Scene4 Magazine — Nathan Thomas
Nathan Thomas

"Is this the new normal?"

Here's a question asked fewer and fewer times these days.  In its place we have the affirmative statement, "This is the new normal."  Meaning that we have entered into a construct which largely resembles our current situation.

I'm continually troubled when a well-paid media type asserts that workers need to adjust their earnings expectations downward.  We need to re-set the economy, we're told.  Why don't we hear about the folks at the top also needing to re-adjust managerial earnings expectations downward?   Where is the downward pressure on executive pay? What kind of talent is necessary to gut an economy?

Folks, take a look at ancient Greece.  Really.  One of the reasons for Solon's laws was the problem of creditors having too much power over everyday people.  People were unable to pay their "mortgages."  There was major social unrest.

I've been thinking of this quote from Eugene O'Neill:

    . . .the United States, instead of being the most successful country in the world, is the greatest failure.  It's the greatest failure because it was given everything, more than any other country. . . Its main idea is that everlasting game of trying to possess your own soul by the possession of something outside of it. . . .We are the clearest example of 'For what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his  own soul?'

This has led me to two thoughts.  What separates the artistic actor from the mediocrity is how each actor carries out the tasks set by a play.  For example, every actor who has played Hamlet has had the same (mostly) set of challenges.  The artist searches for artistic means of dealing with those challenges and creatively carrying out the tasks of the character. 

Or put it another way.  Your character has to keep another character from making an exit.  That's the task.  What creative means can you bring to completing that task?

The irritation that I experience is that particularly one political party seems enthralled by only one notion – give more money to the truly rich, and everything will get better.  Being a fairly bright and clever man, I fail to see how this strategy really helps the country – particularly since that's been tried at least for the last decade with not much success for the nation as a whole.  Consequently, I don't have much respect for the folks who continue to bleat the same formulas over and over again without much more feeling than any other digitized recording.

The other thought is that as artists we're needed more than ever.

Mostly America said little and generally supported the quiet destruction of the family farm.  One advantage is that food is cheaper and more plentiful.  One disadvantage is that the plentiful food (with its reliance on processed corn product in various forms) is making us sicker.  In terms of the economy, we gain cheaper food through the diminishing of the small-time operator.  Now the same thing is happening in other businesses as well. What direction are we headed toward in terms of saving the medium-sized towns of America?  What are we doing for people who actually work or want to work for a living?

Perhaps it might make more sense to strike a different set of bargains as part of our "social contract."  Instead of the insistent drive toward bigger companies making cheaper crap – we move toward a balance of slightly more expensive crap if it saves our people from in desolate towns with no work and no real place to go.  Maybe we can allow companies to ease a little on the maximization of profits to return a little to the community in which it can build success.

What can artists do?  Continue on with the mission of bringing humans together and humanizing them. Challenge those people.  Can you work with the business leaders in your community to help them realize that there are many ways to train upper management? And one of those ways can be the creativity sparking activity of seeing a story acted live.  How do we choose the stories we tell?  The prophetic voice doesn't always have to be a scolding voice. The truths we tell can be said in a still, small voice and be effective in communication. 

And the savings will accrue to all of our benefit. 

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©2011 Nathan Thomas
©2011 Publication Scene4 Magazine

Nathan Thomas has earned his living as a touring actor, Artistic Director, director, stage manager, designer, composer, and pianist. He has a Ph.D. in theatre, is a member of the theatre faculty at Alvernia College and a Senior Writer and Columnist for Scene4.
For more of his commentary and articles, check the Archives


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July 2011

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Scene4 Magazine - Arts and Media

July 2011

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