"If happiness is defined in the context of society, then happiness becomes that feeling which an individual derives, from a given economic, political and cultural context, that he is in a position to make good his aspirations. "
Dr. Kwame Nkrumah
We women are members of a culture and people who have been conquered and rendered powerless. Lack of power is all pervasive, it is not just a matter affecting material things but also spiritual things. We have trouble establishing and maintaining families, finding mates, finding love and what we believe is romance. Is there any wonder that we African women as a group are not happy?
But it wasn't always so.
Ancient Africa understood all that was positive and negative in love and romance. The Great God-Kings (Pharaohs) of the Nile Valley (Kemet, Kush, Cush) often built fabulous temples and tombs for their beloved as tangible symbols of their feelings for their Queens. The closest thing we have to such expressions in contemporary human society is the Taj Mahal in India. Whereas the Taj Mahal is thought of as an astonishing exception in human relations, these kinds of expressions were fairly commonplace in the ancient dynasties of Africa.
Love played a large part in the life of ancient Africans. Love poems written by workers to their beloved spoke of mundane everyday things as in this excerpt:
I'll go down to the water with you,
and come out to you carrying a red fish,
which is just right in my fingers.
While some love poems celebrated proletarian activities such as retrieving the best fish for your beloved others were classical examples of effusive worship of the beloved. Here are a few excerpts as examples of such poetry:
I wish I were your mirror
so that you always looked at me.
I wish I were your garment
so that you would always wear me.
I wish I were the water that washes
I wish I were the unguent, O woman,
that I could anoint you.
And the band around your breasts,
and the beads around your neck.
I wish I were your sandal
that you would wear me!
To hear your voice is pomegranate wine to me:
I draw life from hearing it.
Could I see you with every glance,
It would be better for me
Than to eat or to drink.
Women in ancient Africa, because the majority of the societies were essentially communal and matriarchal, had more influence and control of their romantic and family lives. Even in dynastic Nile Valley societies the spiritual beliefs of the society - that is the absolute requirement to meet the needs and concerns of the individual citizen of the society -- tended to empower the women generally.
Let us not forget that the musicians who played the music that accompanied much of the poetry were mostly women. Frequently the women were the author of such poetry dedicated to their beloved men.
This status of the woman was also reflected in the central role of such Goddesses as Isis, Hathor and others (here we are using the Greek names for these goddesses as they are most familiar to most people in modern society).
One of the most famous spiritual rite of Nile Valley society was the "Festival of the Great Meeting". This celebrated the annual reunion between Hathor and her husband. The Kemetic people celebrated with singing, dancing, fine dining and sacred drink (generally wine).
To get a feel for the spirit of the African peoples' celebration of love and life let us look at this poetic excerpt.
So seize the day! hold holiday!
Be unwearied, unceasing, alive
you and your own true love;
Let not the heart be troubled during your sojourn on Earth,
but seize the day as it passes!
So, clearly we have a grand and worthy history of love.
Love and Culture
Our culture has consistently produced the greatest array of vocal artists in human history. From generally positive personalities such as Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Lou Rawls, Gil Scot Heron to scum prostitutes, pimps and sluts such as those elements in the artificially grafted form of hip hop called "gangsta rap" (-- recall that hip hop's major form of expression, rap music, started out as part of the freedom movement and concentrated on the issues and problems, solutions and positive possibilities, inherent in our freedom movement in all its varied forms -- the so-called old school) our culture has been the leading edge in vocal performance.
So much so in fact that when a prominent New York socialite brought an Eastern European music expert to this country in the late 1890's to help create a refined musical culture in the US, he told her that, after studying the situation for a period, the only true source of the cultural development she sought could only be found among our people and to a lesser degree the Native Americans. It was quite a shock for this woman as you might expect. He told her that the strength of the two groups was a result of their (our and the Native American's) cultural history and roots.
The wealthy patron wanted European forms to dominate the US scene, even if the singers were not European. Her response was to recruit black performers and train them to perform in classical European forms such as operas. Thus effectively mutilating the expert's advice. Naturally this did not work as the problem was not in the expertise of the performers but in the weakness in the art form she wanted to promulgate. It failed miserably and as we can see from the global popularity of hip hop music and vocals -- both positive and negative -- music forms derived from African roots still dominates the global music industry. Not to mention the continued popularity of the blues, jazz, spirituals and r & b.
In fact the most popular forms of European music and singing are clearly country/western and rock -- a derivative of rock and roll, which in itself was a copy of black music and singing.
So where those that leave us today? In my opinion the major negative in our musical cultural contribution is the war between the external elements, and their internal stooges, who have polluted rap and thus hip hop...particularly as related to love relationship between men and women.
Now this did not start with rap. A book written several years ago by a U of C scholar documented the negative anti-relationship lyrics injected in the blues, some of the songs blaming sisters for lynchings, advocating homicides as the solution to relation problems between black men and women...surely you remember Michael Jackson's Thriller and its exceedingly negative message...not to mention some of the stuff sung by Marvin Gaye in his later period, most of Rick Jame's songs and so on.
However there is a very significant difference. Today's lyrics are much more graphic, much more anti-female, much more violent, much more about pimping, ho'ing and other absolutely foul forms of "commerce" and social behavior. Whats more they are much more ubiquitous and pervasive. They seek to popularize the terms bitch, ho, nigga/nigger and so on...they are nothing short of psychological warfare.
Love and Lyrics...
One researcher did an exhausted study of the role of love in popular music.
"Several years ago in the course of looking for a lyric, perhaps the one quoted above, I happened upon an extraordinary website called Lyrics World (now defunct). What was unusual about this site was that it contained the Top Forty popular songs for the last 70 years (1930-2000), over ten thousand lyrics. As I began to read lyrics of love songs at random, it seemed to me that the majority of them fell into only three patterns: infatuation, requited love, and heartbreak. There were also romance lyrics which didn't fit, but in any given year, they were never in the majority.
"The study I later did (Chapter 5) confirmed: about a quarter of all pop songs in the Top 40, year after year, are about heartbreak, about a tenth, about infatuation, and about a tenth, about requited love. Another fourth involves miscellaneous kinds of romance, and a little more than a fourth are not about love or romance."
Prof. Thomas J. Scheff http://www.soc.ucsb.edu/faculty/scheff/29.html
So we see that love is a big part of vocal cultural art forms. Hence many people derived their basic understanding of being in love, love generally, man-woman relationship from lyrics. Given this, then one has to conclude that clearly the function of the negative lyrics in songs such as those found in the artificial, what I some times call "Frankenstein" rap music, are to attack true love, as was the function of predecessor genres in blues, r & b and so on.
Scheff, the scholar quoted above. observed that "There is a dialectic of closeness and distance, reaffirming not only the union, but also the individuality of the lovers. The idea of the love bond as involving both continuous attachment and a balance between self and other solves a critical problem in the meaning of love."
He goes on to inform us that.
"One implication concerns the possibility of change in each of the three underlying dimensions. The first two dimensions, attachment and attraction, are largely physical and constant. These two dimensions are more or less given and fixed. But the third parameter, degree of shared identity and awareness, may be open to change through effective communication practices.
"One goal of communication between persons in love relationship would be to balance the level of shared identity so that it is roughly equal on both sides, over the long run. That is, although one partner might be valuing the other's experience more than her own in a particular situation, momentary isolation or engulfment could be managed over the long term so that the experience of each partner, on the average, is equally valued in the relationships. This issue comes up continually, especially in marriage: the dialectic between being two independent persons and being a we: I-ness and We-ness.
"A second issue that is dependent on effective communication is shared awareness. Frequent and effective communication can lead to revealing the self to the other, and understanding the other. This issue is particularly crucial in the area of needs, desires, and emotions. By the time we are adults, most of us have learned to hide our needs, desires, and feelings from others, and to some extent, perhaps, even from ourselves. Long-term love relationships seem to require that these practices be unlearned, so that we become transparent to our partner and to ourselves. Unlike the extent of attachment and attraction, effective and frequent communication can improve the balance in shared identity, and increase shared awareness. In this way, love, which is usually thought of as given, may be increased intentionally."
If the necessary balance in love is skewed and shattered you can readily see the consequences. The message communicated by such artificially constructs as we see in the works of Lil Kim 2 Live Crew Notorious B I G is what is commonly called noise in cybernetics. Noise refers to sounds that are out of synch with the system receivng the sound and thus disruptive. Sound that is noise and deliberately communicated to a system is intended to destroy the functioning of the system it attacks. This is precisely what is happening with gangsta rap and similar forms of music. This is not a new phenomena the attack on true love has a long history.
Scheff also documents earlier efforts "Certainly in the teachings of the Church Fathers, beginning with St. Augustine, romantic love has been viewed as a disorder because of the sinfulness of sexuality. The 11th century scholar Andreas Capellanas (The Art of Courtly Love 1969), after an extended indictment of romantic love, concluded that it was the work of the Devil. "The majority of secular scholars have also taken the position that romantic love is an affliction or madness. The most elaborate description of romantic love is found in Stendhal's Love (1975). Although he denies that passionate love is pathological, he inconsistently acknowledges that it is a disease. Certainly his description emphasizes the painful rather than the pleasurable aspects. At the beginning, one is lost in obsession."
We can also document similar practices of the Greeks/Macedonians and Romans aimed at the destruction of solid men - women relationships as a way to control cultures and peoples, particularly toward captive people. For example, at the spiritual level, the Greek and Roman attempted to separate Auset (Isis) and Ausar (Osiris) in what the European world refers to as the cult of Isis -- they had her mated to a bull god Serapis the Greek version of the lower Egypt god - bull.
There is no need for me to remind you about the deliberate destruction of our family structures ... or the similar practices visited upon similarly impacted peoples such as the Native American. Given all this is there any wonder that stable love relationship are hard to find and hard to maintain? Is there any wonder that some people, especially women are afraid of love, afraid of being hurt so they wind up being trapped in an endless approach-avoidance cycle. Clearly many people feel that because of the many problems associated with intimate relationship that it is better to avoid than to approach -- if you avoid then you won't run the risk of being hurt. Or is there any confusion about the fact that others happily suffer abuse -- including physical -- in the specious hope that the abusive relationship is love?
Is there any wonder that there is such confusion about sexual relationships, dating, family and whatnot? The human species needs love -- real love -- to prosper. An attack on love is an attack on human civilization.
I conclude by saying that the only reason I bring all this up is to suggest that true love can never really flourish in a social milieu that opposes it existence.