The Midnight Miracle & Culture As Software: Who Controls The Culture?
Culture is human software. It’s our operating system, our IOS depending on our geographic locations. Culture determines our language, how we interact with each other, what we value, what our morals and guiding principles are, what we think is beautiful, what we believe in, what we think is meaningful or worthwhile, what we wear, how we dance, how we think, who we fundamentally are as human beings is tied directly to our culture. Culture includes knowledge, belief, art, law, morals, customs, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society. If Culture is software, who are the programmers?
Culture used to be seen as this mystical act that comes from a divine source, and it's still seen that way in certain places around the world. The act of creativity & genius weren’t attributed to a person, rather some sort of divine spirit of inspiration that gave humanity access to these methods of communication, understanding, innovation & evolution, and used a human being as the vessel.
Religion has historically been the cultural ideological framework around the globe. The people who create culture were controlled, be it talented artists like Michelangelo & Da Vinci being hired by the Church to create religious works, or the Islamic Moors that went around creating Islamic mosques and architecture around Spain while spreading Islam, Culture has always been tied to a larger ideological & political force, and that force was religion for millennia.
Throughout human history Culture has been controlled by a group of elites and disseminated to the public. Even Jesus was fighting against the status quo, the culture of his time, the way the Jewish churches were operating, and colonial roman cultures' effect on humanity as a whole during his time. The story of Jesus was then taken, and used by The Church, who wanted to control people, because people were not able to read and write for themselves, that’s why Martin Luther went against the pope and the church because Martin felt that a human being should have their own connection with God & the ideologies of religion, that the church kept away from the masses.
The wars of the world have all been culture wars, once people conquer land they change people's customs, their traditions & their ways of life and make them similar to their own. When Europeans captured and brought slaves from Africa and stole land from the Natives of North America, they made sure to colonize, & indoctrinate them into the larger culture. They stripped them of their names, their language, their religions, their cultures and instilled their own, they hacked their software and rewrote the program.
Now we live in a post religious, post slavery, post enlightenment, postmodernist world and our relationship with culture is vastly different. Today we exist in the world of commercial culture, and that has fundamentally changed who we are as human beings, what our values are, and every single other thing you can imagine, in every way you can imagine.
We all grew up watching television, going to school, reading cereal boxes & books, listening to music, watching movies, going on social media and creating our own cultures and subcultures. There are communities of people whose primary culture is the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there are people whose primary culture is Punk Rock. Culture is no longer just this exclusive force to be disseminated to the masses by a religious institution, but modern mainstream culture is largely owned & controlled by corporations.
Due to social media, television & the rise of global telecommunication, the rise of literacy rates, & globalization, what we know as culture today is different to any other point in human history. Today corporations hire talented artists just like the church, and they let the public create the culture on platforms they own, and they use algorithms & influencers to push their own political or capitalistic agendas.
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.
Fashion, film, tv, news, music, art, sports, memes, the internet and social media, the culture is controlled by corporations in the modern day in the same way as religion all those years ago, the public participates & co creates the culture through social media platforms and algorithms.
In a world of commercial culture, what succeeds most is reduced to its most accessible, its least insightful, and most mass producible & propagandized elements. The algorithm preys on our limbic system & our dopamine floods. The algorithm preys on our reptilian brain that just wants to have sex, see explosions, fights, arguments and buy stuff, and that’s a very real part of what we are as humans too. Chaos, destruction & consumption are elements of the universe, but it's not the totality of what we are. People used to pay actual money to see trains crash into each other due to the excitement it brings, so Worldstar was inevitable. I completely understand the appeal of sensationalism, and as a person who has a media platform I know how to utilize it, but what does it do to humanity when sensationalism is mass produced without any valuable information.
On the Midnight Miracle Podcast with fellow co hosts Dave Chappelle & Talib Kwelli, Yasiin Bey aka Mos Def said many profound things about this particular topic but one of them was “Art is the thing people forget they need until they need it. And if you live in a society that reduces everything into a transaction then there’s no beauty, there’s no life that’s amazing and full of miracles, there’s just you pay me, you owe me, and that’s one element of life, but it’s not the sum total of being a human being. It’s terrible to pretend to be something that you are not, it’s worse to pretend to not be something that you actually are. No matter how you shake it out, we are human beings, we are not machines, and if we try to turn ourselves into machines we end up giving up something that we really need, and if we give it away too fast you might not be able to get it back. “
In the words of Yasiin Bey, a lot of modern media is a soundtrack to consumerism, it's an advertisement for a lifestyle, and the effects of that are clear as day. Everything is content, everything is about going viral, or getting likes, or making money & buying stuff. There’s a reason why depression rates are skyrocketing, why kids are willing to shoot up schools, or killing homeless people in the streets. There’s a hopelessness among people and that is directly connected to the type of culture & information we are consuming, and that is directly correlated to the infrastructure that disseminates the art being created. Its not necessarily that the world is getting worse, its more that doom & fear is constantly projected onto our consciousness, and part of that is because the response to fear is the cathartic expression of consumerism. From the 24 hour news, to the type of music that's popular, doom & gloom seem to be what sells. The algorithm pushes away anything that doesn’t further the agenda, but the agenda is literally detrimental to the human spirit.
From assembly lines to cubicles a lot of modern society tries it's hardest to turn people into machines, and the culture, the algorithm and social media are all part of the agenda that wants to turn people into machines.
Today you hear a lot about “The Culture '' Eddie Murphy & Jonah Hill's new Netflix movie ‘You People’ despite being a very lackluster and cringe movie overall, depicts this “Culture” that everyone is talking about. Black culture, Hip Hop culture, & American culture has taken over the globe in a very real sense. The movie depicted Jonah Hill as a person who grew up in an urban environment and grew up in the culture despite his jewish heritage and upbringing, and that’s a very real statement about the world. People in Japan wear baggy jeans and durags, the way we communicate, the way we interact, the way we dance, it has all been influenced by “The culture”
Now what is “The Culture”? We can track a lot of modern culture back to the creation of Hip Hop in New York in the 70s. it’s not just rap music, because there are people who hate rap music who are still influenced by the culture. The kids that created Hip Hop were the children of American civil rights activists whos parents were imprisoned, assassinated, and drugged out by a Government that put all of its energy into destroying that community. Those kids created the culture as a source of income, as a social movement, as a spiritual movement, and as a reflection of the society it was created within.
Hip Hop culture has always been influenced by street culture because its creators and founders were people in the streets, or close to people that were in the streets because they were impoverished people. Criminality was rampant because poverty was rampant and it presented itself in the culture. The people with money were criminals so a lot of the young poor kids on the streets admired the older criminals, from their style to their flair it all made its way back into the culture. Designers like Dapper Dan who design for Gucci today originally designed for the local drug dealers before the rappers started making enough money that they wanted to dress like the drug dealers.
In places like Los Angeles, Hip Hop culture became tied with gang culture. Organizations like the bloods and crips in California began as forms of protecting the community from police violence before becoming what they are today. That gang & drug dealer culture made its way into hip hop culture with rappers like Tupac & Eazy E being gang members and talking about their real life criminal exploits on hit records. This quickly spread around the globe and now there are even blood and crip factions in Africa.
Today cases like the YSL Rico are commonplace. Megastar Young Thug's music label is in jail, in court right now, for operating as a criminal organization, while rapping about it. Drill music is one of the biggest genres in the world and it’s literally people telling each other they are going to kill each other, and they are signed by major companies to spread this information in the music to the masses. Kids around the world are discussing the morals and ethics of snitching as we speak due to the influence of "the culture"
This is what Ye, the artist formerly known as Kanye West's whole point was when he was recently canceled for anti semitic comments. Ye is saying these corporations own and control all of the media we consume, and everyone we consume it from, and most of the information that they are spreading leads to a form of genocide where people around the world, people in urban environments, black people, are being compelled to kill each other, take pharmaceutical drugs, to embrace criminal principles, and to be mindless consumers.
NWA, Tupac, gangster rap, gangster movies, mafia movies, Tarantino movies, action and kung fu, looney tunes characters exploding, urban crime and violence, all of this is the gumbo that raised our modern culture. Now here we are, 2023. Memes, social media, rap or hip hop culture, the nba & sports, Tik Tok, viral dances and challenges, slang, fashion, & mass shootings, it’s all a part of our culture, but what have we allowed ourselves to become, to believe, and who are we allowing to shape us & our children? These are questions everyone should be asking themselves.
Art is important, & culture is important, and we have all been born in the post entertainment industry world where there's so much cynicism surrounding art because everyone's trying to make money and in order to succeed you have to fit into the algorithm, but there is art that is useful & necessary for who we are as human beings. There is art & culture that nourishes your spirit, provides you with inspiration, and showcases the beauty of this experience called life.
The capacity of a human being is so incredible to me. Everything I like that wasn’t created by God was created by people. God might’ve made Stanley Kubrick, but Stanley Kubrick made 2001: A Space Odyssey, which is ultimately just exploring and reframing God's creations. Humans don’t really create anything, we document, learn and reframe. We sample things that were already there and put them together through our lens and insight, we try & fail, we see what the limitations & restrictions are in our situation, and then we master those limitations until we can build cathedrals & get to the moon.
Humanity’s curiosity & potential fascinates me, and that’s why it depresses me more than I can articulate into words when the human experience is minimized. Despite our capacity & capabilities humanity as a whole has chosen to subscribe to the worst possible way of being, we trade our humanity for efficiency, we trade exploration for facts, time for money, adventure for entertainment, & mediocrity for security, or a false sense of security, but we still have the ability to appreciate beauty, we have the ability to create beauty, and we have the ability to experience beauty, and as long as we have those faculties intact we should use them and promote them as often as we can to change the overall cyle of negativity we are consuming & ultimately programming our softwares with.
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