In a previous Culturico article, entitled “Deconstructing hierarchical societies for a happier life”, I criticized the pyramidal structure of modern societies, considering it a major barrier to cultivating personal talents. In this commentary article though, I aim at challenging that idea, describing why it would be undesirable for a healthy society if everybody would work in a profession they love.
In 2019, I wrote an article in which I criticized the hierarchical organization of modern societies, especially when related to the labour market. Anytime a company needs new personnel, a job advertisement is placed, and candidates apply for a position that requires a precise and unchanging skill set; once they are hired, employees’ skills and natural talents have to fit into pre-established stereotyped categories. Thus, this societal model seems to push towards the standardization of individual tasks and duties. I concluded my reflection by proposing that the only solution would be a sociological revolution that promotes diversification over massification.
Although I still truly believe in this statement, at least ideologically, I also came to realize that it is just a utopian ideal.
Let us assume you are a novelist. Since you are a novelist, we can also assume that you have perfectly managed to transform your talent into your profession. A novelist is just an example of a person that, for certain, is doing a profession that they love; a profession that does not fit into pre-established categories, and is not offered by the labour market. The same applies to other jobs, which are more like personal vocations, such as being an artist, or a musician. No one will ask you to be a painter, nor a violinist.
You as a novelist, basically fooled the system. You brilliantly succeeded in evading homologation and alienation. You did not force yourself to fit into a hierarchical context. You do not belong to any level of the pyramid. You are free.
Is that true? Of course, not.
As a novelist, you need something to write. Some paper, a pen perhaps? In recent times, you might even want to use your handy laptop. But you do not have the time nor the expertise to provide yourself with them. You lack the knowledge to identify, extract and make use of the raw materials you would need to create your pen and paper, or your personal computer. And even if you did, you would have no time left to be a novelist.
As you inevitably desire to write more and more, you will eventually end up buying pens and paper several times in a short period of time, and most likely a few computers in your entire lifetime. Now, multiply this by the number of new writers populating the planet, the ones that popped up in response to the revolutionary campaign for diversification adopted by the society, and you would have no more paper and pens, no more electronic devices. The people who used to provide your means of writing are now rediscovering themselves as poets, journalists and successful bloggers.
Following the logic of this little mental experiment, it becomes clear that a world only made of highly specialized, creative or talented people will never arise. Humanity will always need someone who harvests the wood and makes the paper. The same goes for other grunt work: pushing the button, collecting the waste, wiping the school floor, scrubbing public toilets, and so on.
People who manage to cultivate their unique talents are a few, because it is a privilege to step out of the hierarchy. And once escaped, the privileged few still need the hierarchy nurturing them.
If we think about it, there is a dramatic implication in what we have just described. Culturally, we tend to think that students at school should be diligent and passionate about their studies. We complain when they aren’t. As parents we want our children to cultivate their natural inclinations, because this is the road to happiness, right?
But what would happen if all of them tenaciously aspired to something great, to something new, to something different? Societies would collapse. Unless humanity would manage to create a technological self-sustainable reality – which at present is nothing but a science-fiction fantasy – in which individuals would be free to use their time as they want, a civilization totally based on creative people will be unproductive by definition.
Here comes the cruelty of the paradox.
Although, as individuals, it is a genuine feeling and perhaps a moral duty to hope for the best for our children, as a society, we should logically hope that most of them will fail, will not persist, will give up and finally, will find their place in the social pyramid. Preferably, somewhere at the bottom.
Thus, it should come as no surprise if an artist’s most sincere acknowledgement to society would be something like: “I thank everyone who gave up on their ambitions, because they made mine possible.”