This morning, we watched Ursula Le Guin’s speech at the National Book Awards. I would like to share it with you, because everybody should watch it.
If there is one thing that I have learnt from my life with Bridget, it is that the meaning of life is freedom. Happiness is only one result of freedom.
The reason why it is so difficult for many of us to be happy is because the capitalist condition leaves us indentured to all forms of institutional control. Sometimes, our existence is so messed up that we mistake personal choice for freedom. We think “I choose to go to the gym”, “I choose to be vegan”, “I choose to wear these clothes”, “I choose to undergo cosmetic surgery”. And the biggest lie of all: I choose a sustainable lifestyle. Why is that even a choice? Unless you don’t care if the world ends in a hundred years. And most of us don’t.
The greatest trick of the capitalist condition is to make you think that you make all these choices yourself. THIS IS NOT FREEDOM. This is choosing to lie down or stand up in a prison cell.
Freedom is not convenient. It is not comfortable. It must be constantly negotiated. Freedom is resistance.
… the profit motive is often in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism, its power seems inescapable – but then, so did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art.
Bridget is always quietly seething about the local arts scene and I am always loudly ranting.
Why? Because there is no resistance. Without resistance, the fate of new work is mediocrity. It is a commonly held belief for many artists that once your work goes out into the world, it has a life of its own. Without resistance, you’re jinxed by mediocrity. And that is all.
If you’re an artist of our times and you’re producing work that’s cute and palatable and unchallenging, many times because you’ve accepted money from an institution of control, rethink your vocation. You don’t have to defend yourself against my views, because they are just my views. It is just the little voice inside you that you will have to address in a matter of time.