I think it’s one thing to know that people suffer and that they experience desperation due to the way they are treated in society; it’s another thing to be crushed under the weight of racism, sexism, and classism and feel those mental walls of ignorance closing in on you like a very real prison. That is how I felt growing up. Even in my own home, my dad tried to eradicate my Asian cultural behavior, he tried to lock me into a subservient role as a woman, he showed hatred and fear towards me for both of those identities. He didn’t want me to know my power.
That is the most meaningful realization I took with me from those experiences: I am powerful, and all of these attacks on me really have to do with preventing me from wielding my power. In a racist, sexist paradigm, any powerful person who is not white or male is a threat to the powers that be. The choice they want to give you is to either play along or be destroyed. Well, neither of those choices is good enough for me, pardon my saying so.
What it will take to end this cruel system is for people like me, who know both sides of the story, and have both disadvantage as well as privilege near to hand, to stand up and refuse to compromise. I will not accept any of the options where we have to tolerate a certain level of craven selfishness on the part of our leaders, and a certain level of hideous misery for those they rule.
People wonder why Bernie Sanders cares so much about the economy; it is because he can see that our current way of life is slowly but surely transforming this world in to a vast concentration camp, and whatever he has to sacrifice to put himself in between us and that ghastly possibility is worth it to him. He is a Jew who doesn’t believe in God anymore. Why? He is a Brooklyn Jew who put his heart and soul into Martin Luther King Jr.’s civil rights movement. Ask yourself ‘why?’.
We are fooling ourselves if we think it can’t happen to us in the United States; 2008 should have burned itself into our memory as a lesson in how that system works. They just did it to Greece.
The only option that we should accept, the only option that I will accept, is the option where we all care about each other, where we all come into the future together on a level playing field. This is called compassion in Buddhism; the realization that what happens to one of us is what happens to all of us. Our destinies are intertwined. The Dalai Lama says that a smart selfish person realizes that having compassion will benefit him or herself more than being egocentric. Our contribution to the world decides what kind of world we will be living in. We all have to live on the same planet, and in the same environment. Not only that, but what we do to one another will always endure in our memories. We have to live with that at the end of the day.
People go on and on about how consciousness is such an important evolutionary development, well, memory is a big part of that. We see that animals like elephants who have long memories survive better because their elders can guide the herd to water in times of drought and make other decisions based on long term experience that turn out to be better decisions in the long run.
Human beings pride ourselves on our consciousness so much. We should at least have some respect for the power of memory and its enduring qualities that define our species. A global apocalypse that convulses the planet in famine, war, and disease is definitely going to have a huge impact on the collective memory of the survivors, no matter how materially comfortable they may be. What do we want to experience? What kind of future do we want to have?
The only conscionable future – the only future our consciousness, including memory, can tolerate – is one where we all arrive together, mutually benefiting and supporting each other. These are the words I was born to say, these are the ideas that keep me writing songs and these are the messages my career as an artist is meant to convey.