Culture, Psychopathology, and a walk in the rain

I’ve long been a fan of “found art”, more recently “found poems”, and now “found blog posts”. This one I’ve lifted (with permission) from my “Meuse”. 

Meuse and I go way back, all the way to Africa.  We used to sit around funky hotel lobbies drinking Lion Lager and writing poetry.  But that’s another story. 

Today’s story is “found” because it was written as a daily disposable e-mail.  I think it deserves some circulation before being chucked.  And furthermore, I can’t write this kind of cultural commentary.  Music, rap, Lady Gaga—they’re not my forte.  But calling psychopathic behaviour to account — yes, I’m all for that.

Here’s Meuse (basically thinking out loud): 

halifax in rainI was out walking in the cold May Nova Scotia morning rain when blood suddenly reached my brain, and I could think for the first time since last August. 

(Note: Meuse is often droll and self-deprecating.)  

Inexplicably, it jogged into mind an old notion of popular art and culture being a reflection of current times.  Or is it a prediction of times to come?  

This notion must have come out of my recent exposure to rap music, which I managed to avoid for 20 years.  I thought it would be a good idea for a brief study.

I crawled back home, in from the cold and rain, and checked out the original “Telephone” rap video by Lady Gaga.  (The little Brit Gypsy rapper, Cher Lloyd, sang it in amateur competition.)

Lady GagaI thought that Lady Gaga’s video would be as interesting and benign as P!NK’s “Family Portrait” video.  What I found wasn’t exactly disturbing, but I did wonder what impression it leaves in the minds of the young teenage audience.  

There seems to be a lot of violence and psychopathology on display in the most popular rap videos.  Of course there is as much or more in newscasts and films.  But I don’t recall pop musical culture in the ’50s and ’60s being as deeply violent or overtly psychopathological.  Of course there was the madness of war, and the insanity of tribes like that of Charlie Manson.

Maybe young people are already far beyond what looks like excess in rap videos, and they see it entirely for the fantasy it is.  

Even without rap videos there are going to be kids who bring guns to school to kill other kids. It may only be a function of news media penetration, but it appears to me that there has been an explosion of infanticide and parricide (Note: murder of parents by young children).  I think it’s real.

So, does rap culture and its music cause adults and children to take up arms against each other?  Or is it a reflection of a direction society is moving in?  I think the latter.  Rap isn’t showing the way.  It’s showing where society already is.  This has been an aspect of popular culture and art for 150 years or longer.

Is a shift happening now that has yet to be revealed?

I’m locked into a view of art and culture as I experienced it when I was young. Perhaps this narrow vision prevents me from seeing the social dynamic as it actually is today!  Perhaps there is even more to understand than I have been able to imagine.  I’ll take it under advisement, but probably never look at it systematically.  I’m too old.  

If rapper madness wants me, I have no defenses.  After all, I’m just learning about this emerging art form called rap.

I’m soaked now.  I must remember I’m supposed to come in out of the cold and rain.

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Comments

  1. McGoo says

    I think rap, like strong, passionate statements made public, do serve to unite all those disparate energies in search of expression. So, that being the case, it actually helps diminish the pent-up frustrations of a younger generation struggling through these (in some ways) terrible times. Better out than in. I love rap.

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