Tag Archives: inherent worth

Meritocracy: The Way The West is Run & Happiness Won.

So, it’s 4:48am and, per the usual, I’ve barely caught a wink of shut eye.  Slept about the usual 3 1/2 hours.  I know I have to buy sleepy time tea or some other herbal blah blah to help me slumber, but to tell you the truth — I LOVE working on my art stuff from 10 pm – 7am.  The only problem is that I have to stay awake from 7am – 10pm, as well.  If it were up to me, I’d do that every night and then sleep during the day, but alas I’m a mere worker among workers and must live in the light of day if I’m to afford living at all.

I’ve been spending these last few nights contacting awesome blog reviewers from the 50 page list I compiled and pitching them my book for review.  It’s actually been a blast!  I’m 5 pages away from being done.  There’s nothing quite like the feeling you get when you’re about to accomplish a goal that will move your artwork deeper into the consciousness of the wide open world.

My artwork (writings & films) are like my children and I only want what’s best for them.  I want them to be whole, healthy, and available for experience.  Yes, it feels great to create art with integrity that I love, that I’m proud of, and make it available to other people who may be moved, provoked, and comforted by it.

As my granuelita always says (in Spanish), “You want to stir someone’s mind, touch their heart.  That’s the pipeline.”

Everyday I kill Tha’ Brass Ring-chase within me — a.k.a. my Ego’s search for validation — a little more, which opens me up to the endless, priceless, fitting possibilities for my works of art.

What I mean by that is: I’m no longer peddling my art toward the general public or the elitist 1%, but toward ITS people … my people.  Queers, Latino-Americans, Artists, Feminists, Eccentrics.  Hey, if others like random republican football players feel for The Voting Booth After Dark: Despicable, Embarrassing, Repulsive (my book) too, well that’s an added bonus.  As Seth Godin states in one of the latest posts from his phenomenal marketing blog:

When was the last time you bought a tie?

“When was the last time you bought a tie?

My guess is not lately.

When you first got a fancy job, you had a tie shortage, and thus attention was paid to ties. You bought “enough for now.” Then you solved the tie problem and moved on.

When you first bought an iPhone, you had an app shortage, so attention was paid to apps. You bought “enough for now.” Then you moved on.

Music might be an exception (buying a new stereo doesn’t often lead to a new music binge). But in general, some external event occurs that creates a fissure, an opportunity, a problem. We search, we buy, we’re done.

The challenge, then, is to develop products that match what the market is looking for, and more important, to overtly and aggressively seek out the people in that situation and ignore the rest. Which is precisely what most marketers large and small are not doing right now.

RELATED: Many marketers I know have a great idea for a product or service that will target a segment of the market that doesn’t know to look for the great idea. For example, you might want to sell a better, easier to use hatchet for women. The problem is that women, long accustomed to never being able to find an axe that they’re comfortable with, have given up looking, perhaps several generations ago.

Alerting a market segment that isn’t looking is a thousand times harder than activating a segment that just can’t wait for your arrival. Since it’s your choice, since the segment is up to you, why not pick one that is itching for you to show up?”

I used to believed that to be truly successful the select 1% — those at “The Top” — had to approve of what I was peddling and be a part of it.  They always made it sound as if promoting my artwork to the niche, minority communities — those the art in actuality represented — was a second grade choice, “settling for scraps.”

The more I take my Ego out of the equation of my career, however, the more I realize what a hilarious falsity “The Top 1%” and their definition of worth/worthwhile proves to be!  I was hustled!

Who cares about Sundance this, Golden Globes that, Grant Recipient of blah, Pulitzer Prize Winner at Age 3, being Anointed “Enough.”  It’s like when People Magazine comes out with their Top 100 lists: 100 best actresses of all time, 100 most beautiful, etc.  These subjective check off lists are perpetuated as objective truths …

In Western society, even in the freest of democracies, citizens become imprisoned by the by-laws of Meritocracy.

In other words, we become slaves to the praise and acceptance of those at “The Top,” often sacrificing love for our nuanced identities, our unaccepted “flaws,” in the process.  Western society is built upon that culture of COMPARISON, where people constantly have to prove their inherent worth by showing it’s greater than someone else’s through merit.  Meritocracy lies at the core of our Capitalistic Society.  Exemplified by our tendency to quantify our personal value in numbers.  For instance, every bloody effing activity we partake in has to have an Award Show and a 1st place, 2nd place, and 3rd place winner.  I mean we even have dog-strutting competitions a.k.a. Dog Shows! Gah!

Consequently, if you’re #1 then I’m automatically #2 or #3 or #30 or #100, which means I’m less than you as a person, artist, success — both numerically and symbolically speaking.  We spend our entire lives trying to prove to society, to our family, to ourselves that we’re #1 and therefore “enough.”

… Even the most liberal of us, equalists at heart — people that believe the worth of everyone is inherently equal.  We who at our core believe there’s no difference between the value of the company janitor and the company CEO because we understand that the only real difference between the two is how much we personally like them. Yes, even we — who comprehend that bureaucracies are founded upon a completely subjective, biased ratings system — become shackled by the ominous system of cultural governance: Meritocracy. According to Merriam-Webster’s online free dictionary Meritocracy is defined as:

1: a system in which the talented are chosen and moved ahead on the basis of their achievement.”

And by Wikipedia as:
Meritocracy, in the first, most administrative sense, is a system of government or other administration (such as business administration) wherein appointments are made and responsibilities assigned to individuals based upon their “merits”, namely intelligence, credentials and education,[1] determined through evaluations or examinations.
Meritocracy itself is not a form of government, but rather an ideology. Meritocracy itself is frequently confused as being a type of government, rather than correctly as a methodology or factor used in or for, the appointment of individuals to government. Individuals appointed to a meritocracy are judged based upon certain merits which could range from intelligence to morality to general aptitude to specific knowledge. A criticism of this methodology is that [3] “merit” itself is a highly subjective term, potentially lacking in clarity and therefore open to misuse.
Young’s fictional narrator describes that on one hand, the “stolid mass” or majority is not the greatest contributor to society, but the “creative minority” or “restless elite”.[12] Yet on the other hand, describes that there are casualties of progress whose influence is underestimated and that from such stolid adherence to natural science and intelligence, arises arrogance and complacency.[12] The casualties of this progress described by the phrase “Every selection of one is a rejection of many”.[12]
What I’m trying to get at is that I have blindly suffered from internalized meritocracy since I was 4-years old.  You get the “A” and it means THIS 🙂 about you, you get the “B” and it means THIS :/ about you, you get a “C” and it means THIS 😦 about you — about your “enoughness.”
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I attribute this self-destructive Darwinian attitude to Western culture’s conception of “worth.”  The Western mind often functions under the belief that “worth” isn’t a quality human beings are born with, but EARN over their lifetime through actions considered “worthwhile.”  Individual worth is assessed by a system of qualification founded upon the idea that actions are either “meritorious” or “nothing special.” I can’t speak much on the Eastern way of quantifying individual worth as I didn’t grow up in it, but I know this to be my experience with The West’s definition of life’s winners and losers.  Many people in this society choose, on a daily basis, to be “successful” over “happy,” if it means they’ll be considered worth more by society.  Somehow, success and happiness haven’t become synonymous the way I once thought they would.  I was trained to believe they would by school, parents, religion, and television.
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NPR recently did a fascinating report on “The Secrets of Happiness” in which anthropological researcher Dan Buettner concludes that the happiest communities in the world exist in San Luis Obispo and Denmark because the people there chose careers that moved them a.k.a. made them happy as opposed to raked in the most $$$ …
“Finally, Buettner says that he has learned that people are happiest when they spend their time and money on experiences, as opposed to objects. He advises taking up an interest in sports or the arts, which will provide longer-term satisfaction than any one purchase. ‘The luster of an experience can actually go up with time,’ he says. ‘So learning to play a new instrument, learning a new language — those sorts of things will pay dividends for years or decades to come.’

When asked about his own happiness level, Buettner admitted that he is incredibly content. After all, he has spent his life in the hot pursuit of adventure and helping others discover how to live longer and smile more. ‘I have always followed exactly what interests me and never really worried about the money,’ he says. ‘And when you think about it, to be able to travel the world … on an expense account and do exactly what interests you, it just doesn’t get much better than that.’ “

Hear the fascinating 6 minute podcast here.

I’ve realized in recent days how truly happy I am for the advent of the internet.  The internet has made it so that the everyday woman/man can realize how valuable their nuanced attributes are.  The internet has created an open space where “the little people” can share their bigness with each other without the direct meddling, filtering, and manipulation of elitist opinion.
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We’re realizing how much we all have to teach and offer each other, a lot more than the top 1% would like to have us to believe.  We no longer have to limit ourselves to the criteria devised by the TOP 1% of the population — the meritorious “chosen ones” of our communities — about what and who is valuable, and what and who is not.
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As I stated in the blog post before this one, I recently began reading Conversations before the end of time, which I LOVE.  I’ve compiled a couple of passages from the book that best sum up how Western Meritocracy is crumbling (within our communities anyway, our foreign affairs are a totally other discussion).  These passages, I believe, encapsulate the exciting changes taking place in the macrocosm of the Western World through the microscope of the art world.
“In my conversation with Barbara Kirshtenblatt-Gimblet, she defines meritocracy as a form of gate-keeping: a way to keep some people in and some people out.
the move away from autonomous art — art that is cut off from any social or communal definitions — is happening whether we like it or not, and is bringing about a very different relationship between artists and the public sphere.

Rejecting the isolationist tendencies of modernism, Richard Shusterman questions the whole enterprise of defining art as a specialized category of objects or activities separate from their influential connection with real life.

Aesthetics can no longer protect itself with a thaumaturgy of ‘formal’ and ‘purist’ values, or a notion of art isolated unto itself, separate from the experience of other things.” 



Making A Movie Day 4 — Francis Ford Coppola & My Whole Life Inventory

Alright, I’m taking a breath from breaking down my whole life’s written inventory (80 pages, 9 point font, for ages 0 – 26 written over the last year and a half) into specific resentments built up over those periods of time.  I am to read this to my group therapy mentor tomorrow from 2pm until we finish.

I probably won’t finish this assignment until right before we meet tomorrow at 2pm. Gah!!!  So, I’ll just discuss briefly with you some discourses swimming through mi brains.

Yesterday, I read an interview with Francis Ford Coppola that Baby Dewds e-mailed my way a week ago.

Francis Ford Copolla is, in my opinion and every award ceremony’s on earth, a creative mastermind.  His films make up an important part of why my favorite Cinematic Period takes place during the 60’s & 70’s — The New Hollywood Era. The New Hollywood Era — When the studio system fell to its knees and turned all its creative power over to inventive daring outsiders, like Coppola, for them to craft artistic quality films, which reflected society back to itself — in order to close the growing divide between audience and box office.

Yes, Francis Ford Coppola’s direction of the first 2 Godfathers, Apocalypse Now, The Outsiders, Peggy Sue Got Married, Dracula, Jack and all the AMAZING films he produced and executive produced plus the exposing documentary Hearts of Darkness — makes him THA’ Jam.

When I read this article, I realized, yet again, how much I loved and respected Coppola as a filmmaker/artist and family man.  Who wouldn’t with quotes like these:

I just finished a film a few days ago, and I came home and said I learned so much today. So if I can come home from working on a little film after doing it for 45 years and say, “I learned so much today,” that shows something about the cinema.

…the cinema is very young. It’s only 100 years old…The cinema language happened by experimentation – by people not knowing what to do. But unfortunately, after 15-20 years, it became a commercial industry. People made money in the cinema, and then they began to say to the pioneers, “Don’t experiment. We want to make money. We don’t want to take chances.” An essential element of any art is risk. If you don’t take a risk then how are you going to make something really beautiful, that hasn’t been seen before? I always like to say that cinema without risk is like having no sex and expecting to have a baby. You have to take a risk.

I was always a good adventurer. I was never afraid of risks. I always had a good philosophy about risks. The only risk is to waste your life, so that when you die, you say, “Oh, I wish I had done this.” I did everything I wanted to do, and I continue to.

When you make a movie, always try to discover what the theme of the movie is in one or two words. Every time I made a film, I always knew what I thought the theme was, the core, in one word. In “The Godfather,” it was succession. In “The Conversation,” it was privacy. In “Apocalypse,” it was morality.

Always make your work be personal. And, you never have to lie. If you lie, you will only trip yourself up. You will always get caught in a lie. It is very important for an artist not to lie, and most important is not to lie to yourself. There are some questions that are inappropriate to ask, and rather than lie, I will not answer them because it’s not a question I accept. So many times we are asked things in our work or in life that you want to lie, and all you have to do is say, “No, that is an improper question.”

So when you get into a habit of not lying when you are writing, directing, or making a film, that will carry your personal conviction into your work. And, in a society where you say you are very free but you’re not entirely free, you have to try. There is something we know that’s connected with beauty and truth. There is something ancient. We know that art is about beauty, and therefore it has to be about truth.

Ahhh, yes!  Yet again, he couples his refreshing ideas into truly invigorating statements.

Still …

When you read his quote below — you realize how far removed financially successful people become, no matter how much they want to stop the distancing, from the realities of every day people. Upon reading it, I quickly remembered why I’ve never considered anyone “my hero” and I could never worship a person as a god — because their human flaws would break my spirit long before their attributes helped it grow. Read on:

How does an aspiring artist bridge the gap between distribution and commerce?
We have to be very clever about those things. You have to remember that it’s only a few hundred years, if that much, that artists are working with money. Artists never got money. Artists had a patron, either the leader of the state or the duke of Weimar or somewhere, or the church, the pope. Or they had another job. I have another job. I make films. No one tells me what to do. But I make the money in the wine industry. You work another job and get up at five in the morning and write your script.

This idea of Metallica or some rock n’ roll singer being rich, that’s not necessarily going to happen anymore. Because, as we enter into a new age, maybe art will be free. Maybe the students are right. They should be able to download music and movies. I’m going to be shot for saying this. But who said art has to cost money? And therefore, who says artists have to make money?

In the old days, 200 years ago, if you were a composer, the only way you could make money was to travel with the orchestra and be the conductor, because then you’d be paid as a musician. There was no recording. There were no record royalties. So I would say, “Try to disconnect the idea of cinema with the idea of making a living and money.” Because there are ways around it.

It’s easy to say art should be free and an artist shouldn’t get paid for their work when you’re making royalties off of 2 Godfathers and countless box office hits, and you, your daughter, and your father all have Academy Awards.  Oh, and your nephew is $40 million per movie Nick Cage.

Sure, wine money is good, but wine money was started with films-are doing-AWESOME money.  All I mean to say is that when rich — and I mean RICH — and famous — and I mean FAMOUS — artists tell the poor artist in South Gate borderline Huntington park to spend the rest of their lives in the financial trenches in order to maintain artistic integrity that poor artist exhales a deep, sad, long sigh and accepts that Francis Ford Coppola is just a regular human being like me and you … No one has ALL the answers.

That being said, I completely agree with him on creative ethics — stay true to the truth of your vision, especially the risky bits big corporate investors often want to smother, and only take into consideration the opinions of collaborators who have the betterment of the project in mind such as actors, writers, etc.

But giving your work away for free/letting people steal it off the internet while accepting that as artists we’re just bad with money so there’s no point in fighting it?! … Hmmm. Not on board with that advice, Papa Coppola.

I may do that now, but not forever!  I am joining a money-management/business betterment group next week.  Dear Baby Jesus in Da Manger, please teach me how to value my artistic efforts and turn them into lucrative sums that I can invest into more artistic endeavors!  No more CASH 4 GOLD Sundays! ;p

Bankers, Politicians, and Wine Connoisseurs should NOT be the only members of society with mula to spare a.k.a invest.  In fact, I think that scenario extremely dangerous to the cultures they form part of.  Artists — those that reflect society back to itself with truth, heart, risk, and love — should be able to sustain themselves and invest in future projects a.k.a roll in the doe too.  The greater the artistic integrity, the higher the paycheck, I say!

Although in theory Coppola doesn’t agree with this mindset, in reality he sure does. The Coppolas — Francis, Sofia, Cage, Talia, & Jason Schwartzman (to name a few) are rolling in the royalty $$$$.

Hey, there’s nothing wrong with it!  I’m just saying — Artists should be paid for their work and art should be reasonably priced:  Free sometimes, affordable mostly always, and high cost only in business dealings.

You’re making royalties off my hard work?  I deserve some too.  Let’s negotiate.

While digesting what Papa Coppola has said, I realize that with everyone’s advice in life, you take what works for you and leave aside what your gut reaction/spirit doesn’t jive with …

Yes, even Francis Ford Coppola’s words of wisdom.

The perk of being raised by a social worker mama is that you’ve been brainwashed for years to truly fundamentally believe that — regardless of financial and social status — every human being is inherently equal.  Thus: Rich or no rich, famous or no famous, creative genius or no creative genius, if I agree with you I agree with you and if I don’t I don’t.

And just because I don’t agree with you doesn’t mean I don’t think you still rock my socks off because you do.  For example, I’m barefoot right now because Francis Ford Coppola’s interview, including the comments I disagreed with, rocked my socks off. It made me “grapple.”  Grappling is good.  Grappling is growth.

Alright, back to the inner-work a.k.a finishing the resentment inventory for mentor sesh tomorrow!  Gah!!! ;p


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