On Kanye, Trump, Context and Perspective
This is a 6-minute read. The song in the first line matches it.
So Kanye's back on Twitter (you may have heard), and I have been inspired.
For starters I'm also back on Twitter. It took some time.
And then there's this post.
And the world reacted. The echo chamber was lit.
If you're anything like the people I've talked to, you may have had a loud opinion, as well. I talked to people who love Ye and people who can't stand him. People who stand by Trump and people that think he's the worst person on Earth. They all had something to say.
Some of them were nuanced. Some of them were not. All of those were similar - are you kidding me, Kanye?
And in the small sample I talked to, almost everyone missed Kanye's point.
THINK FOR YOURSELF.
Why? I think there's a lack of context and perspective that leads us to jump into reactions. It's our way of life. It's how humans are wired.
So let's think about what Yeezy is trying to say.
We'll start by adding context.
If you're reading this, then I imagine you are aware of what Kanye said about Trump. Why else would you be here?
If you've formed an opinion without reading the entire set of tweets, there's the first FATAL flaw. You may not think it's FATAL, so allow me to show you how it is.
Typically when stories like this are released, a quote is taken and slapped as a headline on an article, framing the take around the statement. Sometimes the thought is summarized, but it's still framed to shape your opinion. Almost all stories are written this way.
So what's missing? Fucking context.
How do you know what Kanye was talking about referencing Trump until you read his prior tweets? How do you understand his frame of mind unless you read all of his tweets? What about knowing how he blew up? How he grew up?
Unless you seek to understand where Kanye is coming from, then how will you know what he's actually saying?
Unfortunately, things usually stop here. We aren't willing to put in the time to understand, because we're satisfied with our thoughts on the subject.
When I saw this yesterday, I had a reaction similar to what I imagine most of you had. I opened Twitter on the train home, and as has become custom over the past week, I searched for the first Kanye tweet so I could read the day's thread. And then I saw the MAGA hat.
And my gut dropped. What is this?!
Why did I feel that way? Probably because I think Donald Trump is scum, in short.
But after taking a breath, I went searching for more. I read through the entire stream. I gave myself the context of what he was saying without looking only at the headline.
And you know what? I understand where he's coming from.
But you won't get to that point if you run off to read a Buzzfeed-esque article on the 10 Reasons Why Kanye is DEAD WRONG. You won't get it unless you think about it yourself.
This is why I've stepped away from the news cycle. For my entire life, I've taken the opinions of others and applied them to my own thoughts, mostly without recognizing it. But really, how can I form my own thoughts when I'm off reading how someone else feels about it first? Why can't I think for myself? Why can't I decide how I feel about something before reading how you feel?
Actually, I can. And as soon as I stopped starting with other people's thoughts, I did.
If I truly care to understand the situation, I have to do the work myself. So do you. There are no shortcuts to understanding. There are only shortcuts to looking foolish.
That's only one piece of the reaction we saw in the echo chamber, though. The second is perspective. Let's gain some.
How many people live in our world?
I had to look this up the other day. It's been years since I've had any clue, actually.
So without looking, how many people do you think live on Earth?
7.6 billion people.
How many of those 7.6 billion people are you?
Have you lived the same life as Kanye? Have your life experiences matched his?
There's legitimately 0% chance you have. For Kanye, for Trump, for anyone on this planet other than you.
So, how can you understand what Kanye is thinking without deeply reflecting on it yourself? You've never spent a minute in his shoes. To do it well, you are going to have to ask yourself a lot of questions.
Without putting in the work to think about something in the context of the person's thoughts and without looking at the wider perspective - the world beyond your singular mind - you're going to be left frustrated. My guess is that you're going to ask why the hell things are going the way they are when things happen around you.
And if I double down on this, I'd guess that's because you think of the world through your perspective, and not the wider perspective of our world.
Don't like Trump? Me either. The guy is fucking appalling. He grabs women by the pussy. He mocks disabled people. He lies incessantly. I despise all of those things.
But he is the President of the United States, because the world works in the way it does. We don't have to agree with it. We do have to be aware of it though. If we're not, how will we ever change it?
So when you read or hear something you don't like, don't immediately shut down to it. You're closing yourself off to understanding what's actually happening around us. Do I agree with Kanye's take on Trump? Quite obviously not.
You don't have to agree on all things with someone, and you never will. They have had different experiences than you have!
But if you ignore everything that disagrees with your perspective, it's time to ask yourself some questions. If you want to understand the reality that we live in, you have to push yourself. Why do I feel this way? What might that mean? What do they think? What if I'm not seeing the full picture?
Want to know why people don't do this? Because it takes time. It takes time to have a deep understanding of something, and we take the easy way out more often than not.
Next thing you know, we're spewing out bullshit and thoughts shared by the loudest, most influential voice or statement.
Don't believe me? Look at any story in the media. Go back as far as you want.
When someone does something that doesn't fit our model of the world, we are appalled. We take it to Twitter and the web. We create an echo chamber that isolates us into groups without leaving room for an ounce of nuance. There is no gray area.
When we limit our mind to seeing things as entirely right or entirely wrong, we limit our ability to understand the in between. And our whole world lies in between the absolutes!
And thus, we commit another FATAL flaw. The flaw that splits humanity. The one that pushes us further apart, because we don't step outside of our perspective.
I'm done with that shit.
I hope you join me in thought.
To paraphrase the great American psychologist Jonathan Haidt:
Morality binds us.
And it really fucking blinds us.
Whatever your beliefs, you came into this situation looking through your frame. Maybe you love Kanye and maybe you hate him. It doesn't matter. What matters is that we're willing to challenge our assumptions and try to understand why.
The greatest understanding comes when we can step away from that anchor and see things through another frame. And another. And another.
So if you saw this from the outside, you likely thought your way to a reasoned take. I commend you. And then you probably sighed when you saw the incredible backlash.
You saw the binding and blinding play out in front of you in a perfect case of everything crashing together. Amazing.
If you want to understand something - like, truly understand it - you can do one of three things. Anything less is selling yourself short and taking a shortcut to looking foolish. Don't do that.
Start by reading about it. Give yourself the context. That's the bare minimum. In this case, read the fucking tweets.
If you want to take a level up, after you've given yourself context, reflect on it for 5-10 minutes and write a paragraph or two on what this means for you.
And if you're really into it, after you've given yourself context and perspective, you can write something like this. Or better yet, talk to the people searching to understand it.
That's what we're here for. To bring each other together. But it won't happen unless we step away from the echo chamber and think for ourselves.
Put the time in to form your own opinion before it can be framed by someone else.
Be you. Kanye is.