A bout of nostalgia led me to listen to the Black Eyed Peas’s Elephunk album recently. Elephunk was one of my favourite albums as a teen, and I still feel that it is the Peas’s best work.
I jammed throughout the album, driving to who-knows-where in my car. This was the album that introduced us to Fergie. This was the album that made its way onto The Urbz: Sims In The City (the best Sims game of all time). This was the album that launched the Black Eyed Peas into stardom.
Elephunk began with “Hands Up”, a feel-good jam. I giggled when “Let’s Get Retarded” played, realizing that the Peas would be done for were they to release this album and that song in 2018 and not 2003. I’d forgotten that the album version of “Hey Mama” differed from the music video staple. “Latin Girls” reminded me of why Taboo was always my favourite Pea and got me feeling some kind of way. “Anxiety” made me miss Papa Roach and wonder what they’ve been up to since the mid-2000s.
And then, “Where Is The Love?” began to play through my little Honda’s speakers.
You might remember “Where Is The Love?” The viral first-single off Elephunk featuring a young Justin Timberlake at the start of his solo career. It’s a song that I’ve heard time-after-time and always considered to be a “good song”. It’s a song that I also haven’t heard in a decade. And it’s a song that resonates much differently as a 28-year-old than as an 18-year-old.
The lyrics hit me hard. As an adolescent, I often felt like “Where Is The Love?” was out of place on Elephunk. It didn’t have the Peas’s “hard” vibe.
Little did I realize that “Where Is The Love?” is actually the “hardest” song on Elephunk. “Where Is The Love?” was written when Will.I.Am, Fergie, Taboo, and Apl.De.Ap were in their upper 20s, as I am now. They had experienced the things then that I have now. They had seen the things then that I did now. That song wasn’t meant for a teenager. It was meant for an adult.
The lyrics are honest.
I was shocked as I listened to “Where Is The Love?” for the first time in a decade.
And I cried.
The issues that the Peas witnessed in 2003 are still the issues of today. Have they gotten better? Have they gotten worse? Am I just more aware of them today because I’ve gotten more cynical with age? And–most importantly–why are these issues still issues fifteen years later?
Let’s just take a look at the first verse:
What’s wrong with the world, mama
People livin’ like they ain’t got no mamas
I think the whole world addicted to the drama
Only attracted to things that’ll bring you trauma
Overseas, yeah, we try to stop terrorism
But we still got terrorists here livin’
In the USA, the big CIA
The Bloods and The Crips and the KKK
But if you only have love for your own race
Then you only leave space to discriminate
And to discriminate only generates hate
And when you hate then you’re bound to get irate, yeah
Madness is what you demonstrate
And that’s exactly how anger works and operates
Man, you gotta have love just to set it straight
Take control of your mind and meditate
Let your soul gravitate to the love, y’all
How many days in a week do we see news articles about the latest celebrity brawl, stabbing, or murder? How many additional days in a week do we see local news articles about these same things? How many people have to OD before they realize that the “party hard, street cred” lifestyle is not a conductive one? Or one conclusive of a long lifespan?
Every time there is a mass shooting in the United States, why are people arguing over whether than individual was a terrorist or just “mentally ill”? Why is it so hard to use the term “terrorist” to refer to anyone who commits an act of terrorism? Why do only those of Middle Eastern descent get branded with the term “terrorist”, while those with brown skin are “thugs” and those with light skin are “mentally ill”? Why is mental illness seen as an acceptable label for genocide although it makes things that much harder for the millions of Americans actually suffering from bipolar disorder, PTSD, schizophrenia, and more? If we can call a spade a spade, why is it so hard to call a terrorist a terrorist?
Where did people develop this notion that the colour of their skin means they’re somehow superior to their fellow man? Why is this incorrect notion still acceptable and prevalent in today’s society? Why do people think that saying, “White is best”, “Black is best”, “Hispanic is best”, is a good thing? Why can’t we just see people for their souls and not their exteriors?
Most importantly…why are we so against love?
Love is the cure for all hatred, and I really don’t give a damn if you think that’s corny or not. Learning to love someone, love your neighbour, love a people, is what keeps you from hating them for trivial matters or from being indifferent to them as they suffer.
TED Talks exist because of the inspirational energies that they provide to the people who watch them. Vision boards work because of the inspirational energies that they generate within a person while they create, see, and live that board. Motivational quotes are found everywhere from Instagram posts to home décor because they serve as reminders to encourage people to be their best self and to never give up.
And while this motivational movement is occurring. So is one of hate.
People flippantly argue that TED Talks, vision boards, and motivational quotes are bullshit, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Motivational speakers are ridiculed and mocked. There are segments of the population arguing that it is “inappropriate” to kiss one’s own child and that it is pedophilia.
Again, I ask, why are we so against love? Why do we try to bastardize love any moment we get? Why is it “cool” or “edgy” to proclaim “I don’t believe in love”? What is so wrong with feeling, experiencing, and sharing LOVE?
This incomprehensible argument against love is what keeps these sorts of social issues alive. These arguments against love are why the lyrics of “Where Is The Love?” are still relevant today:
Whatever happened to the values of humanity
Whatever happened to the fairness and equality
Instead of spreading love we’re spreading animosity
Lack of understanding, leading us away from unity
Numerous scientific studies and psychology analyses have shown time after time that a lack of love is deadly. You might not be stabbing someone in the gut with a rusty knife, but you are stabbing them in the mind just alike. There is a reason why most foster and adoptive children suffer from RAD. There is a reason why psychoanalysists like Rene Spitz accurately documented extraordinarily higher infant-death-rates among babies suffering from neglect and emotional deprivation, as compared to their loved and cuddled counterparts.
There is a reason why heroes like Daryl Davis, an African American blues musician from Silver Spring, Maryland, have been able to convince dozens of Ku Klux Klan members to hang up their hoods and become reformed racists. Davis doesn’t spit in the faces of the KKK members. He asks them why they feel the way they do. He gives them phone calls. He jams with them on music nights. Through using love, logic, and history, Davis is able to educate racists on the errors of their ways and convert them into becoming more open, loving, and accepting members of society.
Hate is clearly not working. Indifference is clearly not working. It doesn’t take a genius to look outside or at a newspaper or at a social media feed and see what what we are doing, encouraging, and living is not working.
I feel the weight of the world on my shoulder
As I’m gettin’ older, y’all, people gets colder
Most of us only care about money makin’
Selfishness got us followin’ the wrong direction
I feel these lyrics. I agree with these lyrics. I feel like people are growing colder as I age. I feel as though I am growing colder as I age, simply as a defensive mechanism of how I see people being treated and how I have been treated. Why should we have to shut down love to deal with hate?
There is something so beautiful about a child’s innocence: so pure and loving and accepting. Why do we have to lose that as we grow older? Why do we have to accept that the world is an “evil place” and live our lives in fear?
Honestly, we don’t.
If more people are willing to let go of that anger, that fear, that hurt in their hearts and give a new way of life a chance, then we don’t. If more people refuse to judge others based on the colour of their skin, the religion in their tomes, and the gender of the person they wish to spend the rest of their life with…then we don’t.
So many see love as a sign of weakness. But, it’s not. Hate is.
Hate is the weak emotion. Hate is the undeniable sign of failure. Hate is the father of all evil.
So maybe, just maybe, it’s time that we finally give love a chance?