Wednesday, May 02, 2018


I'm a little late to the most recent Kanye West controversy, though I see that #IfSlaveryWereAChoice is trending on Twitter. West said this in a TMZ interview:
When you hear about slavery for 400 years ... for 400 years? That sounds like a choice. Like, you was there for 400 years and it’s all of y’all? It’s like we’re mentally in prison.
What did he mean by that? I think he meant what thick-necked self-help guru Tony Robbins meant when he denigrated supporters of the #MeToo movement at a public appearance in March:
Robbins ... said at an event on March 15, that some people were misusing the #MeToo hashtag. "I'm not knocking the #MeToo movement; I'm knocking victimhood," he said. "If you use the #MeToo movement to try to get significance, and certainty by attacking or destroying someone else, you haven't grown an ounce."
Kanye is a black man, but he's also a rich, successful male egomaniac, and like a lot of rich, successful male egomaniacs, he seems to believe that non-rich, not-successful people's problems would magically vanish if they'd just develop a positive mental attitude. Belief in the transformative power of positive thinking has been an American religion for generations. Robbins is obviously one of its best-known preachers, but West sounds like an acolyte as well.

In West's remarks there's a strain of the Bill Cosby pull-your-pants-up black cultural conservatism that Ta-Nehisi Coates has written about at length, but I also see New Age self-help thinking in it, along with a touch of Nietzsche as interpreted by Reddit-posting basement-dwellers. It's all very American: I'm rich, therefore you just need to perform Jedi mind tricks on yourself and the impediments in your life will magically disappear, too. Hey, at least West isn't a Scientologist (yet).


UPDATE, THURSDAY: Did I said Tony Robbins? Would it surprise you at all if Robbins had tweeted this?

(Hat tip: Gary Legum.)

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