De la Soul: Me, Myself, and I


I recently discovered this song about a year or two ago. I immediately was struck by how hilarious the video was. These 3 “hippie” guys that make up the group going to  a school run by b-boys and other typical hip hop style guys. This song struck a chord with me not only because of the video but the fact that it portrays a different kind of person. Not just someone who follows the style but someone who is true to themself. In the neighborhoods I grew up in I never really belonged to a single group. I liked all kinds of music not just hip hop. I cartoons and mindlessly watching t.v. but I also liked to learn and liking  a broad specturm of culture was normal for me in my family. So in the song when De La Soul talks about simply being who they are and not just copying the people around them I grew to have a certain respect for the message they bring in the song. Plus, the beat is fly. 🙂

Harlan County: The Age Old American Struggle

In this film we are introduced to the struggles facing the coal miners in Harlan county Kentucky. After being driven to strike by low wages and unsafe conditions in the work place the miners went on a lengthy as at times, bloody strike. We see men and women forming picket lines and standing in the way of “scabs” going to work in the mines and refusing to strike along with the other workers. Entire families come together to fight towards their goal of a safer work environment and a better standard of living and quality of life.

One scene in particular however struck me as an interesting insight into the American culture. In an interview with an older gentleman, he explains that when he was a child he would work in the mines himself. He describes the fact that even then the children had to band together and unionize because government officials, local officials and even religious leaders were apparently working behind the larger companies. So the struggle between labor and leadership is nothing new. In the 60s many revolutions took place as people in society came together to fight an ideological battle against many unpopular aspects of American life. But the children of the sixties sought to have government change things in a period of relative prosperity. As the economic situation declined we see a people who have become embittered with the system because it was not helping them; they literally had to fight for survival. This struggle goes back in the US as far as the 1800s. In over 100 years of history the strikers of Harlan country were still fighting for the same things.

One phrase that also was repeated was “we have to fight for our right” a common phrase now-a-days but I find that this speaks to the changing sentiment in the 70s. While in the 60s people felt they were fighting for  just causes, which motivated them even more. The seventies was a time for survival in a period when people could not count on their leaders anymore. They had to fight for themselves because no one could hear them and their leaders were not present to help them. Today it seems as though the power is shifting away from unions and back into government since people have more direct access to it but it begs the question in laborers and labor leaders will ever fix the “age old” American struggle of playing fair.

Growing distrust for “good ol'” politics.

(1) The 1976 general election

(2) “Foreign policy did not help Ford in the 1976 general election…Carter had the advantage of being almost completely unknown outside of his home state before the election began.” Freeman p326

(3) Freeman emhasizes  in this chapter the bitter distust of the American politcal system by citizens during the 1970s. In the post Vietnam era people were very sensitive to the actions the governemnt woukd take as those who both protested and saw atrocities of the war now tried to continue to live in the U.S.. Adding to their distrust scandals like Watergate erupted in the early seventies as the moral stature of politicians and their motives was questioned. As a result we see in the quote that Jimmy Carter, a relatively unknown politician who exuded a normalcy that previous politicians did not have, was elected. His lack of poltitical prowess was over looked and his ideals were what put him into office in the end. It was a sense of trust that Americans desired over a feesible plan for the nation.

The “Third Great Awakening”

(1)  During the 1970s the American public was disillusioned with government, and as the activism of the 60s began to decline and fade away as a unified movement  Americans began to search for their own individual answers and prosperity.

(2) “Finding that larger society could not fulfill sometimes inflated expectations of happiness… many Americans experimented in seeking it on their own…” Freeman p.314

(3)   As the 70s progressed the nation faced a serious time of economic decline for its major cities as industrialization continued to migrate South and South West. Cities in the Northeast were rapidly declining into wastelands as less revenue flowed in from industry, becoming hollow shells of what they once were. Unlike in the sixties Americans were no longer rallying together to fight the injustices that still plagued the nation. In a sense there was for a long period of time that social stagnation pervaded the American public. The economic pressures most likely made some Americans more bitter at fighting for causes as a mass movement as situations improved for some and declined for others. I think that Freeman most likely included this “great awakening” of the “me” generation because it shows where American interests now lay post-Vietnam. There was no longer  a sense of working together to achieve a goal but one of survival and personal success. This wave would influence life for Americans across the nation.

Two Tracks and the Cross Bronx Expressway

Throughout the 1960’s people across the nation people were raising their voices against the injustices they felt were happening in their world. The Bronx was no exception as people mobilized under the standard of many causes. Towards the end of the sixties the architecture begins to change, literally. Chang describes the construction of the Cross Bronx Expressway, Robert Moses’ enormous road that would allow residents of New Jersey to quickly traverse the Bronx and go into the suburbs of Queens. The project led to the mass exodus and displacement of Bronx dwellers. As the people and jobs left the neighborhoods began to deteriorate as apartments remained empty and unkempt and then were destroyed by fire in order to collect insurance and have some profitability and with this came the demise of the social movement of the previous generation. The Bronx had been converted into rubble and as Chang puts it: “The gangs were a vanguard of the rubble… They had no reason to sing to sweet harmonies. They were the children of Moses’s grand experiment and the fires had already begun.”

As the Bronx began to re-segregate there was a resurgence in youth gangs in the Bronx as turfs were divided violence ensued both among themselves and against other people and authorities. They were the terror of the streets but they also became a respected source of power in the community. In the early seventies with this enormous social following some gangs, like the Ghetto Brothers, took it upon themselves to look beyond the beef and violence to the possibility of peace and change in their neighborhoods. In a momentous, yet somewhat insincere, occasion the gangs met after the death of Black Benjie  made peace very publicly and later privately. It was made clear to them that they were not each other’s enemy anymore.