Conservatives complain that Hollywood is “out of the mainstream.” I propose that the qualities which make a successful artist contribute to the artist’s greater awareness of reality and of similarites between people of all backgrounds, in a spiritual sense, which makes them more likely to support liberal causes. Further, because artists spend more time in contemplation and reflection than the average person, their opinions should be valued rather than decried.
For years, conservatives have complained that artists, usually referred to within the American context as “Liberal Hollywood,” too often step outside of their profession and take advantage of their celebrity to spout political opinions. They argue that these people are no different than ordinary Americans, that they should be free to create art and to market that art during appearances on talk shows, but that they should keep their political leanings to themselves.
Indeed, some artists overstep the bounds of appropriate behavior and share their beliefs at inappropriate times. Artists deserve criticism for that. However in arguments of this nature, conservatives often acknowledge that in many cases, artists do a great job of expressing the human condition.
Some art is meant to express nothing, some art is transcendental in nature, and some is a reflection of reality through a prism. There is a different mindset needed to create good, meaningful art, and that is a mindset foreign to people in business or in other lines of work. It involves the channeling of impulses and inspiration, leaving oneself open to influence, and in the case of poetry or lyrics which represent reality, it requires a keen form of observation and of soaking in one’s surroundings like a sponge.
Ultimately, I have to wonder whether the mindset of an artist makes him more likely to espouse liberal causes, particularly social ones. Modern conservatives generally argue for market solutions to social problems, whereas liberals often argue that systemic solutions are really the only way to ensure these problems are corrected. Artists, due to their study of the human condition and recognition that everyone goes through similar experiences, are more likely to view the people of the world as one family. This is a viewpoint which is shared in common with Buddhism and with Universalism, and which leads to arguments against nationalism, against warfare, and for peace.
I also think that artists, particularly musicians or painters, spend more time in contemplation than ordinary Americans working to pay their bills. One of the rewards of fame is more free time (although actors may not agree!) – and this gives them more time to consider the ramifications of actions. Is it possible that because they have more time to observe and to think, and because of their natural tendency to be keenly attuned to the things we all have in common, that an artist is more likely to be a supporter of liberal causes? And even further, that because of these factors, that their opinions on these issues should be valued due to their unusual insight into the human condition?
Recently, George Clooney said something that made me think:
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Yes, I’m a liberal and I’m sick of it being a bad word. I don’t know at what time in history liberals have stood on the wrong side of social issues. We thought that blacks should sit at the front of the bus, that women should be allowed to vote, that maybe McCarthy was a jerk, that Vietnam was wrong and strip-bombing Cambodia was probably stupid. We’ve been on the right side of all these issues.