POLITICS

Handshake Are our political leaders supposed to do the right thing because they'll lose the next election or because it's the right thing?

Does it matter?

I think it does matter, but clearly the first option should not  be dismissed out of hand. In politics the art of the possible sometimes has nothing to do with the underlying values powering the pursuit. By means of an example, consider the particular way President Lincoln pursued the Emancipation Proclamation. (Need a refresher? See the brilliant historical encapsulation in Stephen Spielberg's masterful "LINCOLN".) The abolition of slavery on moral grounds alone would have been too onerous for his political foes to support. Instead, an ever-so-slightly weaker position allowed fence-sitters to save face and side with him, thus insuring his victory without the emotionally more satisfying results of complete and total victory.

But you ask, "Why should we care about this in creative enterprise? Why is this in the 1AU blog?"

Creative people don't simply punch a clock. Whether working on a film as an assistant camera person, or playing second viola in the symphony orchestra, artists invest their work with themselves. They have to. Without self, creativity generally rings hollow.  But the moment creative enterprise expands beyond the realm of a singular painter holding a singular brush, politics inevitably accrue. It's inevitable because it's unlikely that the designated leader of an enterprise is the only person with a good idea. Even with a clearly defined hierarchy--a chain of command established from the outset--good leaders understand that they have to deal with people. Good leaders also know that even with a singular vision, they're fools if they don't seriously consider the good ideas of those around them. Likewise, members of the corps de ballet, so to speak, need to be able to express themselves to a director without foolishly expecting public adulation or artificial praise.

That's where politics asserts itself most loudly.

Some people simply have trouble working in groups. They struggle to back down or they cannot speak up. Sometimes they get their timing confused. Sometimes they forget that ideas and technical capabilities are not separate from the emotional containers that convey those ideas. More practically, political simplicity gets you nowhere in terms of funding or fans. A more nuanced political listener will learn from an audience without capitulating his or her vision. A savvy producer will understand how to reach a funding source while maintaining his or her own integrity. I'm not calling any of this easy, I'm just calling it essential. Creative teams need to figure out diplomatic ways to move through challenging dilemmas without losing sight of an even more challenging goal. It's true that some creative groups break a lot of china as they move through the world, but for myself I find this a rather distasteful way to operate. Even if an enterprise is a complete success, the cost of disharmony in the world rarely seems like a reasonable trade.

That said, nobody likes endless campfire songs, full of conviviality and warmth but yielding nothing substantial in the morning. Once in a while: sure. But forever and always? Creative groups of all types need to respect that politics as a means of manipulation is disingenuous, but as a means to bring sensitive perception to disparate, oxygen-starved ideas, it matters. Politics is the art of the possible.  Funny, but that sounds an awful lot to me like making creative projects in a group.

--MS

PS -- Yes, yes, here's where the good people of 1AU ask our dear readers to share what you've read with friends and colleagues. And here's the place where you think, "Oh, sure, one more imposition of my precious time." Well, we're asking. It's something we value above rubies, above gold: if you like an idea enough to give it a moment's thought, then consider giving it a measure of freedom. When you share an idea with another person, you release an idea to grow freely in the world.

Like what you see? Set it free.

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