Most of us have experienced shaming as children. When we “did something wrong”, we were admonished - harshly at times - reminded that we were no more special than anyone else and that we should not repeat whatever it was that had gotten us into trouble. And because of the intense reactions of those we cared about, we (sometimes. . .?) felt ashamed for what we had done or said.
In most healthy parent-child relationships, shame is more the consequence of a child’s realization of wrong doing than it is an attack on their person. Experiencing it is not harmful unless it is an overpowering constant in their souls. And unless shaming was the tool of choice of a sadistic parent or teacher, as children we more often than not integrated the lessons learned, outgrew the shame “felt” - and moved on.
That was then. . . This is now.
Dreads Of Our Times
“Now” is an era in which we adhere to a contemporary self-esteem notion best known as : victimhood. Anything and everything perceived negative (under contemporary political correctness standards) falls into the category of emotional-assault-pain-integration. In essence we, as “moderns”, are prone to suffering irreparable emotional damage due to the dreaded consequences of micro-aggression attacks (i.e. : things said or done which hurt our feelings). Are there any prescriptions which alleviate such dastardly assaults on our persons? Though not a medical practitioner, I do highly recommend a decaf, double soy latté with an extra shot of cream. . .
Sarcasm aside,“real” aggression does occur everyday. And though oft ignored, the old-fashioned blunt edged sword called shaming is the actual, not the virtual micro-aggression danger to our psyches. As a fundamental zero tolerance rooted-in-history phenomenon, it is nothing less than a reborn-from-another-era product. Used mainly on teens and adults by other teens and adults, shaming - as in the past - pretends at acceptability - promotes itself as “righteous”. This claim not withstanding, its goals have not changed. It seeks to subjugate, to destroy an “other” through humiliation, disgracing and embarrassment (among a long list of other “public” belittlements - both great and small).
But what makes shaming ever more shameful is that it is more often than not exercised without due process or “innocent until proven guilty” procedural considerations. It is a personal belief attack on another person. In essence, it is a mob-mentality aggression with a tacit goal of incising a forever (teach them a lesson) scar on another’s soul.
As for our micro-aggression obsessions, those are kid game tactics best played by those who know what they’re doing : kids.
Over-sensitivity vs Hyper-sensitivity
When young children express over the top upset at being taunted, teased or “pointed at”, their reaction is generally perceived to be a “within the boundaries” manipulation tool. Why? (1) The protagonists are children. (2) The “victim”, all participants being equal, is not really a victim and (3) based on a “kid yardstick”, allowances must be made for the limited social experience displayed through the whiny childhood reverberations.
But then. . . Everyone knows that in such kid-on-kid moments, spontaneous emotional outbursts have but one goal : to prove to any adult within earshot that “the pounced upon victim” is the oh-so innocent party in whatever behind the scenes dust-up has just recently occurred.
Encountering this self-same behaviour in adults, on the other hand, is to witness a rather disturbing display of hypersensitivity. When adults react extremely to a purported emotional menace we can assume, more often than not, that there are exaggerated sensitivity issues at play. And when groups of individuals throughout the land “join in” - i.e. : adhere to a mass tantrum of emotional reaction hysteria, the situation becomes somewhat troublesome at best and immensely dangerous at worst. Why? Because it is more likely than not that the individuals involved are collectively aping an environment’s viral unhealthiness more than their own “thought out” expressions of legitimate dismay.
To the aforementioned sensitivity issues, mix the contemporary concept of self esteem (i.e. : our century’s obsession with self-love) and what we get is a serious expression of something socially if not psychologically awry.
Basically, a significant sign that not all is well in our times is when more and more of us fail to differentiate between that self-esteem ( how we feel about ourselves, based on consumer and/or “clique” perceptions and dictates) and self-respect which is a measure of how we see ourselves moving forward comfortably, once armed with objective knowledge of both our strengths and weaknesses.
That being said, our societies appear to be either ignoring or tacitly, if not actually, playing a part in real aggressions. Though the surreptitious goal of shaming is to attack an individual’s self-respect, collectively we tend to play the hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil game in its regard. Why? Much of today’s shaming is, as in the past, exercised by those who are in authority or purport to be experts in the area of the authority they exercise over groups of more submissive “others”. And so, we the intimidated shy away - and do nothing.
Is our silence this “loud” because those being shamed are not us? Or those who resemble us? Or is it that we fear reprisal from the powers that be?
Shaming was once a questionable tool of religious authority. Founded on an institutional moral imperative, it was used to render submissive recalcitrant individuals within a perceived ignorant (therefore domination prone) mass. But is this not all passé? Hasn’t the practice of shaming fallen by the wayside?
Why talk about it now?
Possibly, because in a “must be happy” society like ours we tend to ignore (1) what is “too disturbingly” real and (2) the very “tools” being used to render us both submissive and thus less actively involved in determining how things should or could better be.
Generically, the taking in of a micro-aggression is a decision made by a virtually aggressed individual. Shaming, on the other hand, is an actual unexpected assault on a “target”. Yet, in a state of sane mental health parameters, to survive such attacks we must remember that being shamed is not the same as being “ashamed”. The latter is not necessarily the consequence of the former unless the shamer has every intention of exercising undue power over the so-called “to be shamed” AND the being shamed accepts an unwarranted attack on their integrity as a “due”.
The Securalization of Shaming
As stated previously, despite its lesser presence in today’s organized religions, shaming has nonetheless made a fundamentally secular comeback. Re-emerging with a vengeance, its reincarnation is now more a tool of individual self-righteousness than one based on formalized doctrine.
Contemporary politics is possibly the most evident group-adherent to this “new and improved” comeback. For nearly two decades now, political life has increasingly integrated shaming into its modus operandi - and this, with our collective blessing. The practice is evident in its geared-to-get-the-attention-of-the-public voice. Engagedly strident, it is a truth and facts be damned operation which often dupes the media into propagating its populist point of view.
The root of shaming is what needs recognition. It is an open attack on individual “persons” rather than their policies - an attack which focuses on “who someone is” rather than on what they do or say, have done or said which “is” or “purportedly” is shameful. Why? It’s simple. . . “The to be shamed people” have a “mind”. And that thinking power gets in the way of “THE” way being pushed forward by those who would rule rather than lead. And therefore, any way to “get them” (those who do not submit), is “THE” way to do it. Morals be damned.
But what is more devastating than merely interesting in this matter is the evident rebirth of a concomitant “schadenfreude” - the feeling of enjoyment that comes from seeing, hearing about but mostly inflicting pain on others. In our new and improved era, that now means finding pleasure in the crushing and smearing into the sidewalk of those deemed, (by a subjugated and thus agreeing mass) to be detritus.
Reality-TVs Church of Shaming Cornerstone
News and entertainment are ironically at the root of contemporary shaming. Much like Pavlovian dogs, in the fifties, we were taught to react on cue to sitcom antics. Back then, audiences were live and did not always react based on a comedic writer’s sense of funny. This, for advertisers was problematic. It was therefore not long into television programming that we were introduced to laugh-tracks. They basically told us (and still do) when to, how much to and for how long we should laugh - or even if we should laugh at all.
Candid Camera (born from previous radio antics in 1948) opened the door to today’s concept of reality-TV - i.e. : the “looking into”, the peering into and the eventual ogling of the lives of others. At first, it offered up amusing fare, then dramatic, then the shock of the different. At first, we laughed and even cried “with” those portrayed. Then, slowly, we began to laugh “at” them. And with that, a new entertainment era was initiated. . .
Candid Camera evolved into reality-TV. The cheaper to produce and greater in income aspect of it made it a production goldmine. Even its mandate was a no-brainer : present “realistically created” virtual situations from which an audience can vie to berate the weakest amongst an array of targeted dupes. Nothing more complicated than that since we live in a time where laughing at is more highly rated than laughing with. Actually, our era’s Facebook is possibly the only thing left we have which comes nearest to the original concept of “friendliness and good vibes” à la Candid Camera. But for how long? More and more, the likes of Youtube and other online video venues are emulating reality-TV programming in a race to attract greater eyeball participation.
In essence, whatever the network or site, “deceptive laugh (sneer?) tracks” are unashamedly at play. Today, we simply take in variances on a theme via concocted-for-viewing-pleasure pseudo-realities whose combined intents are the titillation of viewers and the disintegration of the egos of those whose only sins are a need to be noticed and a desperate craving to wallow in their own self-inflicted fifteen minutes of destructive fame.
And So We’ve Changed With The Times?
Curiosity is what elevates our humanity to levels of great creativity. Yet, titillation is also the offspring of curiosity - be it the devil-child of it. Once we looked and even stared - interested and at times in awe of difference. Today, our tendency is to suspect difference if not immediately fear it. “Other” today is something we ogle and leer at more than appreciated or respect. And in our entertainment that means we not only want see into our neighbours’ homes we demand to pry open their locked closet doors. Titillation is a forceful master which craves ever newer and darker “realities” in the side-show freak broadcast episodes in the tent we have been lured into. Where we once joined in to celebrate the incredibleness of difference, today we see it as lesser and risible. Somehow our emotional reactions make “it” less threatening.
And so, from warm and fuzzy puppy dog and bunny cuteness afficionados, we’ve become starers and pointers of fingers whose quest for “humour” is increasingly controlled by programmed sadistic overtones rather than guided by personal empathy.
Has it really gone that far?
Well, we now cyber tune-in to repeatedly watch self-choreographed families in crisis cruelly taunt (bully?) their kids into 3-stooges comedic submission - and this we do without thinking. . . We watch parents, on a quest for viral recognition, video-taping their kids reactions to anaesthetics after a medical appointment - all for the status that millions of “recognition” views afford us. Where once how children said things was amusing, (see :Art Linkletter’s Kids Say The Strangest Things). Now they are lesser apples of our eye - perceived as weakest links in our clan chain - those we can easily punk. . . Funny, eh? Must be. . . We’re watching these “antics” by the multi millions. . .
A relative of the “priming” concept, the repeated intake of aggression towards others as entertainment, gradually decreases our capacity to feel, to empathize, to care, to give a damn. This is not only a growing affliction among participants in such sadistic activities. It equally affects those who consider themselves innocent because all they’re (we’re?) doing is “watching”.
Come-On! It’s just fun!
Shaming, assimilated as entertainment is shaming democratized. And with repetition we formulate both a perception and a precedence : i.e. : shaming becomes “through tacit approval ” OK. And if and when we begin accepting it as a legitimate “fun” or entertainment tool. . . it is not rare to hear excuses akin to : Well. . . (whoever the being shamed are) they probably “must be deserving” of it (whatever it is that they are deserving of. . .) Right? And. . . anyway. . . we’re not the ones “actually” doing the shaming. We’re just ogling and giggling from the sidelines. . . It’s just fun!
At this stage, how far are we from transforming the normalization of psychological deterioration of another’s soul as comedy to a normalization of psychological deterioration as a “serious tool” of control?
There is an additional nefarious side-effect to shaming become common practice and micro–aggressions perceived as more than they are. Both, in their own way, eventually dull the senses in regards to larger than life evils being increasingly perpetrated on individuals and collectives - both within our societies and around the world. As diversionary tactics of the power hungry in our midst, both phenomena are not only considered necessary tools for growth and control - they are deemed crucial. How is this so? It is both lucrative and “power”ful. Billions are spent annually to encourage such behaviour. If profits were not there and power not available, billions would not be spent on advertising, promoting and producing such fare. How so? (1) personal, local, regional, national and international political and commercial stakes are extremely high these days. And (2), hiding what is really going on in the achievement of intended goals (no matter what those goals are - or. . . especially because they are what they are. . . ) becomes part of the don’t get caught “redaction” mentality of our times. And so. . . apparent petty shaming practices are not only entertainment tactics. They are as much brilliant sadistic techniques geared to make us look away from things going on as much as they are tactics to get us to stare at. . . But at who?
The hierarchy of degradation
If Joe Ordinary were shamed by Joe Important, the overall impact of the act would not be stunning enough for the masses which have been led from a world of benign “smiling with” to one of salivating for more. In essence. . . We need “meat”!
For shaming to lure in the crowds, it must point a finger at a deemed to be “important” figure or figures which then becomes “breaking news” of culpability, stupidity, or something else - or not even. But who cares! We’ve been programmed to “share”, “like” and “love”. . . this true - or not, validated - or not, crass, vile - or not content. And that hunger is stoked via a 24 hour a day media which has less and less upon which to validate the existence of its time slots. And so that means repeating “breaking news” (?) for all its worth, for every hour of every day, until we are no longer listening, looking or mesmerized. And so, to “enhance our viewing pleasure”, old fashioned TV land (for the older and less connected) reaches out to the new and improved social media for the younger set(s) who are.
But in this era of never-ending digital wizardry, the true nature of the indecency of shaming remains befuddling. As stated, shaming is often “first applied” to public figures : Hollywood types, sports “names”, politicians and even news casters. (Who would have thunk!?) Basically, the worthy of being shamed have to have something to lose. First, they must be perceived to be privileged, entitled, well to do, recognized as winners in one forum or another - i.e. : they are those deemed to be more famous, more important - for all intents and purposes. . . “just more” than we are. Secondly, they must have been attractive to many of us - making the attack that much more tantalizing.
Whether they are legitimately, legally or truthfully being called out doesn’t really matter since they are deemed to be both “other” and “above” the rest of us. And in the entertainment arena, this has always been the stock and trade of populist tabloids and now (more and more) of the desperate for content (read survival funds) “legitimate” media.
In essence, what matters in an “accepting of shaming” era is the same thing which has been inferred throughout this essay : that “the” often “born covert” rigid-parameters-finger-of-black-and-white (whether official or subjectively personal) should not be seen to be pointing at “us”. But then, as life has been increasingly geared to “a work is bad fun is good mode” an increasingly regulated and rigid world is not totally about obedience. It does have a compensatory “fun and easy” component. It provides us with an excuse to not have to think. In essence we are increasingly being made to feel less and less obligated to establish whether something said or done is real or not, good or not, correct or not. So what’s to worry about? When someone else decides for us, we don’t have to.
Virtually Going Nuts
Actually, when life “determined for us” is made “easier to take” there is a lot to worry about. At such times, the difference between real and virtual is more “easily” blurred. And in a “no brainer” world, virtual illusions come to more easily and attractively define and re-invent reality than reality can seem to do that for itself. And when a rabidly paced era of change in our perceptions occurs, it does not often leave room for a much required comfortable human adaptation period. And without this. . . we begin to immerse ourselves in an “uncomfortable comfortable place” where we no longer know how to see and feel and act upon the ever changing (anxiety provoking) “what is” in our times.
And with that, ignorance as bliss takes on a life of its own with its nebulous meanings and incomprehensible beliefs. And this, in turn, makes us ever more jittery. And when reality is no longer “tangibly tangible” - and facts seemingly impossible to measure. . . we begin to crave; to want to “create” impossible visions of impossible solutions in our minds. . . such as some kind of life without this uncontrollable or impossible to understand “Nervous Nelly uncertainty” within us.
When we lose our capacity to analyse and determine through our own thoughts and decision-making, processes there is only one outcome : from such psychological turmoil DNA, unattainable goals and uncontrollable consequences are born.
Pandorra’s Box of “Happiness”
As much as contemporary life craves and in many circumstances achieves a level of great comfort for many, an equal and opposite level of discomfort remains in other segments of a population. And a concomitant anxiety invades us because of the tensions created. . .
Though rarely recognized by those in a “consumer generated comfort zone” this asymmetry is what exacerbates the inevitable volatility which eventually rises to an explosive level. Oddly, the reality within such a paradigm can always be more accurately associated with the not haves than with those whose lives more and more embrace a world constructed of “virtual” happiness.
In a realm where lattés have more alluring formulae than the latest national and international issues and crises, we tend to seek out more comfortable, more malleable visions of the “happy” we are forever being sold - since the equal and opposite side-effects of our happiness dose are often more devastating than the pill is sedative.
Hurt, worry, anxiety, exhaustion, stress, failure and “things being difficult” just cannot be part of our “new and improved” and “want it to be fun and easy” lives. And so, being repeatedly subliminally encouraged to “just let go a bit; just let be a little” just might be the antidote. . . Authorities, or so it is oft implied, are the experts in. . . well, authority. We on the other hand have other, better things to reach for : i.e. : a good life, a life without stress. . .
In a revisionist world wishing itself utopian there is but one truth. . . “Truth” no longer needs to be truth. Through new and improved principles of revised democratic principles, truth can now be (and has already begun to be) “my truth”, “your truth”, “our truths”, “their truths”. Words, once associated with deeper (and more factual) meanings, can now take on more flexible (?) lowest common denominator (less demanding?) determinants. For all intents and purposes, homogenization can now be globalization (and vice versa), licence can be the same as “freedom” - if not “rights”. With perfection now a synonym of excellence, self esteem can pretend at self-respect. And with the blessings of time and a gradual numbing of our senses, any or all of this can “sedatively” become well. . . (swoon). . . OK.
All in all, it is increasingly possible to infer that lowering our standards is not really lowering them. In a new world order of words, this could be seen to be “democratizing” that which once was (is?) considered elitist. In essence, when we no longer recognize the importance of our role and the efforts required to maintain a secure environment, we can begin to seek out and accept that which demands less of us : (i.e. : by simplifying everything to the lowest common denominator - by rendering more palatable whatever is seen to be too difficult to comprehend or take in as (ugh!) logical, we can simply wish it away - say that all of that no longer applies to anything. In a world determined to not only see itself but actually be a new and improved “happy”, it becomes possible, if not (again) logical, to no longer abide any other consideration than a “without consequence” world view.
In essence, objective learning, thought-out or logical considerations are more and more seen to be aggressively anti-feelings (as micro-aggressions are wont to be?). And as self esteem parades itself as the new and improved self respect, why shouldn’t feelings become the new thinking? Hasn’t it become common (normal?) Even now? In the past decade, how many times have reporters asked interviewed citizens what they think? And compare that to how many times reporters routinely ask “how does that make you feel?”
And So Fires Become Fading Embers
If normal is what there is the most of on a euphemistic Bell Curve, sanity can no longer be deemed “normal”. In essence, our advertised, promoted and sold concepts of an inconsequential happy life are already in play. For all intents and purposes, we’ve already begun manipulating the what is of real mental health “norms”. And oddly, the powers that be are not determining that we are more and more healthy but rather strongly implying that we are more and more afflicted by the world around us. . . Normal (what there is the most of) is gradually becoming a garden of sanctioned if not purposefully induced disturbances; abnormalities where a “hyper-fertilization” of our “weeds” may soon be the prescription of choice as a collective “maintenance” antidote. In essence, our quest for an unencumbered happy has become (or has been programmed to become) our downfall rather than our “uplift”.
Following such aggressive comments re our collective sanity, due diligence is required. I recommend reading through (or as much as we can stomach) the contents of the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of mental disorders put out by the American Psychiatric Association in 2013. This revision (DSM-5) includes an important increase in the numbers of a specific (read : new and exploitable) demographic : i.e. : toddlers. As newly initiated full-fledged members of our dystopian collective, they too have now been listed, along with their newly codified (“medicable”) abnormalities - just like the rest of us.
As Dr Allen Frances, Professor Emeritus at Duke University and former Chair of the task force that developed the earlier DSM-4, writes: ‘If people make the mistake of following DSM-5, pretty soon all of us may be labelled mad.’ ( This is a quote from a Psychology Today article entitled : DSM-5: A Disaster for Children - "A legal document facilitating the medication of millions") written by Dr. Helene Guldberg Ph.D. and dated Jun 14, 2013).
Basically, the new DSM says little about how crazy the world is (you can’t really medicate a thing called “society”, now can you?) - So. . . I guess. . . crazy is “us”, crazy are our kids. . . We’re the nuts without bolts - and the “individual upsets” in need of sedating.
So where is all of this heading? You thought we were talking micro-aggression and shaming dynamics? What does all of this have to do with these? Well. . .
The normalization of abnormal
Integrating, if not inculcating a younger and younger cohort into a cult of victimhood, is simply a rendering flexible of an element within an erroneous standard - one which considers individual variants (behavioural grey zones) as anomalies rather than as natural “normal” or obvious variances of sanity. And so, what our world is doing to us is rendering enough of us malleable enough to move things forward in directions in which fewer of us will object to being led.
Well, we’ve been dealt a bad hand through the introduction of micro-aggressions as a "weakener" and the imposition of shaming as a "submission-stabilizer" in a realm from which it is literally impossible to extricate ourselves - or those being shamed. And thus, the "abnormalization" of the normal begins to take its toll.
So Mental Health Issues Are A Hoax?
Though my focus is on contemporary communal life as eerily defective, be assured that I am not denying, nor belittling, REAL mental health issues in need of caring and professional concern. On the contrary. I am highlighting the fact that real individual mental health issues are being sabotaged, swamped - drowned in a sea of “homogenization of self” - via the self-aggrandizing of a whole through a belittlement of the fewer (different). Through a new and improved process, an environment of all-inclusiveness is being created - one which promotes a concept of “genericism” of anything and everything as the one and only to be "dealt with (sold to) reality" - negating all else as unacceptably anomalous.
My concern is that we are in such a hurry to equalize (capitalize on?) everything and everyone that we are failing (refusing?) to see the reality of what “actually” is. Treating serious mental health issues as “just as” or “nothing more than” universal problems is (pun intended) insane. By appropriating illness as a norm we are pooh-poohing real pain and suffering. By rendering generic, i.e. : equating emotional pain caused by (let us say) toenail fungus with that of a traumatic dissonance is both incomprehensible to the specific individuals concerned and unwelcome at worst in a world which is fast becoming unable to “see” or “feel” : i.e. : empathize with real suffering.
The problem in our societies is not that too many are taking too many pills for too few real problems (though this is a fact borne out by studies) but that the distributors of those “feel better potions” have rendered generic everything - and through this ploy have caused us all to literally consider and define real pain as nothing more than just another’s solvable (read : sedatable) “ache”.
Am I luring you away from the main topic? No. I wouldn’t do that. But read on. . . The foundation for a change in societal structure in our world is sometimes, if not all the time, more complex than the resulting rot created to lead us astray.
Depression and DEPRESSION
In light of the above description of the homogenization of us all as a purported greater inclusevity, let’s take a closer look at the screwed-up perceptions and manipulations of truth and fact which cause more harm than good to those truly afflicted. Let’s for a minute focus on the contemporary parameters of depression - both, as “we play with it” and as it factually is.
Within our first world environments - real depression has taken on “depression-light” standards. The word “depression” itself is now commonly used by all and sundry as an “in” definer of fluctuating societally defined moods rather than as a descriptor of a serious enigmatic problem riddled with complex overtones.
So true is this assumption, that the “reality of” depression has had to take on descriptives in order to give it back its initial credibility as a serious illness. Today, we (are forced to?) add “chronic”, “serious”, “manic” or “major” (amongst other terms) to mean DEPRESSION. And, as expected, “real” sufferers of “real” depression get seriously lost in a maze of “our” appropriated and “normalized” cosmetic afflictions.
Rather than be in our minds what it truly is: i.e. : a very difficult and REAL (not virtual) mental health issue, depression has become democratized. . . i.e. : It’s OK to admit to it as long as it is “all-inclusive” of “us” who are. . . “well, depressed, but not really”. . . feeling just kinda “whiny” or “down” today. . . y’a know?
References in relation to the above :
In a National Post article by Sharon Kirkey dated May 13, 2015 it is stated that :
(personally selected indices) :
The Kiss Of Death Of Micro-aggression Obsessions
And so, because of this need to live a perfection defined existence (rather than a healthy modulated life) we have given ourselves the go-ahead to “cleanse our environment” of that which does not contribute to the “happy” in our happy. And this we do by tensing up at every turn, taking in as soul assaults anything we “feel” is an attack on our freedoms, integrity and illusions. And so, we compensate for these “unwarranted” assaults by (1) roaring to the high heavens the presence of these self-inflicted “booboos” and/or (2) sedating our resulting upsets.
With feelings hurt at the slightest comments or actions, differences of opinion become micro-aggressions. Not being warned first hand of such “devastations being forthcoming” is even now cause for lawsuits. In essence we are normalizing abnormality. We are rendering virtual real by abandoning our capacities for responsibility, individual analysis; dealing with and decision-making. We are submitting ourselves, if not upcoming generations, to a life of victim-based subjugation - to a life ripe for the picking by those who would rather rule than lead us.
Submission Is A Choice Made - A Choice Passed Down. . .
Apparently, even on fact based considerations and summations, emotional reactions have become more important than taking action. Feeling hurt is increasingly more important than being strong, brave and daring.
So. . . does that mean we are also raising our children to be as weak and frightened as we seem to be? Are thinking, being forward looking, being creative or spiritually and mentally sure-footed now flaws to not be encouraged? Are we so afraid our children will be hurt that making sure they are awarded for simply “being alive and safe” has become a valid parental procedure? Have we so little confidence in our children that we can’t see them (us?) as other than frail and incapable? Why are protection, safety, childhood trauma, “being” rather than “doing”, self-esteem, failure, fear, anxiety and hovering more common in child-rearing discussions than are encouragement, daring, trying, curiosity, “freedom”, creativity, self-expression and bold determination? Is being the best they (we?) can be now a frightening concept? How has giving our children opportunities to strive “despite” succumbed to our walling them up in (our?) induced fears?
Safety vs Security
Oddly, our quest for an unreal and “overly safe” environment of numbed undulating contentment not only contaminates our true freedoms, it corrupts them. By associating only happy with being alive and well, we determine all other healthy human emotions as being lesser. Once rocked in the cradle of safety (an unnatural feeling we are given that nothing can “ever” harm us) we become imprisoned by a contemporary need to integrate with victimhood, not only as a component of modernity - but as our only psychological tool of defence against pain and sorrow (whether real or virtual).
And why not?. . . Aren’t we all being advertised to (programmed into believing) that anything uncomfortable can “easily” be medicated away - bringing on our precious unfettered “happy” whenever we choose to have it back. In essence, our status as a wanna-be contented victim has even come to replace the“gift of self” as a true measure of heroism. And that pretty well defines a personal gradual loss; a conscious belittling of a 21st century “me” as worthy.
Things Happy, Easy And Fun. . . Not!
Today’s driving force forever molded by “become rich” motivational speakers has rendered us the opposite of their promises - as these eerily become our greatest weaknesses. The happy they inflicted upon us (for a price) as nirvana (a state promising a total happy) is nothing more than a smiley faced numbness masquerading as euphoria, masquerading itself as inner peace, masquerading as the feverishly sought after serenity that can never be, masquerading as the antidote - the virtual “not having to deal with” solution to the realities of reality which, ironically, never go away and, for all intents and purposes, are actually the one source of our survival as a species. . .
In essence, we are increasingly failing to see that our dependence on“wanting” the next new “thing” forever promoted to us as “needs” and the ever newer concomitantly promoted “life-remedies” revisioning the innards of who and what we are. . . are the reasons we are miserable, not our having problems to deal with. Dependence maintains us in, or returns us to, a state of neediness rather than “free range” daring; thus diminishing us as unique beings. It makes us sadder than we would be with “real” problems - more fearful of what is and increasingly anxious about what might be.
All of these are signs of an ever encroaching negative environment’s imposed effects - much like a cancerous cell attacking healthy “others”. And as more and more societal cells submit to the powers of a nebulous yet aggressive cancer, our feared tomorrows take over where our sought after “happies” fail. And this gives credence to the notion that to survive, every sadistic cell needs yet another masochist one to shame and subdue.
To Suffer Or Not To Suffer, That Is The Question
And so the difference between a micro-aggression mentality and one which so easily succumbs to shaming is simply a matter of time and infection. Victims of micro-aggression are self destructive - increasingly weakening themselves by their own hand; accepting to be vulnerable for an eventual mind and soul take-over.
Basically, an environment which treats life as an offshoot of, or mimics reality-TV, relinquishes its capacity to deal with attacks on the individual and collective integrities of that society. And so, false accusations, tormenting (real emotional abuse) and/or shaming are the first significant signs that things in our world are not only not well. . . but signs of other loose canon devastations to come.
In essence, such evidence of a terrorism from within reality should worry us more than any virtul foreign invasions we can make up. An invader never attacks until and unless the target is as weak as it is required to be to ascertain success.
Shaming’s Last Stand
And to that point, at its most magnificent horribleness the act of shaming (whether expressed by Joe Neighbour or an aspiring control freak) is a sociopaths, a fascist’s, a narcissist’s, an autocrat’s favourite tool. Why? Once a collective has been molded into an easily propagandized mass, that submissiveness “truly” and “factually” renders it (along with each of its individual elements) more easily (and truly) victimized.
But in reviewing history, let’s not kid ourselves. . . Though radically different in its latest reincarnation, shaming is no more a toy tactic now than it was in the past. At its most real and dangerous rigidity, it remains arrogant at best and evil at worst. Still black and white in construct, it leaves no room for grey areas. No individuality, no creativity, no thinking, no differences, no nuances, no “individual selves” are allowed. And at its most tangibly ensconced, it is exceedingly difficult to be got rid of or its long term consequences eradicated from our souls and the environments in which these souls reside.
For all intents and purposes, the ultimate goal of individual and collective shaming is to cause communal PTSD. And whether we like it or not, its subversive persistence and our bland reactions to it increasingly make it feel as if it has been legitimately invited for Thanksgiving dinner. . .
In The End. . .
If the protection of an envied and sought after way of life (democracy) is what we intend maintaining far into the next century, we cannot foist full responsibility for its ongoing health on our soldiers. Their role is to stand guard at the wall and, when necessary, defend that society - a society they believe is worthy of being protected. No. The true custodians of a sane and secure nation are “us”. Our job is to make our realm worthy of the protection offered us by our soldiers. . . Democracies all have their best before date and without our participation as full fledged "full minded and souled" members. . . it dies.
All societal structures, including democracies, have their best before date and without our participation as full fledged "full minded and souled" members. . . ours, our democracies, die. Without our individual strengths and determinations - our capacities to analyse, our abilities to consider, determine and THINK being at their peak or optimum strengths, the health of our systems can do no less than gradually weaken and erode - and. . . be less worthy of being saved.
All in all, the disintegration of what is deemed safe and secure has happened before on our little round planet. And the same consequences due to lethargy, complacency and navel-gazing is always waiting to happen again - lest we forget. And sadly we always do.
And so. . . if. . . or when chaos ever happens again. . . Then maybe, we should legitimately feel ashamed.
While reviewing some reference sketches and photos from my last trip to Paris, I was reminded that no self-respecting Parisian woman would ever allow herself to look like nothing more than a hanger for a brand.
After watching an hour of TV news, reading just one national paper and browsing internet news sites for 1/2 hour. . . I have summarized my morning learning experience. . . Intelligence does not preclude stupidity.
To abstain from voting is tantamount to saying to your children, family and friends : “I don’t give a f*ck what happens. . . Do what you want.
Never underestimate the power of ignorance. At its best it unselfishly reaches out to eradicate itself. At its worst, it has the strength to muster the bullying strength of millions to crush any and all threats.
Online dictionary content is often proof enough that Merriam-Webster, Oxford and Chambers are still sorely needed reference material.
The need to preface a statement with it being honest, genuine or authentic is enough to render the content credibility questionable.
For those of you who don't know me, I am a curmudgeon. I often express this "beingness" when any part of the visual arts profession is being infantilized or associated with whining. That being said. . .
As I could not respond to the essay : Things I’ve Learnt About Pricing Creative Work (Published on February 10, 2017 in Linked In) in the comment section (my comments being too long and too many) I have posted them in the following essay entitled. “Is getting over ourselves ever a sure thing?
And so. . .
Things I’ve learnt about pricing creative work presents us with 16 points of reference to the topic of pricing. Or does it?
(Note : To make things clearer, the content from the original essay (to which I am referring) is in italics. My reactions are in regular font.)
And so. . . :
1. There’s no perfect price list.
Agreed. (See! When not prodded with a stick, I am quite an amenable fellow. . . )
But. . .from what I can gather, this presentation is not about actually selecting a price point. It is more about normalized hesitation and "them". . . . Obsessing about price points, as a subject of concern in our times, seems to be a norm in the visual arts (illustration or otherwise). Not because it should be, but because we live in anxious, hesitant, worried, OCD times. Expecting perfection rather than excellence seems to be a given. And then, there's this apparent acceptance of treating clients as generically impossible or difficult. . .
Though the arts, as they relate to creative thought, are based on trial, analysis and failure - and trial and failure again - and growing and growing some more (despite trial and failure), we have somehow homogenized it into being something about 'our" purported genius and “expected” success - especially where selfie-styled recognition and finances are concerned. But, it seems, that “out there” there are "people", often called "they" who seem to not understand the greaterness of us who strive so vehemently to impress them artistically. Let me elaborate on these topics emanating from the essay: Things I’ve learnt about pricing creative work
As to the rarely dealt with price point considerations in the aforementioned essay, I can only state :
CHOOSE one and get on with life for god’s sake!!
At 9 I wanted to be a portrait painter - i.e. : make a living at painting portraits. My father made me realize that this decision involved time and expense and hard work in order for me to eventually get to where my resulting efforts would be worthy of somebody’s undivided attention, let alone hard earned money. So. . . . I practiced and concentrated on bettering myself every day - and this without thinking (or earning) “money”.
But once there - once arrived at the level of professional work - whether fine or illustrative arts - (I have practiced both) - I tried to stay focused. Concentration on the essentials (creating) was (is) more important than concentration on the obvious (the product). Therefore, selecting a most practical price list rather than a complex one did help get me back to thinking about what is more important - otherwise, it is obvious that dithering about prices would have made me look like a mercenary bastard who was simply looking for (a) $, £, € and/or (b) recognition based on the $, £, € I could get rather than the work I could produce.
Coming from a “labour” background, I simply chose the least intrusive price point list in my quest to work as a “working painter” : i.e. : I selected square inches (cm) of my smallest work = $50. (35.92 Euro or 30.61 BP). Naturally, this does not take in the “illustrator’s” complex point of view (from which this article stems) but the concept remains the same. Simplify and clarify. More in keeping with illustration, at the end of my article I have submitted an address all illustrators should visit to solve their price point problems - once and for all.
(Note how generous of me this is. I could have made all of you read every snarly word of this essay before allowing you to head straight to the good bits. . . :) )
That being said. To those obsessed with adding up the costs incurred during our oh so special creative "me-time”. . . I say : get over yourself. We rarely get our “money back” in hours or materials spent. That’s the nature of artwork creation. And unless we are Warhol, Van Gogh, Matisse, Picasso, H. R. Geiger, Maurice Sendak or Richard Corben (which we are NOT!) the artwork creating process will get us a sizable income (eventually) but rarely the amounts realized by the greats before and during our life times. If that's a bother, better to change professions and get over the whining.
2. No one wants to talk about money.
So! don’t talk about it!
The idea is to hang our work for display and try our hand at letting it say what “it” has to say. If it says nothing (to anybody). . . people will move on to looking at someone else's work. The selling game is the same - whether it’s cars or mobiles, book covers, posters or fine art landscapes. If we haven’t learned from a “rejection” exercise then what we need to understand is that, possibly : (a) the work is not good enough yet (b) the work is too expensive for what it is, (c) the work is not what people are looking for or (d) maybe. . . we’re not made for this gig. . .
As to being queried about money value for our work - that’s par for the course when we are manning the sales booth or visiting a client. If that’s not our bag, we should get someone else to handle the oh so “not lovely” client base. We should also consider finding a gallery or agency (that wants us) where it’s the sales person’s job, and not ours, to discuss with bright and not so bright potential clients.
3. Everyone has a budget.
Certainly! And that budget may or may not wish to fit our presence within its specific plan spectrum. But then, what has that to do with our price point? There will always be those who will not buy and those who do - and at its jittery worst "might, maybe, perhaps will buy" are the times when we get our most antsy - and. again, so what! It's part and parcel of the "art game" Take it or leave!
5. People like bargains.
When I want a bargain, I don’t go to a gallery. I go to a thrift shop or second-hand store. I don’t go to regular shops where sales are on because that usually means they’re trying to flog something they haven’t been able to get rid of in the past year. BUT, in dealing with people who nonetheless are looking for bargains, I smile and grit my teeth. We all need such consternation in our lives. It builds grit, stamina and maturity. As for handing out bargains, I don't. I'd rather starve. Only my regulars get a discount and I only give away to charities I truly and honestly believe in. Otherwise, everyone pays the price indicated - or they don't. . .
By the way MANY “lovely” clients do not have the budget for “our work”. That they don’t doesn’t make them any less lovely. AND. . . if they nonetheless have a yen for our “turtle that looks like a dove making love to a horse”, it behooves us to organize a payment schedule which would fit both our needs and theirs. Better to get $5 per month for the next 50 years (with no interest on the balance) than get $0 at all.
By the way if the selling part of our “I’m an artist” illusion doesn’t pay the bills, it’s possibly time to look for a job that does, so we can go home to painting in our spare time - thus honing our skills to a level which would "eventually" get us enough money to pay our bills painting on a full time basis. If a client’s (considered not up to par on the sophistication bell curve) banter and bartering and haggling “gets us down” - better to learn that from the beginning. It proves, (a) we’re not grown up enough to be in this business and (b) with not too much time wasted, we’ve discovered that maybe weeding a garden, with only weevils to deal with, is more in keeping with our strengths.
6. Working out quotations is a job in itself.
What? You haven't budgeted for a secretary!!! Sheesh! (Again, my take on sarcasm., . . )
Quotations are part and parcel of the job we are to do - or not. Why highlight this aspect as a "don't you understand?" reference. Quoting is part of our profession. It's not our potential client’s problem. If working out quotations is cause for dizzy spells, we should head back to our basement flat (paid for by a full time job which does not require hanging things on the wall, meeting with "those people" and begging for sales). In essence, it is NOT an insult to be seen to be working full time “elsewhere” than in our studios - unless contemporary self esteem issues happen to be more important to us than self respect. Check out some of the top people in the arts in general. Many have had to and some still do work elsewhere in order to pay the bills. This does not make them any less in the (real) visual arts and so why is this concept so beneath so many of us today?
7. People only want to pay you for the time your pencil hits the paper (hand hits the mouse....*insert relevant creative skill here*).
Really!!! How horrible these “people” are!
Quite a generalization! On the other hand, are we dealing with the correct demographic or is it that we are "slightly" too enamoured with ourselves and our talents?
“We want to use an illustration from your website for a national advertising campaign,” he enquired, but when money was mentioned he said “why should we pay you, you’ve already done the work.”
First off. Such a person does not require an answer. What they need is to see our backside “politely and smilingly” walking away from their “offer”. No more than that. Not worth discussing. Not worth thinking about. Such an individual is a boor who has not yet achieved a level of evolution which permits them to recognize artwork, let alone “art”. Now, if our work is deserving of better, then maybe encountering someone like this, once in awhile, is par for the course and undeserving of anything more from ourselves than a loud “pshaw!”.
But then, let’s not display equal and opposite “self-grandeur" behaviour. Even at our best we will have our detractors, and anyway. . . we are never going to be god's gift to the world no matter how many times we look in the mirror. Selfie attitudes do not make a biography legitimate.
The rest of this (#7) makes me cringe as it implies that (a) our work is at such a high level only a mindless twit would recognize it as less. (b) it generalizes the world (note : words such as “people”, "they", "them" and "clients" were used more than 25 times in the aforementioned essay in ways a client base should never be referred to by someone trying to earn a living soliciting "these people".
When "people" feel that they are being looked upon as part of the great unwashed - just maybe, "they" don't want to deal with us. . . And an “us” and “them” mentality never a financially successful combination makes.
“ ‘People’ only want to pay you for physically creating and they sometimes don't understand that saving a pdf file or writing out emails takes up a hell of a lot of time.”. . . . .
How dare “they” be so rude! - (Note : extreme sarcasm. . .)
“The client can sometimes turn into the equivalent of a five year old child on a trip to Skegness “Are we nearly there yet?” “Are we nearly there yet?”
In expressing this sentiment, are we failing to realize that "possibly" we are describing the self-important artist rather than the client?. . . Just saying. . .
It would be good to note that competition is rife in this 1st half of the 21st century. 90% of us will never make our living in the visual or illustrative arts. But that does not mean we are not good nor does it mean we should “quit while we’re ahead”. It simply means that we must deal with reality by being real - and be DEFINITELY less emotively attached to the obsession that is the idea of “being seen to be” an artist, à la 19th century fantasy. Better to be a damned good half-time painter, sculptor or illustrator, enjoying the creative process (as we should), than pretending to be a so-called artist drinking our lives away at the prospect of always having to deal with yet another boor client who fails to see our "specialness".
8. Some clients can be a little disrespectful
I’m only at #8 and already I am rhythmically banging my head on the desk. . .
The “we” and “them” mentality in this essay is, among other determinants, not in keeping with the intent of the title : “Things I’ve learnt about pricing creative work”.
A merchant, producer or distributor does not pick and choose its client base! The name of the game is produce, display, present for sale. The whole process says nothing about “guaranteed sales”.
“Being talked to like this on a regular basis is easy to make you lose confidence”
Ah yes, such micro-aggressing on the part of the dastardly beyond the realm of the arts.
Before we end up spending all our hard-earned “sale of artwork” money on self-indulgent therapy, maybe it would be best to change professions. . .
9. Talk to other creatives
Having each others backs is fine at a peer level. This is where we can allow ourselves to rant and rave and order another bottle. On the other hand, getting advice and assistance in understanding marketplace foibles is best achieved through consultation with the more experienced than we. Once an individual has been in the field for awhile, they generally (and generously) do share their tricks of the trade and their "been there, done that" experiences with up and comers. Times may have changed but personality connections and confrontations have not.
All this being said, throughout time the most successful people in the visual arts have been those with gumption. Successful artists are a tough lot. Often, they have started out with nothing and their goal has always been creating excellence, not achieving greatness. Artists are those who dared greatly and did and do whatever is required to get a job done, and this DESPITE. They are those who forged ahead at a pace which would knock all opposition aside - and this without negative attacks on either their competitors or their buyer base. They did not, do not, whine or cry or say woe is me throughout their careers. Like Van Gogh, they were (are) constantly challenged and took (take) the next difficult step DESPITE any and all opposition, rejection or pressures to fail, or superficial anxieties over "what not".
We live in a time which has sadly normalized and defined obsession as passion, victimhood as beingness and pseudo honesty, authenticity and entitlement as confirmation of our self worth. We fear failure because our need for self esteem is more important than our quest for self respect.
But the world we live in is ironically one of ecological survival not of Renaissance. It is more in need of refuse collectors and recyclers than yet another so-called, self-defined artist. So, let's stop the whining. We in the arts are privileged!!!! We see and feel things no others do. Our job is to create work which “says something” - not to define those who cannot appreciate it as lesser. We are owed nothing and should not expect to be recognized simply because we say so. Those who in centuries past thought in this vein (prior to the introduction of art galleries and agents) simply ended up being apprentices to those who actually were artists. Better they would have spent their time being positive in order to lift themselves above and beyond even their own best estimates. But then, that is a choice made. . . or not, isn’t it?
10. Underpricing work doesn’t do anyone any favours
“Remember those lovely creatives you just got moral support from? You don’t want to be undercutting them.”
Under-cutting someone?. . . Pricing our own work has nothing to do with others in the field or their work.
“Nor do you want them to do that to you, right?”
What is this?!!!! Working in any visual art field is not an extension of being in secondary school. Neither does being a creative mean being “college friends true”. Life as a painter, sculptor, dancer, writer, conceptualizer, composer or illustrator is beyond adolescence. It is not based on a frat school agreement over a secret hand-shake! It’s real life. It’s being out there ON OUR OWN - whether we like it or not.
Succeeding is on the minds of all of our peers. And when the time cones for them to go for it, the rest of us had better get going - or get out of their way.
Pricing means establishing a realistic (professional)base which recognizes “our” level of expertise and recognition - not anyone else’s and most especially not based (today) on what we dream we should get.
11. Everyone views money differently
In our studios, we are (more often than not) dreamy wanna-bes who have a talent which craves to be expressed. Super!!! In the studio, that is exactly how things can be. But the minute we walk out of that special place with artwork under our arm is the moment we become producer/distributor/seller/merchant - not an “arteest”.
At this stage of the game, we are nothing more, nothing less, than pitchmen/women hawking our wares. Artwork is a thing; a physical product which at its most extraordinary is called “art”. What's the difference? Artwork is exactly what it is : a product of our efforts. At its ultimate best it allows itself to speak on its own, over and above its creator. It is a painting or sculpture or something else which rises above and beyond the physicality of the artwork created. At this level of excellence it is an enigmatic extra-ordinariness which speaks, reaches out and touches viewers - whether they buy the “thing” presented or not. And that is when it is called "art" - that which not only touches us deeply and requires no purchase whatsoever, but elevates us along with it to a higher plane of understanding.
12. Being upfront is good.
Finally! Something valuable.
Being prepared before a meeting with a client is essential. Handed out at the appropriate time, printed parameters save time and effort in explaining and re-explaining obvious and not so obvious facts about a "dealing". It almost always eliminates the worst of having to deal with those we don't really want to.
Oh lord. . . Setting a price base is not an experiment. It is not a question of re-calibrating how the world turns. It is an organized, efficient activity which has as its goal to be the well ensconced cornerstone of our financial survival.
Once we establish a solid price list (based on reality, recommendations of prominent gallery owners, collectors and comparing with other “like work”) no further consideration, worry, anxiety or anything else should be agonizing our souls. Second guessing is for amateurs who don't take the time to "do it right". Establishing a price list worthy of the level at which we are (not at a level of our wishing) allows us to get back to what we (purportedly) do best : creating artwork. Playing around and being indecisive can mean experimenting ourselves (literally) to a professional death. Doing the pricing job right more often than not demands counsel from more than we.
14. Don’t compare.
Too much dithering with feelings rather than reality in this section. I can’t comment on the content or legitimize it.
“Give ourselves permission. . ." “ Sheesh! On to number 15. . .
15. Get it in writing
Good! Number 15 says it all. I have nothing more to say about this. . . (Surprised?)
16. You’re not an arse for placing value on what you do
“Placing value on yourself feels incredibly egocentric, but you need to stop thinking about it as something personal, and view it as a service that helps to solve people's problems.”
What is this with “artists” so in need to see themselves as the “product”, the brand? When we create a price list it has nothing to do with “us”. Price lists are simply established guides related to the monetary value of a physical thing that we are trying to sell. Nothing more. As we grow and become more well known and our work is considered of greater value, our price list will evolve in total - in a consistent and structured manner. That’s it. That’s all. No more complicated than that if it has been properly set up from the start.
“I've learnt that people can often react quite badly to freelance creatives who ask for a decent fee.”
Who cares!!!! How others react and feel is not under the purview of our power to alter.
“It's as though we creatives turn into blood sucking vampires behind our easels, just waiting to pounce on the next corporate professional victim who won't comply with our rigid demands. We're a right cocky bunch, us illustrators, always showing off about how much money we made from that picture book we got published in 2003 that earns us £10 in royalties a year. I know what you're thinking "who do you bloody think you are?”
Really??? This actually goes through our minds? We see our clients and our potential clients' minds in this light??? Not good. . . Definitely not good. . .
“Many of us have been led to believe from day one that art and creativity isn’t valued as highly as ‘academia,’ whether that’s from anxious family members who worry about whether we can actually make a living from it, or whether that’s being scoffed at by other professionals for ‘not having a proper job’, as though we all sit around colouring in all day. Society still has a long way to go in seeing the value of creativity, despite the fact it may well have just persuaded them to buy one brand of shampoo over another, or influenced them to donate to charity through an ad campaign, or enabled them to enjoy the film they’re watching whilst sat on their nicely designed couch.”
This adds nothing to the essay except to say the author is pissed off.
“I actually do think design is changing the world all the time - it influences people to make very important decisions and it helps to sell huge amounts of products and services. It boosts the economy. It adds colour and life. It creates connection. It builds community. It changes people’s minds.”
True. The rest in this section is nothing more than a whine. So I shall pass.
(So good of me - but then, maybe I am (a) simply exhausted by all of this or (b) getting mellow in my old age. . . )
“Got any helpful tips you’ve learned about pricing creative work?”
(a) Take your time. Build your price list solidly. Get it done and get it right and let it do its job so you can get on with yours : creating and (b) STOP second guessing this damned list. Give it and your work time to impress.
Otherwise, my only recommendation - as this essay is more in keeping (despite its negativity) with illustrators - is to suggest we all read, from cover to cover : The Graphic Artists Guild Pricing and Ethical Guidelines, available as either hard-copy or digital format at the following address.
Picasso, I am sure, was filled with love and happiness when he sketched and painted his children. Those depictions communicate both these emotions and his talent for intense yet subtle lines, shapes and form. Yet, his hand did not rely solely on pleasantries to elevate his seeing to its greatest heights. Picasso was a master of all emotions - not just happiness. This, over and above his talent and skills, gave him "legitimacy".
A case in point, he did not create La Guernica, because it made him “happy”. He was livid and needed to express powerfully and graphically the horrors that humans shamelessly inflict upon themselves and their environment. Standing before this artwork makes us realize that the creative giant of this painting was not only angry; he was disgusted.Good artwork creation is not based on being in a superficially happy place - as contemporary “artists” are wont to believe. Art is not a bowl of fruit or pretty flowers unless those still-lifes, googly eyed baby faces, pretty bird nests, Hollywood star portraits, puppy drawings and squiggly abstracts have something more to say than that they exist as wildly exact reproductions of the photos from which they were copied. Artwork creation at its most sublime is based on speaking a visual language - speaking it clearly and powerfully, gently and horribly, whisperingly and screamingly - and this in regards to the world about us - about the truth, about the facts of who and what we are. It is a shaman’s game where far too many are fixated on becoming idols if not false prophets. Branding, in the realm of the visual arts, must reside in the comments made not the commentator speaking. It’s not a matter of being happy. It’s a matter of seeing and sharing factual truths. Artwork creation is the physical foundation upon which we seek to present “art” to the world. If it wasn’t we wouldn’t be so hungry to be seen to be “artists” and our work to be seen to be “art”. Creating visual statements is a responsibility at best and, at worst, a toy in the hands of those who ironically have long forgotten what actual “play” really was. Falling in love with the use of cheery reds, moody blues or luscious greens is not enough to make someone an artist. The content has to be given back its legitimate stature if art is ever to speak its mind with any volition or consequence - i.e. : above and beyond the physicality of the artwork. Creating something called artwork wishing itself to be “art” must bring back the voice of “what is” which, sadly has become too virtual to be of any value to the growth and survival of humanity.
In all of this, “happy” is an odd, sad word. Creative excellence is not about how a painter feels when he/she has achieved a bettering of their yesterday's work. It’s about the relief exhaled once a statement of consequence has been made. Pleased or contented, might be less overwhelming than "happy". But they are more realistic responses to our work being let go to stand on their own. When everything has aligned itself in order to achieve a better statement, a more powerful or enigmatic message, a creative person usually accepts to simply be satisfied for a brief time with that moment of success. Visual artists of any consequence are not into "being". They are into doing. And a next thing is always in need of being done, of being said, shared, transmitted and reacted to.
Though a legitimate feeling at any time, happy - especially today - relates too much to the North American Disneyesque concept of fun and easy; to a desperate constant search to be if not an illusory presence in our nervous existences. In essence, as a never ending, as a fulfillment, as a lifelong goal, the contemporary perception of happy has become a rather demonic rejection of our other legitimate emotions - those we humans hold within and which are capable of being expressed and shared - if only political correctness did not censor them with such intense authority.
Artwork creation, first and foremost, is a challenge above and beyond the skill sets required to speak a language well. But visually speaking coherently has become increasingly difficult. First, because we are losing our ability to “connect directly with others” (other than through virtual wizardry) and secondly because our audience is more often than not made up of viewers who, because of the “fun” and “easy” superficiality of image creation and use today, fail to grasp the complexities of the poetic in a visual language - unless it is structured to be "entertainment".
Fun and happy, therefore, are dangerous definers of life. In their quest to be dominant, they are nothing more than deniers of what makes us human, deniers of the times - a 21st century which seems to be rendering up-and-comers more and more depressed, more and more anxious, more and more afraid. As Mr Simon Sinek recently stated : Our younger generations have been dealt a bad hand. In other words we’ve taken from them the ability to not only thrive but survive.
Was that a vengeful act on our part or simply an ignorant or stupid one? Only our consciences will tell - if ever.
So. . . . . . . . . Too serious a reaction to the simple word "happy"? No.
When we belittle expression to a lowest common denominator, we belittle ourselves and we belittle the emotional connections we are trying to make with others. Artwork creation, with the intent of having it be seen to be art, is a serious business. And for that to return to its serious roots, artwork will have to be much more than its canvas and brushes and paint and varnish. And if it is to be a legitimate reflection of the times in which we live, it will have to damned well become a hell of a lot angrier before it can ever become anywhere near legitimately “happy”.
The curmudgeonly defense rests.
We are the power behind elected officials. And the sooner we remember that, the sooner they will remember to lead rather than rule. - 2015
I am a painter and writer who's whole life has been influenced by one precept : "thinking each our own thoughts makes us relevant and relevance makes us powerful."