Friday, August 11, 2017

Art and survival in a cancerous economy

Dipped into the special features on the new Arrow Video edition of Re-Animator. I started with the 10 minute interview with Stuart Gordon on his history with Organic Theater Company, which is an ongoing subject of interest to me.

He started it with his wife, Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, and their intention was that everyone working their could make a living at it. With my wife, Kimberly, and I slowly plotting creative project that I'd like to see be on-going, that seems crazy to me that there was a time when that would seem plausible as a company just starting up. It does feel like exactly what I do want, though.

There's a larger societal issue here. In Life, Inc. by Douglas Rushkoff, he discusses in depth how corporations, and the economies that surround them, create their own set of needs.

One of the key needs, and the most obviously cancerous, is the need for constant growth. No matter what corporation you've worked for, you've probably been told all about the growth they've had and how they are working toward more growth.

I don't have a clear solution to this in most industries. Essentially, the most pernicious element of this evil addiction to growth is that it's so difficult to create a business that maintains a healthy, steady income within an economy that demands constant growth. The business needs to grow in order to keep up with the cost of living and to attract and compensate qualified workers.

It's a hamster wheel that none of us knows how to get off, and too few even consider as something that could, within a healthier economic body, be possible and desirable to get off. We have all been convinced that this is how economies work.

The idea that Mr. Jones could own a general store, hire a couple of people to help him, and serve his community, while having what he needs to feed his family as a constant, accounting for some years having greater challenges or exceptional boons, simply doesn't exist at this point.

Whenever I see how art is dying, most often it's rock music, as in my column Rock, RIP, in which I was struggling with these same issues, I can't help thinking that it's not a sane system that's dying. It's not an art economy in which people are trying to create something and reasonably feed their family. They're trying to restore a stupid one in which stupid amounts of money are poured on Foghat, a band that is assuredly talented enough that they deserve to make a decent living through performing music, but might have, for a time, had a level of success that was out of scale with the amount of talent they had, because it was an economy that demanded huge rock band, enjoying massive success, in order to finance elements that had nothing to do with them or music fans.

As an aging creative person, with a lot of aging creative friends, I have had a lot of conversations about how none of want to be Stephen King, Steven Spielberg or, uh, Steven Tyler, I guess. Is some of that compensating for the fact that these goals are less likely as we age? Maybe, but I think part of the reason people mostly end up that famous young is that with any reasonable amount of maturity, it doesn't sound very desirable.

I know a lot of us that would love to just make ends meet doing our thing. Even if that meant occasional temp jobs or part time work doing other things, that wouldn't be too bad. On top of whatever one does full time, that they are working hard, and are good at doing.

I'm betting outside of creative fields there are a lot of people who think owning, or working for, that general store I mentioned above, or something equivalent in their field of interest, sounds good. Because we've allowed an unnecessary complication to make surviving and living more complicated than it needs to be, and its accepted implicitly by the vast majority of people as a given.

Because that's, by and large, what reasonable, responsible, mature adult people want from life. The fact that our economy demands that we work toward other things demonstrates that it is not compatible with the needs of responsible adult individuals.

Generally, it tries to keep up from behaving reasonably or responsibly, or thinking with maturity. Considering where we are, that seems to be working.

I'm also embedding this episode of Team Human by Rushkoff and Natalie Foster about the future of work. It doesn't answer these questions, but does address them in an intelligent and constructive way.

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