Tell me, if I describe ‘P Diddy’ as a vacuous mouth breathing troglodyte, does that make me a racist? He, his MTV show ‘making the band’, and the lifestyle he espouses – seem utterly devoid of any worth or value. This superficial urban ‘culture’ does a disservice to America’s swelling, ethnically diverse and politically disenfranchised underclass, and to the complex and richly textured art, literature, and cultural history of African Americans.
I despise this desperate prostitution, this adoption of the cliched badges of hyper masculinity, this celebration of banal conformist popularity. Such endless recycling of demeaning, dehumanising imagery is not an effort at empowerment, nor a reclamation of identities used as labels of derogation. Rather it is a pathetic submission, an abasement of self and abandonment to the most venial and demeaning masks of servitude.
You might wonder if there is an element of hypocrisy in an English speaking Irishman, fat from the economic benefits and intellectual enrichment of ‘800 years of oppression’ (sic) writing this; After all, the truism that ‘the language of the oppressor in the mouth of the oppressed is the language of the slave’, pervades middle class Irish culture. However, I posit that there is a fair degree of difference between acknowledging the benefits of, and utilising the opportunities afforded by ones cultural milieu, and participating in and profiting from the simultaneous subjugation and exploitation of ones people.
It’s a thorny issue, as to hold up any individual as a totemic representative, responsible to some degree as an example or unelected leader of their cultural or ethnic group, risks depriving that individual of their right to construct an identity, irrespective of the position of power, influence or visibility they have attained.
And yet, to deny the responsibility of vacuous celebrity ‘artists’ for the derogation of popular culture to a theatre of parodic sexuality, and a celebration of obscene wealth and pantomimed violence; to deny in particular the social facilitation of models of monetaried, homogenised ethnic prostitution adopted by celebrities of colour, from Beyonce Knowles to Andre 3000; is to subscribe to a deterministic functionalist perspective which denies the very significance of such individuation.
With power comes responsibility, and with the celebration of the slim rich slice of social inequality comes an identification with the division of the cake. One could argue that this is an unfair critique, that the very ‘fevered egos’ elevated to celebrity by the succubean monstrosities of media conglomerates, are by definition the most soulless, whorish desperates of any given culture – and indeed this is a valid point. The Simon Cowells, Lois Walsh’s and Justin Timberlake’s of this world are harbingers of the death of criticism and diversity in popular culture. But where are the independent voices decrying the prostitution of black America? Where is the Foucault? Where is the County Cullen, the Theolonias Monk; where is today’s Richard Prior? Where are the genderfuckers of racial identity?
Has the disenfranchisement of ethnic minorities, through the systematic destruction of education and social welfare systems, succeeded to the point where dissenting voices feel restrained to silence? Or are such voices quieted by the dumbing of the public forum? Maybe I’m just ignorant. Let me know.