Emancipating Genius

This series continues to look at the stakeholder Masterplan for the creative sector. The Plan identifies areas that should be resourced to grow the industry from a $1.9 billion to a $7 billion earner in four years. One pillar—one many people would not believe constitutes an industrial sector—is the work of “geniuses’’.

In our calculation, “geniuses’’ in the creative sector—if enabled properly—can contribute over $2 billion to the economy annually. Up from $.2 billion at present.
But first I’ve a confession: I’m a snob. I love genius. I believe in the beauty and power of genius and its ability to change the world for the better. I believe that genius is at times resident in individuals—as well as communities. What I do know is that this dark world stretching back into time has been ceaselessly illuminated by the exploits of genius.

A friend of mine was doing a “bucket list’’ recently (these list of things that you promise yourself you must do before you die). I found it mildly morbid. Upon reflection I realised that a “bucket list’’ is not necessarily an act connecting you to death—but one that connects you deeper to life. The list allows you to dream on a planetary level. To feel your spirit owned by the earth and the universe—and owning it in return. The list asks you, “What are the things I must experience?” So I started my list…

I don’t know what it looks like for everyone else, but my list could be broken into three—intimate human experiences, visits to natural wonders, and visits to awe-inspiring works of art created by man. What I couldn’t get over was how many things on my list were connected to works of the genius of man. From the NASA space station to the Pyramids to the terracotta sculpture city in China, it was a long list of ancient ruins, sculptures, paintings, buildings, bridges, technological marvels, museums and temples of entertainment. All works of human genius. The list made me realise, deeply, how much human creativity makes the experience of living majestic…And also makes a lot of money!

The creative and cultural economy is the second largest industry on Earth—making over $1.3 trillion annually. Most of this is propelled by the works of the gifted. The ratio is this: in any creative population—whether it be record label or film studio—the top five per cent of talent earns between 55 to 65 per cent of the returns!

I’m sure if you were to look at Beyonce’s record label you’ll see this. The flip side is this—if you fail to unleash your genius class you may cripple yourself—because the 95 per cent of the rest of the talent may actually be subsidised and inspired by the top five per cent. If geniuses are absent the whole system may fall down.

This is what has happened in Trinidad and Tobago. We’ve punished our genius class mercilessly. Who feels it knows it. There’s no way I can intimate to you in a few words how painful it feels to live as a creative person in T&T—the utter violence done to you psychologically is mind-boggling. This is not an environment that grooms squadrons of Beyonces.

Genius is a gift that’s perfected by obsessive devotion to craft. When you experience real genius- it’s a humbling experience—watch Pavarotti and James Brown do “It’s a Man’s World’’ on YouTube and understand this. Watch the details on the Michael Jordan sculpture outside United Centre… Watch Leroy Clarke’s “Weavers of the Dust’’ or Minshall’s “Papillon’’…

Genius let’s you know that, “I cannot do that.” And this is a liberating thing. That moment of awe gives us a window into the human capacity for greatness. It should inspire aspiration. In T&T it inspires hate, pettiness, bile and victimisation… And this is why we fail.

Yes, we do have more “naturally talented’’ people per square foot—but we also have more destroyed genius and aborted talents than anywhere else…. We’re an Armageddon for talent. We’ve created an oligarchy of the mediocre, policed by a confederacy of cowards who meet, plot, and scheme against genius—how to block it, how to frustrate it, how to destroy it, how to ignore it, and finally how to raise up false talents to take their place. Fraud geniuses enable people to say—“we could do dat too!’’

Our republic has not been brought low by devastating foreign attacks, not by a great civil war of contending ideas, nor by poverty or natural disaster—we’ve been laid low by thousands of acts of petty spite—hundreds of small gestures to ensure genius never gets resource. We’ve raised an aristocracy of the banal and the average.

Our national duty must be to create silos where geniuses can access resources. Small oases where the culture of assassination of talent doesn’t operate. Where people are rewarded by merit and not contacts, mediocrity, or corruptibility, where genius is allowed to fly. The impact of these small islands of merit will be seismic.

They will change our world.

Posted on July 5, 2013, in President's Blog and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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