Forty years of sinisterly-manipulated recessions have thrown wave upon wave of not-very-talented “singers”, “poets”, “novelists”, “filmmakers”, Marxist academics and performance artists against us, where we would otherwise have had an extra few tens of thousands of lawyers instead… had “The West’s” economy remained as munificent as it was in the late 1950s. Middle and Upper Middle Class families bereft of the wherewithal and connections to ferry their kids into cushy, self-sustaining professions can now only afford the second-rate luxury of supporting their baffled offspring through and after college. After college is when the crisis comes to a head and the sons and daughters of the fallen classes (marooned between the aristocracy and the petite bourgeoisie) cope with the shock of dwindling historical privilege by reverting to a childhood of disposable self-expression. Damaging us all. Certainly hurting the culture.
We can’t blame these economic refugees any more than we can blame the even more desperate, less nicely-dressed refugees who flee NATO-pulverized countries for “The West.” Yet we would have to be angels to resent them not. We don’t want them here… “Here” being the Fine Arts, Literature, Cinema, et al. Can’t they “go back” to where they “belong”? No, they can’t. We’re stuck with them and we (and/or our Taste) will be displaced by their integration. Refugees from Libya or Somalia can only marvel at the self-assured rapacity with which the offspring of the fallen classes have overrun the over-burdened host-country of the The Arts/ Lit since NAFTA (and its analogs) kicked in .
A 19th or early 20th century son or daughter of the bourgeoisie who turned his/her back on the responsibilities of her/his class in order to paint, or write poetry or novels, was staking a lonely claim on the cliff of individuality, or in sacred homage to The Muse, or against Materialism and the work could be considered brave in that light. A 21st century son or daughter of the bourgeoisie, who puts on the beret, or stocks up on Moleskines, today, is merely joining a herd so huge that it deserves its own flag (a flag with the word “flag” emblazoned across it).
What else are they going to do? They cannot (as their ancestors did) fantasize about building discreetly corrupt shipping empires, or overseeing genocidal trade wars or designing skyline-jarring skyscrapers: all they can do is “write”, “dance”, “paint”, take photographs, design jewelry, simulate techno-socialist manifestos or make short films… none of which they can do particularly well. In their hands, of course, the Arts are not meant to be done well. In their callusless hands, The Arts are meant to attract attention… while killing time: ours and theirs. What else can they do but flood the cultural landscape with the tepid silt of slapdash overproduction?
The ranks of these should-have-been-Law-students are now so multi-generationally bloated that they form their own substantial target-demographic, generating their own validation (that is: the audience for “poetry” consists chiefly of “poets”; the market for “novels” consists chiefly of “novelists”; the only difference, in Art, being that “Artists” are still supported, when they are at all, as an international money-laundering scheme). The phenomenon is now not only self-sustaining but Aesthetic-distorting: the entry-level, narcisso-confessional mode of “writing” (focusing on the bourgeois obsessions of status, school and family) has become the accepted standard. “Novels” should come in padded pink covers, accessorized with little padlocks, these days. “Writers” who grew up getting gold stars for “making in the potty” are now getting gold stars for “writing”… and the prize-winning artifact hasn’t changed much between these two sentimental seasons (separated by a long adolescence) of accomplishment.
Extending the tantrum-aura of the Consumerist Bully, which left these offspring of the fallen classes confident that their parents were paying too much tuition for their schools to give them unsatisfying grades, these offspring, by forming their own largest audience, have eliminated Talent and Technical Ability as metrics by which their works can be judged. Can they be judged at all?
As more of these should-have-been-Law-students dabble not only in “Writing” and “Art” but also in journalism, “criticism” and the business of publishing, itself, the problem will metastasize until it finally kills off and quarantines all but the most cloistered reaches of High Culture. At which point the mass movement of Bourgeois Cultural Refugees (the should-have-been-Law-students) must inevitably move on to ruin Porn…
… unless the economy returns to 1950s levels of magnanimity in order to save it.