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First responders to an outbreak of creativity. Or, how the group Facebook recommended might not have your best interests at heart.

“Forget the arbitrary rules,” said a meme.

Someone posted the other day, “I knew I had such a gift that I never took a real job.”

The British Government now jumps in, offering you the sad spectacle of a young girl doing ballet (hopeless, no future) with the forward-thinking opportunity to “work in cyber” – although without providing any jobs. (What is cyber? Who says that?) And you – who is “you”? Must be that idle creative person, who is wasting their time doing ballet, or music, or anything that doesn’t sit you at a desk, handing over time for the purpose of making money.

People were worried that the young girl tying up her pointe shoes was being dissuaded from her calling. They became less worried when it was revealed that the picture for the ad is a stock photo, taken by a photographer in America. That country is a mess anyway. But a misguided sense of national superiority, which at this moment should already sound alarm bells, mustn’t be allowed to diminish this latest bit of badly misjudged government advertising. Selling England by the pound, using images off the internet to downgrade the arts in the land of Shakespeare, the Beatles, Jane Austen, etc., etc. while the theatres, music venues, and artistic jobs are allowed to evaporate. Corporate welfare, contracts for friends? Fine. Subsidies for theatre? We must look at our priorities.

But first, what does arbitrary mean? Strangely, invoking the idea of arbitrariness still invites you to focus on the rules. Watch them and watch for them. And then ignore them. Because they are meaningless. For you.

Or is the real issue who benefits from any rule?

Merriam-Webster has these definitions of arbitrary:

  • 1a: existing or coming about seemingly at random or by chance or as a capricious and unreasonable act of will
  • an arbitrary choice
  • b: based on or determined by individual preference or convenience rather than by necessity or the intrinsic nature of something
  • an arbitrary standard
  • 2a: not restrained or limited in the exercise of power: ruling by absolute authority
  • an arbitrary government
  • b: marked by or resulting from the unrestrained and often tyrannical exercise of power
  • protection from arbitrary arrest and detention
  • 3 law: depending on individual discretion (as of a judge) and not fixed by law
  • the manner of punishment is arbitrary.

In the US, it could be argued that we already live under an arbitrary government. So much of what we hear, day by day, is yet another example of “a capricious and unreasonable act of will” bordering on “unrestrained and often tyrannical exercise of power.” Breaking the law is for some. Not you. Not you either. Your job is to pay taxes that help pay for people in charge to break the rules.

No wonder we can’t be creative. That might diminish revenue.

Or worse, or better – people might create their own vision. Feel what it means to step outside convention and expectation.

Yet the second statement could be seen as an act of will, declaring freedom from needing to work, due to self-stated genius. Or that having enough cash to be a genius in your own time is useful as a by-product or corollary of greatness.

And the third statement really is a new way of trotting out the tired, but all-pervasive idea that the only worthy endeavor is the one that gets you money. The art venues all shut? Be creative – go make money doing something else.

So many contradictions.

Creative freedom is important. But it’s hard to feel free when there are all these tired old admonitions rolled out the minute you make the fatal mistake of mentioning a slight yearning to make something on your own, something that doesn’t exist anywhere else. Well then, it’s up to you. You have to have faith in yourself. Believe in yourself. Be strong. It’s your will that counts above everything. Go a bit further, and you’ll find the normalization of the marketplace. Create your brand.

Is it about creativity, or is it more a matter of blame and control? Now the British or US government tut-tuts at people for their lack of character when faced with illness. If only you were really strong. Really determined. Really following the rules. Today’s rules, not yesterday’s. And a certain government leader, who has dipped right back into the fascist playbook, complete with speeches from balconies, proclaims for himself a quasi-mystic ability to overcome what weaker individuals could not. And we are back to the claim made by the second statement – that their genius meant they never had a regular job. Lucky there was some other source of income. And that leads us back to the arbitrary government. Self-made man – with a vast inheritance. Strong leader – over a country that is counting over 200k dead from massive incompetence and cruelty.

Blame, used as a sign, can fill itself with another meaning while erasing uncomfortable subtleties or facts. Advertisements are the perfect example of this odd power. Drinking Popular Soda doesn’t mean you’re young and free. Owning a Complicated Watch doesn’t mean you’re a brave explorer. Pulling a case of Sunny Beer out of your truck doesn’t mean you’re at the beach with all your friends. Stripped away are harsh realities, like diabetes is on the way, your insecurity is so strong you need to show what you can buy on your wrist, and that case you brought home was actually for you, bottle by bottle, six pack by six pack, while you sit on the sofa alone, watching TV.

Although the second statement never says privilege anywhere in its description of singularity, it hollows out the meaning of being creative while describing it, the blindness of comfort and ease without question. Raging ego, that same ego that enjoys mansplaining and knowing best. The weird game of our time, illuminating the dark side of not trusting the experts even though you just became one after reading to the end of the Wikipedia entry. Frequently, the person they are “educating” is a physicist or some other kind of expert in their field. But we don’t care! We’ve been lied to enough. Then deception becomes a sign. The real lie at the center is replaced with a lack of education frustrating for everyone. Everyone except those who know very well if you only ever read the headlines, you’re not going to be bothered by the details.

A genius at business who owes a massive sum of money to unknown entities. Or another internet character, so good they didn’t need to work, or so rich they could believe any story they told themselves while drinking a coffee, watching other people struggle. Or not watching much of anything at all, except themselves.

It is worse to become an expert on a disease because you finally caught it, and through taxpayers spending over a million dollars on the experimental treatment, not to mention the hospital, survived. Now in another spin on expertise, the leader’s blood may hold all the answers. Singularity, not the boring work in laboratories and universities, done by the scientists and the students you hope to ban from the country.

That is worse than announcing you never worked a regular job because you’re special.

Bu then we spin back to the first statement. Ok then, you may say – the rules are arbitrary. But if I break the rules, I can’t pay my rent. Actually – I can’t pay my rent anyway, and I didn’t break any rules. Now what?

The British Government are first responders to the dangerous ground in these ideas. Imagine if this pandemic crisis makes people want to create. If when facing unthinkable loss and a real disconnect from society, people decide they need to change their lives. Much better to induce more fear and call it opportunity. Rebranding. Retraining – that just makes everyone that much more eager to align themselves with the status quo. Follow the money.

But science isn’t always right, says the person in their dark corner. I don’t believe experts. I’m going to ignore what I don’t understand. Did you know that all this was predicted in a novel?  I see what they are trying to hide. I read something on Facebook that said…

…conspiracy theory 1, 2, 3…

Down and down we go, further into the rabbit hole.

Possibly good to remember that really going your own way is unlikely be to be backed up by a group Facebook recommended for you. And some rules are good to follow. Stopping at red lights. Not calling your boss a fucking idiot.

At least not until you’re ready.