May 11, 2012

The Times They Are A-Changin': A Rambling Essay On Politics, Education, Creativity, & The Mayan Doomsday Prophecy

Our country is in turmoil. A wave of change the size of a tsunami rages towards us on the horizon. The conservative right are scared. They see the change coming and they don't like it one bit. They hold onto "traditional" values so tightly they are squeezing the lifeblood out of their more liberal members.

So, what is coming on the horizon that scares them so much? I keep asking myself that. Just the other day I was conversing with someone about how the GOP is imploding. Their views are so extreme and so backwards, they can't possibly win. They are scrambling. The louder they get, the more panicked they actually are that Obama might win and the wave of change is inevitable. Sure, Obama's not perfect, but he stands up for what is to me the absolute most important thing about being an American - freedom.

Freedom to choose. Freedom to love. Freedom to marry. Freedom to not be a mother. Freedom to not be religious. Freedom to go against the grain. Freedom to voice disappointment in government. Freedom to believe what you want. Freedom to strive. Freedom to dream.

Why does the GOP so desperately want to take our freedom away? Why are they so decidedly un-American?

Then I started reading The Rise Of The Creative Class: And How It's Transforming Work, Leisure, Community And Everyday Life by Richard Florida and it all clicked.

The book talks about, as the title would suggest, an increase in the number of Americans who make their living creatively, and, because of that rise, society is changing.

When I was young, I was singled out in school for high marks and put into the "Gifted and Talented" program. They don't have that program anymore and it's a damn shame. They'll tell you it's because the other kids felt left out or what not (no child left behind). The funny thing is, I was teased relentlessly for getting good grades. It didn't seem to bother any of the other kids, it just made me a target - But I didn't ultimately mind because for the first time I felt truly at home in a classroom. I felt intellectually challenged, and like I could ask honest questions without getting ridiculed by my peers. We could choose our own homework and every single week, I chose to do a book report. "Aren't you tired of reading books and writing reports, Missy?" "No, never." Other times, we learned chess or photography.

That experience changed me fundamentally as a person on a very base level. It took me years to finally embrace a creative lifestyle - mainly due to family and peer pressure to be "normal" and get a "real job," but now that I am fully embracing a creative lifestyle, I can honestly say I've never been happier.

I spend my days how I wish. I once recall a friend saying that if she didn't have a day job, she'd just sit around the house all day watching TV. Before I met Jeremy, I never watched TV and when he's off to work, the TV stays off. Occasionally I'll play music, but for the most part my day consists of silence and thinking - waking up, checking social networks, crawling slowly out of bed, flipping on the computer, leisurely eating breakfast, doing yoga and/or swimming and/or going for a walk to clear my head, then getting down to business - now that business may be spending the day writing, or reading and doing research, or, if I did pick up some side work, I may be at the computer designing, but, by design, that's less these days.

I sit, I ponder, I talk out dialogue to my cats, I pace, I fret, I pull out my hair, I play video games to blow off steam, I pop in a movie for inspiration, I write, I cross it out, and write some more.

An ex-friend recently told me that I wasn't a real writer because real writers get paid to write - I'm just another Hollywood poser. She then informed me that all I am, or ever will be, is a housewife and web-designer.

But, the thing is, that's just such a misguided, defeatist attitude.

Tell that to Kevin Smith - who in his recent book Tough Shit, reveals that how he became a filmmaker was by simply changing his point of view - instead of thinking, "I want to be a filmmaker," he thought, as encouraged by his sister, "I am a filmmaker," and that, my friends, is the key to success (of course, you have to also be good at it and hard working but success all starts with the right frame of mind).

For years I've struggled with my artistic abilities and dreams. I've been ashamed of them, down-played them, and outright hid them from others for fear of ridicule. I grew up in a rural, hard-working area of Massachusetts filled with farms and abandoned textile mills where it was unheard of to make a living as a writer. If I said, "I want to be a writer," invariably it would be met with, "But what do you want to do for a living?"

Well, I certainly don't make a living writing...yet, but I haven't really tried to until now. Fear got in the way for a long, long time, fear and peer pressure. But do you think anyone was paying Kevin Smith to make Clerks? Or Quentin Tarantino to make Reservoir Dogs? Sure, they make a decent salary now, but they started out doing it for free, for the love of doing it, and they kept on doing it until one day someone threw money at them.

They made movies for passion. I write, have always written, for passion (and to keep myself sane) - I just rarely share it with the world because I so desperately feared more ridicule from my peers, which brings me back to Gifted and Talented - when that program went away, I drifted into academic depression for years - if you aren't allowed to do what you love, what's the point?

My parents seemed to despise their working class jobs with a passion. And when my dad made manager and more money, he was more miserable! Yet they both had talent... Wasted talent. My Mom could paint and draw really well, my dad could sing and play guitar (he was even in a band in his youth). It wasn't fair.

Then one day I met Bono and he changed all that for me - it has still taken me years to shed the normalcy brainwashing and accept myself as a writer/artist but that fateful day March 16, 1992 my life changed.

But what if I never met him?

What about all the kids who will never find themselves in a classroom because all the arts and honors programs are cut?

And then I think about Rise of the Creative Class and how psychotic the conservatives are getting (have been).

In the book, it mentions how American society was in turmoil when we switched from an agricultural based society to a more capitalist society of industry and manufacturing. People left the farms in droves to head for the city - I can so relate, but instead of getting an assembly line job, I chased creativity without even knowing or realizing how many others were doing the same thing.

And the creative class is highly influential - books, movies, music, TV, fashion, electronics, science, etc. We work from home and we use our minds.

But according to my ex-friend, I'm just a housewife (presumably only because I don't have a typical day job - why is it so damn difficult for folks to wrap their minds around the concept of "working from home"? I guess they imagine me spending my day with my thumb up my butt trolling Facebook... Probably because that's what they do on their days off. I don't have days off. I work all the time, but I love what I do so it's not really work and I'd rather be alone in my home office (or by the pool) writing than doing anything else). And according to the GOP, I'm just a nuisance - so they belittle people like me, silence us, strip away our rights, take away our healthcare, force us back to the assembly line (so to speak) to give up our dreams and become robots.

No, thank you.

I work from home and sometimes I write, sometimes I design, but all the time I am creative and I'm a threat - a godless, childless, Liberal Arts educated, married woman with a voice and the power to use it via writing.

And this voice also observes. Over a decade in LA, I've watched the talentless flock to Hollywood for a fast buck then flee when it doesn't pan out, but I've also watched talented people struggle for years sticking to their guns, ignoring the nay-sayers, and pursuing their passions - and while not all of them are rich or have their names in lights, they are happier living the dream than being a robot for the man, because, in the end, talent wins out - you cannot fake it, or inherit it, or buy it. You can become rich without talent, but certainly not respected.

Regardless, the creative class is real and it's on the rise, and even though I'm in the lower end (financially), I am happy to be part of a movement for change - change that has the GOP fighting for their lives because with the rise of the creative class and its influence comes acceptance of differences, equality, and so much more (like funding for the arts, I hope).

And the funny or interesting thing is that all this change, all this economic turmoil as the creative class grows shifting our society away from greed and towards the arts, I can't help but also think about the Mayan 2012 prophecy. If you read into it, the Mayans weren't talking about the end of the physical world, rather a shift in human consciousness away from materialism and towards spirituality - and it looks like, speaking in basic terms of numbers, empirical data, and economics, that they were right.

For the GOP, though, it is the end of the world as they know it - gays will one day be able to marry and be accepted as equals without question, women will continue to fight for their rights until one day they will no longer need to, and the empire will fall, along with Wall Street... As the creative class rises to power.

So remember, just because society or your friends try to tell you who you can't be, can't marry, or what you can't do with your own body or life, you already are who you are and nobody can change that or take that away from you. Nobody. If you write, you're a writer, whether you get paid to or not. Money doesn't measure talent and society can't suppress it and oppress it forever. The times, they are a-changin'.

And to that ex-friend, before writing this blog, I had just returned from mailing more signed copies of my book to paying customers, am about to organize my notes for my second book, and rewrite a screenplay based on a bestselling memoir that I optioned, but, yeah, I'm not a "real writer". Thanks for the support, bestie!! /sarcasm
"You can dream so dream out loud; don't let the bastards grind you down." -Bono

UPDATE: An article posted on The Daily Beast this morning called 
Top GOP Pollster to GOP: Reverse On Gay Issues contains the following quote:

“As people who promote personal responsibility, family values, commitment and stability, and emphasize freedom and limited government we have to recognize that freedom means freedom for everyone. This includes the freedom to decide how you live and to enter into relationships of your choosing, the freedom to live without excessive interference of the regulatory force of government."

So, I guess the times really are a-changin'! Hallelujah!

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