Sunday, July 03, 2016

Artists and Arrogance

Many people see artists as arrogant or elitist, even narcissistic. In my experience, artists have been the most welcoming and the most open people out there. Fancy a total stranger going into a meeting of doctors and reciting poetry. In an art school, I was welcomed and praised when I did just that.

I once ripped a hole in my pants while climbing a fence, then I stumbled into a poetry reading in DC. They welcomed me. Would a bunch of lawyers, or businessmen, or engineers, welcome a person with a hole in his pants? Yet artists did.

Why do the artists have this reputation, and doctors or lawyers don't? Probably because fewer people in places such as America and Australia see use in arts than they do in law or medicine, which means that sometimes artists have to blow their horn. When someone is seen as useless, he needs to do more to make a place for himself than when he is seen as useful; and doing that can come across to people as chutzpah, narcissism or self-absorption.

I've known more arrogant doctors than arrogant artists. These people tend to be of the conviction that because they've finished medical school they are better than the rest of the world. I've also seen this attitude among engineers, who tend to think that only they do important work in the world and that everyone else is lazy or insane. Many scientists, military people and businessmen also think that they are the most important people in the world. I have known no artist who thought that art was the only important thing in the world, but I have known many engineers, military people and businessmen who thought that their profession was the most important profession in the world.

So no, artists are not more arrogant than an average person. Certainly there are arrogant artists; but artists come nowhere close to owning arrogance. Some artists are arrogant, some are not. Same with everyone else. It is time to stop equating creativity with arrogance and allow it to do its job of making the world a more beautiful place.


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