“Fuck you and your corporation, y’all niggas can’t control me” this line was uttered on ‘Yeezus’ the sixth studio album by American rapper and producer Kanye West. If you’ve read any of my other articles, you probably already know how much I love Kanye. Throughout the course of my life, the man has dropped nothing but great music. But it's more than just his music, his insights on life shaped my perspective on the world. I am being completely unironic when I make this point, watching Kanye West interviews when I was in the 9th grade made me think about the nature of life and my environment differently.
In the spirit of honesty, as a 14 year old I didn’t particularly enjoy Yeezus, I was listening to Drakes Nothing Was The Same and J Coles Born Sinner, both of which dropped that same year. Now as a pretentious & artsy grownup, I can see the appeal and appreciate it, but as a kid, I just wanted to hear some good music. The album was very experimental, with industrial sounds and Eurobeats, it was aggressive and had a lot of punk-ish anti-corporate messaging, it was nothing like the sound we were used to hearing from Kanye.
One song from the album that resonated from the moment I heard it was ‘New Slaves.’ This song, and the subsequent interviews after the album release, helped inform and shape my perspective on corporate interest and capitalism. Kanye talks about the Prison Industrial Complex and corporations profiting from prison labour, he named specific corporations, private prisons and government institutions that aided, and had a vested interest in the continuation and growth of this system. That led me down the rabbit hole into finding out the incarceration rate in general (one out of every 100 people in the United States is in a prison or jail), and the disproportionate incarceration rate of black people in America, and how a lot of those numbers are shaped, based on corporate interest, making prison a new form of socially acceptable slavery. He also made various allusions to corporate slavery like sweat shops, factories, 9 to 5's, project buildings and the mental material slavery of the postmodern age. As I get older, more layers of the song begin to present themselves and make sense, like how media, marketing and advertising are used to manipulate and control the masses.
Our desires are used to manipulate our trajectory in life. Sigmund Freud, the popular Austrian neurologist and the founder of psychoanalysis, talked about the unconscious desires of humans and how they control us without our knowledge. Freud had seen the tragedies of the first world war and began becoming more and more pessimistic about man. He believed that man, especially in groups, was vicious and sadistic. He believed that man could not control his hidden irrational forces. His nephew Edward Bernays took his uncle Freud's teachings and capitalized on them in the United States. Bernays invented public relations, and he was the first person to use psychoanalysis as a marketing scheme to manipulate the masses and form a society of happiness machines, focused on consuming products they don’t need, to make them feel superior to others. He changed the American masses (and eventually the world) from people who were only accustomed to buying things with practical use, into buying products because of the feelings they bring. Bernays took control of the unconscious desires and put them to use for economic profit.
Bernays was quoted saying: ”The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, and our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of…It is they who pull the wires that control the public mind.”
Now your honour, before you presuppose this to be some hippy Freud talk, I would like to present exhibit A "Torches of Freedom." : "Torches of Freedom" was a phrase used to encourage women's smoking by exploiting women's aspirations for a better life during the early twentieth century first-wave feminism in the United States. Cigarettes were described as symbols of emancipation and equality with men. The term was first used by psychoanalyst A. A. Brill when describing the natural desire for women to smoke and was used by Edward Bernays to encourage women to smoke in public despite social taboos. Bernays hired women to march while smoking their "torches of freedom" in the Easter Sunday Parade of 1929, which was a significant moment for fighting social barriers for women smokers. Bernays created one of the most successful marketing campaigns of all time. Millions of people harmed their own body because they were manipulated into believing it was a symbol for freedom. This technique is still used to this day with all products, our unconscious desires are used to advertise to us, that's why no perfume commercial is ever about the perfume. Another example of how it can be used negatively is how every entertainer advertises their liabilities, conveniently from the same jeweler, who's also famous, and that's our dream, to buy the jewelry, just to mismanage any life changing amount of wealth, into the purchasing of mediocre products, all to keep us running on the hamster wheel.
In an interview with Zane Lowe, Kanye referenced the bar “Fuck you and your corporation, y’all niggas can’t control me” as the reason to why the song, that was clearly a hit by radio programming standards, was not played on radio. Radio, television and mass media are tools used by the elite to control the masses. Corporations use public relations and psychoanalysis in media, in order to curate their marketing to our unconscious desires, create reality and control the masses.
Noam Chomsky, an American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, historian, social critic, and political activist, said in his book titled ‘Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media’ “The mass media serve as a system for communicating messages and symbols to the general populace. It is their function to amuse, entertain, and inform, and to inculcate individuals with the values, beliefs, and codes of behavior that will integrate them into the institutional structures of the larger society. In a world of concentrated wealth and major conflicts of class interest, to fulfill this role requires systematic propaganda.” Among the many controversial assertions presented here is his contention that about 15 percent of the population is indoctrinated to support and manage cultural life. Th0se are the agents of the simulation, managers, TSA agents, people that maintain the rigidity of the corporate status quo. "Then there's maybe 80 percent of the population whose main function is to follow orders and not to think . . . And they're the ones who usually pay the price."
Kanye said the reason the line “Fuck you and your corporation, y’all niggas can’t control me” was the most controversial line, in a song that details multiple allegations of corruption and bureaucracy, is because if one person isn't controlled, then the 80 percent realize that we individuals have autonomy in our decision making, then there will be a global shift in power.
Last week a war began between “retail investors” (individual day traders, or regular people) and institutional investors (big Wall Street firms). Hedge funds, supposedly the professionals, have been betting against GameStop’s stock using a trading technique called short selling. Day traders, organizing under the subreddit r/WallStreetBets, are holding onto the shares of GameStop that they own — despite skyrocketing values that have made some of them millions of dollars on paper — to stick it to the hedge funds. The battle began last week, when r/WallStreetBets realized that its users, who had bought into the stock when the supposed smart money was shorting it, effectively controlled the supply of GameStop shares in circulation. Hedge funds lost billions of dollars and Wall Street had to get help from brokerages like Robin Hood to literally prevent people from purchasing stocks, in order for the Hedge Funds to make money. They manipulated the market in front of our eyes, in order to keep the rich, richer.
People on Reddit realized that through connection, unity and information, we are unstoppable. All they had to do was be well informed on stocks, and then unite, in order to make change. The 1% is still figuring this social media thing out in real time, just like us. Kids on Reddit used the elites trick against them, and they lost, so much so, that they visibly manipulated their free market. This was a revolutionary moment, on so many levels. Hedge Funds and big investors have been manipulating the market for decades, retail investors had no way of knowing, or even participating in this effort. There is a growing understanding among young people that we are powerful, especially when we are well informed and united.
None of this is financial advice by the way. In French philosopher Jean Baudrillard's 1981 book Simulacra and Simulation, he discusses the idea of images and signs, and how they relate to our contemporary society, wherein we have replaced reality and meaning with symbols and signs; he states that what we know as reality is actually a simulation of reality. The simulacra that Baudrillard refers to are the signs of culture and media that create the reality we perceive: a world saturated with imagery, infused with communications media, sound, and commercial advertising.
Baudrillard labeled this new world a hyperreality, in which entertainment, information, and communication technologies provide experiences more intense and involving than the scenes of mundane everyday life, as well as the codes and models that structure everyday life. The realm of the hyperreal (e.g., media simulations of reality, Disneyland and amusement parks, malls and consumer fantasylands, TV sports, virtual reality games, social networking sites, and other excursions into ideal worlds) is more real than real, whereby the models, images, and codes of the hyperreal come to control thought and behavior. The simulacrum, values, beliefs, and codes of behavior that will integrate us into the institutional structures of the larger society are all controlled by the media and private corporations. We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, and our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. It is they who pull the wires that control the public mind.
In this man made structure, one of the main barriers towards freedom is information, and that is removed through an equal access to information. Our collective access to information is having unprecedented ramifications on the world. Its rapidly changing the preexisting infrastructures. The internet has, and is going to, change the world far more than the Gutenberg Printing Press. We were raised on the internet, we grew up finding cheat codes to GTA on the internet, and we're finally coming to the realization that the world is a malleable field of potential that can be shaped, and we can find the codes on the internet, just like in GTA. Every piece of documented information is accessible at the tip of our finger, we can take that information and then apply it to solving complex problems in our personal lives, and towards the broader community, in order to achieve our optimal state. That realization within the masses will be the single biggest proponent towards our ideal future.
We are enslaved to the ideas and limitations of what private interests have deemed reality, and have a vested interest in making us believe is just "the way it is" in order to maintain the status quo. That's not true, things have changed and things will continue to change, and we have the ability to make them change for good and bad, based on our decisions. We are constantly told we need more, our self esteem and self belief is eroded by greedy people that want to profit from the ignorance and self hatred of the masses, and make us drones, instead of pursuing creativity, beauty, freedom, self sufficiency and autonomy. We can stop buying from unreasonably expensive brands to feel superior, and we can start actually supporting products because they are quality, innovative, beautiful, creative, display craftsmanship, thoughtfulness and add something to our lives.
Corporate interests create our perception of reality, and limit our aspirations of what life can be. We’ll be listening to what someone else thinks is possible, what they think success is, what failure means in their eyes, and what our capacity is through their version of reality. Marketing will always seem like a well intentioned remark for our betterment, under the guise of realism, but it's allowing someone else to curate ourselves. All these people are doing is advertising a base reality for us, they are often people that are indoctrinated to support and manage cultural life
Kanye is often called arrogant for his ambitions, but he realized the truth. Certain people have a vested interest in a society of people with low ambitions and a low self esteem. They create and prey on those traits, like sociopaths do. We buy things to maintain this strange game of abstract status and appear better than someone else, instead of acquiring or creating value. Ambitions, aspirations, beauty, truth, creativity, sustainability, valuable skills, useful information and entrepreneurial spirits aren't promoted, because that gives us autonomy and removes the value in a lot of unnecessary middlemen, that also harm the planet. The way to wake up from that trance is to realize that our reality is a curated simulation, built and run by regular people.
Instead of letting our options be pre-picked, we have to start understanding why we are making certain decisions in the first place? How necessary are these decisions, and is it really something I want to do? Our reality is curated by institutional agent Smiths of the simulation, you may know them as Newsmen, Vice Principals, Managers, Teachers, maybe even Parents, Uncles, Aunts and Friends, and sometimes you may occupy the role of institutional agent Smith. They are people who occupy their set cultural role to limit your autonomy, ambitions and self esteem. People who have never lived our lives, have not done what we want to do, they don’t work or study in fields we want to pursue, and we have nothing in common with, but they will tell us what our reality is? Where is it coming from? How can they know what is realistic for us? They’re actually projecting a reality for us. You don’t think YOU could do that, I can do anything I put my mind to, the moment we actually decide to put our minds to it.
Don’t tell me what’s realistic for me. Keep your truth to yourself. We let others' perception of what our life is supposed to be, guide our aspirations. It affects our decision making. We constantly pursue the “realistic” path because that’s what we were told reality is. But the world is manufactured, it's manmade, which means it can be shaped and innovated, curated and bettered. You can write a sentence in the pages of history. We are watching Bitcoin, a new form of currency, change the market in front of our eyes. We have seen what Reddit could do to the stock market. Everything that has been done, has been done by someone, if something you want to do has been done by another person, why can’t you be a human that does it too? Maybe you can be the human that innovates it and betters it. Someone has succeeded, pull up their blueprints, how did they do it? How can you duplicate that? What was their technique? How do you develop a technique? What were some mistakes they made? How can you avoid them? How can you learn about it faster? What's the most optimal way to pursue it? Figure it out, and do it. The internet has given us all of the codes of operation.
Yeezus, and New Slaves specifically, talks about the world we live in being a tightly controlled, simulated infrastructure. We are guided by branding, marketing, and information, that aids the rich and keeps the poor, poor. The infrastructure relies on a docile population, whose main function is to follow orders and not to think, or search for useful information. So we become drones, always stuck on the hamster wheel with a carrot constantly dangling in front of us, making money for the 1% so we can buy mass produced and uninspired things from the 1%.
The one time we creatively unite and try to better our living situations, the market didn’t know what to do. Kids on Reddit were part of one of the largest exchanges of wealth in recent memory, some people even became multimillionaires overnight, a true achievement of the American Dream. Many users declared it revenge against Wall Street for the 2008 Market crash. They had to change the rules, that’s how impactful we can be.
This impact will reverberate across all industries until the masses wake up, make them stop polluting our world, stop stealing food from people's plates, stop playing with peoples lives, make health, beauty, education and creativity priorities, take back autonomy and proclaim “Fuck you and your corporation, y’all niggas can’t control me.” Then the information age Renaissance can truly begin. Instead of the rigidity of greed, bureaucracy and corruption, we can move through the waves of progress, valuing life and nature, guaranteed living standards, sustainability, autonomy, creativity, intellect, beauty, decency and actually equal opportunities, otherwise we're just wasting time. A reset button like Covid-19 could actually let us start chasing our ideal, on an individual level, instead of settling for less bad. We have the tools to get us there, the only things preventing us are the shackles of misinformation and primitive instincts like fear and greed, that man needs to break free from, if he wants to evolve. Yeezus is a great album.
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