Groupthink vs. Social Solidarity: A Perspective Inspired by the “Window Seat” Video Controversy

April 11th, 2010 § 0 comments

Liz,

So, you know I am a HUGE Erykah Badu fan, right? I have been too hype about her new album: New Amerykah Part Two: Return of the Anhk. I was doing the mental countdown for several weeks before it dropped and it was the first album in a looooong time that I actually purchased, hardcopy, as a CD. That’s kind of a big deal…just saying.

I watched the “Window Seat” video as soon as she made it available on her website—before the media got wind of it and rewrote it as controversial, before talk of disorderly conduct and indecent exposure charges, before people actually started to consider her message of killing “groupthink.”

I’ve read just about all of the seventeen hundred thousand articles and blog posts that are out there about the situation (this one, this one, and this one in particular, I recommend) and it seems as if Ms. Badu is achieving what she set out to do—spur public reaction and conversation.

And there is quite a bit to discuss—Black woman stripping in broad daylight, no permits, no permission, no fear (seemingly), the Kennedy connection, urging people to think outside of the box. Yes, all very scary. **rolls eyes**

The irony is though, almost anyway you try to deconstruct or analyze the video or her actions, it brilliantly reinforces her message of “groupthink” (you are oh so tricky there, Ms. Badu, yes you are). For days she has been asking her followers on twitter to define the term in their own words. I’ve contributed twice, but still have not gotten the coveted ReTweet by @fatbellybella (#backtothedrawingboard).

But, it is this concept of “groupthink” and celebrating individuality that I really want to talk about, as it seems to be laden with contradictions that I am trying to wrap my head around. On the one hand, I do believe that Badu’s inspiration for the video is a belief in the power of self-expression—that one should not have to subscribe to societal constraints, rules, or limitations and can dare to be different. This is a very important message that she got across in a simple, yet poignant manner—Black female nudity (hugely symbolic, personal, and fraught with social implications).

On the other hand, in many ways “the modern West,” is based on a concept of individualism (and the Protestant Ethic), which led to the development of capitalism and contributed to the very foundation of society as we know and experience it today—“The American Dream,” pulling yourself up by the bootstraps and moving up the social ladder, with little to no consideration of all those that you step on (oppress) on your way to success: wealth, status, and power.

I understand that part of Erykah’s message is to urge people to challenge the status quo and step outside of what they have been taught is right or appropriate or “normal.” But, I don’t think that the “group” is necessarily the problem. I guess my question is: is there a way to be both an “individual” and contribute to a collective good? At what point can “individuals” work together in order to achieve social solidarity? Rejecting the status quo is an important step on the way to making real change, but how do we, as individuals, work together to make it tangible and lasting?

We have many examples of social movements. We have their successes and failures to learn from and throughout history it always seems that someone’s struggle is left out or put to the side to be dealt with “later.” How can we have a holistic movement that appreciates difference in all of its many forms, identities, and experiences?

At what point, can a focus on “individuality” become the problem?

**shrugs** What do you think?

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