In this crazy world we're living in filled with fear and manipulation and uncertainty. There is one strategy to get through it all. Love. The Grammy nominated singer Aloe Blacc is out there preaching love and inspiring us all to fight with love and fight for love. This is a bit of optimism.
It's good to see you.
Good to see you, too. One of my favorite things about you is you have this amazing calm about you. I don't think I've ever seen you get riled up. You're so even keeled, have you always been that way or is it something you cultivated?
You know, I wouldn't say I've always been this way. I have a distinct memory of being in high school, playing a game of dodgeball and on the other side of the line or two friends of mine.
And they were targeting me in such a way that made me feel as though they were no longer my friends. And so I got so upset and I got so irate and I lost it. And when I lost it and I came back down, I got calm again. I said, I'm never going to do that again. I'm never going to lose my mind in that way. And since then, I've always balanced every situation and scenario and just paid attention to what is at stake and recognized cooler heads will prevail.
I'm a reactor.
I just have a terrible temper as a kid.
I mean, like terrible, terrible temper tantrums.
And I used to break things and throw things. It was really bad. And I had this kite is like my pride and joy.
This kite from Bali that you couldn't fly, it was just really cool and hanging on my wall with huge wings.
And I was so angry. One day I ripped it off the wall and like, destroyed this thing that I love out of anger.
And then when I came down, I was like, oh, come on, I couldn't blame anyone because I broke my own thing.
And like you, I was like, OK, this has got to stop, because if I'm going to break things that I care about, this has to stop now.
Were your parents calm? No, my parents are from Panama. And so the energy is very Latin, not so like stereotype people, but the the way that they speak, the energy they speak with is just on another level from what I consider like the standard American speech of just like how we're speaking right now. Yeah.
Or even like collegiate debate. You know, it wasn't collegiate debate.
It was definitely at at the loudest volume with the the highest sense of emotion. And I recognize that. And I thought, is it really necessary? Is that really going to work? And so all of these things I process and as I, you know, manage my own marriage with Maya, I think about like I don't want to yell. I don't want to argue. I want to get down to solutions and facts. Yeah.
And we're living in a world that is so polarized right now where if I'm right, you must be wrong. And I justify my rightness because I believe in my own convictions.
So where is the lesson like how do we have belief in our convictions but not think that we're so right that that everyone else is wrong or become close minded to another point of view when we turn off the social media, the unfortunate thing about social media, the echo chamber and the algorithms that keep us amused and entertained by the thoughts and ideas that we already have shown, the algorithm that we appreciate and that keep us interested. And this is the issue.
We're getting so much confirmation of our own biases from this algorithmic deluge of information that it's completely drowning out opposition or rationality.
Let me push you a little bit there.
So let's pretend that social media goes dead for whatever reason was hacked, Facebook and Instagram. And it all just stops. It disappears. We still have our echo chambers in our friend groups.
We tend to share in general, hopefully the same values with all of our friends, but we tend to share similar beliefs, sets as well, and similar politics as our friends. And you and I have both been in these conversations where you sit amongst your friends and somebody start something, whether it's political or something, and everybody chimes in and it's all the same conversation. We're not actually learning or adding to anything.
And then we walk away going, that was great because all of our biases were affirmed by this friend group.
How do we learn to want to be curious about someone outside our friend group or even invite someone into our friend group who shares our values but may have very different political opinions?
This is really difficult. And you're right, it's not just because of social media. These kind of things existed before. I think they're exacerbated certainly by technology.
I think we've also conflated politics and values.
And for me, the organization of society is politics. Like, that's that's pretty much it. So how do you organize society? That's politics where you organize society based upon values.
So let me elaborate first what I mean about the conflation of politics and values, which is I have some friendships that I'm very proud of because we have very different political points of view.
And the reason we still are good friends is because there are things that are more important to us than our political points of view. For example, being there for each other, offering each other a safe space to be our true selves, listening, making sure the other person feels heard, empathy, you know, all of these things.
The point is our politics are separated from our friendship by politics, is separated from our values. I think survival is what holds people together guaranteed.
And if you think about the evolution of the human being, we're not a very strong animal, US versus Elephant Man. Even us versus horse, it's not going to go well for us, US versus microscopic virus, we're not that strong.
We couldn't survive in nature alone. We need each other. And so we had to adapt to be social. We had to learn things like trust because literally our survival depended on it.
And even getting along with people that we quote unquote didn't like because you need me and I need you.
Right. I think the evolution of politics and that doesn't mean that there isn't conflict.
Of course, there's conflict even amongst cooperative animals. But I think the evolution of politics is when things started to become more abstract and then we start defending abstractions without actually finding out if it's true or not. And that goes back to your point of the echo chamber. William Ury, the guy who wrote Getting to.
Yes, is an amazing guy. He shared a statistic with me recently, which is when interviewing Republicans and Democrats, over 50 percent of Republicans believe that Democrats would do them harm and over 50 percent of Democrats believe that Republicans would do them harm. The real number is three percent.
And so what ends up happening is you now have two groups of people represented by people who are more interested in getting re-elected than actually doing the right thing.
So that's a whole different conversation who are now making decisions out of fear that the other would do them harm. When the reality is neither presents a threat to the other, that's politics to me, it's making policy, it's making decisions, it's making a campaign promise all based on an abstract concept that has no basis, in fact, whatsoever.
So a false value, false value in this abstraction is real when it comes to the point where someone's civil rights are being violated. Right. That abstraction is extremely real.
Yes. Because because now it's the impact of an abstraction. Right now, I'm making policy or actually doing things based on abstraction. And the problem is the impact is very, very real.
And that's something that I've been thinking about lately as well. Like, yes, I may not agree with your beliefs. And you may be completely wrong if we were to do any scientific analysis on what you believe, but the fact that you believe it.
And that you have a strong conviction in it is still relevant because it is key to our ultimate survival as a species if we end up fighting over it. You know, if you believe it is worth life or death and you hear it in the rhetoric, right.
Let's go down an uncomfortable path.
You you raise civil rights. Yeah. And so when some people hear about the fear that African-Americans have going outside or if you get pulled over for speeding.
Sure. The reaction is. But you have nothing to fear, it's a few bad apples, like most of the time it's going to be fine, like it's a very rational answer based on their perspective. And I heard a statement by a police chief very recently, because there's such anger against the police right now that he started talking about his officers.
There's a lot of fear and how he now is keenly aware that if one of his officers takes their squad car home and parks the police car in the driveway, that that then identifies him and makes his house a target, there's real fear.
And in that experience, he instantly. Understands the fear of a black person, a black person feels all of a sudden for the first time in his policing career, he's a white male.
He has this incredible empathy that this cop is going to be afraid to walk outside of his front door. And now he understands the fear, the black men that fear that exists.
That, to me, is a perfect platform for them to relate to each other and for a conversation to start.
Yeah. And so recognizing these abstractions that ultimately can have real consequences to your existence.
Yeah. The fear is real. Yeah, fear is real.
And so how do we get people to recognize the value in having these alternate opinions and being open to discussing them is so difficult? I think I would say it comes down to how you're raised, where you were in a household or were you in a community that allowed open debate, respectful discussion, agreeing to disagree and still be cordial.
That kind of thing is important because if you are raised in an environment where differing ideas meant fists and dueling, then that's going to be your your response.
I want to keep going down this path of fear for a little longer. It's really interesting. If you think about the society we're living in right now, there's fear mongering that is done for political gain.
There is fear used even quote unquote, innocently in marketing. We see it on the news all the time.
You know, can drinking water give you cancer to tune in at 7:00? You know, like we used fear to manipulate behaviors all the time.
We do it with our kids. It's done at work. You better do as you're told or you might get fired. And mass layoffs have become so pervasive, like fear is the thing that's driving a lot of behavior. And if fear is an abstraction which has real impact, but if fear is an abstraction, what do we do as a society?
What do we do as individuals to overcome our fears for the good of ourselves, our families, our communities, society, etc.?
So the only thing that only answer I have is love. I don't know exactly how to implement it and implement policy, but this is what I do with my music. I try to promote the concept of compassion, empathy, love, togetherness, recognition, inspiring others, motivating others, being there for others and comforting people. Because as I was developing my career, there was a lot of angst, political angst and social angst. And I wanted to rage against the machine like one of my favorite bands.
And I thought, that's only going to make me tired. It's only going to make me a target. What if I try to throw love into the equation? How does the machine function when it's confronted with love? And I think it ends up being very difficult for fear to thrive where there is an abundance of love, because that abundance of love comforts another to feel like they will be protected, like they will be heard, like they will be valued.
That abundance of love is such an important piece of what is missing in society and in our media. Like you said, the news media works based on fear. My music industry works based on fear. The majority of the top ten songs are going to be about broken heartedness. So the fear of rejection, violence and gunplay. So the fear of death.
And then when you go to films and TVs, it's the same thing. It's, you know, the violence and the scary movies. So what I've found to be the biggest challenge is to use love as my calling card in an industry that really thrives billions and billions of dollars off of pulling at your primordial fears. Hmm.
This is a perfectly good Segway. You grew up the son of a Marine, that your dad was a Marine. And I had the opportunity to spend some time with Marines.
I have a soft spot in my heart for them. And I asked a Marine, what is the secret like?
What is it that makes the Marine Corps so good?
And he looked this is this is a hardcore warrior.
And he looked at me and he said, love. Said love of love of country, love, of course, love of your fellow Marine, yeah, that's it. I mean, and they they make it so salient from the beginning when you first get in, they completely destroy your concept of the world that you came from and everything then becomes this new world that you're in. My dad was in the Marines for 30 years and upon coming out, he's so indoctrinated in the system that the world outside, it's just very strange.
The Marines have a motto, Semper Fidelis, always faithful and that always faithful has order to it. You're always faithful to country, always faithful to God, always faithful to your fellow corpsman, and you follow the chain of command. And in the real world, there is no fidelity in the outside world, there's no promise of fidelity. And it really was still is. It's hard for him to manage that. There is no order out in this world.
What kind of love did you learn from your father that was different than the kind of love you learn from your mother?
My dad loves as a provider. My dad loves as a doer and a producer. And so what I learned from him was that love is making sure the people that you are responsible for are always taken care of. To any degree that you have to engage, you do it in order to make it happen. I remember hearing my dad talk about running 20 like they run marathons for in boot camp and him just saying what got me through the last five miles.
I was thinking about you guys back at home and that that sticks with me today. Like, I think about my kids. And of course, my life is completely different. And the amount of physical effort that I have to exert in order to provide for my family is way different. I still think about how much I'm willing to give to make sure that my family is taken care of. The nurturing kind of love came from more from my mother.
My dad's love was I'm going to put tiles down in this bathroom and you're going to sit and watch me do it and you're going to help pass me a tool when I need it. Because if you know how to do if you know how to produce, if you know how to create, then you will never be a spectator or subject to someone else's will. You'll be able to control your own will.
I had the opportunity to work out with the 101st Airborne and we got up very early in the morning and we went the parking lot. We're doing all these push ups and, you know, on the asphalt, which is not fun. And at the end of like 20, 30 minutes, I was like, oh, great workout, guys. That was the warm up. But when we actually went and did the actual workout, we did something called a hero's workout.
And what a hero's work it is. They pull out a piece of paper and they say, today we're working out for someone. And in this case, it was an airman, a fallen airman who had lost his life in combat. And before we work out, they read the circumstance in which he was killed. They tell us the name of his children. They tell us the name of his wife. They tell us where he's from, how old he was, and they say to us today, you're working out for him.
I remember in the middle of the workout and these are competitive guys, you know, but none of us were pushing ourselves to beat each other. We were pushing ourselves to outdo ourselves. And I remember, like during a run, someone would be running past me and he tapped me on the back and go, keep going.
And when we were dragging, I remember at one point where I would just I just was like huffing and puffing.
You thought of this fallen airmen that we were working out for and we had an insurmountable, insurmountable energy that just poured through our veins because now we were doing it for love.
Yeah. We weren't doing it to prove anything. We weren't due to do anything. It wasn't competition.
All the things that happened in the outside world, how we quote unquote drive performance, we pit people against each other, we offer them bonuses, all of these things. And we were pushing ourselves for love.
Yeah. You know, your question was how do we overcome the fear? And what you've just now mentioned is the answer. What you suggest in this example is purpose. You had a purpose in Okinawa. I watched this documentary about what Okinawans live so long. I have a high percentage of central generations and they have a philosophy of EKI guy or this concept of purpose. And everybody has a purpose. The older gentleman who still goes out to fish every day, even though these young guys who can do it, his purpose is to fish the older women who certainly have their daughters to raise the grandkids, still participate in the rearing of the children.
And I think that is part of what love is, is finding purpose in doing for those around us.
I think you're onto something here that's really, really powerful, which is it has to be specific. We talked about abstraction when purpose is abstract. It actually doesn't work to be the best or to to provide or to be, you know, to make an impact in the world.
It's very abstract.
And what was so profound in for the Marines, but also was so profound in this hero's workout is we weren't working out for all the fallen soldiers, which is abstract.
They don't have faces or names. What did Stalin supposedly say? You know, the death of one man is a tragedy. The death of a million is a statistic. Right.
And when we did this hero's workout and this person had a name and an identity and a family, all of a sudden it became not abstract.
It became incredibly tangible and incredibly personal and incredibly inspiring.
And perhaps purpose has to have a face and has to have a name.
You're right. And the biggest challenge then is the American ideology of rugged individualism, where we don't have any purpose related to anyone else. Just about it's about self and how much you can do to get to where you want to get by any means necessary.
We over index, and I think this is one of the reasons why somebody can be a bastard and all of a sudden they have a child and their whole life turns around because they say for the first time, I feel like I'm everything I'm doing is for summit. And all of a sudden purpose. Again, it has a face. It has a name.
We're going to need to figure out how to develop this concept and have everybody find purpose, because at 13 years old, when arguably across any region around the world and across any time period, that's when you're supposed to rebel, how do you find purpose in order to grow into an individual who has. Love at the core rather than fear at the core. And by the way, you don't have to know these people like you don't have to have a child.
The purpose doesn't have to be for your child or your friend. Remember this hero's workout?
None of us knew him. He was in the Air Force where I'm with the army. I mean, it was a completely different uniform.
And if you think about Black Lives Matter, it's not an abstract thing.
It was George Floyd. He had a name. He had a face. That's really important. Yeah, it was for someone.
Well, it's always for someone. And that's part of the call and movement for Black Lives is always to say their names so that they are, again, not just a statistic and not forgotten. And so that becomes more salient and concrete. A human being's life was taken less respect and value life. And let's figure out how to reform a system that ultimately seems to be broken and likely is broken and needs to be corrected in order to protect and serve.
And just like this hero's workout, when we're exhausted and we don't feel like we have anything left to give, and we remind ourselves of their names, of their faces, of the details of their lives, we find the energy to persevere. Yeah.
In order for that to work, you have to have a bone of empathy. And so developing that is, I think the precursor developing empathy is important. I believe in order to recognize that kind of purpose where you are making it about someone who goes back to love again. Well, yeah, I just feel like that's the answer.
I mean, we're theorizing is if you have love at home, you're more likely to develop that empathy muscle if you don't have love in the home or at least near the home school. You know, I think education plays a big part of it as well. I mean, we all know about the teachers who took a liking to us. We can remember their names. We can't remember all the other teachers. And every one of us is we are who we are today, in part because of these few people, this handful of people, whether it was a coach or a teacher, whoever it was, who like for some reason seem to love us, to seem to take us under their wing.
Yeah, because they had boundless empathy, a boundless understanding of their purpose.
It makes me love what you do in your music even more. I like your music because I like the tunes, you know.
Yeah, I enjoy listening to your music.
But now that I have a deeper understanding of the purpose of your music, it actually makes me like even the songs that I don't necessarily like, if that makes sense.
Yeah, no, I guess I know I now respect the purpose of your music.
Right. So I think about the genre that I grew up in. Hip hop music. It educated me on how to write lyrics, educated me on other genres because I was sampling music from classic rock and from jazz and from soul music, listening to those lyricists and those musicians being informed and educated and instructed on how to make music outside of the genre of hip hop. Yeah, hip hop was my forte at the time as a young kid, and the type of music that inspired me most was very conscious.
It was about recognizing it was there was a problem of movement within hip hop. And then in the nineties that spoke to the African diaspora, it spoke to having self pride and wanting to better the black community. And then there was a huge surge in gangsta rap, which then had a completely different narrative. While both narratives were true, gangsta rap is a reflection of what is actually happening in the neighborhoods. The pro black movement was a reflection of what was growing in the neighborhoods to be a visionary movement towards the betterment of the black community.
The industry favored the violence and the misogyny over the visionary positivity. And ultimately I decided that I wanted to continue this movement of positive visionary, but expand it beyond just the black community. Just make it a human message. And in opposition to what the popular use of the hip hop genre was at the time, which ended up becoming gangsta rap. And so when I had my first solo album, the title was shined through meaning to let your soul shine through the darkness, because if you allow the darkness to swallow up the light, then there will be no hope.
My second solo album title was Good Things. The album itself spoke to some of the hardships in politics, in inner city society, in relationships, but I titled it good things in particular to continue the theme of having hope. My third solo album was called Lift Your Spirit. So I use language in this way to continue to be a beacon of light and suggest positivity. And of course, this most recent album is called All Love Everything.
And I'm just doubling down on the whole love and love everything.
There's no way around it. Yeah. Here's what I've learned from you today. I've learned that purpose is specific, that purpose is human, that if we have purpose, we can endure when we can share the desire to advance for someone that we find community and common cause, even if our politics are different and this is what produces trust within this community, within this common cause, the strive to serve a human is love, love for each other and love for for what we're serving.
And that goes back to that love of country, love of core, love, love, love, love your fellow Marine. I understand that better.
Now, I think that's important where you said you started with purpose, but then you specified that purpose has to be for someone else. It can't be for yourself. Right. And maybe it can be. I'm just. Oh, I don't think positively.
I don't think it can. I think I'm going to change my language. I used to say purpose is for something, but I think purpose is for someone.
I think it should be for someone. Something is still abstract. Yeah, right. Because the thing could be an abstraction. Yeah. Hello.
You inspire me so much.
Oh likewise. I'm, I'm so happy that we get a chance to have these conversations and just come to new realizations. Yeah.
This is great. Thank you so much for taking the time. I really appreciate it. My pleasure. Thank you. If you enjoyed this podcast and if you'd like to hear more, please subscribe wherever you like to listen to podcasts. Until then, take care of yourself and take care of each other.