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Photo of Tupac Shakur

THUGLIFE is a mentality you either have or you don’t. Created by Tupac Amaru Shakur in the ’90s, THUGLIFE is an ideology of black power and is for anyone who believes in the empowerment of the oppressed. It spans all colors and ethnicities and is universal. While many believe THUGLIFE to represent the imagery of the thug the media perpetuates, THUGLIFE is in fact at its core an acronym created by Tupac that stands for “The Hate U Give Little Infants F*cks Everyone.” While the meaning may feel self-explanatory to many, especially in 2015, many people are unaware or previously unreceptive to the richness of the theory. I believe that THUGLIFE is just as relevant today as it was when Pac was around to preach it. Here are 25 reasons why.

1. The Acronym: The Hate U Give Little Infants F*cks Everyone. Children are our most vulnerable demographic, across cultures, they are also, incidentally, our future. As with anything, the energy you put into something is the energy that is going to come out. Karma is real. Yet, we feed our children lessons of a world that places greater value on property and material than it does on human life. Children are taught to fear the other and to love members of their own kind above all others. Culture is a beautiful thing, but not when it divides. The same goes for religion. The system as it stands today, just as it stood in Tupac’s day, serves hate with no signs of slowing down. It is that hate that is affecting the minds of the young, and in turn f*cking us all. We need to teach our children better, and let them teach us even more.

2. The system: As was so poignantly said on The Combat Jack Show, police brutality is not a glitch in the system but a feature. The way the system actually works is to oppress its subjects, and violence is not discounted as a tool of oppression. And even when that oppression is caught on camera for the world to see, as was the case with Rodney King and Eric Garner, and now most recently, Walter Scott and Eric Harris, the system continues to run unchecked. Except now we have the internet. Now we have things that go “viral.” THUGLIFE is recognizing the incredible power the average person now possesses as with no other time in history and knowing that sometimes the only way to see yourself as truly effective in society, is to see yourself as an outlaw.

3. Article 3: Article 3 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights applies to all citizens of the world. If you are human, this article applies to you. It states “everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.” Article 3 challenges the power police currently have to use lethal force, a mechanism that is used way too liberally by police in the United States against black men. The current police murdering of black civilians embodies the very definition of what constitutes genocide. Make no mistake, it is genocide. Having the right to life does not change dependent on the color of your skin, what country you live in, or what type of household you grew up in. If you’re a part of this world, theoretically you are protected by Article 3. THUGLIFE recognizes the importance of the right to life, and fights for it at all costs.

4. Imprisonment: In 2015, people still get confined in institutions, losing their freedom, threatening their dignity, for reasons that can’t even be close to calling just. The proportion of black men imprisoned in the United States as compared to other demographics is not reflective of who is actually committing crimes, but rather who is targeted in getting caught. Perhaps the most agonizing aspect of imprisonment, along with losing one’s freedom, is the separation from loved ones. The separation of love goes against nature, as love is the most powerful force in our world. THUGLIFE is about freedom, and that freedom is highly threatened by the prison industrial complex plaguing our world today.

10th Annual Soul Train Music Awards

5. The war on the mind: Distractions. They’re f*cking everywhere. The war on the mind is very real. You can best control a populace by policing their mind. It’s the most dangerous place for the police to exist, in your mind. Psychological warfare is a dirty tactic that is well-known to those in positions of authority. It plays out in the media constantly, it plays out in your day-to-day interactions, it’s the ultimate form threatening freedom, because it resides within you. Our minds are powerful, and can create worlds, THUGLIFE is cognizant of this war and believes in empowering the mind of all beings so that they may realize their potential and live free.

6. Sexism: The female is the most threatened gender. Rape is epidemic worldwide. Current power differentials dictate that the female is supposed to assume an inferior position to the male in all circumstances, but that couldn’t be more wrong. We are equal. The word feminist is coupled with the image of a wild woman, when in fact, to be a feminist you need to be grounded as an individual and hopeful for change. A man can be a feminist too. Tupac believed in the strength of a woman and tried to encourage men to treat women with respect. THUGLIFE is pursuing a vision of equality amongst the sexes and understanding that our world will not be a just world until the female’s equality is fully realized.

7. The Media: The media is perhaps the place most rampant with the hate the system is feeding us. Entertainment plays an important role in society, but right now it’s on overload. We are constantly being fed images of how we should be, which in children is the most formative. The media plays a huge part in shaping our communal narrative, what gets airplay, what doesn’t. The media decides on exposure, and what is disseminated is the message that you are not worthy. You are not beautiful. You are not intelligent. You are not powerful. THUGLIFE sees the role the media plays in our lives and challenges the content to become illuminating for a world moving forward, not backward.

8. Hip-Hop: Music can be the most powerful art form, if it’s used properly. It has the power to influence moods, alter decisions, and change lives. Some musicians are aware of this power and use it for good, others use it for things that are not so good, to put it lightly. Hip-hop has a special power. As Hov says in DECODED, “rappers are young black men telling stories that the police, among others, don’t want to hear.” They are stories that have to be told, because without the brave men and women telling it, the rest of the population would be none the wiser. Ignorance, contrary to popular belief, is not bliss, ignorance is ignorance. Hip-hop has been my greatest education, not to mention one of my favorite earthly pleasures. THUGLIFE is hip-hop at heart and in its soul.

9. Social media: what is more contemporary than social media? Your ability to take seeming control of your narrative has never been so publicly available as it is today. As with anything, social media is often consumed in an unhealthy manner, but if you have managed to create a healthy relationship with your iPhone social media can be a wonderful thing. Social media can play a vital role in connecting people in social activism, people that previously would have never been connected. The possibilities are endless. But caution, social media is also a tool for surveillance. Don’t forget that. THUGLIFE is a movement, and it’s manifesting itself everywhere, social media included.

10. God: If you have respect for God then you have respect for his children. If you have respect for his children then you know that killing the dreams of our children is one of the most detrimental things we can do to our society. Waking life is a blessing all who are reading this enjoy, we are sharing space and time. THUGLIFE is about protecting our children from the hate being transmitted in the world, and allowing them all to develop their own unique frequencies. Why are we here if not to be ourselves?

1996 MTV Video Music Awards

11. Family: The family is still the main organizational unit of society. We still spend the most time in our early years with our families, and gain our greatest influences from our family dynamic, for better or worse. Most of us spend our entire lives intertwined with our families, either out of habit, a sense of obligation, or real true familial love. Family can be a beautiful thing but it can also be a breeding ground for abuse. The world is ridden with too many broken homes. THUGLIFE believes in fostering the best possible environment for children to flourish, which starts at home.

12. Education: Schools are not set up to illuminate our children’s minds and let them reach their potential, but rather to have them fill the ranks of society. The system teaches to the test. You can be a straight ‘A’ student and find in time that you did not “learn” a thing. School stunts creativity, which it should be cultivating. School can be a form of prison, and we’re putting all of our children through it. THUGLIFE believes that true knowledge is your best defense in a system that teaches its pupils to exist rather than truly live.

13. Psych wards: The dirty secret of our society. The psych ward is where you go once you have gotten “out of line.” The system doesn’t know what to do with you, so psychological warfare being as prevalent as it is, you are told that you have a mental illness. Psych wards are supposed to be places that people go to when they have issues with mental health, which is a very real thing. But the psych ward doesn’t heal the patient, it tames the subject. THUGLIFE is present everywhere in society, even in your psych wards.

14. Child-Centric Framework: The Child-Centric Framework, CCF, is a pragmatic theory I created while studying human rights. CCF states that policy should be created with the development of the child as its number one priority as opposed to money, which is the current priority. It argues that this prioritization is the best way to ensure the most optimally functioning society. Pretty f*cking obvious if you ask me. THUGLIFE is CCF.

15. Poverty: Economic inequality. Not having enough money to buy food at the end of the month. Not knowing if you are going to have shelter in a month’s time. The struggle. A lack of resources, especially money, is a threat to one’s security. Survival is the most basic instinct we all have, and this world is survival of the fittest. THUGLIFE is rooted deeply in the struggle and is about improving living conditions, for everyone.

Photo of Tupac Shakur

16. Power: If you’ve got it, you know it. Power corrupts. Man over woman. White over black. Adult over child. Human over animal. Power exploits. But a thug uses power to move forward. Power is pursued with no regard for the collateral damage. But we’re all powerful. That’s one of the secrets. THUGLIFE challenges the current power structures, the same ones that were in place in the 90’s are the same ones that rule today. The game is the game. THUGLIFE is the underdog who had nothing overcoming obstacles.

17. Conspiracy: If you’re not a conspiracy theorist to a certain extent then you’re not paying attention to what’s going on. Conspiracy is one of the main tenets of business, organize and then present to the public. Conspiracy has a bad connotation but it can be a really good thing but often visibility is better. THUGLIFE is knowing that nothing is as it seems but acting with the most up-to-date knowledge possible to rise to any challenge.

18. Violence: Violence breeds more violence. You have to defend yourself and protect yourself at all costs, but violence is never the answer. The current narrative portrays the black man as a viable receptor of violence by those in authority. That trickles down. That influences the communal psyche that says that it’s okay to attack a black man, to kill him. If you’ve ever loved a black man, you can’t accept this. If you’ve ever envisioned yourself with a black child you can’t watch another Walter Scott get shot while fleeing for his life. That’s someone’s child. That’s someone’s love. THUGLIFE does not accept this for one second. THUGLIFE is not about glorifying the perceived “thug” lifestyle of crime and violence, quite the opposite.

19. Trust: As Pac said, “trust no one.” Once you meet a ride or die, then trust becomes a little easier, but until then, trust no one. People want to see you do good, but never better than them. Haters come in many forms, sometimes they are disguised as loved ones, but typically your intuition knows what’s up. The only person you are certain to rely upon in this world is yourself, except trust love. Real love. The no doubts, ride or die, forever type love. You know it when you find it. THUGLIFE is about trusting wisely, not blindly.

20. Drugs: The prohibition on marijuana in 2015 is just beyond bullsh*t, but it’s reality. Drugs can open your mind, and some, if used responsibly and with balance are not harmful to anyone. Altering your mind gives you a different perspective, which can be a very healthy experience. Drug abuse is the problem, not the drug itself. THUGLIFE is against the policing of the mind in any way, shape or form.

21. Love: The answer. Love is the answer to all of the questions a thug might ask him or herself. Love is the most basic unit of existence, the most natural and original entity of our world. The separation of loved ones, for whatever reason, is one of the most cruel things the system does. The system shuns love, because it knows that love can change it. It’s that powerful. Love is timeless. CCF is love. THUGLIFE is love. We are all love.

22. Health: Taking care of yourself is paramount. Ensuring your good health, both mental and physical, is key. A thug knows that he or she has to be in the best condition possible in order to overcome the battles he or she will inevitably face. THUGLIFE is a state of mind that filters into all areas of life.

23. Money: Money is the central organizational unit of our time. We are addicted to money. This hasn’t changed. There are no signs from the system that this is going to change. No indicators from the powers that be that the pumping of money as our value system is going to change. Money is placed at a higher importance than human life. THUGLIFE is about not letting money enslave you.

Tupac Shakur In Chicago

24. Freedom: The struggle for freedom is at the heart of THUGLIFE. Freedom is our natural direction. It is the order that threatens our freedom. You cannot legislate the human spirit. You cannot police love. The system holds so tightly onto limiting freedom, but it is no match for the human spirit. A thug keeps his or her head up regardless of the situation. THUGLIFE is believing in freedom of mind, of body, and of nature as a whole and fighting for that freedom “by any means necessary.”

25. J. Cole: The final reason why THUGLIFE is just as relevant today as it was when Pac was active is J. Cole. J. Cole is representative of the times we are in. His presence is powerful beyond measure and his reach crosses cultures. Pac didn’t die, he multiplied, and his influence is evident in Cole’s every word. He inspires people to pursue their dreams, countering the systems intention to destroy them. He says what needs to be said, when it needs to be said. He is my hero. If you haven’t heard his music yet, you are missing out on the most germane artist of our time. I am THUGLIFE. Tupac is THUGLIFE. J. Cole is, in my opinion, THUGLIFE. Are you?

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty, Wire

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