"We are problems that want to be solved
We are children that need to be loved
We were willin', we came when you called
But, man, you fooled us, enough is enough, oh
What about us?"
Where’s the meaning?
With the opening scenes riddled with political undertones, there can be little doubt that the video (and song) is meant to be a critique and commentary on our current state of affairs. With a powerfully visual and emotionally moving music video, the meaning of Pink’s song is summed up in its title What About Us?
Coming from a deeply human perspective, Pink alludes to the fact that in our current state of affairs, there are, and always have been, large portions of society that have been ‘forgotten’ or ‘left behind.’ While the song was written to be purposely vague, as the lyrics undoubtedly provoke different meaning(s) to different listeners, the lyrics are timely as we are in a transition period in our society, resulting in many people feeling left behind.
Structural shifts in our labor force (i.e. demand for new ‘digital’ or ‘data’ skills), outsourcing, automation, consumption behavior, political polarization, and political gridlock (just to name a few…), are changing the foundations of our ‘institutional system’. As gaps in the structure widen, wealth inequality becomes perpetuated, yet there are still narratives of equal opportunity that permeate the media, but it seems that this narrative is bearing less and less truth, highlighted by the lyric ‘we were willing, we came when you called, but man, you fooled us, enough is enough’. The gaps that are being created in the wake of this structural shift have left many with the burning question what about us?
A song of provocation, we are nudged to introspectively reflect on the state of our current society and think upon where we want to go collectively as well as individually. As for if we go blindly into the future without asking the question, what about us? What type of future are we building for ourselves?
- How can you see the shifts of the socio-economic structure play out in your communities?
- Who are ‘the left behind’ in your communities and how would you build an inclusive future for them (e.g. is it education, work force retraining, affordable housing, etc.)?
- If you were to think of solutions for the problems in your community, where would you start to solve the problem(s)? And if there are barriers, how can you, personally, challenge and overcome the barriers?