Lately, I seem to be having the same conversation – with artists, with parents, with people. We’re all angry because things aren’t going our way and somehow we think that “somebody” is responsible for bringing our vision of the world to life - somebody other than ourselves.
But here's the thing - as an artist, as a human being, no one is coming to save you. Not ever. No one is coming to give you the job you want, sell your art for you, find you 1 million followers on Twitter, or give you the government you think you deserve. So, stop looking over your shoulder.
The reason why is not nefarious. It is because you have teeth that tear and claws that can rip through any obstacle set before you. If you’ve forgotten how to use them, no one is going to feel sorry for you, because you can save yourself, even if you have forgotten how.
We need better schools!
People don’t support artists the way they used to!
Our politicians are corrupt!
All of this is true, but when I put the next question to them, things fall apart.
To the parent, I ask, “Do you want to run for the school board?” Silence.
To the artist, I say, “What's your marketing strategy?” They respond incredulously, “Oh, I hate marketing!”
To the disillusioned citizen, I ask, “Have you written your congresswoman?” “I don’t have time for that,” they explain.
I’ve never seen an animal starve because they don’t like to hunt. The notion itself is ridiculous. They wouldn’t think about foregoing their God-given talents, their natural instinct to find what they need to survive.
In fact, there’s only one group that I can think of who does this, domesticated animals. If you’ve ever had a pet and come home too late from work then you know exactly what I’m talking about. When a pet is hungry, they don’t search for food; they search for you. They wait by the door, or whimper at your bedside until you come home and decide to feed them.
They open their mouths full of fearsome teeth, capable of piercing skin and shattering bone, and wait for you to place a morsel of kibble on their wagging tongues.
Have you ever wondered why they don’t just eat the hand that feeds them? I have, though the answer is simple; they are content with the kibble. We have become content with the kibble.
The hand itself is an illusion, a magic trick that convinces us to forget the wild with its hulking chunks of the meat we crave. “Here!” it says. “Take this bloodless, manufactured crumb instead. That’s a good boy!”
If you think the stakes aren’t as high as they are in the wild, you are kidding yourself. We are fighting for life, education, the ability to earn a living wage, and the right to step outside our home without fear just like a lion in the Serengeti; the only difference is that we don’t know it. Our masters have taught us to trade our lives, visceral, hard-won, and unfiltered for subsistence. Instead of the hot innards of an obstacle brought down by your own will and determination, we get a lukewarm chicken breast, clean of skin, blood, and bone, then wonder why we’re still hungry.
The hyenas in the distance are laughing at us. At least, they know they are scavengers.
You cannot be an artist and hate to market your work any more than you can be an animal that hates to eat. If you want to make a living from your art, then you must hunt for your audience and slay them until they can’t breathe without your words. If you’re not willing to do this, then you don’t want to make a living from your art. That’s okay; just stop complaining.
If you think that someone else will (or should) change your school system, you have forgotten the education you received. Why is someone else responsible for acting on your ideal? Who cares about the future of your children more than you do? If you’re not willing to write a letter, set up a conference call, or sit through the town hall meeting AND follow-up (or run for office), then please sit down and eat your kibble.
If yelling at the TV screen or being too disillusioned to engage makes you feel sick inside, but you don’t know how to get up off the couch and vote, then please spare us all your Facebook rant. You have no one else to blame if the world isn’t how you wanted it to be.
They tell you not to bite the hand that feeds you, but that assumes that you need to be fed. Eat the hand. The world has always belonged to those who bite the hand and not the kibble. The choice is, and ever will be, yours.