By Malkia Charlee NoCry
20 June 2012, 01:36 GMT
On the 5th of June, I decided to do a google search. Key terms: “Philosophy news”; not knowing exactly what to expect. Perhaps a bit of rational inspiration, maybe some quotes. Just googling blind as we all do from time to time.
The first story that day (definitely front page stuff), was surrounding Kim Kardashian studying Nietzsche in order to demonstrate her ‘commitment’ to her current relationship with Kanye West. Kanye is a nietzsche-ite – you know, as its evident with the lyrical and poetic gems:
‘Let’s get lost tonight/You could be my black Kate Moss tonight / Play secretary I’m the boss tonight / And you don’t give a f*** what they all / say, right?’.
With that aside – after a grumble on the state of Hollywood/Studio arranged relationships I decided to think about what this means.
Now, it’s not rappers philosophising I’m in a quandary about. I’m sure while Kanye attempts to discover more words to rhyme with ass, sex, bling and the glorious “n****er” (even the one with an “a”) there comes a time when you have to search a dictionary, which may lead to a stumble upon of philosophy.
So, no, this isn’t about Kanye or Kim – apologies if the title was a bit misleading. It’s about philosophy or rather, “philosophising” becoming a pop phenomenon.
Out of 11,000 members of the American Philosophical Association, , only 30 are Black women. And yet, adding both Black women and Black men to that number doesn’t cause astronomical jump – the number becomes 125.
Keeping women as the focus, the most annoying segment of this created Kanye and Kim saga is that Kim is “learning” Nietzsche to have more in common with Kanye. Fetch me my sick bag. Not only is that a kind of sexism that isn’t anything short of revolting (particularly with one writer quiping about taking an interest in your man as“watching football for the sport, not the hot athletes, and perfecting our burps”), but it furthers the idea that philosophy is a male sport so to speak, with us gals just being spectators.
And spectators of what? Nietzsche has to be the most popularised philosophers of the 21st century. If you google Nietzsche you get around 35.8 million links in 0.15 seconds; with someone like, say, Descartes only producing 23.1 million links in 0.25 seconds (and yes, the amount of time makes a difference – the less frequented the sites holding the data are, or complicated the scripts associated, the longer the search will take). Descartes has made a huge lasting impact in the realms of epistemology and metaphysics (perhaps best known for his contribution to geometry) – yet, remains such a short take. Rather, the celebritised Nietzsche takes home the greatest amount of google mentions (a good 12 million ahead) and is even in OK! magazine with such hipsters as Kim Kardashian trying to learn a bit more.
Nietzsche is a bit more fun, I would even have to admit, and a precursor to continental philosophy, which underpins a lot of modern day political philosophical thought. However, how he’s best known in every day speak is through his ideas of morality and religion – most notably the whole death of God thing. Those who study philosophy know that Nietzsche was simply eliminating God as a barrier to freedom from mental limitation. Dogma, religiosity and a submission to these ideas has limited human-kind’s ability to devise ways in which we are satisfied and grow. I’m not a nietzsche-ite – I’m far from existentialist – morality and science will definitely save the world in my mind. But he isn’t this hedonistic love fest that modern day society makes him out to be either.
If, though, Nietzsche is mentioned in the same breath as a woman who makes more sex tapes than I make cups of coffee …
and a rapper whose lyrics revolve around money and the pleasures of the flesh; this God is dead philosophy is sure to be the Pop sensation of the year. Conversations are sure to lead the pop-obsessed down a path of moral relativism but philosophy as a whole will still disinterest them – especially when they find it isn’t as hip and cool as Kanye and Kim make it out to be.
But alas! Does faux-art imitate life, or do we imitate it?
This generation is already starting off shifting paradigms. Greece has coalition government with a socialist PM. The Arab Spring has turned into the Arab Year. College kids with tents and back-packs are not just “gap-year” holiday-makers but Occupy activists. There are twitter arguments about Marxism and young men declaring themselves feminists, and all the while commercial hip hop is fizzling. When people want to hear a bit of truth and rhyme they turn to nouveau-poetic mediums such as spoken word. Singing is back (I’m talking ’bout real singing, church stuff) leaving Hip Hoppers to devise more interesting ways to get seen. Maybe? Could they? Be using philosophy to stay within the contemporary fray of this new Thoughtful Spring?
I don’t know why Kanye has always actively professed a love for philosophy and Nietzsche in particular. It could be the studio…it could honestly be him. I really don’t care.
What I want to say here, is that there’s a real lost of talent – proper talent within the realm of philosophy – lost, because they subscribe to the idea that women can’t really have an intrinsic interest in philosophy. Or, there’s only one way to think about ideas.
I guess I shouldn’t resent celebrities taking credit or co-opting the philosophical movements of the day (lacking sincerity in their participation). And as a novice to pop cultural trends I suppose its more a concert of propagandising, for which the stars themselves play a minor, if not inconsequential role.
I just want to remind people – if though in vain – that it’s not the same to actually teach Nietzsche in a collegiate classroom or to have studied philosophy to graduate level – as becoming a socialite and reading a set of cliff-notes to impress your beau.
We need real minds. And I mean real ones. And that’s important.