Now, my co-mates and brothers in exile, . . .
Sweet are the uses of adversity, . . .
And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in everything.
On March 31st, I took a walk around my local park and saw a tree. Hanging from a crimson sash around its trunk was a sign that said, “SAVE THIS TREE.” On my way home, I saw some children’s sidewalk art. A sketch of a girl smiled from the pavement, surrounded by messages like “You can do it!” Besides making me smile, it made me think of II.i.16–17 from As You Like It. When I looked up the lines, I discovered that the entire passage—perhaps the entire play (sans the title, of course)—is applicable to life with COVID-19.
Under the circumstances, I can’t help wondering what life would be like if we still lived off the land as farmers/hunter-gatherers instead of being dependent on jobs that can’t feed us when the chips are down (and when I say “chips,” I’m referring to the technological and gastronomical varieties). But for those of you who don’t fancy rising at the butt crack of dawn to milk your breakfast, plow your lunch, or shoot your dinner, entrepreneurship is proving to be a Great Leveler in the Uncivil War between the Arts and the Sciences.
In the Artistic Army are the Creatives (artists, musicians, writers, etc.). In the Scientific Army are the
Uncreatives Non-creatives (accountants, educators, healthcare professionals, etc.). Some of these people work on site, some of them work from home, some of them work for no pay, and some of them are paid for no work. People in both camps have been able to soldier on during COVID-19, but the only ones who’ve been able to earn a living without endangering their health are the “nonessential” entrepreneurs who work remotely.
Thanks to Generation Y—those much-maligned millennials—the 9:00-to-5:00, employer/employee business model is on its way out. Younger generations don’t want to be treated like children who need to be monitored and supervised, but they will work hard to achieve and maintain equitable, mutually beneficial business relationships. The current business model has served its purpose by legally restricting the number of hours a person can be worked in a day, but there are other ways to pressure employees into working overtime (such as hinting that their inability to meet unreasonable workloads is a sign that they’re incompetent or uncommitted, for example). It’s time for employment to catch up to the technology that
chainsaws (die, autocorrect) companies always tout when they want to appear avant-garde. Despite the technological perks that these companies may be offering to their customers, they can’t really claim to be “cutting edge” if they’re still requiring their employees to commute to jobs that could be performed just as effectively (if not more effectively) off site—an innovation that would reduce office space and other business expenses without adding to the national job deficit.
Creative and non-creative entrepreneurship both require business sense, people sense, and technical proficiency. Yet, one of them is “practical” and the other isn’t. One of them pays the bills and the other doesn’t. Deep down, everyone knows that the arts are going nowhere. People have been filmmaking for decades, acting for centuries, storytelling for millennia, and creating from the start. To the degree that people always have and always will wish to be entertained, the arts are just as practical as the sciences. Yet, creatives are often expected to work for free because it’s Fun—with a capital F—as in FU. This could also be called the Double-X: Experience and Exposure. Exposure? Here’s a photo of me laughing. Experience? On the house. Incidentally, F-E-E spells fee, not free. Perhaps the first lesson in business school should be spelling. But what do I know? Maybe everyone should work for Fun. I mean—besides your résumé, portfolio, references, and other meticulously assembled application materials—how is an employer supposed to know that you’re legit unless you bribe them with free products and services? By the same token, how are you supposed to know that they’re on the level unless they cheat you of a fair and honest wage? Good biz caters to the Man, not the individual, am I wrong?
Ironically, the “cool” people who can afford to have fun often spend 40-plus hours working
boring “practical” jobs that are anything but chill. And when they do go out, they’re getting their kicks from the arts, not the sciences, the same as everyone else. People go out to crunch food, not numbers. They’re watching Cirque du Soleil, not juggling figures. Without the arts, the fun lifestyles that people envision when they go into “practical” professions would be meaningless. Perhaps they should respect that the next time they want a creative to work for Fun.
The arts are going nowhere. They’re here to stay. You’re welcome. Now pay us.
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