As 2017 draws to a close, I find myself asking this question more and more.
I happened to catch a highly-charged Twitter debate the other day (I admit, Twitter isn’t usually the place to go looking for people showing love to one another…that might have been my first mistake) where two well-known people with opposing views on a controversial subject were letting rip.
It made me wonder where the tolerance we used to think was important in a civilised society has gone.
There used to be a time when you could disagree on an issue, have a reasonable discussion about it, either change your views in light of the new perspective you’d just heard or agree to disagree on the subject. There were no personal attacks, no Twitter rants, no rent-a-crowd piling in on either side of the debate to add fuel to the fire.
But then I realised this was just a metaphor for the world we’ve become.
Technology is a great enabler, but it’s neutral. It can spread hate and bad news as fast as it can spread love and good news. But sadly, somehow, it’s the hate and bad news that usually gets more traction.
Many individual acts of kindness take place around the world every moment of every day. Acts of tolerance. Acts of peace. Unheralded Good Samaritans are everywhere.
But you’d never know it. It could be happening next door to you right now, and you’d never realise. Yet when you turn on the TV or check your social media feeds, mostly you’ll find hate, fights and disagreements.
All that brought to mind one of my favourite songs from the early 2000s — “Where Is The Love?” by the Black Eyed Peas.
The Black Eyed Peas were a strange group. They made some phenomenal records and their album “Elephunk” was seldom out of my car CD player for a large part of the early naughties.
But they also made records with titles and subject matter which were almost designed to cause offence…ironically, given the title of their best-known and best-selling single.
Even the B-side of “Where Is The Love” has a title I’m a little reluctant to write here, given that this is a family show. And don’t even get me started on one of their later singles, “My Humps”, which I couldn’t bear to listen to at the time and still turn off the radio on the rare occasions it comes on nowadays.
It’s sad in a way. At its heart, “My Humps” is a great song, but I found the lyrics just so offensive and disrespectful that I can’t bear to listen to it.
So the Black Eyed Peas are a bit yin and yang for me…moments of brilliance interspersed with songs I can’t bear to listen to.
Undoubtedly their high-water mark, commercially and critically, was the Grammy-nominated “Where Is The Love?”.
It’s got some great lyrics, which we’ll get to in a moment, but it’s also got one of the best string sections of all time in there too. Quite “Eleanor Rigby” in places…which is an enormous compliment as I consider “Eleanor Rigby” has some of the best string arrangements in pop music history.
It does humanity no great credit that the words the Black Eyed Peas sung in 2003 still reflect the world we live in today…
What’s wrong with the world, mama
People livin’ like they ain’t got no mamas
I think the whole world addicted to the drama
Only attracted to things that’ll bring you trauma
This isn’t just a happy-clappy song, though. In fact, that’s its strength.
There are passages that could have been written in 1967 by some long-haired hippy with flowers in their hair….
If you never know truth, then you never know love
And there are really hard-hitting passages that make you think…
Nations droppin’ bombs
Chemical gasses fillin’ lungs of little ones
With ongoin’ sufferin’ as the youth dies young
So ask yourself — is the lovin’ really gone
And then, over the best string section since “Eleanor Rigby”, we get to contemplate this rap…
Whatever happened to the values of humanity
Whatever happened to the fairness and equality
Instead of spreading love we’re spreading animosity
Lack of understanding leading us away from unity
Written in a post-9/11 world, “Where Is The Love?” was, in turns, an aspirational call for love and understanding, and a hard-hitting critique of the values of the world we lived in then…and sadly still do.
For all their veering-off-course into areas that I’d probably prefer they didn’t on other records, the Black Eyed Peas delivered a phenomenal song with “Where Is The Love”.
A song that makes us think. And I’ve got no higher praise for any record…even one with the best string section since “Eleanor Rigby”.
Poignantly, the Black Eyed Peas (minus Fergie) did an updated version of “Where Is The Love?” following the events at Ariana Grande’s concert in Manchester. (You can find that version here… https://youtu.be/YsRMoWYGLNA )
With a host of other contributors, that version also makes us think, but in a slightly different way, using different people and images to make the point that there’s no section of society which is exempted from the difficulties other sections of society seem determined to rain down upon them.
The human race is capable of great love and understanding. We just don’t demonstrate it in our daily behaviour often enough.
So just for a change, why not turn off the 24/7 stream of hate you can find on social media and the wall-to-wall arguing on TV news. Instead, go and help someone. Show a little kindness, don’t just talk about it.
Plenty of people need your love, support and understanding. As we get into the Christmas season, now is the time to demonstrate your humanity. There’s a world out there that needs a lot more humanity in it, that’s for sure.
And if you need some inspiration to get you started, you don’t need to look any further than the Black Eyed Peas with “Where Is The Love?”…
The video is below, but if you prefer, you can listen to the track on Spotify here… https://open.spotify.com/track/7oPnZNl1acGA7ELxsNirrR
PS — just before we get to the video, if you enjoyed this article, please give it a “clap”, or even more than one if you’re feeling kind…you can give up to 50 claps if you feel so inclined.