Posted on 20 August 2013
You will note my title is “The Future” not the “The Future of Comedy”. Because I’m going to be exploring how future trends are going to be affecting people in the arts and comedy.
The Desire for Artistry, The Loss of Artisans
People clearly want their lives surrounded by the products of creativity. We have music pumped into our work environments, we wear clothes that include aesthetic embellishments, we like having photographs and painting associated with our literature, we live in a sea of stories presented to us on television, film, books, and even our advertising. Even though the forms have changed, this has been true for hundreds of years.
Think about Greek pottery. Those pots were not created to display art. They were created to carry wine and oil. Nevertheless, that clay real estate was artistically embellished and people kept the pots from the pleasure they felt seeing the images.
Artists have been at the mercy of technology for a long time. With the advent of the printing press those artists and scribes who were producing illuminated manuscripts were largely put out of work. With the advent of phonograph records many musicians lost their jobs. Film and television pretty much killed vaudeville. More recently, electronic typesetting and the Internet have wiped out much of the magazine industry and are wiping out much of the newspaper industry as well. We of course are not the only ones feeling this.
Still More Bubbles to Be Burst
I remember when the Dotcom bubble emerged. My partner and I had already gone through various trials and tribulations setting up our own technology based businesses. Because we were on the leading edge, we were asked to do a lot of consulting. What we saw were people making beginning business mistakes on a massive scale. We knew that bubble was going to burst and didn’t invest in the way some of our friends did.
Right now China is seen as the next superpower because of the manufacturing bubble they have created. Australia is feeling immune to the stresses of global financial crisises, because we have been riding on that bubble. Two things lead me to believe China’s bubble is likely to pop.
One, I did a lot of research to help Lincoln Daw put together his show The Next Superpower. The things I learned about the state of China were literally enough to make me weep. I had to take one night off to have a good cry. The volume of people dying from pollution and lack of sufficent medical care is heart rending. The divide between rich and poor is beyond scandalous. See, comedy can be educational. China is not a stable country.
Two, I’m involved in the computing industry and the technology du jour is 3D printing. With a 3D printer people can design and manufacture their own goods at home. The world will not be needing China’s cheap labour so much any more.
What Happened to the Three Day Work Week?
Fewer and fewer people are needed to make the things we want and need to run our lives. As such fewer jobs are available. No stigma should be attached to not having a job when no jobs are to be had. The dole should never be set up as a punitive system, and yet currently it is. When I was living in Mount Barker SA I know of children who would steal and hoard food because when their parents’s dole cheques ran out, no food until the next cheque. Of course without jobs and without a proper system to ensure people have purchasing power, we are looking at a grim future before we even consider what’s happening to the environment.
When I was growing up the future was seen as a place where people had three day work weeks and everyone enjoyed more leisure time. Take a look at this 1958 Disney animation called Magic Highway USA. Certainly if people held the same jobs and received the same pay, even with reduced hours, more money would be available to go around. But our society took the path of keeping people on the same or longer hours and fires excess workers. If they do keep people on for shorter hours, they certainly don’t get paid a full time wage.
What if we switched to a universal pay system? What if everyone was paid sufficient for housing, clothing, food, etc whether or not they lifted a finger? Anyone wanting a little extra could work however much they liked. Many people think such a system would lead to a world of slackers, but I’m not so sure. Why? Because I know what artists and comedians are like.
How Artists and Comedians Can Help Save The World
We look for meaningful lives rather than simple hedonistic lives. We are willing to forego various comforts and pleasures in order to create something beautiful, deep, humorous, expressive, and/or confronting. Many of us are out of work or under-employed not just because of a lack of jobs, but as a gambit to buy more time to create and develop as an artist.
More people are going to be suffering in the near future. Think about what it is like for you when parents and friends judge you for not having a “proper job”. Think about the sort of suffering and depression that comes on when you are forced to work jobs that are well below your abilities and take away your time to create. The rest of the world is going to start feeling the same thing and not know what to do. You have the strategies to help, especially your skills in laughing at adversity and having sufficient optimism to keep doing the things that bring you fulfillment.
Start giving stuff away. Hanging onto your best stuff while waiting for a break isn’t going to help any more. There’s very little money to be had by anyone in the arts right now. Most of the money to be made by a video is being made by YouTube executives and not YouTube creators. The same goes for other creative industries. Work instead to create a gift economy that includes the giving of necessities. When people feel less desperate, they will need less stuff and less money to shore up their status and thereby their ability to survive. Needing less stuff will reduce the pressure on the environment as well. We can have a bright future, but it won’t be a Disney one.
Peace and kindness,