I never cease to wonder how artists always seem to be one step ahead of everyone else. Oftentimes, several steps and several years. Sometimes, several decades. Ezra Pound, too, noticed their perplexing ability to be ahead of everyone, which is why his most famous comment is, "The artist is the antenna of the race."
Since artists are antenna, I think it would be a good idea if the government used them as advisors, the way ancient Hebrew kings had their prophets.
Perhaps the kings didn't always act on the advice, but at least they listened.
Modern artists certainly couldn't do worse, and I'd bet money they would do better, than the "Best and Brightest" consistently oozing out of Harvard and Yale.
I'll have to smile, though, at the image of George Bush or Donald Rumsfeld reading William Gibson's Neuromancer or Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash. The fact that the former have never heard of the latter--and wouldn't believe or understand them--is part of their, and therefore our (as in "our country's" and "our world's") problem.
How do artists do this? Intelligence is part of their gift, but not all of it. Even genius is overrated, if it is attached to a lousy character. One need look no farther than Robert McNamara in the past or any of the neocons, such as Max Boot and David Frum, today. Not that the latter two are geniuses. Far from it, as a matter of fact. They do have miserable characters, though.
Yet, many artists, and most especially the good ones, seem to be sensitive to what really matters. They somehow have their fingers on the pulse of their culture.
My belief is that imagination--which Stephen King called "dreaming with your eyes open"--is another reason, beyond the intelligence. Those who have imagination can take advantage of other's experience. Those without imagination, cannot. Those with imagination can put themselves in the place of other people.
Imagination, as a friend on mine told me, gives you a sense of "heightened reality." People with strong enough imaginations don't have to personally experience the horrors of combat; they can read the work of others, and accurately imagine--and feel--it. When I read Robert Mason's memoirs about his time in Vietnam as a helicopter pilot ferrying live soldiers, dead ones, and parts of dead ones, I understood his life over there. I don't need to do what he did. I now have his experience, his thoughts and feelings, as part of me.
The lack of imagination among politicians (and many other people) is why they truly don't understand the horror of war. It's happening to "someone else," someone with whom they cannot connect or empathize.
Writes Bill Larsen (a disabled combat vet, wounded in Vietnam ) about this inability: "It is my experience that the political leaders who send out warriors into combat virtually never consider the true value of human suffering. This is not because politicians are evil, but because they simply lack experience with the specific horror into which they send our people. Consequently, as in the Iraq War, our combatants are too often ordered into battle by congressional members who have never experienced combat (and whose children are rarely called to serve), under a president also lacking this personal experience and risk to his loved ones."
Arrogance--hubris--makes this inability to connect far, far worse--and dangerous. Indeed, one of the characteristics of hubris is the inability to see another as a full human being. Those afflicted with hubris can't even imagine them as "real" people.
I seriously doubt people like Bush, Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney have any imagination, although they certainly have no shortage of hubris. And such a lack is not a minor flaw, considering Albert Einstein's trenchant observation, "Imagination is more important then knowledge." Apparently, no matter how much knowledge you have, you can't put it together correctly and predict the future unless you have imagination. The flaws of the men listed make them not sober realists, as they believe they are, but dangerous and deluded crackpots.
Those who have sufficient imagination understand the answers are, in a sense, already inside them. By imaginatively identifying--sympathizing--with someone else's experience, they can share that experience and knowledge. But they are able to do this because of what's inside them--their imagination. The truth is not only "out there," it's also "in here."
Another reason for the ability of artists to foresee the future is that the good ones almost always have a pronounced anarchistic streak. They almost instinctively see the State for the oppressor that it is, probably because they are able to easily empathize with others, and in doing so, can see just how little good, and how much harm, the State does. And, obviously, those who spend their lives working for the State (which pretty much excludes those with great intelligence, imagination and anarchism) aren't going to see it as the Black Thing that it truly is. They're going to see it as a good thing, especially if they've made millions of dollars from it machinations and exploitations.
Let's take as an example that very famous dream known as 'The X-Files.' It was a huge hit, and was about something that I don't think was ever on TV before: a series about five interrelated, archetypal truths: the State, conspiracies, lies, paranoia, and attack by monsters who want to conquer the world.
In Fox Mulder's world, the State is involved in a conspiracy to lie about attacks by monsters who want to conquer the world.
Indeed, the State and the monsters are in cahoots with each other to the extent they are the same thing. The truth in the program, true in the past, now, and in the future, is that the State, no matter how benevolent it appears, is a monster that wants to conquer everything.
I should point out there is a profound, indeed radical, distinction between true government and the State. True government is based on Natural Law and the Economic Means--peaceful trade. The State is based on the Political Means--force, coercion, theft, lies and murder. That makes it one thing only: a monster, because its nature is to attack the natural order of the Economic Means of Society. The State always attempts to usurp the authority of Society, just as it always tries to break Natural Law . . . which can't be done.
People who know Mulder think he's paranoid, but in reality he knows the truth. His justified "paranoia" is about the collusion between the alien monsters "out there" and the monster of the State "in here." The monsters out there have, just like the barbarians all civilizations fear, gotten inside the gate.
Mulder's paranoia is more than justified; it's necessary. It's a darker, less cartoonish version of the comment of 'The Simpsons'' Chief Wiggum: "I didn't say the government couldn't hurt you. I said it couldn't help you." In 'The X-Files,' the government is always harmful, never helpful. It's pretty much the same in reality.
Because of these archetypes, all of them oh-so-true, 'The X-Files,' ostensibly science-fiction, is also horror. And the eternal archetype of the horror story is Chaos intruding on Order. That's Mulder's mission: to find and stop the Chaos attempting to destroy Order. It is the mission of every hero.
The real monster, as Mulder clearly sees, is the State. Or, more specifically and correctly, the cabal that runs the State, and which sees the human race as pawns to be moved around as they see fit.
Mulder is always telling everyone what he knows, but few people believe him. That is the eternal complaint of the prophet. People in the past who have seen the truth, and proclaimed it, were almost never believed in their own time, indeed ignored and insulted, and then believed and honored hundreds of years later. What's that old saying? "A prophet is with honor except in his home country"?
'The X-Files' is fiction, obviously. Does its "truth" apply to the real world? Yes, it does. The State is a monster: It lies, it is a conspiracy to impose itself on citizens, it wants to conquer everything, and those who clearly see these things are often not believed and labeled as paranoid.
They are called wearers of Tin-Foil Hats, paranoid conspiracy buffs, traitors. In fantasy. In reality, they're prophets, ones who see the loss of individual freedom and the State's attempts to enslave people's minds. They are, as I have heard Mulder and Scully referred to, the "avengers of truth and freedom."
The one thing that the evil cannot withstand is to have the light of truth shone on them. They don't evaporate like vampires (although I'd rather see them melt like the Wicked Witch when she had water tossed on her), but being exposed is the last thing they want, because it gets them ridiculed and then costs them their power.
That shining of the light on evil is also an archetype--a universal truth that all understand, even the evil. That's why they hide. And that shining of the light, the telling of the truth, the exposing of evil, is the function of all prophets.
If programs like 'The X-Files' are indeed 'antennas' predicting the future, we have reason to cheer up. Ultimately, all States--world-conquering monsters based on lies, conspiracies and paranoia--will follow the paths of all monsters. That is, killed off by the artistic antenna known as the dreamers and the prophets.