Is Capitalism Stifling Creativity?

One day in chemistry class, a friend of mine made a flash bang grenade. He overdid the amount. I was talking to another friend in the back of the classroom and working on the next class’s assignment. Then a bright white flash and I was blind for about 10 seconds. I was deaf for about a minute. Turns out you can learn some interesting things in school. If I taught chemistry, I would do this on the first day just to keep the kids off balance. Maybe not use so much though. Making the class more interactive keeps it more interesting. No one wants to be lectured at 180 days a year.

As I went to school for 13 years and then another 4, I had a lot of focus. My focus was all about finding a career where I could make a lot of money. Our entire system is based off this; we call it capitalism. Capitalism has a lot going for it as it makes a country very productive, but does it make it happy? All the years of consuming media told me that if I wanted people to be proud of me, I had to be successful. Success often is conflated with money. That is so often the message on tv, movies and social media. Society rewards success. I even got my degree in economics which is essentially the study of how to make money more efficiently. Making money by writing is difficult, but it has become my passion. This entire website almost never happened because of the way school treats writing. Writing is an art and sometimes art is messy. School turns something beautiful like art and turns it into a technical, methodical boring commodity to be graded. It becomes all about structure.

I remember being told my paragraphs were too short. Does it bother anyone here?

Freedom of expression and creative thoughts are usually squashed so that everything fits in neatly like a brick in the wall. Something has gone wrong when many of the most creative and successful people in the world struggled through school. We no longer teach children to think critically and to be creative; we teach them how to become another cog in the machine. Then we act surprised when most of us grow up to become consumers rather than creators. I was caught in this trap for a long time. The very nature of capitalism traps you into this very narrow line of thinking. I spent much of my early career years working hard all day, then “rewarding” myself by consuming. I would get a new watch, I drove a shiny new car, I had to keep updating my wardrobe to look the part. That’s what they say to trick you. “Wear the clothes for the job you want.” This sounds very insightful when you are fresh out of college and trying to make something of yourself, but its vapid nonsense. Unless you want to be a model, don’t focus on your wardrobe, focus on the work you share with the world. Today, I work at home mostly and I wear a t-shirt and jeans. On the days where I go out and must look presentable I wear a chambray shirt, khakis and boots. It is my go to outfit so I don’t have to overthink it. We don’t need 10 different looks, just a couple good ones. Do you honestly remember what people wear every day? Maybe more people would notice if they weren’t busy worrying what other people think about their own attire. Advertisers have us overthinking this and they are very good at convincing us that our wants are needs. They have tricked us into thinking that to be a success we must look successful. This typically means wearing new clothes every season without any concern for the environment impacts, because we live in an infinite growth economy.

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As we grow up, our ideas of success keep getting confirmed by our peers in their way of life. So many will say that money isn’t important, yet very few are willing to walk away from this system. I’m not perfect but at least I don’t have advertisements on my site. Money buys a lot, not all of it material. It buys security, freedom and the ability to travel. It buys fancy clothes and can even make you look more attractive through make up, dental care, even plastic surgery. Ultimately it is all so unfulfilling. Looking back on my life when I am on my deathbed, I won’t be thinking of what brand of clothing I wore or what cars I drove. I will think of the places I saw, especially the more natural places. I will think of the people I love and hopefully the people I have reached. I recall writing in high school how I hoped to create something that would last longer than me. I was 18 and really didn’t know what that meant specifically, but now just maybe I have found meaning for that youthful aspiration. That is what we all look for. We need a reason to get up in the morning, a passion. Hopefully it is your job, but maybe it is a side project for now. Everything you do should be about making that passion become a reality. Though it is hard work, it is the means to a fulfilling life.

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It takes resilience to get through this life and remain true to ourselves. Fear and doubt are the enemies of creativity. It is unfortunate that school plays a large part in instilling those fears and doubts that steal creativity from this world. There are a lot of great teachers working very hard for much less pay than they deserve, and for the most part, this is not their fault. I am placing the blame on the school structure and on the classmates. Unfortunately, the typical school day is set up to stimulate methodical and left-brain behaviors while depriving the right-brain where creativity thrives. That is because capitalism favors left-brain since it makes for a more productive society.  

Classmates, through peer pressure, make it very difficult for a young mind to express itself in a way that it can be sincere. Growing up is fraught with challenges and awkwardness, and letting your freak flag fly is risking ostracism from your tribe or even chastisement. It is through this peer pressure that capitalism through school can self-enforce the rules.

I wish I could state that this childish behavior ends with graduation, but in many circles, it follows us into adulthood. We live in such an odd time. It is weird to decide to quit a high paying job for a life of wanderlust or less stress. It is normal to work longer hours to get that promotion, even if it means missing your kids little league game. It is strange to become a vegetarian because you care about animal welfare, but it is odd if you decide to raise your own animals for eggs or meat. It is unacceptable to smoke a natural plant that is found in nature, but a drug dealer in a white coat is free to give out synthetic drugs produced in a lab and treat the American public as guinea pigs. Life is stranger than fiction, and too many of us just take it all at face value. The way we live our lives is not natural and it prevents many of us from obtaining happiness. We should feel free to become who we are meant to be. We need to learn to consume less and create more.

Tell me in the comments how you create or what you want to create. What are your passions? Share your work with me on social media.