Scene4-International Magazine of Arts and Culture


Nathan Thomas-Scene4 Magazine

Nathan Thomas

Time once again for “Mr. Question-Man.”  All of the questions sent to Mr. Question-Man are carefully tabulated and filed.  Some of them are read.

Our first question from Arthur S. Karnovski from Macon, Indiana.  Arthur S. Karnovski of Macon, Indiana writes:

            Dear Mr. Question-Man:
            Is it important for every person to be creative?

. . . .


 -- That’s all the time we have for this week’s session with Mr. Question-Man. 

Please address all questions to Mr. Question-Man c/o 257 ¬Ĺ E. West Ave.  Walla Walla, Washington 15157.

Actually this very question showed up on a social media site in which people pose questions that are answered by other members of the community. This question practically leapt off the computer screen, begging for an answer.

Is it important for every person to be creative? 

Is there any doubt?

According to information from the World Bank, about 30.6 million people are displaced within their own countries — about 18.78 million displaced by disasters and another 11.77 million folks displaced as the result of conflict in their country.  The United Nations places that number at about 40 million internally displaced people. The U.N. also there are about 25.4 million refugees, displaced outside of their country. About half of the 25.4 million refugees are estimated to be kids under the age of 18.   Also, about 10 million people are basically “stateless” – people denied a national citizenship of any kind.

Somewhere between 55 and 65 million people are without a place.  What are we going to do about that?  As a species, what shall we do?  This is a recipe for genuine problems.  Rootless people left to fend for themselves outside the usual structures of civilization would appear to be a ripe target for the worst kind of opportunistic leaders looking for pawns and foot-soldiers to bring chaos and despair. 

We need creativity to look at this and come up with another perspective, a fresh approach.

Our world’s climate is changing.  Regardless one’s (mostly American) politics, the facts on the ground seem pretty clear.  Our climate is not what it was even 50 years ago.  Numerous reports come to us every day about  wildly changing and extreme weather patterns. Many weather reports use the “-est” suffix often.  (“The wettest,” “the hottest,” “the driest,” “the most destructive,” etc., etc., etc.)  More weather records are broken on nearly a weekly basis somewhere in the world. 

Some people suggest that we need to accelerate rocketry science and set up housekeeping on another planet – underground cities on the Moon, or cities on Mars.  Some people suggest some actions dealing with carbon here on Earth.  We temporize and rationalize, and the weather keeps acting up.

We need creativity to look at this and come up with another perspective, a fresh approach.

In the United States, our social safety net frays terribly all of the time.  With apologies to Baby Boomers I dearly love, the Boomer generation have been like locusts, despoiling the landscape in every direction. One simple example, Boomer leadership has been responsible mostly for the termination of pension systems for people working in a wide variety of occupations in varying industries.  At the same time, they themselves as a generation have been poor about saving money for retirement.  Leaders from Generation X have been complicit in this transformation. 

At the same time, public financial support for higher education in all forms has diminished as costs have risen precipitously, leaving America’s graduates with millions upon millions of dollars of amassed debt.

Leaving older folks without pensions and adequate retirement savings while piling debt on younger generations is moving us toward real financial problems.

We need creativity to look at this and come up with another perspective, a fresh approach.

In the United States, our world has changed immensely.  Early in the 20th century, the U.S.A. was largely a nation composed of rural communities.  Even as late as the 1980 census, most people lived in towns smaller than 250,000 people. 

That has changed.  We can’t say small-town America is dying any more.  It is gone.  The typical American now lives in a city, suburb, or exurb.  The family farmer has been largely replaced by factory farms that work with major ag conglomerates like ADM.

If you’re a college educated person, as many artists and art aficionados tend to be, then you probably know others who are also college educated like yourself.  And it can be difficult to realize that the majority of Americans do not have a college degree.

If you lack post-high school education in American, you tend to be limited in your vocational prospects, income potential, and social class aspirations.  In 1973 there were more than a million textile workers in the U.S.A.  In 2016 there were about 112,000 textile workers with wages that were about 30% lower than they were in 1973 in inflation-adjusted dollars.

Many people find they have to work at two or three different jobs to make ends meet.  According to Steven Brill in Tailspin: The People and Forces Behind America's Fifty-Year Fall--and Those Fighting to Reverse It, about 40% of working citizens in the U.S.A. are at or near poverty.

In the olden days, the factory owners, the mill owners, and the swells would live in the same communities as the workers. Mr. Maytag lived in the same Iowa town as the families of the workers in the Maytag factory.  That arrangement was mostly true for most other mill owners and capitalists in America.  These rich folks wanted to live in nice communities and made sure their communities had attributes associated with civil and civilized living – libraries, concerts in the park, good schools, good hospitals, and reasonably responsive local banks.  So, along with the wealthy capitalist, each town also had a mix of folks at all ends of the income ladder.  That mix of wealth provided small and medium-sized American towns with the financial base to keep going.

Now the wealthy live somewhere else.  Also, some cities have become so expensive that the workers can’t afford housing in the city in which they work.  We are out of balance.

Among the better paying jobs for people without post-high school education is truck driving.  Again according to Brill, truck drivers’ real wages fell by about 60% from 1980-2017.  And it’s highly likely in another 15 years or so that truck drivers will be replaced by driver-less trucks.  Even driving will be replaced by automation.

The companies that need goods transported over distances will naturally want to save money and rise productivity by investing in trucks that never tire, never eat, never need to pee.

What are we going to do about this?

According to Susan Land at the McKinsey Global Institute, an estimated 75 to 375 million people will need to switch occupations by 2030.

We have long been in a world in which the human person is ever more instrumentalized.  If we view the humans involved in human labor merely in instrumental terms, we’ll continue to conflate sustainability only with efficiency. From that point of view, the more efficient the process, the more sustainable.  Maybe.  But for whom?

For the person who has been let go from the job, is the loss of that job make his or her life more sustainable? 

In the United States, we often hear that we are a Christian nation.  Nothing could be father from the truth.  We do have Christians in our nations, as many nations do.  But we are not a Christian nation.

My atheist friends like to crow about the “lack of evidence” for any divinity in our universe.  For themselves, they claim to worship nothing.

I can’t speak for any particular individual, but as a country we do have a god – money.  And that powerful god is at the heart of the on-going view of humans and human contributions in instrumental terms.

 We need creativity to look at all of this and come up with another perspective, a fresh approach.

Is it important for every person to be creative?


This is no time for people to sit out or give up.  This is the time in which we need every single on the person to be educated in creativity and to bring their best ideas to the table. 

What can you do? 

Be the yeast. 

Support every person in you family and in your circle of friends to be more creative.  Encourage people to look through a different lens.  If you are an artist, change the world.  If you’re someone who likes art, let your world be changed.

Even if it’s only one of you who shifts up into another way of thinking and seeing and being, that’s enough to get the whole system moving.


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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, and is a member of the
theatre faculty at Alvernia College. He writes a monthly column and is a Senior Writer for Scene4. For more of his commentary and articles, check the Archives

©2018 Nathan Thomas
©2018 Publication Scene4 Magazine




October 2018

Volume 19 Issue 5

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