Artists are often the black sheep of their families. This can be chalked up to any number of factors, but it's usually because they refuse to devote their lives to making money like the rest of the world. The odd one out: the idealist who has high-flying dreams that exist beyond the material plane.
It's a defining characteristic spanning artists in virtually all fields and mediums that, at some point or another, they must renounce financial security. This is a huge challenge and, at the same time, the ultimate liberation for it shows the way to a lifestyle ruled by imagination and improvisation instead of material comfort.
The digital revolution has cut out the middleman, allowing artists from all walks of life and geographical coordinates to present and sell their work directly to a global audience. All of a sudden the prospect of success is no longer reserved for the 'elected' few, but a real possibility in the here and now for anyone who is talented and persistent enough. Gone are the days of the beggar with a portfolio, manuscript, music, hoping to be picked up by a judging elite who is motivated by sales, not art.
With this development, it's also becoming increasingly evident that an art 'industry', which doesn't respect the hand that feeds it, has diminishing returns. That hierarchy and gate-keeping don't necessarily nurture anybody but a few lucky ones at the top.
But doesn't this ring true for all the other industries? For all of society?
Governments squander our taxes on warfare and bank bailouts, while the quality of healthcare and education is dropping. Our environment is being destroyed in the name of economic growth. Half the world's population is trying to lose weight while the other half is on the brink of starvation.
Could we see a legitimate re-evolution that challenges the ruling, outdated principles of hierarchy, slavery and imperialism in a peaceful, enduring way?
What if all of these massive institutions, that cost quite a lot of money to run, disappeared and were replaced by individuals and grassroots organizations that offer better services for the same amount of money, if not less?
Let's take the example of publishing: Who needs publishing houses, with their plush offices and huge overhead costs, paying writers a pittance in royalties and dropping any mid-list author who hasn't made an arbitrary amount of money for them in a very limited time span?
Instead of collecting rejection slips, authors can now take responsibility for their work, employ professionals, and offer readers less expensive books of the same quality, all while making a living for the rest of their lives. Thanks to the self-publishing revolution, the profession of author has evolved into that of a self-employed entrepreneur: from rags to income.
The democratic environment that technology has created has emancipated musicians, authors and creatives out of necessity - and because they had nothing much to lose in the first place. What if other sectors of society examined their positions and decided that they've reached that point, too?
Could we see a healthcare revolution?
What if doctors formed unions and were paid contributions for regular check-ups and nutritional advice? Doctors could be marketing health instead of disease, cutting out the pharmaceutical industry, or at least putting drugs in their place: that of last resort, in tune with the Oath of Hippocrates.
Can we change the education system?
Imagine teachers employed by groups of parents who don't want their children having to pass through metal detectors for the sake of an 'education'. Organized home-schooling, where teachers become appreciated members of extended families instead of underpaid employees in a disheartening system, tiny cogs in an enormous, barely functioning machine?
Where would the money come from? Well, I ask you: where is our hard-earned money going right now?
Changing these constructs will take a big dose of imagination, the formation of online communities for support and information sharing, and action in the real world such as collective refusal to pay taxes to governments that don't represent the interests of the majority of the population. For how can we possibly have a ruling 1% without the paying 99%?
Wouldn't it be extraordinary if the black sheep led the way for once? They've pushed the gate open, and fresh pastures are plentiful and beckoning.
Hey, they are in there already... Can you hear them baaah baaah baaahing happily?
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