Friday, July 11, 2008

It's a Normative Issue

Folks, let's be clear about this, because Don is trying to blur this in my comments. This is a Normative issue we are talking about, not a Descriptive one. If Don had said that the current system is like blackjack, neither Mike nor I would have quibbled: the current system has all the flaws of blackjack, and none of its strengths. But when Don trotted it out, he did so not to describe the current situation, but to counter the argument that a call for a more stable system that included health insurance should be the goal. Adam Thurman ended his post with the following sentences: "But my gut tells me that making a living as a professional artist will always be like making a living as a poker player. A few big winners, another group of people that are consistently profitable in the world. And lots of Dead Money. And maybe that's the way it is supposed to be." That last sentence is normative, not descriptive: the way it's supposed to be. So Don is changing his story when he writes in my comments box: "Speaking for myself - I can't speak for Adam - my point certainly is not that the analogy represents the way things should be but the way things are. You and Mike may not like the fact that artists are not only gambling with their ideas but their money and their marriages, etc. but your distaste for reality doesn't change it."

What Don is saying is everything is the way it is, and it can't be changed. Such deterministic thinking ignores history, both modern and ancient. Things do change, there was a different system that worked in the past, and we create reality every day according to our beliefs and behaviors. Want some proof that things were different? Here's something from Bill McKibben's book Deep Economy: "in 1900, in the state of Iowa alone, which was then crowded with small farmers, there were also thirteen hundred local opera houses, all of them hosting concerts. "Thousands of tenors," writes Robert Frank [in Luxury Fever], "earned adequate, if modest, livings performing before live audiences." There were also permanent ensembles of actors in every town in the nation making their living doing plays. The way things are was created in the 1870s by a bunch of businessmen who bought up all the theatres across the nation and created a syndicate. It isn't a carved in stone, it's been ever thus sort of thing.

Mike and I think that the system is wrong, that it doesn't support artists, and therefore doesn't support the consistent creation of quality work. And we say (and yes, I am speaking for Mike now) that a system that is broken can be fixed and should be fixed. Don is saying, "Hey, it sucks, but deal with it. It's reality, and is set in every particular. Suck it up."

And I am not ready to drink that particular Kool-Aid. I believe in progress, and the ability of things to change if people recognize the problems and commit to improvement. And no amount of Don Hall's bluster is going to change that.
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1 comment:

Don Hall said...

But when Don trotted it out, he did so not to describe the current situation, but to counter the argument that a call for a more stable system that included health insurance should be the goal.

You're cracked.

Here's what I wrote:

First, before any economic model can be created, a philosophical model must be shifted. Our paradigm is skewed by a view of the past and the financial successes of today. The constant push to "make a living" in the arts is sort of like making a living as a professional gambler and I don't hear anyone supporting an ethical model to provide blackjack players health insurance.

My argument is not for the status quo (nor has it ever been, you boob). My argument is against the idea that somehow artist's are more entitled to making a living than anyone else (including gamblers).

I know it's exceptionally difficult for you to read the thoughts of others through the thick prism of your own ego, but please...