Paul Jarvis

Art is a powerful tool for change

I’m not sure if anyone else noticed, but the world has been a lot less than awesome lately.

Evil and hate are circling back around to mainstream, and it’s not just in one place or one country either. It’s everywhere.

While this feels new, it’s not. It’s just come round again.

There’s lots of talk about what we can do, or how we can fix it as well. Smarter (much smarter) people than I understand politics and social change better than I do. So I’ll leave that to them and give what I can to their efforts.

What I do understand though is taking action through creativity – since it’s consumed my whole life. Here are the rules that I’ve noticed:

Rule one / Art is a tool

But what does creativity have to do with fixing things, you might be thinking. Fuck drawing pictures, Paul. Let’s make the world a better place!

Art and creativity – they’re easily dismissed as just “something pretty”. But art is a powerful tool. It has a knack for humanizing emotions and vocalizing injustice in powerful ways.

Music, photography, writing, painting and other art  shine light on the bad shit that’s happening. They also create a feeling that’s absolutely needed to fuel the fight against evil, and that’s: “I am not alone in feeling that this is wrong because someone else expressed what I feel in their art”.

So make art. Share your art. Collaborate with other artists. Get political with it if that’s your jam. The world doesn’t need less art when it sucks, it needs a lot more.

Evil wants you to undervalue art and creativity because it’s so powerful.

Rule two / If you make money from your art or creativity, you can let your moral compass dictate the way you do business and with whom

“I was just doing the job I was paid to do” is the crappiest fucking excuse in the world for doing something that’s not right. If you want to make the world a better place, say no to the type of work that does the opposite.

People who attack others because of their origin, who they love or what chromosomes they’ve got, are always proven wrong. Always. We don’t need to work with or support those companies, people, groups, or governments.

Remember the Nuremberg trials? Those started by punishing the people in charge, then moved swiftly onto punishing those who were just doing their jobs when they helped the nazis.

Choose which companies you work with carefully. Choose which companies you want to empower with your expertise and talent.

The more good companies and good people that have the best creative talent on their side, the more they’ll thrive. And then we all thrive.

“Voting with your wallet” also includes how you fill yours up.

The only caveat here is that you have to do what’s “right” for you. Meaning, I have the total middle class, white-guy privilege of being able to choose who I work with and don’t work with, whereas some people do work they need to to feed their families, pay their medical bills and survive. I would never judge (nor would I want to) people who are making a choice for the greater good of their lives and loved ones. (My only authority on right or wrong is with myself and my own actions.)

Rule three / Choose where your money goes

That means not buying products that don’t align with your values (even if they look great or are convenient or… tasty).

I stopped buying my favourite vegan buttery spread because it uses palm oil. They’re scorching the earth to grow it – destroying forests, forcefully removing indigenous people from their land and threatening the Sumatran orangutan with extinction. Yes, that shit’s delicious, but not when I consider that its production involves the opposite of everything I believe to be right.

The world runs on money, so if we all start funnelling what we have into places that do good, things should get better, because those doing good will have more of it and those doing shitty things will have less. (This idea is a little simplistic, but it’s a step in the right direction.)

Rule four / Don’t wait for the government to make things better

They won’t do shit unless the majority of their constituents demand it.

Politicians are “yes-people” and have to follow what the majority of their citizens want from them. Make them say yes to better things.

Call them and bug them often if you don’t like what they’re doing. Get other people who care about what’s right to do the same. Flood their switchboards (if those even still exist?).

The movie V for Vendetta has a great quote (because it’s true), “People shouldn’t be afraid of their government. Governments should be afraid of their people.”

We can prevent elected officials from being elected again if they aren’t helping us fight the good fight.

Rule five / Actually take action

Retweeting something you agree with isn’t action. Hashtags for your cause aren’t action. Those are what the people spewing evil and hate want you to do, because they know that those things make you feel like you’re doing something but in reality amount to jack fucking shit.

If you want the world to change, you have to actually do something. You don’t have to be a fighter or take to the streets, but you have to do something tangible.

There are two ways to act: with money or with time.

If you’ve got some money to spare (even if it means a little sacrifice), then donate it to organizations that are making a difference. As time is in high demand for me, I mostly take this route. First, it’ll help them fight the good fight. Second, you’ll feel like a fucking super hero when you do it, because you’re actually doing something that makes a difference.

If you’ve got more time than money to spare, that’s great too. Volunteer at organizations who are doing good. Offer your services, for free, to help their cause with art and creativity.

The only wrong way to help is to do nothing. Whatever you can do makes a difference. Taking action can give you hope. It can give others hope too.

“I marched here in NYC and I would like to believe the marches here and worldwide were a kind of commitment ceremony – a collective agreement to reinstate the responsibility of being citizen activists.” Darla Villani

Rule six / Don’t be silent

The other side hopes you’ll shut your mouth and keep your head down for fear of being called out.

If you own/run your own business, you’re allowed to make business decisions based on what you believe in (see point 2). You’re also allowed to express why you’re making those decisions, publicly.

Yes, it’s a harder road. Yes, you may leave money on the table. But consider this: if someone doesn’t want to work with you because of something you value so strongly that you’re speaking out about it, then why the fuck would you want to work for them in the first place? You wouldn’t. Your job as a creative person is to make the world better through your creativity. Remember, you’re responsible for the work you put out into the world. Don’t work with people who don’t make the world better. Sometimes we just need to say fuck it to logic and just make our art.

Rule seven / You can’t fight evil with evil

Using hate against hate or violence against violence only makes things worse.

We have to fight with better tools, non-violent ones, not because of righteousness, but because as political scientist Erica Chenoweth figured out with data: non-violence works better to right wrongs (she has a whole TEDx talk and charts to show why).

Fascism can’t be taken down with violence. It’s tactically and logically counter-productive.

To sum things up / Our world is a reflection of the choices we’ve made

So instead of complaining about how shitty it is or retweeting some hashtag on social media, there are two simple(ish) fixes: taking action and voting with our dollars (be it Canadian or otherwise!).

We need more light in the world when things suck, not more darkness. So if you’re feeling alone or pissed off or without hope, find an artist/creative who’s doing good work, reach out and thank them for their contributions to the world. I guarantee you’ll both feel better for it.

Positive action is a good remedy for despair.

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