This post is in a way an extension of my previous post, but also inspired by the following topic on Soul Pancake.com, which asks the question: Why Do We Punish Our Dreamers?
There are some interesting answers to this question in the comments and I have had a similar conversation with my sister about how society seems to be very uneasy, uncomfortable, almost downright violent and oppressive against Artists/Dreamers. It wasn’t always the case. In times like the Renaissance, art was seen as incredibly noble, government-supported, virtuous, and a symbol of humanity’s beauty and power. I’m not sure exactly when art and dreamer culture got killed in this country (maybe sometime after the 60’s) but it’s been an incredibly difficult terrain for any artist to manage since then.
I was thinking about all the different identities that I associate with and they all have at least an organization, a piece of legislation, a leader, or a historic movement that fought for the rights and privileges of that specific identity–except one. As an artist I still feel oppressed, undervalued, scorned, dejected by modern society. There are artists organizations, I am sure, but none as powerful, with as much leverage, or with as a wide a donor base, as the NAACP, HRC, or the NCLR. One would argue that these organizations represent an underrepresented minority that has been historically repressed and exploited throughout the history of America and thus these organizations should have more power than simply an arts-based organization.
But haven’t artists been suffering a similar, albeit more silent oppression as well? John Lennon dared to dream in one of the best songs ever written (in my opinion) of a world in which there were no countries, no war, and no religion. Where everyone lived in peace and happiness, and thrived in the present moment, forgetting all past and future worries. For daring to dream that dream, he was shot.
I don’t think the phrase: “dare to dream” should be taken lightly. Dreaming is a dare. For ordinary people yes, but especially for artists. Because that IS our job. To Dream. Or, more appropriately, to Dare to Dream. What’s wiping out artists today is less of a systematic effort by the government or other group, but more of a cowardice. Cowardice on the hand of the artist to dare to dream, and a cowardice on the hand of the dreamer’s distributor, to DISTRIBUTE that very daring dream to the masses. I wouldn’t argue that the modern artist does not exist, but that she is kept silent, by non-distribution. She is there, it’s just that no one is hearing her. She’s drowned out by the much louder and the much more supported: ENTERTAINER.
Aw, the entertainer. Faux dreamer, puppet, one-line wonder, Shallow Hal, skimmer of the surface of anything real. Entertainers are shoving their feet into artists mouths, so that they can stand high. Entertainers are 10-second sprinters, they’re in it for the high, the rush, that’s gone before you know it, and leaves you feeling empty afterward. The taste of sugar lingers in your mouth–you like it, but you know it’s bad for you, it always has been, and you know that it gives you no nutrients, but you and everyone else you know will keep eating The Entertainer’s candy. Candy’s good, who would blame you for eating it?
We don’t award the artist enough, we don’t nurture the new growing dreamer enough. We choke them, we throw cynicism at them. Only the strong-willed can withstand such vicious shrapnel. The few of us, like me, who keep going even though the avalanche keeps raining down upon us. But even if we are the ones who will eventually survive, how about the ones who don’t, or won’t? Is it their fault that they weren’t “STRONG enough? That they just couldn’t hack it? Pardon my language but FRAK NO! That isn’t fair to ask an artist to go through such pain and agony to become who they are. They should just be allowed to be who they are, just like any other minority is allowed to be in this country (for the most part.) Being strong-willed, or gutsy, should not be a requirement for being an artist. Other careers do not have such barren, treacherous terrain.
As artists our only choice is to demand more respect. The first step is acknowledging that there is a problem. Consider it acknowledged. Next thing to debate is: Why?
To help you ruminate on your answers you can watch this clip from a recent episode of Glee [UPDATE: Clip no longer available]. The whole episode is appropriately titled: “Dream On.” If you haven’t watched the whole episode, you should, because it addresses a similar issue, except on a high school level.
Why do you think the world is so Dreamer-phobic? Or do you disagree completely with me? Why don’t people support artists as much as they support sports, math, or science? Why are we seen as expendable, or unimportant?
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