WASHINGTON D.C—As President Barack Obama’s administration and other nations continue to be under attack for various approaches to their economic downfalls, global artists contribute views on how people can help themselves through such tough times.
Some of those views come in the form of critiquing U.S. economic structure, specifically by revealing effects such structure has on particular people.
Dallas, Texas born musician, songwriter, producer, and actress Ms. Erykah Badu sings about poverty in her song, “That Hump,” on her 2008 New Amerykah Part One: 4th World War album.
“If I could get over that hump, then maybe I will feel better,” she sings. “I’m living check to check, I’m just trying to pay my rent…we [her and her children] just need a little house.”
She continues, singing that her brother is sleeping on the floor in the home she’s renting.
Though, Ms. Badu has featured songs on her albums about poverty since before the 2007 recession that President Obama has had to work through.
In 2003, her Worldwide Underground album featured the rap duo Dead Prez on her song, “The Grind.” The New York City formed duo rapped about life in low-income housing projects.
“Living in the projects, money’s the only object,” the group raps. “’Cause if taxes is 10 percent, and the rest is for the rent, then crime is what you get.”
Such songs show a social effect of the economy not often mentioned in mainstream media when economy is being reported on. This type of critique is a form of helping people in such tough times by giving voice to their plight through music: a universal language.
Money, another universal language
There are people who find the language of money to be complicated. Improperly speaking this language, those people are subject to debt.
Mr. Paul Damazo, a speaker, writer and author from Loma Linda, California, told the Viễn Đông that instant gratification is the reason most people are in debt.
Instant gratification is doing what feels good at the moment without assessing the long term effects the action could have on you or those around you.
In his 2007 book, 80 Proven Ways to Become a Millionaire, Mr. Damazo encourages readers to learn the differences between wants and needs and how to make such choices.He encourages such choices by advocating for his readers to “be different from the average American” by saving and paying “cash for everything, except your home and investments.”
“Paying interest lowers your standard of living,” Mr. Damazo wrote, advising readers not to have more credit cards than necessary. “Why make other people millionaires when you could become a multimillionaire yourself?”
It is disappointing that over 70 percent of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, he told the Viễn Đông.
“It’s not that they don’t have enough income,” he added, saying that people spend more than they have. “The average home has 11 credit cards and spends $11,000 each year just on interest.”
However, there are people who do not feel they need to save their money or become millionaires. There are people who critique the very economic structure that celebrates economic wealth, while others have yet to attain it.
In August 2011, the Norwegian School of Economics invited five international street artists to express their views on capitalism by painting murals on the school’s walls.
The project’s title, “____ Capitalism?” was a collaborative effort with the Nuart Festival in Norway, which focuses on street art.
After the walls were spray-painted, the artists debated the pros and cons of capitalism with the Norwegian School of Economics distinguished economists.
According to the project’s website, the aim of the initiative was to challenge a perception that the school is “a conservative environment where debate only takes place within the ‘safe’ boundaries of the institution.”
Such a perception assumes that people without the opportunity to attend school, or who choose not to go, do not have access to conversations about economics.
Though, by bringing street art to NHH, the street artists showed that economics is discussed outside of a classroom setting. It’s communicated through their artwork.
“It [the project] is a rare chance to generate cultural debate on themes often overlooked by more mainstream institutions,” the site continues. “Capitalism is not all bad, nor is it all good.”
One Norwegian street artist, Dolk, painted the Superman symbol as a dollar sign, which could signify that the money has become the world’s savior.
Although the street artists participated in critiquing capitalism, they are still affected by the economic structure they critiqued.
“Sixty percent of what I earn I reinvest in my art. I could have a massive house, a car…I live in a flat that costs 450 pounds a month,” Mr. Ben Eine, a British street artist participating in the initiative, was quoted in Respecta Street Art Gallery. “I’m not into those material things. I do it because I like painting.”
Get to know the artists
For more information on the “____ Capitalism?” project and to view murals painted by the five street artists, visit online http://nhhnuart.wordpress.com/.
To listen to Ms. Badu’s “That Hump,” visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hy7a7voOpHA and to listen to “The Grind,” visit online http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ncIA0rbbfnc.