If I Can Only Do One Artistic Thing, Let It Be Revolution
I woke up in a cold sweat, thinking, “I am not doing enough.”
This is capitalism’s systemic exploitation and cultural pollution fucking up my sleep.
I want to do everything. All of it. Enough of each thing to be great, a master of every craft. And when I look closely, I see this isn’t mere egoism or petty competitiveness. It’s a beautiful, childlike thought — a rebellion against mortality.
Searching for fulfillment in a sea of good options
I want to draw like an industry pro. I want to tell a powerful story in comic form and make things people would want tattooed on their bodies. I want to learn all the different tools and brushes, create awesome time-lapses, make unique gifts for loved ones, paint some murals, express things that words can’t.
I want to make videos and tell stories through the cinematic form. I want to do the editing and make it exactly as my imagination showed me. I want these works to build tension, to give people the chills, to make the audience laugh or cry or shout with joy. I want to make projects that utilize the talents of many different people, to come together and create something better than anything any of us could’ve done individually. I want us to know and celebrate the communal joy of artistic expression, liberated from the pollution of the profit motive.
I want to be a great poet. I want to craft language that draws attention to itself, language that captures something about the human condition, says something worth remembering. I want to write revolutionary words worth speaking through a megaphone at a rally for justice and progress. I want to play with rhyme and rhythm, to understand the subtleties of meter and form and all the different rhetorical devices. I want to deploy them in clever, powerful ways.
I want to write like a literary great and take people on journeys away from this beautiful, tragic planet. I want sequels and series. I want one of my characters to be some kid’s favorite, for people to dress up or cosplay as these personified figments of my imagination at costume parties or conventions or on Halloween. I want my books to be both informative and inspiring, both entertaining and worth being analyzed in an upper-division literature course.
I want a library in my mind. I want to read all the unread books on my shelf, all the good ones still out there, and all the good ones yet to be written. I want to go on the adventures other writers have shared with us. I want to explore their minds and know their humanity through their characters, plots, and themes. I want a turn — many turns — to be the one that laughs and cries and shouts with joy. Then I want to critique, discuss, and share in these works with others.
What kills people’s dreams isn’t laziness or a lack of entrepreneurial spirit, it’s capitalism
I can’t do all of these things. It isn’t possible because of the brevity of life combined with the amount of time taken up by capitalist survival stressors. The anti-humanist economic structure we live under uses this core framework: if you don’t make enough money, you die. You need money for shelter, food, healthcare, education. See the problem? Basic human rights are horrifically gated by the profit motive. The obvious need to live is such a powerful motivator that most people work jobs they don’t even like.
Don’t you deserve more than that?
The place and era we live in steal more than money from the working class, they steal our precious time by aiming us at jobs we don’t enjoy. A fella’s gotta eat, after all. The dignity of the people is stolen, and the ruling class does this while managing to prevent most folks from even knowing and naming the central problem: capitalism.
Hell, a lot of wage-earning people have been seduced into the cult-like worship of hard work for hard work’s sake. Even as members of the working class, many will go to the ballot and vote against working class interests.
They’ll elect bourgeois politicians that enact tax cuts for the rich and then wait until death for that money to trickle down. They’ll hate socialists and communists without ever being able to define those words, parroting opinions that are spoon-fed to them by news stations literally owned by billionaires.
The modern American media apparatus is a breathtaking spectacle of misinformation. It’s a relentless campaign amplified by social media sites whose algorithms are specifically designed to manipulate the human dopaminergic reward system. Millions of people are convinced not only not to fight for their liberation but to hate and attack those who would — and over time, these people’s brains are trained to cycle back to the sources of manipulative inputs. Their activity in the algorithm incentivizes more activity for themselves and others, stoking the flames of ideological bubbles where they don’t realize the burning stench is coming from themselves.
And once again, somebody somewhere makes good money off this dynamic.
The truth is that the American concept of “rugged” individualism is really “anti-human, self-destructive” individualism. It’s obsolete. But most are kept from seeing this because the ruling class actively sows division within the working class, and they’re damn good at it.
Our lives are polluted by the worship of capital at the expense of human well-being. We live in a cruel land of exploitation and greed that is characterized by an unending salvo of political and economic violence against the working class. The profit motive reigns and the people suffer.
Here, the billionaires of the ruling class profit directly from human suffering. The vile machinery of the military-congressional-industrial complex remains an unchecked, bipartisan force of tremendous brutality. They’ll tell you its purpose is to make you safe, but what it really does is make a lot of money for people that aren’t you.
There’s a lot of cash moving around this place — more than $700 billion for the war racket. Meanwhile, you got less direct aid for the pandemic than citizens of several less wealthy nations, if you got any at all. And a lot of those countries handled the issue better. It’s worth asking why, and you’ll find that the fingerprints of the profit motive are everywhere. The United States might be a wealthy country but if you’re a wage-earning laborer, sorry to break it to you, the wealth ain’t yours.
And as ever-increasing military budgets pass without issue, homeless people by the hundreds of thousands lay cold and neglected, surrounded and outnumbered by millions of vacant homes. Citizens continue to go bankrupt from medical debt, a problem that simply doesn’t exist in many other places in the world. The issue of caged migrant children at the southern border persists from administration to administration. Systemic racism is alive and well. The list goes on, and the hidden hand behind it all is class warfare in its current iteration of late stage capitalism.
Dreams of the downtrodden
All of those marginalized people have wants, too. Perhaps they dream of being masters of different skills as well. Maybe they’d like to be singers, dancers, potters, painters, but “financial reality” makes the dream untenable. Maybe they want to be social workers or neuroscientists but they can’t afford to go to school. Perhaps they want as much as I want, to do many wonderful, fulfilling things they enjoy instead of whatever is the most profitable (or in most cases, whatever they’re lucky enough to find so they can stay alive).
I want others to one day be able to do all of these things. I want a child who isn’t born yet to have all these dreams be realistic and achievable. I want them to have the time and the freedom that I and so many others of this era don’t. I want them never to wake up in a cold sweat because their life is reduced to units of labor whose only purpose are to be exploited for someone else’s profit.
One day, I want a world where all basic human needs are met. From a technological standpoint this is already possible; we need only muster the political will to end the sociopathic wealth hoarding done by the top 0.1%. It’s not an exaggeration to say the health of the planet is on the line. And we don’t have a backup.
No one should have a super-yacht or dozens of properties they don’t even live in while any others go unfed or unclothed or unsheltered. I want people to live in a world where the underlying principle is “From each according to their ability, to each according to their needs.” I want them to know the freedom of such a landscape.
Solidarity will see us through. Collective action that moves the world toward socialism is self-care for the species. It will take courage and the path will be arduous. It will be bloody — it already is. Still, is there a better creative endeavor than the creation of a better world?
And that’s why, with all the options available to me in my short life, I choose to be an anti-capitalist. It’s why I choose the revolutionary path.
I want to organize in my community. I want to feed people with a mutual aid organization, to create a vanguard party, to plant the seeds for a beautiful revolution for the working-class — something real that people will look back on and say, “In 2021, most people didn’t think this would ever be possible. But some did.”
If I can only have time to be a master of one thing, I would like to be a master humanist.