People cope quite badly with bad things. It saps their creativity, for one, but the other effect is that people affected by bad things become (rightly) unhappy and upset. It’s understandable. They’re coping with bad things. Those people can be challenging to be with. They begin to sap your creativity too. Bad things sap everybody’s creativity. Those affected and those that associate with the afflicted all feel worse and begin to lose their creative focus.
But bad things happen – arguably, increasingly so.
As an artist, should you avoid people that are unhappy and upset, because they’ve been affected by bad things, just to preserve your own creativity? Should you just abandon them like lepers? In a society, I don’t think you can abandon these people. They’ve been affected by bad things and need our compassion. It could just as easily have been any one of us. When or if bad things affect us, do we want to be shunned and avoided? I don’t think so.
Yet aversion is the tactic most often employed. Eyes are cast askance. Subjects are hastily changed. Conversations are desperately redirected. Calls are not returned. Tweets are not responded to. Nobody wants to catch the “disease”. We cope so badly with bad things that we can’t even comfort and listen to those actually going through them. It’s an act of desperate, cowardly self-preservation.
With head in the sand and fingers in ears, we simply ignore or block out the bad things and the people suffering under them, to safeguard our own creativity.
There are some people that have noticed this tendency. They have realised that they can take material advantage of the rest of us, by engineering the occurrence of bad things. They can profit. They can become powerful. By keeping the rest of us in a bad place, or in fear of being drawn into one, they can call the shots and do whatever the hell they like with us. They can farm us. These people are creativity predators.
They know we can’t or won’t cope with their engineered, stage-managed, contrived bad things. While we’re cowering and pretending nothing bad is happening, carrying on with our creative pursuits regardless, they can take all our money and take all of the power. We gift both to them.
And so now we live in a world in which those kinds of cruel, vicious, predatory sociopaths are running rampant, imposing an increasing catalogue of bad things on other people, for their own pleasure and profit. We have a world in which bullying is the norm (indeed, it’s enshrined in our systems) and management by grievous cardio-vascular assault is just a part of the everyday landscape. They not only take our money and all the power, they take our lives. Bad things proliferate.
The problem with the default avoidance strategy is that it doesn’t make the bad things stop and go away. In fact, by ignoring it and responding poorly to it, bad things proliferate and multiply to the point of becoming ambient.
Devotees of Ayn Rand reject altruism and hold that helping is futile. Go back to sleep. Carry on with your own art. Don’t think about the bad things too much. Leave the predators to continue unimpeded and further empowered. When we deny our fear, we make it stronger. When we fail to help and support others going through bad things, we guarantee that we’ll be left to face highly organised, orchestrated, manufactured, overwhelming bad things alone too.
When bad things become ambient, it corrodes your creativity, your mind and your body gradually anyway. You think you are sticking to your art, but all the while, the bad things are eating at you, subtly and relentlessly. There is no escape. Avoidance merely prolongs the agony and only succeeds in delaying the inevitable destruction of your creative powers. Avoidance doesn’t prevent anything.
If we want to maximise our creativity and live lives fulfilled in our art, then we have to change the ambience. The bad things are clutter. They inhibit our creativity, as a species. They are a distraction and a constant drain on our resilience and progress. In short, they favour the rich and powerful at the expense of the rest of us. It’s a price that’s too high to pay. If we want to live lives of optimism and positivity, then we have to extend that to all. We can’t imagine that we, alone, can remain sacrosanct islands of positivity, in the midst of widespread misery and suffering. Everybody has to have a life filled with hope and fulfilment. It has to be universal, if it is to have any meaning at all. That means we have to get rid of the bad things. There’s no other choice.
If we want to eliminate the bad things entirely, so that fewer people become so affected by them that they become negative, unproductive and uncreative, we have to act en masse. There are many more if us than there are predators. If we want a world in which we don’t have so much bad stuff to ignore and avoid, we have to take the predators head on and stop them doing their bad things, or find a way of making it less rewarding to them. Otherwise, we’re on a downward spiral in which, eventually, even the most determined negativity avoiders will not be able to avoid bad things.
Avoidance is not a good strategic response to deliberate bad things, introduced for control or profit.
How do you combat it? How about a creative solution? Numbers are on our side. People are mainly good. Studies have shown that we are, at heart, kindly and supportive of one another, all things being equal. Remove the bad things and we all love one another, they’ve found.
One tactic that is rarely tried is to approach a predator, which we discover is causing bad things to manifest and just ask them to stop it. The researcher Stanley Milgram performed an interesting experiment on New York’s subway. He asked his subjects to get on trains and simply ask people to give up their seat. In the vast majority of cases, people did. Simply being asked was enough to get them to act as desired. If we asked predators to stop, I wonder how many of them would. I note that Starbucks has paid corporation tax in the UK for the first time in five years, this week. Was that because we asked them to?
If we ask a predator to stop and they don’t stop, if enough people ask, incessantly, they’re going to get the idea that they’re on a slippery slope to losing their grip on power. Look at today’s mass protests in Syria, Turkey and Brazil. The so called authorities are deploying increasingly outrageous levels of violence to perpetuate their bad things, but the game is already up for them. They had better straighten up and fly right, or it will not end well for them. Their escalated levels of violence will rebound on them.
While we defer to predators and don’t even ask the bad guys to knock it off, bad things saturate our lives and sap our creativity, like a ghostly vampire. While we hide and flee from those that are experiencing the bad things directly, because their “negativity” might ruin our day and halt our art, we guarantee that we remain divided and ruled.