Has it ever occurred to you that your creative goals just might be centered around the culture of capitalistic success? That maybe, just maybe, you are becoming increasingly devoid of anything that makes you who you are, and you always find yourself measuring your worth up against bars of what the world convinces you are the determiners of how well you and your work are doing. All that seems to matter is how well-built your branding is, and everything comes down to your ability to sell an image. Excellently de-radicalised, brilliantly polished, effortlessly trendy.
Nobody is saying you haven’t been able to do relatively well for yourself. Maybe you can fluently answer the question: “so what’s the idea here?” no matter whether or not your answer is well-realized or if you’re convinced of it yourself. Maybe you’re almost always able to sell a product or laud yourself on your corporate professionalism. You might even be able to play on the right identity politics, say the right thing and be at the right place at the right time. Maybe you just know how to make everything you do look good, and it’s everything you’ve ever known. Anyone else that dares to make you question what you’re doing must just be succumbing to their envy of you. Maybe your orientalism is fine when it’s not called out. Or your appropriation will be defended vigorously by others that also believe culture is a commodity, especially when the people it belongs to have been robbed blind. And surely your nepotism doesn’t exist if you denounce it. Of course, there’s always the creeping shadows of your imposter syndrome. You don’t feel good about yourself all the time. Especially when you’re relentlessly fumbling for validation. But that’s not the kind of lurking inner turmoil we’re going to reference here.
Now and then, when you’re tired of stroking egos, including your own, you’re always going to be able to hear a question being asked. The tone of this voice entirely depends on how comfortable you are with sitting with yourself.
“What am I doing here?”
Where are you going with this? Who tells you how to reinvent yourself? What influences the directions you take? Who are you doing this for? And why? And when is it ever going to tap into the real rebellious potential is can have? Who tells you what to censor and what to put on display? What are they working for? What do you need to legitimize yourself? Who gave you these ideas? If you’re looking for answers here, you’re going to be disappointed. But you’re certainly in for an existential crisis once you find them. When you realize that what you’re looking for needs you to sift probe into the very intricate clockworks of the magnate’s show we live in and understand your role in keeping the production going.
It becomes harder to tap into what makes you want to do the things you want to do when you’re insistently bombarded with ideas of what you ought to do. When you’re navigated by a culture that shames a lack of a fixed concept of success. When your journey becomes a storyline that needs to be revised for marketability. When you don’t realize that your body aches from the implacable jostling by the swarms of people rushing to earn their complacency because they’ve been told they can if they check a few things off of a list created for them by puppet masters. When it’s always a self-important character at the forefront of everything you’re told you need to be. When you’re tired of being a chess piece in the desperate game of appearing in superficial proximity to everything deemed relevant. The next ad-friendly. The new pseudo-progressive. The upcoming young voice preyed upon to be robbed so you can be the refreshing face of a faceless mega-corporation’s pathetic attempt at reinvention and humanization of their brand, promising exchanges that are void of any tangible value. And when you have mouths to feed.
Here you realize the power of the intention you started with. Reminisce who you wanted to give a voice to. Why you wanted people to see themselves in the things you create. How you want who you are to translate to the world. If your identity is synonymous with industrialist ideas of what it means to be desirable, successful and creative, and you can feel that it doesn’t sit right with you, then maybe this is for you. For the rest of you clowns that are happy where you are and don’t care to reevaluate yourself, you can go ahead and stop reading, keep working your pawn self to the bone while we sit here and burn your shit to the ground. We can see you circling in cycles of name dropping then spend the rest of your lives and calling it chasing the bag.
Whose pain could you be alleviating when you can describe the troubles of cognitive dissonance to be digestible, and when you can be the messenger of unspoken truths? Who would you be standing up for when you unapologetically fight the specious and mediocre, always calling for substance in what is offered as food for thought? Where would you move from if you had nothing to sell? If you could redistribute wealth? If you gave in to the inauspicious nature that is always being confined to binary definitions? If you explored everything between either and or? Think of all the wonders of the world that haven’t been romanticized yet. Consider who you could be liberating by putting the juxtapositions people don’t often see at the forefront of their consciousness. Study all of the ways insularity can be irrevocably shattered. You can move from baseless and spineless to having a life-long project to keep reimagining instead of living a life where you’re chewed up and spit out all in the name of someday being happy. The reality presented is not as idealistic as most would like you to believe. We can set the tone for what we allow instead of absorbing commands and taking these definitions as our own. Start working to create a different social contract. Maybe you could ask yourself the questions posed throughout this piece and go from there. The destruction of unlearning isn’t always a pretty sight, and it’s never a quick instance. Keep setting intentions and directions.
Photo Courtesy Polly Nor