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Saul Williams on Pop Culture: 'We’re All Donald Trump’s F—ing Apprentice'
The "poet laureate of hip-hop" is troubled by society's rising reverence for ignorance and prestige. This is a stark departure from pop culture and music from the past, which laid more focus on rooting for the underdog and questioning authority.
Saul Williams is an American rapper, singer, songwriter, musician, poet, writer, and actor. He is known for his blend of poetry and alternative hip hop, and for his lead roles in the 1998 film Slam and Holler If Ya Hear Me, a Broadway musical featuring music by Tupac Shakur. As a writer, Williams has been published in The New York Times, Esquire, and SPIN. As a musician, Williams has released four studio albums, two of which were produced by Rick Rubin and Trent Reznor. Called "the poet laureate of hip-hop," Williams' latest collection of poetry is titled US (a.).
Saul Williams: [Donald] Trump is not shocking to me because if you look at the signs, if you look at the signs as far as what’s been resonating with all different types of groups of people in America in terms of entertainment, in terms of literature, in terms of popular culture, and now in terms of politics, you know. Like why did the Tea Party thing resonate the way that it did for so many people? Because of ignorance. Beacuse of this haphzard ignorance. Because of a fear of looking at oneself in the mirror and clearly grasping the broader picture. When the Oprah Winfrey show was enormous and she had like racists and skinheads on, like Klan members and skinheads on once. And I remember her asking and the children are there who no longer identified with them. And there were three children on stage, I think. I mean I’m remembering from way back watching this thing as a kid and there were like three kids on stage who had all continued their education, right, and no longer identified with being racist or having parents in the Klan or their skinhead friends, right. And so she asked the audience who was composed of all Klan members and skinheads how many people here graduated from high school. Two or three raised their hands. How many of you went to college? Nobody raised their hands. Asked the three kids, you know, who no longer identified with their upbringing how many of you graduated from high school? How many of you went to college? So all of a sudden they have interacted with more people in their life. They got out of their little circle and suddenly saw the world differently.
That’s why cults try to keep you in. Try to keep you from seeing what’s out there so that you can maintain this perspective regardless of how warped it may be, you know. As you can see I’m really into the idea of education. I think it’s the key to all of this and I think when I see people following Trump, I think it’s just a lack of that, you know. It’s that simple. And because it’s funny. Because it’s funny. I mean we’ve learned to laugh at stupid shit, you know. Like I said we equate entertainment with escapism. Well what the fuck does that mean for Bob Marley? What the fuck does that mean for Nina Simone or Fela Kuti or Jim Morrison or The Beatles. Like these guys weren’t necessarily -- Bob Dylan -- these guys weren’t necessarily trying to escape. They were digging into what was happening in the culture. Like look at what’s happening around you. Look at what the fuck — I mean listen to the words of like "Satisfaction" by the Stones, you know. The man on the TV says this dah, dah, dah, dah. Like these are people who are counterculture even though, you know, questioning authority, questioning what’s going on, you know. Whereas now you have a pop culture that’s centered around this sort of thing of just like rooting for the winner, which is crazy to me. Like I thought you rooted for the like — for the underdog, you know.
But you look at like the thing in pop culture like Meek Mill and Drake for example, right. And people were like the guy who’s winning — that’s the guy I want to win, you know, as opposed to the guy who actually comes from the real fucked-up situation, who actually has something to say. No I want the guy who’s winning the win, you know. That’s where we are right now. It’s a fucked place in pop consciousness, you know, and Trump is the perfect example of that. Like we’re all like his fucking apprentice right now. It’s a damn shame. But it was a damn shame when he was on that show and everybody was fucking watching it. All that shit was a damn shame. This is the outcome of that. This is the outcome of that. The shit we were laughing at and calling our guilty pleasure, you know. So what do you fucking expect? What do you expect?
No he won’t get elected as president. He won’t. He won’t. I mean like if he does, call me back here and I’ll be like, "Oh, I don’t know." You’ll have to buy me an international ticket.
Saul Williams, the "poet laureate of hip-hop," is troubled by society's rising reverence for ignorance and prestige. This is a stark departure from pop culture and music from the past, which laid more focus on rooting for the underdog and questioning authority. It's this shifting cultural wave, coupled with the lack of worldly education, that Williams says explains the appeal of candidate Donald Trump, among other troubling trends.
Williams' latest collection of poetry is titled US (a.).
Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.
Vaccines find more success in development than any other kind of drug, but have been relatively neglected in recent decades.
Vaccines are more likely to get through clinical trials than any other type of drug — but have been given relatively little pharmaceutical industry support during the last two decades, according to a new study by MIT scholars.
An article in Journal of Bioethical Inquiry raises questions about the goal of these advocacy groups.
- Two-thirds of American consumer advocacy groups are funded by pharmaceutical companies.
- The authors of an article in Journal of Bioethical Inquiry say this compromises their advocacy.
- Groups like the National Alliance on Mental Illness act more like lobbyists than patient advocates.
The Corruption That Brought Prozac to Market — Robert Whitaker, Journalist<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="bea9cff2b25efc18b663a011a679ba16"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/UyaJExxFPAE?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Consumer-oriented groups gained steam over the ensuing decades. Their efforts helped inspire the 1938 Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act after over 100 people (mostly children) died from a sanctioned drug, Sulfanilamide. If not for the hard work of these advocates, this case might have been overlooked.</p><p>Early efforts also focused on the food industry, which was increasingly using chemical preservatives. The origin of Consumer Reports can be found in the consumer advocacy movement. Both the food and drug industries were getting a free pass to experiment on citizens with few repercussions.</p><p>These movements provided a social foundation for important advocacy work in the second half of the century. Female-led groups evolved to focus on women's reproductive rights, AIDS, and mental health. As the authors write, these groups struck a balance between working <em>with</em> and <em>against</em> current trends. Sometimes you need to craft legislation with officials; at other times, you have to rage against the machine with everything you've got. </p><p>Advocacy marked an important turning point in public health (and culture in general). These groups were tired of placating to a medical model that treated the male body as the standard. This wasn't limited to anatomy. As I <a href="https://bigthink.com/coronavirus/pandemic-warnings-rp-eddy" target="_self">wrote about last week</a>, a high-profile 1970s-era conference about the role of women on Wall St featured no women on stage. You can imagine what reproductive health looked like during that time. </p><p>Advocacy groups made real impact in public health. Then the money began pouring in. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"These groups were funded largely by individual donations with some foundation support, but in the late 1980s, newer women's health groups moved to professionalize, effectively splitting the women's health movement."</p><p>A number of groups resist corporate ties to this day, such as the National Women's Heath Network and Breast Cancer Action. Too often, however, groups argue that their existence depends on corporate funding. This can lead to uncomfortable compromises. </p><p>An estimated two-thirds of patient advocacy groups in America accept funds from the pharmaceutical industry. Pharma companies gave <a href="https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/s11673-019-09956-8.pdf" target="_blank">at least $116 million</a> to such groups in 2015 alone.</p><p>For example, over a three-year period, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), which was founded by two mothers whose sons suffered from schizophrenia, received nearly $12 million from 18 pharmaceutical companies. The largest donor was Prozac manufacturer, Eli Lilly. By 2008, three-quarters of NAMI's budget was funded by the pharmaceutical industry. It gets worse:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"An Eli Lilly executive was even 'on loan' to NAMI, paid by Eli Lilly, while he worked out of the NAMI office on 'strategic planning.'"</p>
A customer waiting for his medication at the Headache Bar in a pharmacy in Sydney, Australia. Among the items on sale are 'Paigees with Chlorophyll' and Alka Seltzer on tap.
Photo by Dennis Rowe/BIPs/Getty Images<p>This influx of cash skews public understanding of drugs. It also influences advocates to overlook real problems caused by pharmaceutical interventions, especially when it comes to mental health.<br></p><p>For a real-world example, consider how Xanax came to market. As journalist Robert Whitaker <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2e829xdb4AA" target="_blank">explains</a>, an <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1463502/?page=1" target="_blank">initial study</a> was conducted to determine efficacy in treating panic attacks. After four weeks, Xanax was outperforming placebo, which is common with benzodiazepines over short-term usage. But it wasn't a four-week study; it was a 14-week study.</p><p>At the end of eight weeks, there was no difference in efficacy between Xanax and placebo.</p><p>At the conclusion of the study after 14 weeks, the placebo outperformed Xanax. By a lot.</p><p>Why is Xanax still prescribed for panic attacks? Because the pharmaceutical company, Upjohn, only published the four-week data. The 14-week data was not in its favor. Nearly forty years later, over <a href="https://www.statista.com/statistics/781816/alprazolam-sodium-prescriptions-number-in-the-us/" target="_blank">25 million</a> Americans receive a prescription despite its <a href="https://drugabuse.com/xanax/effects-use/" target="_blank">long list</a> of side effects and addictive profile. </p><p>As the authors note, many consumers are not aware of how advocacy groups are funded.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"An international study of groups in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and South Africa found that the extent of relationships with industry was inadequately disclosed in websites that addressed ten health conditions: cancer, heart disease, diabetes, asthma, cystic fibrosis, epilepsy, depression, Parkinson's disease, osteoporosis, and rheumatoid arthritis."</p><p>That's a tangled web of relationships. Pharmaceutical industry funding negatively impacts the work advocacy groups should be focused on: protecting us. NAMI, for example, claims that as a "natural ally" to the pharmaceutical industry, it helps consumers access "all scientifically proven treatments." When the industry ignores evidence of long-term damage caused by its treatments, you have to wonder what's being advocated. </p><p>Although, as the authors conclude, that question is easy to answer. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Instead of drawing insights from patient experience to set organizational agendas and challenge industry agendas, today's groups are silent on high prices and drug harms, oppose efforts to regulate these basic rights, and demand access to drugs that challenge the safety and effectiveness."</p><p><span></span>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
Health officials in China reported that a man was infected with bubonic plague, the infectious disease that caused the Black Death.
- The case was reported in the city of Bayannur, which has issued a level-three plague prevention warning.
- Modern antibiotics can effectively treat bubonic plague, which spreads mainly by fleas.
- Chinese health officials are also monitoring a newly discovered type of swine flu that has the potential to develop into a pandemic virus.
Bacteria under microscope
needpix.com<p>Today, bubonic plague can be treated effectively with antibiotics.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Unlike in the 14th century, we now have an understanding of how this disease is transmitted," Dr. Shanthi Kappagoda, an infectious disease physician at Stanford Health Care, told <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">Healthline</a>. "We know how to prevent it — avoid handling sick or dead animals in areas where there is transmission. We are also able to treat patients who are infected with effective antibiotics, and can give antibiotics to people who may have been exposed to the bacteria [and] prevent them [from] getting sick."</p>
This plague patient is displaying a swollen, ruptured inguinal lymph node, or buboe.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention<p>Still, hundreds of people develop bubonic plague every year. In the U.S., a handful of cases occur annually, particularly in New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado, <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/plague/faq/index.html" target="_blank">where habitats allow the bacteria to spread more easily among wild rodent populations</a>. But these cases are very rare, mainly because you need to be in close contact with rodents in order to get infected. And though plague can spread from human to human, this <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">only occurs with pneumonic plague</a>, and transmission is also rare.</p>
A new swine flu in China<p>Last week, researchers in China also reported another public health concern: a new virus that has "all the essential hallmarks" of a pandemic virus.<br></p><p>In a paper published in the <a href="https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2020/06/23/1921186117" target="_blank">Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences</a>, researchers say the virus was discovered in pigs in China, and it descended from the H1N1 virus, commonly called "swine flu." That virus was able to transmit from human to human, and it killed an estimated 151,700 to 575,400 people worldwide from 2009 to 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.</p>There's no evidence showing that the new virus can spread from person to person. But the researchers did find that 10 percent of swine workers had been infected by the virus, called G4 reassortant EA H1N1. This level of infectivity raises concerns, because it "greatly enhances the opportunity for virus adaptation in humans and raises concerns for the possible generation of pandemic viruses," the researchers wrote.
Want help raising your kids? Spend more time at church, says new study.
- Religious people tend to have more children than secular people, but why remains unknown.
- A new study suggests that the social circles provided by regular church going make raising kids easier.
- Conversely, having a large secular social group made women less likely to have children.