Originally Published in Dec. 2012
Last week my cousin, who lives in NYC and works in advertising, made a comment in my blog. She said her agency was looking for creative thinkers who could translate social delusions in art form. I was, of course, very proud of that, specially because it was very unexpected for me to hear that people like myself had any value at all on the advertising business.
I am now on a sabbatical, and I don’t really have a plan for that. I am not planning on writing a book, on traveling around the world, or on visiting mystical places searching for a heal to the soul. I am just permitting myself to do nothing, to be able to think about the last years of my life and try to understand what I want to do with the years that are to come.
Looking back I think I’ve always being creative, in the beginning it helped me, but I never really understood that as a vocation. I was good in other things, which led me to a career path which sometimes judged my creativity as a liability, not as an asset. I admire the “doers”, but found little space for the “thinkers” like myself (I ended up studying economics and worked 10 years on strategic planning for large industrial conglomerates, producers of commodities, not exactelly the kind of ambient in which a creative thinker would flourish).
As I was entering the early thirties I was trapped in the big corporation paradox. I felt the urge to do something else, but didn’t have the courage to. I did what I did well, even though I despised it, but who knows if I would do well what I enjoyed to do?
By this time technology made possible for me to express ideas easily, and get fast feedback. My first try was on writing (which comes easily), and I started the blog by doing what I naturally do when talking to friends over a beer: mocking human behavior and making up absurd but fun alternatives for the shortcomings of daily life. To translate that into paper (into screen, actually), was easier than I thought, and I started to get positive feedback from friends to keep on writing.
Suddenly technology was making possible for me to create anything (even if not technically perfect), and share with others that were doing the same. Treating photos (look for me on Instagram, under pedro_tolentino), creating pop art visual works, even editing movies.
But writing is my passion , and I particularly like to write about two things:
1 – The Future:
If we brought someone that died 100 years ago this guy would probably not understand our jobs, our relationships, our values. He would be surprised by how much stuff we own and take for granted. Besides, he would be horrified by behaviours we now take for granted: open homosexual relationships, gay marriage, induced pregnancy, guiltless pre-marital sex, one-night stands, rap lyrics, active atheism, shameless consumerism, damage reduction politics which distribute condoms or syringes, just to name a few.
The same way, if we are serious about looking at the world 100 years ahead, we have to be as rational as possible, and forget about the moral issues inside us, because 100 years from now the moral issues will be completely different from today’s. Based on that assumption I wrote some texts extrapolating the concept. A world that seemed immoral for us today, but no less immoral than today’s world would seem to someone coming straight from 1912.
The Educational Resort: The intern school remodeled, an educational resort where you can live your son and forget about it (and have him delivered back to you whenever you feel like it). The text is a satire on parents ever more occupied who have kids only to leave them with nannies or in daycare.
The collective son: The idea that a kid can be adopted (after being produced in laboratory) by a group of fathers and mothers (not just a couple), an idea that comes from the fact that we are having less kids because we think more than one is too much, someday one might be to much, 0.2 kids would seem more reasonable.
The corporative son: The idea that corporations, and not just families, might become “human breeders”, genetically selecting and training their pupils for a future of success, “niche breeders” could use genetic selection and prepare human beings to perform extremely well in certain fields, and earn a percentage on the pupil’s future earnings.
The end of the physical frontiers: A nation used to be formed by individuals who shared certain values, cultivated certain traditions, ate similar food… Today you can find millions of people around the world (and maintain a close relationship, even if virtual, with them), with whom you identify much more in values, taste and habits than you do with your next-door neighbor. Virtual communities are becoming the new nations. On top of that, where you are physically will mean less and less, since you will be able to do your job from anywhere. Cities won’t attract people by offering jobs (which will be offered in the cloud), but by providing a “good life”, whatever that means for each one of us.
2 – The Social Delusions of the present, which will be mocked by everyone in the future:
People tend to act according to the way others act, and few take the time to pay attention if their actions make any sense at all.
A lot of us act automatically on a irrational way, just because it is “traditional”, or just because that is the way we learned to do it. A lot of us give “tradition” more importance that it deserves. A lot of us praise the past, because there was “purity” back then, a purity that the consumerism and compulsive hedonism of the new generations are corroding and will keep on doing so.
The fact is that most part of what we call “tradition” is outdated, or at least overvalued. On music, for example, we praise Mozart, Beethoven and Bach, but we forget that others, maybe better than those three, might have been lost in history because they lacked the right connections with the nobility of the time.
We forget that in the 60’s a lot of people despised the Beatles and Eric Clapton, we forget that in the 40’s a lot of people despised jazz as “negro music” and “inapropriate”. Today we consider Miles Davies and John Coltrane as classics, even erudite musicians. We say that there are no classics being composed nowadays, but in reality they are, the difference is that what is a classic for you no longer is a classic for your next-door neighbor, but you don’t care, because your Facebook friend who lives in South Africa shares your taste.
Tradition and common knowledge are overrated, we will be mocked in the future by some of the things we do today, based on that assumption I wrote some texts extrapolating the concept.
The new pope: A news-like piece that reports the acquisition of the Roman Catholic Church by Time Warner. The traditional church was losing market share rapidly and needed to “tune up” with the modern times.
Brazilian Santa Claus: Shows how we imported verbatim the whole Santa Claus character, and have inside the shopping-centers little pieces of “North Pole”, where it actually “snows”, all the while the temperature outside is on the 80 degrees range (Farenheit). On the text I propose the promotion of a Brazilian Santa Claus (Which in Portuguese is Known as “Papai Noel”), by putting some folklore over the history of a Brazilian samba composer named “Noel” Rosa, who died young in the 1930’s.
Human Resources evaluate Joao Gilberto: Joao Gilberto might be the greatest Brazilian musician of all time (definitely the greatest alive). He was the “father” of the “bossa nova” movement, the heyday of Brazilian music. The text shows Joao’s performance evaluation by the directors of a large corporation. In the end the undisputable talent is not enough for them. “Behavioral aspects” end up having more weight, and Joao is fired. Years after the “corporation man”, many businesses still prefer effective robots over erratic geniuses, even though the latter, and not the former, are the ones who find the breakthroughs.
Philosophy for dummies: Relates great thinkers of the past with music from pop stars from the present. Showing that pop culture somewhat reflect the thought of the great thinkers, even if unconsciously. On the text Sheryl Crow is related to Nietzsche, The Smiths to Schopenhauer and Scorpions to Heraclitus.
That is what I do: I pay attention, I criticize, I take the moral barriers and nonsense traditions out of the way. Most of them will fall anyway, some sooner, some later, and then I try to imagine the future, I am not interested in the machines or robots, but on human behavior.
If that is my vocation, I have to keep doing it. If I can get paid for that, it would be great. If people identify with the message, it’s even better.
Is it worth anything? I think I will have to check it out won’t I?