We Made It in America: The Political Undertones of Pop-Culture & Hip-Hop [continued…]


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In Part I of his interview with BBC broadcasted in 2009, prominent rapper & social icon Jay-Z expressed his views on many contentious issues gripping the politics of America & the international community today.

The photograph above is very significant to this blog entry. It is a picture of Kanye West & Jay-Z during their Watch The Throne tour throughout the US. The title of this blog, is the title of quite a meaningful song on the album: “We Made It in America”. The song laments on the grievances & legacies of the African-American people, as well as the African culture from which they were essentially kidnapped; & which continues be exploited today.

This is Part II of the interview, continued:

The song is inspiring. The message too. Not only does it expose the crimes of the US against its own people, it expresses the genius of the African people, in the realms of art, music & culture. Watch The Throne, was a political masterpiece. A magnum opus. All the words fit. I felt like I was LISTENING to Plato’s The Republic. It’s the soundtrack, if indeed The Republic were a movie.

Essentially the political undertones of Watch The Throne are echoing the socio-economic grievances of all disenfranchised, marginalized, gentrified & exploited minorities. The twisted sense of “individualism” in the Western culture justified the historic atrocity of the trans-atlantic slave-trade, which exists today in a more elusive form, such as police brutality, gentrification, disenfranchisement, mass incarceration, income inequality & unequal opportunities for minorities.

These grievances are echoed by intellectuals of the 19th & 20th century, mostly non-American. I’ve listed a few examples below.

George Orwell, famed writer of 1984 & Animal Farm, was a “democratic-socialist” who warned against capitalism & communism, arguing the two led to statism.

Albert Camus, an anarchist, was sympathetic to communism but stressed that collective apparatuses might lead to corruption and statism.

Any Rand, hailed by Conservatives, defines the epitome of the hypocritical dogma of anarchical-capitalism. A self-proclaimed anarchist, Rand proved she was not loyal to her own creed, as she relied thoroughly on state welfare & sponsorship from the state of Israel, inconsistent with her atheism as well as her free-market fundamentalism.

All these perspectives force the following questions to float around in my head:

Is socialism another power-grabber?

It seems like the US & Europe despise socialist entities.

Are we the devil or are they?

Who’s killing who?

While most fight for freedom for some, who fights for freedom for all?

So what is the evil? It seems that hyper-individualism mirrors the tyranny of hyper-collectivism, both of which result in the exploitation of minority classes.

Prominent African-American scholar Cornel West associates the suppression of Civil Rights with statism as well as capitalism. He argues that America is not a democracy, because it serves an elite class at the expense of the will of the people. Furthermore, West suggests that capitalism results in many of the imbalances in the economy that cause misery for the lower classes.

I would argue, like 20th century German economist Fredrick List, that every successful nation-state adopts mixed economics combining state intervention with free market flow, which suggests that democracy & capitalism alone cannot guarantee the protection of individual rights. In many ways, democracy has engrained & perpetuated the tradition of exclusivity in the West which deems minorities, including blacks, latinos, arabs, gays, muslims & atheists are second class citizens, with little access to mobility in the economic ladder.

Freedom, salvation & happiness are not products of capitalism, materialism or the intellectual dogma of hyper-collectivism.

Rather, these virtues are achieved through humility, hard-work & self-reliance and the rest follows. Meanwhile, the power-hungry aim to deprive man of these freedoms, through propaganda & excessive force. How well do democracy & capitalism alone ensure these virtues? Historically, they’ve done as much as communism to improve the living conditions of the lower classes.

In his recent acceptance speech at the BET Honors ceremony, Kanye West took time to reflect on issues that form the bedrock of the Hip-Hop culture. Here is a snippet:

Fundamentalists, be they religious or atheistic in essence wholly worship man-made ideologies that eventually collapse on themselves, such as the neoconservative model of hyper-capitalism exhibited by NATO countries or the police-like communism of the USSR.

The association between the American & European traditions of suppressing & exploiting foreign countries is based in their logic of exclusivity. That is why 1% of Americans own America, while the vast majority remains living check-to-check. That is why, while the institution of slavery ended some time ago, the US remains at the top of the list for highest incarceration rates in the world, with the highest prisoner count than any other in the world. Yet, Iran is the great satan. Syria is the great satan. Venezuela. We go to war for oil & that oil never trickles down to the poor. In fact, it is usually the taxpayer funding all of this, against his will for the most part.

It is times likes these when I begin to question the logic of ‘democracy.’ There isn’t even 1 single definition of democracy. It is a vague term that is thrown around. Most people think it means representative government. Some think it means majority wins. Others believe it means universal law. I would say one of the distinctive features are the electoral process & term limitations. Democracy, especially by the Right-Wing, is viewed as the protector & guaranteer of capitalism & free market competition. But in reality, it seems, like communism, only to concentrate wealth in the hands of an already established elite so as to convince the masses they are free, to sustain them for lack of self-sustenance & to thereby garner their support for all political/colonial initiatives. The free-market is not protected by democracy or capitalism, but rather, just as in communism, becomes held hostage to the ignorance of mass-minded forces of collectivism. The freedoms awarded to the elite are limited to the mass because of a fear of intimidation & competition. A lot of propaganda is aimed at trying to convince us (both capitalism & communism do this) that earth’s resources are scarce & need proper redistribution.

But “exclusivity is the new N word,” said the courageous Kanye West during his most latest interview with Zane Lowe, in reference to the culture of hubris & bigotry that has disenfranchised all minorities & expressionists from the conversation of social justice.

LINK HERE: http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/player/bbc_radio_one#

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Remembering Anthony Shadid (1968-2012)


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On September 1st, 2011, late journalist & NYT foreign correspondent Anthony Shadid came to speak to UCF students about his recent escapades in the Middle East, namely his most recent experiences in Libya, where Shadid recalled being taken hostage with two other associates for three days.

I am grateful to say I had the opportunity to sit in on his speech. I was even able to meet with Shadid shortly after his speech during which I introduced myself. He was quick to smile with news that I am Syrian. I purchased his most recent book, Night Draws Near, in which he left me a little note, perhaps a little naive in hindsight, or just rashly hopeful as all Arabs tend to be. “See you in Damascus,” he uttered.

Anthony Shadid reminded me what it means to be an Arab, aside from the ordinary customs, our cuisine, language music and traditions. Anthony Shadid reminded me that at the heart of being Arab is the nature of resilience; our ability to laugh and chuckle even amidst the darkest of chaos. I vaguely remember a story told to me by close friend of mine, a Palestinian political activist from Ramallah, Tami Rafidi. Rafidi, whose husband was taken captive by Israeli forces never to be returned, embodied this resilience. Despite her frustrations; anger & suffering, Rafidi recalled memories of running wildly along the rugged Palestinian terrain dodging Israel fire while laughing, telling jokes & drinking the famous Arab liquor – ‘arak’.

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In 2006, when Israel began bombing Hezbollah sites in Lebanon, the Lebanese people were seeking refuge by day; clubbing relentlessly by night. Despite all the misery and control, the Arabs found a way; an outlet.

It is Tami’s resilience, the resilience of the Lebanese people, which echoed the sentiments of Anthony Shadid, who did not stop short of asserting during his speech: “At the heart of the Arab struggle is Palestine, a very dear subject for the Arab & Muslim world. This cannot be understated.”

I admire this man for his courage and resolve.

In 2012, during a trip to Syria where he was capturing stories about the ensuing conflict in the region, Shadid suffered what appeared to be a asthma attack. Shortly after Shadid passed. I was shocked by the news. Without any history of medical complications except for minor sensitivities to allergens, Shadid was not on course for any type of health issues.

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I remember having met his daughter at the time of his speech. She was quite young, very polite & beautiful. My prayers and thanks are with her, wherever she may be, for having had such an amazing man as a father. My dream is to honor his legacy and the struggle of the Arab people all over the world, which he represented so well.

I did not want to go into any details or elaborate on the possibility of foul-play regarding Shadid’s death, out of respect for him & his family. I will add, however that with regards to the Middle East, there is without a doubt an unrelenting fear among journalists, dissidents or activists of any sort, of persecution for propagating legitimate news, especially if it poses a threat to the interests of particular political actors. His bodies of work, including the aforementioned book, shows no restraint in exposing the consequences of the US government’s disastrous policies which would usher in violent instability & chaos that has yet to conclude, even a decade after the US initiated the invasion.

I pray that in the case of Shadid, his passing was a matter of fate and nature. Nonetheless, his legacy remains & the struggle for Arab dignity continues.

RIP Anthony Shadid. Thank you. May the children of Iraq see justice one day. Long live the Arab struggle for freedom & may Palestine one day be free!


they spread lies to make it seem like we don’t have enough resources to be individual dreamers.