in Culture

Who are the new rebels? (Managers?)

I live in one of the art centers of the world — the West Chelsea section of Manhattan — and my opinion of today’s art can be summed up in one word: boring. Rarely do contemporary artists teach us anything, or even make us feel anything. The best art only manages commentary, as with Banksy’s mockery of Israel’s separation wall.

I’m currently reading Rollo May’s 1975 classic The Courage to Create. As he explores the dangerous work artists created through the ages, I’m reminded of my research into Music and Censorship and this quote from George Bernard Shaw…

Whatever is contrary to established manners and customs is immoral… every advance in thought and conduct is by definition immoral until it has converted the majority. For this reason it is of the most enormous importance that immorality should be protected jealously against the attacks of those who have no standard except the standard of custom, and who regard any attack on custom – that is, on morals – as an attack on society, on religion, and on virtue.

It seems almost quaint to worry about music — or any artistic — censorship now. Artists no longer force us to question our customs. Does anyone else? In the West we no longer share the meta-narrative of the Bible, so religious plurality is old news. Science so routinely announces breakthroughs we’re rarely shocked.

Our shared customs now center around work. Could there be some action so radical it forced us all to reconsider our working lives? It’s described every month in the pages of Fast Company and Worthwhile, but what if there was a figurehead, an event, or a series of events that led to a tipping point to make these magazine proclomations reality? What if all the middle managers at GE demanded different conditions the way unions do? What if a visionary CEO committed to a completely transparent corporation with activist board members demanding triple bottom line performance? Could changes like this send employees home shocked into a different understanding of how to lead their lives? What sort of conditions could make this possible?