Recently I’ve been reading Wicked.
Some of you may know it. It’s a novel about the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. It tells her life story and why she became so hated. (No, I haven’t see the musical. Yes, I intend to.)
There’s a scene early in the story were the witch’s friend at college helps her sneak texts to a professor. They try to prove that Animals (like the Cowardly Lion) are just as good as human beings, and deserve legal rights.
Years later the witch encounters her old college friend again. The witch has only grown stronger in her revolutionary fervor, and she’s preparing to take action against their dictator. But her old friend is married. He has several kids, a wife, and a successful farm. He enjoys working the land. He talks about how he remembers their college days with excitement and fondness, but that he’s quite content with his settled life.
She asks him about his politics, and he declines to answer. He wouldn’t want the police to overhear him say anything out of line.
The witch is disgusted.
A Night at the Bar
I had a startlingly similar experience. I visited a friend’s tavern and whiled away the night talking with co-adventurer Lex Garey. Word got out that I’m walking to Brazil. A drunk gentleman with a friendly face came up to me and asked me if it’s true.
I told him it is.
“When you get there,” he sputtered, “When you reach Sao Paulo, and you see the sun, when you make it…” his admiration for the journey literally brought a tear to his eye. Out of politeness, I pretended not to notice. I asked him about himself.
He works in finance, has a wife and several children, and a good home. He repeatedly told me he’s happy with his life the way it is. Then his story changed. He said that when I’m in the nursing home some day—”And nobody gets outta there alive!”—I’ll be the one with the smile on my face. Finally he confessed:
“I hate my job. I’m the guy who makes sure the rich get richer. But what can I do? I have a family to look out for.”
Citizens and Revolutionaries
My readers are a special kind of creative. We are free thinkers. Many of us use the new digital economy to escape from a traditional way of life. Anyone can learn to do it, but very few people have. We’re the expostmoderns.
You may be an artist, designer, musician, writer, blogger, traveler, nomad or entrepreneur. You might be some brand new type of expostmodern creative that you invented yourself. Or, you might be aspiring to any one or several of these things.
In other words, you are a visionary. You live by your ideals.
Visionaries will always be faced with the many, many people who aren’t. The people who, like the witch’s old friend, are too afraid to speak up; or like the gent in the pub, who feels trapped. These people cannot see a way to stand up and reshape their lives. No amount of coaching or cheering will get them to leap forward if they don’t want to.
It’s hard to live by ideals and pay the bills, so people give up ideals. And you, as a visionary, have a choice to make.
You can scoff, eyeroll, guffaw, sneer. You can think of them as robots, zombies, dullards, drones. You can look down at them like the Wicked Witch of the West. Like a samurai beheading a peasant.
Or you can care for them. You can extend sympathy for their difficult situation. You can respect the life they’ve chosen. You can use your talents, freedom, and income to support and encourage your fellow humans.
Like a hero.
Please tweet and share this post. How do you handle people who won’t take action?