Stand back. I’m going to disagree with Jordan Peterson.
Yes, I know, even great men are allowed to have a blind spot, but his is a doozy and three miles wide: even through everything he’s gone through, he still believes that the preponderance of liberals in the arts and creative professions is because “liberals are creative personalities, willing to take risks.”
Dear Lord. What is wrong with that wouldn’t fit in a library filled with books the size of the Oxford dictionary, in tiny print, the kind you need the magnifying glass to read (yes, I always wanted one of those. Nope, don’t have one.)
It starts with the fact that most “liberals” aren’t even capable of taking risks in thought. They want everything regimented, and directions from above about what to think about every minute subject or portion of a subject. And if you question any of their shibboleths, they call you racisss sexissss homophobic, even if what you’re discussing is taxes, or the price of books. These words are the equivalent of their putting fingers in ears and going lalalalala, then running away screaming for mommy/government/twitter mob.
It continues with the fact that the arts are dominated by liberals because they’re dominated by liberals. Of course liberals only hire/promote/give legitimacy to other liberals. Look, if you believed your opponents were evil incarnate, what would you think? That you could allow them into your field? Of course not. If the parameters for good art were “speeds the arrival of the revolution” you’d see as bad art everything that denies it. And why would you want bad art or bad artists? This is why the people on the left in my field think with all honesty the unreadable and preachy tomes they promote are “good”. And ours are bad, perhaps not just despite being fun, but because they’re fun. Because they’ve learned to associate good with “non-challenging.”
Also, because of this our arts have become … stultified. Not just in writing, but in painting and in everything. The skewed idea of what art is for; the stuffing of the field with conformists unable to step or even think outside the narrow confines of their indoctrination has created quite possibly the most shallow, uniform and uncreative artistic and entertainment expression ever. And it promotes some truly bizarrely bad artists who nonetheless get ALL the approval of the elites.
The funny thing is that Peterson describes the artistic personality very well. If you’re even minimally organized and able to create, you will go very far indeed. Two of my friends and colleagues are like that. I fit the more neurotic mold, though how much of that is overwork, I don’t know nor can think about for another year at least.
Still, I wonder what the castrating of our — as a society — imagination does. Sure, okay, yeah, normal human society doesn’t have a lot of room for imagination. The good artist is the one just slightly weirder than the average person (yes, I’m a big fail, deal.) But it needs imagination.
Now that we’re past tribe and the shaman who told us there would be good hunting over the hill, we still need people to tell us as a society who we are. And we need someone to dream a future for us. I don’t think the voyage to the moon would have happened without the imagination of the pulp writers (and Heinlein, always Heinlein.)
I think our stagnation on space travel is part of that loss of imagination. I think how unprepared we are for the actual massive technological change that’s ripping society apart is part of that.
We’ve lost the crazy people who go ahead with the lantern, illuminating paths we never thought of. Even if we reject those paths, we should see them, so we can choose advisedly.
All we have now are a gaggle of medieval priests, turned back towards us, and blocking the view of other paths and ideas, lest they endanger our soul and the earthly paradise they’re sure is just around the corner if only they can make us CONFORM enough.
This is the way a society dies.
Fortunately the true artists and crazy people haven’t gone anywhere. They’re just not getting recognition which means a lot of them will die young and in despair, because yes, creative people are neurotic. But some won’t. And with the new tech some will find a way to reach the public. Their public.
For us writers it’s …. ah…. easy… for a definition of easy.
At the risk of all of you thinking I own a copy of Napoleon’s Book of Dreams — I don’t though I briefly considered buying one, because stories — I had two dreams, these last two nights, that I think are apropos….
Two nights ago I dreamed I was in what looked like a Colorado Springs of the future. (I recognized some buildings on the west side.)
Cities in my dreams are bizarrely dense. Like, if the thing about bringing the entire population of the world to the US worked, that’s what it would look like. This one had very fast roadways and these arched pedestrian buildings between massive towers where you could/would fit an entire city’s worth of people. A few million. Only all of it was late Victorian architecture, which I think is just me.
Anyway, Dan had gone ahead home, because something needed to be done, and I was following. And to get home — to the place I needed to be — I had to cross this impossibly high, arching pedestrian bridge.
Imagine a mono-rail width bridge, without safety rails, and made of slats through which you could see the rushing traffic beneath.
I had to cross this, and I thought, way to play with both my fear of heights and my agoraphobia, and then I thought but that’s what I was supposed to do. The bridge was narrow and dangerous because I was supposed to “defeat” it.
And then ahead of me, I saw a little pigtailed girl, doing back flips as she crossed the bridge, and I realized she was my younger self.
Then this past night, I dreamed something had happened to the roof of our house and we hadn’t noticed, and there were patches of mold creeping down every wall, and we hadn’t noticed.
Suddenly there was a rainstorm and every room was pouring with water, as though we were outside. Particularly in the ballroom. (We have no ball room, mind you. DUH.)
But I think, now that I think about that both of those dreams are real and urgent and sounding an alarm.
Both for myself and our culture.
And I think it’s time to wake up.