A letter to the creatives of the world.
I have been thinking about the collective creative voice in politically volatile and chaotic times recently, especially in the past couple of weeks and have been reflecting on how, during times of cultural change and revolution the creative narrative has been such marker point and almost a catalyst for the wheels of change to start turning. More specifically, my thoughts have centred around the missing cultural narrative when the world is in such an unstable phase. Climate change, political frustration, wars, financial instability, technological evolution, continual extreme poverty, truly, these might be the hardest times humanity has ever faced, yet apart from a small selection of voices, the narrative driven by the creatives of the world is somewhat of a murmur rather than a roar. What us going on?
If we look back, even in recent history, the late 50s and 60s civil rights movement brought the “Freedom Writers” and their Civil rights anthems: Sam Cooke (A Change Is Gonna Come), Aretha franklin (Respect), James Brown (Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud). The Vietnam War — Yoko and John’s infamous ‘Bed In’, Bob Dylan and Crosby, Stills and Nash are intrinsically intertwined with this moment in time. The 1980’s Anti Reagan Era delivered us with Springsteen’s “Born In The USA” with Punk all stars the Ramones and even more popular artists such as Don Henley and Billy Joel speaking out via their artistry. The 80’s simmered right into the cultural boiling point with the birth of rap — Grandmaster Flash’s “The Message”, NWA, Public Enemy and KRS One were not only writing tunes, they were getting politically active and encouraging others to do so in their own communities through to the late 80's.
Further afield, the Thatcher era spawned a legion of comment from British “indie” bands such as Blur, The Jam, The English Beat and not so indie The Style Council and UB40 all contributing with recordings about “Thatcherism”. This communal youth dismay also coincided with the birth of “Rave” and the second “Summer of Love” — youth in Britain looking to check out and to create their own world through art, dance, drugs and electronic music — depicted by the ever happy smiley face image.
More recently, where has the artistic narrative been? Sure, we’ve had Rage Against The Machine with their ever constant social and political narrative, Pink and her “Dear Mr President” letter, Green Day’s somber war reflections with Neil young still burning that candle after several decades, but apart from some moments of charitable mobilisations for causes such as climate change and poverty that draw artists en masse “Live Aid” style, where the hell is the collective outrage? Where are the artistic references that point to the huge evolutionary phase? Are we going to leave it to Banksy to serve cynical decorative “memes” to which we can hang our heads in shame to only to then share, like and discard? How are we to create enough momentum to bring on this revolution without the sustenance of the authentic artist voice to push us along?
I’m looking at this current outpouring of fear and frustration due to the recent election in America — so much despondence and cynicism= all the while what’s being missed is the incredible opportunity for this to fuel a response that changes our collective future. So far all I see is people freaking out. Rather than a grass roots forming, I see people engaging superficially on social media without any concrete action. I see artists ad lib on issues, yet apart from a few, no actual contribution or artistic statements.
Change starts at home, when we - the reader, the writer, the musician, the actor, the creative, starts adding their artistic voice to being the change we wish to see, not the impact we fear will come. When we encourage those around us to vote, to get involved, to do something, anything.
What has to happen for our generation to stand up and fight for the future of this planet? It’s pretty clear things are in a mess, not just politically. Mess, mess, mess. But with mess, opportunity, opportunity, opportunity. Is it all too much, is it all too hard? Should we just leave it in the hands of George Clooney, Shailane Woodley and Leo Di Caprio in those few seconds they flash up in our feed?
No. That’s a big, fat, no.
You, me, your mum, my mates, we all need to step away from “facey” and actually take action. Liking something on social media doesn’t do much. Don’t even start me on ‘all politicians are the same so therefore I ain’t voting” um — Bernie Sanders, y’all wishing more people (people like YOU) voted for him now, no? Case en pointe. So something. Do Anything. But don’t sit there and just feel bleak about the mess we are in. Respond to it in any way you can or any way you know how.
Our world in is crisis. Be there Global warming or not. Be there a need for us to be a war or not. It’s pretty messed up at the minute everywhere and it ain’t going to get better unless someone like YOU (to quote Dr Suess) cares a whole awful lot. We need our NWAs, our Bob Dylans, our Sex pistols our street artists beyond Banksy (special mention to Australia’s Adenate and Syria’s Tammam Azzam) to start talking, writing, painting, singing as loud as they can.
Ginetta Sagan, Martin Luther King and Desmond Tutu all have great quotes on this, I feel perhaps, Rae Foley said it best:
“You can’t remain inactive in the face of injustice without, to some extent, being guilty of it.”
— Rae Foley
Almost more importantly, I look to Benjamin Franklin’s wisdom in this time: “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are”.
Creatives of the world THIS is the moment we need your voice the most. Are you outraged? Then speak up. This is where we all need you to inspire us to be brave and act for a better world. You are the spark.
I hope you can find the place where you can lend your voice to the momentous time we are in and solidify your place on the right side of history.
Awesome link to interview with the artist Tammam Azzam — responsible for the amazing street art image I included with this letter. https://fromshamwithlove.wordpress.com/2015/02/18/art-is-a-step-to-future/