Katy Perry gave me a colossal wake-up call on Saturday. And she did it using a tiny hamster and even tinier food.
On Friday, Perry released her latest lyric video for her new song, “Chained to the Rhythm.” At first, it — and the video itself — are poppy, upbeat and lighthearted. Just like the popular YouTube series, someone’s making miniature burgers, spaghetti and tacos for a hamster in a little playhouse, all set to electro-dance beats, complete with a follow-the-bouncing-hamster-emoji guide to help you follow every word. A couple verses in, the lyrics start to sink in, and you start to hear the barbs in her humor; the plea she’s making to all of us to wake up, to stop scrolling through food videos and other rosy delights that distract us from what’s going on in the world today.
Are we tone deaf?
Keep sweeping it under the mat
Thought we could do better than that
I hope we can
So comfortable, we’re living in a bubble, bubble
So comfortable, we cannot see the trouble, trouble
By the end of the song, I felt convicted. Those words were speaking directly to me; they described how I’d been living my life lately, often hearing the headlines of the day but failing to dig much deeper than that. To stay blissfully ignorant of the real issues, because it’d been a long day, I was exhausted, and I just wanted to unwind with a Netflix binge and a scroll through Instagram and, well, whatever other positive things that’d take my mind off of all of the hate, anxiety and anger that seems to be percolating nationwide. (Plus, my day job involves creating a lot of the content that provides said distraction, so I’m directly contributing to it, in that sense.)
A lot of people might get annoyed at Perry’s lyrics, suggesting she should stick with dance music and not get political, but more than asserting any particular stance, she’s pleading with people to open themselves up to the world and what’s going on. To choose awareness over numbness. Information over distractions.
The weekend of the Women’s March I made it my goal to understand people better; to talk to people of all opinions, and to try to genuinely understand (without judgment) why they believe what they believe, and how we as a nation got to be so divided. And what can be done to bridge the gap.
This isn’t my yearning for some kumbaya moment; I’m trying to weave together a series of concerns. How has the recession thinned the middle class, creating a rich vs. poor, The Man vs. the people divide? How has that rippled and affected racial tensions, combined with the recent police brutality (including, on the flip side, violence against the police)? What role does fear play in our society right now, particularly with the immigration ban? What do all of these things reveal about our cultural sense of security, and what we derive that security from? What is the way forward?
I don’t have the answers. I’m trying to read more, to talk more, to listen more. For far too long, I’ve avoided certain topics when they get too uncomfortable or make people too angry and fired up, but that’s not an excuse.
That said, I also don’t feel like I need to be this totally disciplined, capital-A Activist who avoids anything that doesn’t have a deeper meaning or push forward an agenda or cause. (And I think Perry would be on board for that sense of moderation, given the bubbly melody behind her new single.) Fun is a core component in the Life Between Weekends ethos, and I think we need it more than ever to let off steam after a long day. I just think it can’t be the set of blinders that keeps us from experiencing the world, so I’m trying to make an effort not to let it. This post is the first step (you know, that whole “you’re more accountable when you state things publicly” bit).