Fear and Reality

“The most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about,” said David Foster Wallace in his 2005 commencement speech at Kenyon College. These realities are incredibly present in our lives, and yet we refuse to meet them with sincerity. Fear and doubt tend to dictate our daily routine, and we find no solace in our previous ignorance as we mature. Murder live-streamed over social media, the false romanticism of warfare, and institutionalized racism are just a few facets of the fallen nature of this world. Now strife and misfortune are not a novel thing; these problems are well-known and rehearsed throughout history. What evolves is the human technique and motivation to combat evil. And in this trend, postmodern irony and blissful distractions have taken their place in the human narrative as coping mechanisms for these issues.

A significant example of this is the breakdown of how we receive and process information. With the development of news broadcast and social media, we recognize and digest publications at a rapid pace. In this torrent, we are left with a choice. Why should I care? Before this time, news was spread through nightly television broadcasts and before that telegrams and print media. These forms of communication are immensely slower when compared to the current era. And that speed meant that the information had to count. Publications only had one chance to get it right, so their reporting had to be exact and their choice in content was guided by traditional news values. This is not so anymore, we have a 24/7 stream of information lacking in journalistic responsibility and accuracy. Moreover, the tragic reality of this world is brought to the forefront of our attention, and we are left without recourse. This practice of media consumption breeds a tolerance for tragedy. As selfies on our instagram and twitter feeds are interspersed with reports about recent school mass-murders and hateful racism, we quickly become disinterested with the stimuli these publication provide.

Yet underneath this disinterest and materialism, we can find an existential fear that lacks a definite identity. Kendrick Lamar approaches this fear in his most recent album, DAMN, with a careful dissection of his life. Starting from his childhood, Lamar embraced a difficult upbringing filled with the challenges of adulthood in a low-income community like Compton where he grew up. These fears surrounded his lifestyle, and even persist into his success as an artist. Ultimately, his fear of God persisted through his existential rejection of earthly emotional reaction. Though his success placed him at the top of the hip-hop world, he struggled with a fear of his own ignorance of the future. Kendrick Lamar is an effective example of someone who grew up in the midst of what we observe on the trending posts on our twitter feed. His world was populated by the addiction, gang violence, and domestic abuse that the average middle-class individual might trivialize due to his or her lack of engagement and media over-saturation. Ultimately, Lamar uses his music to communicate a piercing narrative of his own interaction with fear in an increasingly uncaring world. A primary goal of his art is not only to attract a crowd of observers, but to interact and share through his music about the nature of sincerity in an uncaring world of irony.