Art and creativity are said to be needed for the human spirit and for human development. These phrases are used by administrations to justify art classes in schools and government-funded art galleries. Beyond the cooptation by society’s management and control apparatuses, what do these phrases mean?
Creativity has meaning only as part of liberation. The first creative acts of walking and language equip us to be active and independent agents in the world. Every effort we make to develop new skills and new messages to be communicated is meant to empower us as agents of influence and change.
Our efforts to have influence in our family, community, peer group, and society, and to have our place, a place of meaningful contribution, and our say, a say that carries, are part of praxis – a cycle of action, reaction, reflection, integration, and more action. Creativity (invention) is involved in action and in reflection and integration. We invent scenarios and imagine the backlash or the rewards; we invent explanations for the unpredicted reactions; we construct an evolving image of our self, including of our place in the world, and we continuously integrate each discovery into this self, and reorganize and redefine as needed.
Creativity is life. Creativity at work is an effort to contribute and to have our personal contributions recognized. It is about influence and being appreciated. Creativity is an experiment in influence and a search for better.
A workplace of obedience to a hierarchy where opinions and ideas are not received but instead instructions are delivered and executed and where it’s all about reading the boss’ mind is a place of death. It is a place where employees are oppressed and transformed into soulless slaves.
Worst is a place of work where you are expected to be “creative” in implementing the imagery from above and where you are expected to celebrate this made-to-measure “creativity” of “advancement” and “success.” This workplace robs you of both your creativity and your outrage at being robed, thereby imbedding you into your own death while plasticizing a smile on your face. How does one escape such a trap?
How does one find one’s self, one’s place? How does one lose a plastic smile? How does one connect with life? One must discover the “authentic rebellion” described by Paulo Freire; rebellion that sparks action and initiates praxis. This is the authentic rebellion at the heart of all social justice movements, at the heart of every liberation. It is the essential ingredient that has been whitewashed out of us by the hierarchical structures that make obedient and plastic-smile students and employees.
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Every instinct and life impulse can be perverted and creativity is no exception. The elite managers of the machine crush us at work and may offer outlets for our impulses and our drives to be: Be creative on your own time. Experience creativity in front of a movie or computer screen. Role play. Fight on the outside. Or simply dull it all away with suspension or canned delirium.
For the privileged: Come to understand that creativity is itself not about personal fulfilment but instead is an amusement, a diversion away from personal agency. Appreciate the arts for the purely aesthetic, purely as vehicles for emotional experiences outside of actual life struggles. Use creativity itself as suspension and seclusion from the world of praxis and risk. Denigrate creativity that is “political.” Keep it pure. Keep it privileged. Keep it about “feelings”; feelings which are stimulated and guided by music, art…
And add the layer that would have us find good via such unadulterated purity. Surely if we all practiced a pure creativity for pleasure all problems would dissolve. If we only loved our neighbours and our bosses oppressive hierarchies would melt away and all people would grow under the bright glow of the arts and heartfelt expressions of love – as has never been witnessed anywhere on the planet in history.
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I prefer the real thing: Creativity in praxis, nucleated by authentic rebellion, and inscribed in a process of liberation. Life is art. Art is death.
Note: See Jeff Schmidt’s practical guide for the professional worker. And be creative.
Essential element is essential…
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