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Can You Monopolize Creativity? - Op-Ed Piece


 

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Today we pose a question about the creative process concerning business practices.

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Can You Monopolize Creativity? - Op-Ed Piece


Monopolies are one of the bad parts of the capitalist society that we currently live in. If you have enough wits, time, and resources, you can theoretically take over a whole industry, and no one can really stop you. You can buy out your competitors. You can make yourself the only game in town, and the consumer is left to buy whatever you sell, because well, where else are they to go?

I'm surprised that the Marxists, in their goal for a revolution that bears the man's name, haven't taken monopolies as an example of why the big bad capitalist country is so evil for us all. Then again, that would require them to understand what hard work is, and they know nothing of that. If you have ever worked a hard day in your life, you know that you don't really care about the person who worked beside you as well since you are exhausted, and you certainly don't want the loser who didn't do a damn thing to make as much as you. (assuming that the person didn't work much) If you both worked your asses off, then you'll both wonder why you aren't getting paid more? Say what you will of men like Rockefeller and Carnegie, and even the modern robber barons like Bezos and Musk; those bastards work their ass off. As they say, "there is no rest for the wicked."

Giving business owners credit for working hard is like giving conquerors credit for being ambitious; you must really like the guy if that is how you spin it. I'm looking at you, Alexander The Great. I like the guy, but even I can admit that at a certain point, you gotta look at him and say, "The guy is a loony." The only thing that stopped him from taking over the known world was his premature death. If it wasn't for that, he would have marched his troops across India and even further. I think the same for business owners, or entrepreneurs as they like to call themselves, when they tell me about their work ethic and lifestyle choices that got them to be rich, "This guy is a loony." He overworks. He is completely obsessive over his job. He is borderline illegal in his methods, and that is the same guy telling you about the keys to a happy life. Here is a cheat sheet for you; if you care, if you want to find happiness in this life, find balance among your mind, body, and soul. That should help you. Working yourself to the bone and listening to billionaires on how they accomplished their dreams probably isn't the best way.


Too much of anything is bad for you. If you work too hard, you threaten to hurt those around you and yourself, negating any gain you wish to have from the hardship you went through. If you don't work at all, you threaten not to go anywhere in life. You must learn how to balance the two. I'm convinced that these billionaires don't know what balance is, and if they do know what it is, they will change the meaning of the word and then charge me a monthly fee to read it. Don't even get me going about their mind, body, and soul, or lack thereof.


Ever since America got some wealth after the Industrial Revolution, there have been problems with monopolies. It is a vicious cycle. The business owner makes the most money. They then buy out their competition and then buy out any adversaries who oppose their growing empire. This corruption just makes them more money until we are only allowed to buy oil from one company or steel from one provider. Unfortunately, as long as there is money to be made, people will use it to take advantage of others. That is human nature and not changing anytime soon. This is a tradeoff we all accept because of, you know, freedom.


Now let's shift our attention to something, not about money or even control; creativity. The act of painting a beautiful portrait, or composing a great line, or singing a hypnotic song; these acts of creativity are at the very core of who we are as people. It seems that humans aren't only interested in just living; we have to draw a cartoon, or write a poem, or sing a melody about our time here.


Most would say that this process is solely on the individual. The painter is alone sketching the face of his goddess. The poet is at his desk writing the verse. The singer is in the studio belting out a few notes. We give the person doing the work the credit for our appreciation (or lack thereof) of the art. Even if the business side helps the person, we, as fans of art, don't like to view that side. The artist was not business savvy but merely a hard worker. By viewing the artist as a clever business person, we feel we are taking away from their art.

That is the thing about business and creativity; they need each other, but they hate each other. They are the brothers of the family who only share their names. Yet, their hobbies, goals, wives, and lives are so different that it would be reasonable to question if they came from the same mother.

I have heard many times of artists in different fields designating a worker to handle their money cause a rule about being an artist is that you don't spend time with money, that ruins your creativity. I don't know how that works, though. It's not like the painter is always painting, so what is the big deal if he takes some time to focus on his finances? Anyway, to be a true artist, you must not understand money.

This difference in thought has led to many arguments of harsh words, fights of physical altercation, and hatred of each other from the artist and the businessman who needs to work together. The artist is going with how they feel and letting the art speak to them. The businessman is crunching the numbers and calculating how to make a buck.

The monopolies I mentioned were of products, of actual things that you would spend money on.


But I have never heard of someone trying to monopolize the very act of creativity. But, unfortunately, I believe Disney, or more specifically Marvel, is doing this with their movies.


This is a new kind of monopoly, in that it is not your father's monopoly. However, this subtle monopoly has slowly taken away any creative person's power in their art.


What are they actually doing? They are making their own universe of the Marvel world and making all involved in the film industry want to be a part of it. The top actors are now in the movies, the top screenwriters, the top directors. If you are top talent in the film industry and you haven't been invited to the Marvel takeover, you will be treated as if you missed something. Like you are the idiot, not that the industry is consuming every artist in their sight. It is similar to how those business owners call themselves entrepreneurs. Sometimes it is about how you present an act, more than the act itself.


You have to get through them if you want to make a movie. If you don't work with them and write what they want, they can simply take your good idea and have a creative artist who works for them create something for them using the good idea that you didn't want to give them. If you make a story, you have to answer to them.


That is a monopoly. It may not look like a monopoly or feel like one that we have seen before. Still, if you go by the limited selection that a moviegoer and those in the production of the films have, then the Marvel cinematic universe is actually a monopoly.

They don't have any competition at the box office. They are all but buying out all of their competition in the streaming service industry. Anyone in film has to be in on it because they will be left out to dry if they aren't.


I don't recall anything like this ever happening in any other creative field. It is unprecedented and frankly ruining the drive for creative thinkers to produce their own great works. Why make something original when that does not make as much as what the big company wants you to make? Writers need to get paid, after all. I know that many writers hold a story or two close to their hearts, convinced that the story can be the one that touches millions, but if the studio pays you to write a bland, repetitive story heard before, you'll take it. Not because you care about the story or think it is any good, but because they are paying you.


How would you handle this if you were a writer today?


I'll let you think about that as we talk about other monopolies today. Oh, this problem of monopolies isn't just in creativity, my friend. Nope far from it.


If you wanted to, you could say that the biggest problem facing Americans today is large tech companies' growing influence. I personally would say that the biggest problem is the slow maneuver our government is making towards an oligarchy, but that is just me. I feel that the tech companies' influence is such a problem that one of these companies is to proclaimed a monopoly and broken down. How much power can a company have before it is viewed as more powerful than the actual government? You can say what you want about your local officials; perhaps he isn't taking care of the homeless as he should, maybe she didn't handle the pandemic like you would have liked, but you did vote for them. They are from the people. They answer to you, or else we get rid of them. The threat of job loss is a good part of democracy. You can't say that about the big business owners, though. You didn't elect any of them, and they don't really have to answer to you. Don't like their new products? Don't like how they are going about their business? Tough shit. You'll only option is not to use them, not replace them. Cause you never elected them, to begin with. What is concerning is how these tech companies made themselves needed in our daily lives, thus giving these companies' leaders unprecedented authority. We can't just turn our back on them and say no. I'm sure that some of you would if you could. But they are in every part of our society; to protest them is to protest ourselves in a way. And that is not something many are willing to do.

Here are some companies that are my candidates for possible monopoly: (Yes, I know that they are not all tech companies, technically)

  • Facebook

  • Amazon

  • Apple

All these companies need to ask themselves the same question asked of all monopolies: How much control can you have in your field before you can be proclaimed a monopoly? In my opinion, these companies are getting closer than they ever will admit. Remember, according to Rockefeller and Carnegie, they weren't running a monopoly either. It seems that monopolies have awful self-awareness.


Let's get back to the original question.


Can you monopolize creativity? And more importantly, what do you do if you are an artist threatened by this ever-growing monopoly?


You could argue that this is just a fad in the film industry. What is popular is copied by everyone, and then everyone wants to be a part of it. It happened with the Western films, with the gangster films, with the raunchy comedies. They all had their moment of being a large part of pop culture, but is there a certain limit to the exposure of a certain trend that can classify it as a monopoly? What if all the movies that are in the theater are Marvel movies? You have a choice between the new Spiderman, the revamped X-Men, and some other Marvel movie that is in the same Marvel universe. You may think I am crazy, but are we that far from a movie studio trying to take over the whole damn thing? They already set up the takeover with the excuse of the multi-verse. Every character that they make in their movies will be a part of the multi-verse. If that doesn't sound like they are trying to consume every part of the creative real estate out there, then I don't know what does.


What's the difference between a universal appeal and a creative monopoly? The Beatles owned music at one time because everyone wanted to be like them. But they didn't monopolize the industry, right? They were just influential. The artists are not at the forefront of the monopoly, I'd argue. It is the company heads that are the ones to keep an eye out on.

I guess that is the argument that the film studio and any creative monopoly will make; they aren't controlling the industry; they are just really popular. But can you be too popular?


I don't know but didn't Rockefeller do something like this, and Roosevelt went after him for it? Rockefeller owned all the supplies, the manufacturers, the warehouses, and the shippers. He would have said that it is because people just love buying the oil. That is why it is so popular. It wasn't because of his shady deals and his corrupt ways. Criminals never consider their malicious behavior when they are succeeding. Only afterward, when they have gone too far, do people question their ways.


When you rig the system against any chance that the others in the field can compete against you fairly, you are not only acting in criminal behavior, but you are creating a monopoly. We have never seen a creative monopoly before. I am interested in what will happen in the coming years as Marvel tries to expand their universe. Marvel has done a lot in movies over the past decade or so, but it seems their biggest contribution is the question they pose to us all: Can you monopolize creativity?

 

 

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