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The Artists’ Rebellion

Written by Caitlin Johnstone


I have this fantasy where the artists go on strike.

I dream that one by one, in their own quiet ways, the artists, the writers, the musicians, the comedians, the graphic designers, the marketing gurus, the spinmeisters and press release writers, the jingle makers and advertising creatives, the seamstresses and cake decorators, will lay down their tools and refuse to work for evil anymore.

The writer will stand up from her desk at Raytheon and walk away without lending them another word.

The graphic designer at the State Department will turn off his Wacom and shut down Photoshop and pick up a pencil and start sketching homeless people.

Whole marketing departments will turn their talents to telling the real story of what their organization does in words and jingles and graphics and logos while the hapless artless CEO looks on helplessly, threatening them with everything he’s got.

Across boardrooms in every state of the US, in every country in Europe, on all the continents and in all the languages, the artists will stand up one by one and say:

  • “I will no longer use my poetry to sculpt weasel words into beautiful truthless forms so that you might suck up more life and turn it into greenbacks.”
  • “I will no longer use my art to run cover for your ambitions.”
  • “I will no longer lend credence to your planet-killing philosophy.”
  • “I will no longer let my goodness stand in the way of people seeing your badness.”
  • “I will no longer be the sole reason why people still trust your organization.”

And I hope that one day the CEO of Boeing will be forced to sit down at a laptop and type out his own press release, and I hope he cries in frustration when reading back the one and only sentence he can come up with: “Killing people is good, ackshually.”

In this dream I have, the artists know their power, and not only are they no longer begging for their invoices to be paid, they are so aware of their worth, entitlements and responsibilities that they can look an employer in the eye who wants to use their skills to sell a bad idea and say “I don’t care how much you are willing to pay me, I can’t let you use me that way.”

And I hope that any other artist who that employer approaches tells them the same. “Get a better business model–one that helps people instead of harming them–and I might consider it.”

They will say, one after the other:

  • “No, you will not use my intimacy with the muse to sell more units of your novelty landfiller.”
  • “You will not use my access to creativity making others poorer and sicker to make yourself richer.”
  • “You will not use my inspiration to explain us into another war.”
  • “You will not use my love of people to help you act out your hatred of them.”

And each time a young artist makes the decision to pledge their life to their talent, they will gather in a group and say this oath to themselves and each other:

I solemnly pledge to consecrate my life to the service of humanity;

I will practise my profession with conscience and dignity;

The health of the whole will be my first consideration;

I pledge stand in the truth–my truth–and let inspiration pour through me unhindered by the death cult agendas of the money men;

I refuse to use my skills to manipulate or persuade others to act against their own self-interests;

I recognize that my art is not mine, I am merely a conduit for the wisdom of the whole and any attempt to manipulate my art to benefit myself, another individual, or a group of people at the expense of others is a misuse of my privilege;

My loyalty is to the highest interest of the whole;

So long as I maintain this oath faithfully and without corruption, may it be granted to me to partake of life fully and the practice of my art, gaining the respect of everyone for all time. However, should I transgress this oath and violate it, may the opposite be my fate.

And then they all high-five and cheer and clink their drinks and spend the rest of the night dreaming up wonderful ideas and making each other laugh til their tummies hurt and their faces ache.

It’s a good dream. I like it. I want it.

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