You might have experienced this in kindergarten, or in an art class. You’re all happily getting along and playing and then some person barges in and begins to want everything their own way. They start bossing people around, shoving people out of the way and starting to make the rules.
Mostly, people don’t stand up to this sort of thing. They try to ignore it. To keep the peace, most kids and adults just try to get on with what they were doing, hoping that the bully doesn’t notice them and keeping their head down low. Of course, the person that wants everything their own way pretty soon picks on somebody or other, at whim and starts messing with them. Everybody else looks away. They don’t want to be next.
Over the next period of time, the ruler of the roost marches around like they own the place and makes everybody else disrupted and uncomfortable. Proceedings may even draw to a halt, or people never come back. It’s horrible when somebody arrives and thinks they have an entitlement to having things their own way.
Occasionally, the roost ruler will enlist other people to their form of merrymaking. Those people, in trying to avoid becoming the focus of the person that wants everything their own way, act like agents and extensions of the bossy boots. At least if they are oppressing, they figure they won’t be oppressed. They might even improvise their own bossiness, as an adjunct to the orders and instructions being thrown around by the roost ruler, who is, after all, trying to get the best seat in the house, the most attention, the best of everything and is unconcerned about taking everybody else’s desires and needs into consideration. Of course, even the agents and accomplices fall foul of the bossy boots eventually. It’s in their nature to be socially maladapted and hence turn on even their closest allies.
The irony is that the person intent on having it their own way is just one and the rest could easily put them in their place, if they united. But they don’t unite. Each victim confronts the bully on their own, unaided. Others watch on, by-standing helplessly. They don’t want to receive the rough treatment less, so they don’t come to the aid of the bullied person. If they all did, the bully would fold. They’re basically cowards.
Ever since I have lived in this world, I have had a sense that there is a class of people that have arranged things, for a very long time, so that they have it all their own way. They have manipulated, bullied, coerced or cheated in such a way that they get exactly what they want, when they want it and the rest of us can whistle. They aren’t concerned about how things are for other people. All they care about is how things turn out for them. They are fully occupied, to the point of obsession, in arranging their lives and the lives of everybody else so that they always have everything their own way, without fail or exception. They wouldn’t have it any other way.
In common with the kindergarten bossy boots, they enlist people to aid them in their coercion, choosing those most fearful of being on the receiving end of what they themselves are required, by the bully, to mete out to others on his behalf. There is no safety for these accomplices either, but while it is convenient for them to believe the bully will spare them, they vigorously enforce the wishes and whims of the person that wants everything their own way. They even become overzealous enforcers, in the vain hope of earning favour.
The same irony regarding disunity applies, but there is a further irony. Those that want everything their own way often don’t even know, with certainty, how they want things to be. There is no consistency. They want things to be the way they want them, right now, even if five minutes later, they decide they want things to be exactly opposite to how they have arranged them, by force. They have no overarching vision. First they wanted to sell everybody a car and the oil to run it and then they turned around and complained about global warming. They wanted to monopolistically profit from issuing unsound loans, then they complained that the world was saturated in unrepayable debt. They wanted to be the only ones to profit from exploiting timber resources, then they lamented the destruction of biodiversity and natural habitats. They don’t have a master plan. All they have is an overly inflated ego and the sociopathy required to intimidate everybody else into doing their bidding du jour.
In the world today, the class of people that have it in mind to arrange things their own way have reached industrial scale power. Their ability to cause the world to change to match their wishes and whims is not accompanied by a scaling up of their compassion, humanity, insight, vision, consistency or wisdom, though. If anything, they’re just as irrational and self-destructively egotistical as those kindergarten kids. They feel entitlement, but based on what divine right? That seems to be who runs the world these days and how they run it. The rest of us just want to get on with our lives, make our art and play.
And so we turn away from each attack and atrocity. We permit the people that want everything their own way to keep choosing another victim and persecuting them. We even turn their escape boats away at the shoreline, our “sovereign borders”. We don’t want to be next. We don’t want to be seen aiding the victim. That, surely, will make us next.
Thus it perpetuates. The bullies that assert they’re in charge run rampant and amok and the rest of us let them, for fear of being next. We don’t unite. We don’t assert our collective power to permit harmony and cooperation to reign once more. We’re as cowardly and the cowards that oppress us, even though we have the numbers.
What has this to do with art? Either “not much”, or “everything”, depending on your point of view.
You can take the stance that art is play and nothing to do with changing the world or the behaviour of those that want everything their own way. You can continue to turn away and keep your head down and hope the bully leaves you alone.
Alternatively, you can adopt the view that art is storytelling and what we badly need are story tellers that can provide clarity to the fearful and oppressed, to unite them, explain to them which strategies will bring a halt to the intimidation and which will not and to encourage them to take collective action to restore peace, harmony, co-operation and the ability to go back to our art and play, unmolested.