navigate our internal processes with critical thought and expression, and we simply accept the corporate agenda-narrative we are being sold, we will have willingly given up our power to change it. Act now. Think later. That’s the American hustle.
How about we think first. Our individual lack of attention to the long term effects of our choices leads to every social crisis that remains — racism, classism, nationalism, elitism, etc. — and it is the sole obstacle to attaining solidarity. It’s how a community as strong as Breakin’ can be “broken” into factions so an outside corporation can misinform the public long enough to siphon money away from the families who created and invest in it.
It’s not just about Hip Hop and the Olympics. Any power structure that elevates a select few holds the key to dismantling its democracy. If those selected are easily persuaded by their belief in scarcity — whether it be time, money, power, or just plain love — they can be manipulated. This same logic employed in corporate boardrooms is used to corner markets, divide cultures, and topple governments. And when the public has been misinformed to the point that it accepts its own futility in reasserting its own power, democracy is lost.
Back to voting. 18 years of experiencing time as a tool of conformity is enough for anyone to feel disempowered if you were never taught differently. It is easy to look at recent history and feel like electoral politics is a joke. What’s not funny is that corporate interests across the nation are drafting voter suppression legislation in hopes that the morale of free thinking individuals remains low enough to be edged out democratically. They are counting on people not to count, and if we don’t, it won’t be their fault.
Back to time. We are told that voting is the key to democracy, which isn’t true. Local organizing, political education, civic action, and constant pressure holding our representatives accountable to public demands — plus voting — is the key to democracy. But all that takes time, which nobody thinks they have enough of until they are shown otherwise.
For many the trajectory is unavoidably bleak, but there is a constituency of people who are successfully navigating these shifting paradigms by applying a timely formula of art, education and activism where the value of the product is exponentially greater than its factors. This formula is creating a new economic class of people able to sustain themselves by informing each other about working solutions for our most fundamental problems.
It is how assessments of the challenges around Hip Hop in the Olympics can be shared in real-time before any official decisions are made. It is the sharing of critical information that allows the pillars of democracy to re-emerge. Without information there is no voice. Without a voice, freedom has no power. Our corporate source(s) of information are masquerading as public services, making its strength also its greatest weakness. Since there is no corporate interest in changing a trajectory that takes power away from the people, it is the power of the people telling a fuller truth that will reveal the cause of its own short-sighted agenda.
If you took the time to read this, you’ll be ready for “Part 3: The Awakening Giant on the West Coast” in no time.
Rahman Jamaal Mc is the National Executive Director for Hip Hop Congress, Inc., a 501c3 educational global nonprofit network of artists, educators and activist-organizers.