Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Epistemology Of Egoist In Rap Music Part 2: Commodity Fetishism And Poverty

The nations which are still dazzled by the sensuous glitter of precious metals, and are, therefore, still fetish-worshippers of metal money, are not yet fully developed money-nations. Karl Marx Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844

In part one I wanted to give an example of how socioeconomic conditions affect and sometimes limit the choices available to many in urban communities. The rational egoist in 50 cent acted out of an urban survivalist instinct. This type of morality is based on doing what's deemed necessary for the sake of survival, whereas the psychological egoism in rap music is based on bling, money, and social status as its endgame. 

Many problems in the inner city have their roots in poverty. There are a multitude of those problems that having resources could solve. The physical and economic consequences that come with having very little money can be measured, but the deep rooted psychological and existential problems that can't be quantitatively measured are often the ones that cause the biggest problems for greater society. 

If a kid is hungry and we feed him, the hunger subsides for a while. The question is: how do we help that kid if he feels his self worth is tied to his hunger? Most teenagers don't wake up one morning and decide they don't care if they live or die. This pathology takes hold before they are old enough to understand it. We look at the families and communities and ascribe blame, but all that does is name the problem. Going to a mechanic and finding out you have a bad transmission doesn't fix it. Yes, we need diagnosis, but we also need treatment.

Take a kid from a broken home, add violence, lose the self esteem, and throw in a market culture that equates non market values like love, honesty, and loyalty less valuable than physical commodities and you get a recipe that isn't necessary for failure but sufficient. 

Some hustle to survive while others hustle to validate their lives. If you couldn't do anything but sell drugs, you would pour your heart into being the best dope dealer around. The lack of skills, trades, or commodifiable talents lead many to hustle, but the quest for status is the darker side of the hustle game.  

The choice to be a "gangster" takes less talent than courage. It's the hardest and easiest choice for some. If you have a world view that equates poverty to being a nobody, and money to success, then the choice is easier. The disproportionate value we (as a society) place on commodities bites us when crime can lead to there acquisition quicker than work. There's a breed of kids who value iphones, Jordan's, and Bentleys more than they value their lives. The symbolic value of these objects add real value to young lives full of poverty and despair. 

Karl Marx hit it on the head when he gave his treatment on nations that fetish the glitter of precious metals. If you substitute nations with people you see that his words still hold truth in them. Rap music as a vehicle for expressing the plight of the inner city has shown itself to be fully entranced by all things shiny. The horror stories of poverty in the hood were replaced by the horror stories of violence in the hood. Too many are ready to get rich or die tryin than get humble and die livin.

Money isn't the cause of this. I lean on biblical text 1 Timothy 6:10 reads as follows: For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

It's easy to look at the guy on the block in a wave cap, tank top, and baggy jeans and get scared; it's harder to understand how he got there. These are realities many who read this won't have to contend with, until they have to contend with them in the form of a senseless crime committed upon them or a loved one. We can hide away in our safe neck of the woods and pretend this doesn't exist until we are forced to face it.