To understand what you’re about to read, you should watch the following video by Prince EA, an American rapper and activist – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q0qD2K2RWkc
He has helped inspire thousands by producing videos that address complex problems with digestible solutions that can be easily understood by any layman. Hence, his immense sycophant following – not a surprise. He is talented, no doubt. To frame problems in such a lyrical way cannot go without reckoning. But that is where my appreciation begins and ends.
You cannot dilute convoluted problems like climate change or racial profiling without losing its essence. This is similar to what I faced as an amateur poet – I would often change my poem’s direction, whilst losing sight of its core meaning, just to obtain a rhyming harmony.
These problems require a lot of time to understand, let alone resolve. Hence for the sake of mass appeal, Prince’s videos do not portray the problems as they should be, rather they portray the problems in a way that evokes a sensory response.
ALL of them (yes, all) take advantage of the same cognitive biases. To better illustrate, I shall now dissect his videos for your enlightenment.
First, Prince starts by making an eyebrow raising statement. He then continues by painting a grisly picture of the present. Oh, what an awful time to live in – an anti-social pro-destruction era, where war and violence are ubiquitous and the end of humanity is looming in the regressing periphery. We have apparently fallen from a merry past where everyone was happy and cheerful (WW1, WW2, holocaust – yep not in my books). To sum it up, he uses the ‘negativity bias’ because psychologically, people pay more attention to negative information.
Next, the tone in the music shifts to a lighter one. Voila, the climax. The solution to all our problems, be it deforestation or the negative externalities linked with social media, is love and compassion. Love is the panacea!
Do I disagree? No. In a way, love does solve everything. But that’s like answering “How do we eradicate poverty?” by saying “Uplift the unfortunate.” Not everything right is meaningful.
And that brings me to Prince’s latest video (the link is placed at the top). So far, none of his videos have ticked me off. But this one does it for me because it is seriously misguided.
Prince claims we must remove ‘labels’ because it leaves us with prejudice, division and conflict. Simple as that. And that’s where the problem lies. Labels are NOT the problem. You can’t force people to somehow erase labels – maybe on paper, but you can’t force everyone to be colorblind. What are you asking for? Historical amnesia? Removing something that has connected communities for centuries?
You mistake labels for identity. Obama’s revered qualities of being genuine and patient aren’t attributed to his skin color. The identity you make for yourself is distinct from the label you possess. Labels are nothing but harmless demarcations.
It is everything else that surrounds the label – the stereotypes/prejudices – that need to be removed. But removing stereotypes is so platitudinous an opinion that you wouldn’t go for it; instead you go for something far more outlandish but which strikes the gullible viewer as pragmatic (or, inspirational) – just to claim rights to an opinion that is so miraculously original and purportedly revolutionary.
And to those who claim to be inspired by watching these videos – I do not disagree with you. But inspiring is nothing if it doesn’t inspire action. Sensory appeal is only momentary – you might be in a thoughtful trance for a few minutes but it ends there. Do you know the people who truly stands out as inspiring? Those who lead by example; those who actually take the trouble of defying norms; those who have lived the tale; those who stand out as mavericks fighting for justice. NOT those who make videos defaming social media and yet, ironically, promoting these videos on their social media accounts. NOT those who get paid to be inspiring.