Could we live our lives without creativity? Yes, for sure. But it would be dull and boring life.
Creativity is central to the management of our individual lives, but in modern times few people are able to access this as a resource. Alan Watts writes in The Wisdom of Insecurity:
“We have allowed brain thinking to develop and dominate our lives out of all proportion to ‘instinctual wisdom’; which we are allowing to slump into atrophy. As a consequence we are at war within ourselves – the brain desiring things which the body does not want, and the body desiring things that the brain will not allow; the brain giving directions which the body will nor follow, and the body giving impulses which the brain cannot understand…So long as the mind is split, life is perpetual conflict, tension, frustration and disillusion. Suffering is piled on suffering, fear on fear, and boredom on boredom.
The more the fly struggles to get out of the honey, the faster he is stuck. Under the pressure of so much strain and futility, it is no wonder that men [sic] seek release in violence and sensationalism, and the reckless exploitation of their bodies, their appetites, the material world and their fellow men”.
Globally at the moment there are many problems facing mankind. Diminishing natural resources and increasing populations mean that we are in a spiral of entropy. Our investment systems have been using the capital assets of our planet as income since the beginning of the industrial revolution. We are putting little energy back into our planet.
Third world populations look enviously toward the apparent richness of first world countries, and wish to emulate the consumerism that appears to make its citizens so happy. Our media propagate the illusion that we can buy our way out of environmental destruction, and that retail therapy is the panacea to all dis-ease and unhappiness.
Although the nature of work is changing there is still more slavery in the world than there has ever been. Mass production is shifting generally to third world countries where cheap labour and the environment are more easily exploited. Tiny wage slavery is still cheaper than investing in up to the minute technology for many third world industries. New technology steadily gobbles up jobs. Service, leisure and electronic industries have replaced much of our manufacturing losses to the third world but now even these (often part-time jobs) are being ‘outsourced’.
Certainly creativity is needed at individual and governmental levels to produce new opportunities in employment, information, education and leisure activities. Many of the manufacturing ‘jobs for life’ we have lost to cheaper workers have been replaced by part-time, poorly paid and insecure alternatives.
The development of new forms of employment and the ability to cope with accelerating change needs creativity at all levels. Pressures towards conformity stem from, “a demand that education should primarily the way to enhanced social status and a materially safe way of life” (T.P. Jones in Creative Learning in Perspective).
Aspects of specialisation (the mystification of knowledge into ‘closed shops’) and a centralised government system shift responsibility away from people. Many factors make it harder for an individual to act on their own behalf, on their own belief and to face uncertainty and possibly ridicule by doing something non-conformist. In education individual behaviour is still often construed as insulting and rebellious. Creativity, an Open University guide for teachers states:
“One of the problems with teaching for creativity in schools is that many of the personality characteristics and kind of behaviour associated with them are unpleasing to the teacher. Independent children who will not accept what the teacher says, simply because they say it, can be disliked by the teacher, particularly when such behaviour occurs on a heavy day or with a tired teacher”.
The potential for divergent, self assertive thought and action is diminished in many sectors of society. People who ‘rock the boat’ and question authority are too often seen as a threat to established patterns. This has led to a breakdown in sensitivity to needs, the generation of ideas and the production of creative solutions. Financial reward and security are conditioned to be the primary motivations for work and life.
With the coming of automation and factories seeking the cheapest labour in third world countries, the emphasis in a successful economy needs to be more biased towards the production of ideas that create meaningful and sustainable employment. The education systems we have are slow to realise this and much of the training they provide is still geared towards values established during the Industrial Revolution.
The didactic education system we have is still partly based on training small boys for the priesthood, five-hundred years ago. The development of creative potential in individuals is an issue that the system simply does not know how to handle. Presently we are between two worlds, leaving generations high and dry concerning meaningful work and the generation of identity.
“Whilst assimilating that which he has inherited, and adapting himself to it, man [sic] must also preserve his essential individuality. Education must assist the society which nurtures it by inspiring each generation to add to the culture it has received by creating something new; there should be no passive acceptance of what has been handed down from the past. Serious consideration must therefore be given to the extent that non-conforming ideas can be considered as an asset for life in a conforming society”.
(T.Powell Jones. Creative Learning in Perspective)