Artistic Competition? What a Load of Tosh

I like Seth Godin.  He often posts really interesting and surprising blogs, with refreshing points of view, that get me to think.  I like to share some of them with friends on facebook, etc.

Recently, though, he posted one that was so laden with what seemed to me to be very bad assumptions, that I just had to write about it.

Here is the link to Seth’s original post:  Faster, Better and More

I may be wrong, but what Seth seemed to be saying is that we all have competition and the only way to counter that competition is to work faster, be better and offer more.  What horrified me about this very notion is that it’s a never ending and ultimately un-winnable arms race.  Regardless of how fast you work, how much better you make yourself and what you do, or how much more you offer, somebody else will flog themselves even harder to cut your throat and make your output irrelevant and unwanted.

For what possible reason would anyone do that?  To gather up scarce money?  Why would your “customer” demand you work faster, better and give more?  Do they have a pressing need, or are they just exercising their purchasing power?  Is it humane?  Is it necessary?  What are the wider implications of always demanding faster, better and more?  What do the terms even mean, in an artistic context?

To me it spoke more of the fact that money was needlessly scarce, that being scarce, people who had any would abuse that power and that an irrational need for more, just because you can demand it with your fist full of paper trading tokens, leads ultimately to destruction of the planet.  The earth does not have more to give.  The argument put forward by Seth makes the assumption that a person’s output is an undifferentiated commodity, easily substituted.  Beneath the rhetoric is a view of mankind that regards each person as a replaceable unit.  Nothing is special.  Nothing is priceless.  Everything is commerce.

I expect that arms race to end when people realise that there is more to life than faster, better, more.  There is humanity. There is quality of life, not just quality of business output.

I see things very differently.  To me, perfect is good enough.  In fact, even slightly flawed is good enough and sometimes better than perfect.  It shows that a vulnerable, imperfect human being lavished love and time on the thing you are beholding.

On time is fast enough.  Why would earlier than required be a good thing?  Many good inventors make that mistake.  They create something too fast, before there is a market that realises they even need it.

Satisfying sufficiency is enough. The constant craving for faster, better, more, without there being a rational need for it, is a disease of the mind that is stripping the planet of non-renewable resources and completely undermining the happiness and peace of mind, diminishing the important relationships each of us cherishes and tears the heart out of millions of thinking, feeling, sentient beings on a sustained and daily basis.

What’s so good about faster, better and more?

In my view, competing more brutally to get to the scarce money that circulates in our economy is folly.  Here is an alternative programme:

Be unique.  Unique has no competition. Competition assumes and requires undifferentiated output by exchangeable people.  Why submit to that stupid game?

Competition ignores the very much greater achievements and output that can be obtained by collaboration.  That being so, collaborate and competition will run.

Competition, as asserted earlier, is all about a chase for scarce money, which it turns out is only scarce because those that control the monetary system make it so. It doesn’t have to be scarce. If you think of money as information (i.e. information about your reputation to produce useful output) then why should that information be scarce?  That only benefits the information gatekeepers, who subsequently convince you to compete with each other in an utterly hopeless fight to the death, for no rational purpose.  Meanwhile, they accumulate wealth, irrespective of who wins or loses.  They control the game.  Why would any artist submit to those conditions?

This is a video that explains dispassionately how money works:

If you have the 80 or so minutes it takes to watch it, I commend it to you.  What it concludes is that money can and should be designed to be plentiful.  It’s information and nothing more.  It facilitates trade, but is not in and of itself as valuable as those that wish to control that information would assert it to be.  What is valuable is the imaginative, unique, soaring, novel output of the human mind and our uncanny ability to turn ideas into practical, useful, reality.

If we lived in a world where there was enough money to make any exchange or trade possible, whenever we wished to do that, then we would soon learn that things were good enough, available fast enough and that we had enough.  We would soon learn to appreciate the timeless, the enduring, the seminal, the iconoclastic, the useful, the unique.  We’d turn our attention to conservation of non-renewable things.  We’d look to make and do the things that we’re all too busy to notice need doing, because we’re so blinded by the frenzy of commerce.  Some of us already see the need, but look upon the current economic system as the impediment.  It’s the problem, not the solution.

At the point where humanity truly values the unique contribution of every human being and fully enables them to produce their finest work, at every moment, then exhortations to produce faster, better and more are going to seem pretty second rate.  They are.

The power to change humanity is within our grasp.  We know what to do and how to do it.  We have the means, but lack the will.  While the huckstering for the status quo and a discredited method of organising human affairs, laissez faire capitalism, isn’t rethought in light of the amazing alternatives possible, we will not progress as a species and our artists will continue to starve.

I know where my hopes lie and it isn’t with artistic competition.

About tropicaltheartist

You can find out more about me here: There aren’t many people that exist in that conjunction of art, design, science and engineering, but this is where I live. I am an artist, a musician, a designer, a creator, a scientist, a technologist, an innovator and an engineer and I have a genuine, deep passion for each field. Most importantly, I am able to see the connections and similarities between each field of intellectual endeavour and apply the lessons I learn in one discipline to my other disciplines. To me, they are all part of the same continuum of creativity. I write about what I know, through my blogs, in the hope that something I write will resonate with a reader and help them enjoy their own creative life more fully. I am, in summary, a highly creative individual, but with the ability to get things done efficiently. Not all of these skills are valued by the world at large, but I am who I am and this is me. The opinions stated here are my own and not necessarily the opinion or position of my employer.
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