Thursday 19 September 2019

Millennial diary: Ciara O'Connor

Kanye West. Photo: AP
Kanye West. Photo: AP

Ciara O'Connor

RIP Kanye West, who it seems is finally, after a slow and agonising descent, cancelled: he has become the somewhat unlikely poster-boy for white alt-right Trumpian America.

A couple of weeks ago, the internet sat up when he tweeted: "You don't have to agree with trump but the mob can't make me not love him. We are both dragon energy. He is my brother. I love everyone."

The sensation of having fallen into some alternate dimension only increased as Trump replied: "Thank you Kanye, very cool!"

Cool, indeed. And then, were we drunk or was that a picture of Kanye's signed 'Make America Great Again' cap?

Kanye posted texts from famous friends, urging him to be more careful. "So many people who love you feel so betrayed right know because they know the harm that Trump's policies cause, especially to people of colour," John Legend wrote.

Kanye replied: "You bringing up my fans or my legacy is a tactic based on fear used to manipulate my free thought."

Even his wife, PR genius Kim Kardashian, jumped from the good ship Kanye to save herself, writing: "Most people (including myself) have very different feelings & opinions about this."

Then, in an interview with TMZ, Kanye said: "When you hear about slavery for 400 years. For 400 years? That sounds like a choice… It's like we're mentally imprisoned."

The woke internet's new presidential hopeful was born as a TMZ office staffer, Van Lathan, spoke up: "You're entitled to believe whatever you want, but there is fact and real world, real life consequence behind everything that you just said." He continued: "While you are making music and being an artist and living a life that you've earned by being a genius, the rest of us in society have to deal with these threats to our lives. We have to deal with the marginalisation that has come from the 400 years of slavery that you said for our people was a choice."

Kanye's chastened face is that of every teenager being told off by their parents. The face of realising that you aren't the most important person in the world, that everything does not revolve around you. The surprising, eloquent and moving speech from Van Lathan was comprehensive in its intellectual and emotional critique of Kanye. It meant that the internet could get on with doing what it does best: making memes.

Black Twitter, the undisputed Whole Point of Twitter, was ruthless as #IfSlaveryWasAChoice began to trend.

Because willpower was enough to propel Kanye to where he is, he's all about self-reliance. Here, his politics dovetail nicely with fellow self-made man Trump: "I know Obama was heaven-sent/ But ever since Trump won, it proved that I could be president." But whether he likes it or not, as a black man, a black genius, in the public eye, the whole of Black America relies on him to not make their lives a misery.

His words are going to be co-opted and used to justify the hate of garden variety white supremacists all over America; it will be easier to gloss over the evils of their ancestors and wash their hands of slavery's ongoing socioeconomic impact. He will become the 'my black friend' of racists looking to deny the black American experience.

The linchpin of contemporary alt-right thought is the deification of free thought: the belief that political correctness quashes freedom of expression, and is the biggest threat facing humanity today. Kanye's there: "We can't be mentally imprisoned for another 400 years. We need free thought now." Trump's unappealingness is what appeals to Kanye - he wears a Trump hat "because it's a thing you're not supposed to do". Kanye is contrary.

Kanye rejects the identity politics that defines liberal America, and his words are that of every white 'I don't see race!' racists. Why can't we all just be dragon-energy friends? Slavery was then, this is now! He raps, "You on some choosin'-side shit, I'm on some unified shit...Actually, wearin' the hat'll show people that we equal."

Condemning a black man for his relationship with his race isn't for me, or any other white person to do. So what's an outraged white millennial to do? Because no, the Irish weren't slaves like black Africans were. So have your hand free and ready to slap the next person who saw a nonsense meme about Irish slaves once and now feels qualified to stroke their beard and suggest that it's not really about race and the Breitbart crowd might have a point.

Slaps. That's our job.

*******

Last week a beleaguered Facebook announced that it was planning to launch a dating app. The news was met with general bafflement by a population who frankly can't imagine anything worse. After the various disturbing revelations about Facebook playing fast and loose with our privacy, Mark Zuckerberg is the last person we want to hand our sex lives over to.

Haven't you got enough, Mark? HAVEN'T WE GIVEN YOU ENOUGH? It really feels like he's pushing his luck at this stage.

It came in the same week that Facebook fired a security engineer who allegedly took advantage of his position to access information he then used to stalk women from Tinder online. But tbh, as a generation of borderline professional stalkers who can find the primary school, current workplace and university dissertation of a crush, armed with only their first name, who wouldn't?

Facebook dating could be kind of perfect. If we just suspend our privacy qualms and lean in to it, Facebook could link us up to our soulmates based on our internet searches, favourite genre of porn and bank details! Sign me up.

*******

Last week in Things Millennials are Ruining for Everyone Else: The Simpsons.

A few months ago comedian Hari Kondabolu released a documentary, The Problem with Apu, which argued that The Simpsons stalwart Indian Kwik-E-Mart owner Apu 'Thank you, come again' Nahasapeemapetilon, was a racist caricature.

Defenders have been quick to point out that The Simpsons has a long and noble history of cultural stereotypes: groundskeeper Willie anyone? Apu is a caricature, but so is everyone else. Matt Groening reckons we're at "a time in our culture where people love to pretend they're offended".

The person who is talking the most sense is Hank Azaria, who voices Apu, who said he is "perfectly willing and happy to step aside" from voicing the character.

"I think the most important thing is we have to listen to South Asian people, Indian people... about what they feel and how they think about this character and what their American experience of it has been."

A bit of common sense here, at last.

It's a mantra for millennials to live by: you don't get to decide what's offensive if you're not the one being made fun of. Tell your parents, your friends, shout it from the rooftops. NO ONE CARES WHAT YOU THINK!

Sunday Independent

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