“That’s not my problem.”
I cannot begin to count the amount of times I’ve heard this statement uttered. This tragically false statement.
When recently discussing the criminal student loan rate with a group of fellow young people, many seemed undisturbed. Some cited their own lack of loans as the source of their disinterest. Others mentioned that the salaries in their field would quickly add up, so that high interest rates had little effect on them (ah, the life of the banker). Still others simply said, “You knew what you were getting into. Why’d you get a loan if you knew you’d be going into theater?”
OK. Yes, we signed up for the loans, and now we have to pay them back. It’s as simple as that. And yes, to some extent, I agree with this simple statement—I’m not arguing that it’s not my loan to repay. And you, the individual lucky enough to actually enjoy math, to happily choose a career in finance, to guiltlessly work for Goldman Sachs, will never have to experience the embarrassment of a loan default, or the paralyzing fear of its possibility. And you will continue to say that it’s not your problem. (I don’t mean to single you out, bankers. You’re people, too. But it’s just so easy.)
But you’re wrong. It’s everyone’s problem.
In a general sense, the economy is interconnected. Stripping the youth from spending money is simply a shortsighted decision. If you haven’t seen Matt Bor’s comic about Rashida Salaam’s lawsuit against Bad Boy Entertainment for violating labor laws, check it out here. One striking fact in the comic is that almost $2 billion are stolen from America’s youth in the form of unpaid internships. I don’t want to get sidetracked here, but that’s an outrageous number. $2 billion dollars that cannot be spent, but are instead hoarded by big companies with tax breaks. Think about it.
But whether we’re talking about unpaid internships or outrageous student loans, the issue is the same—both affect the entire economy, and the entire community.
I’m not saying that artists are the only ones suffering from this messed up system (teachers, I’m looking at you), but I will comment on artists specifically in this case. Artists are just as much part of the community as any other moneymaker. In fact, artists and non-artists exist in a completely co-dependent relationship. Look who’s in the audience of all the Broadway shows. Look whose names are emblazoned on the entrance to all the Met’s galleries. Have you met someone who’s never been to the movies or turned on a TV show? Do you know anyone who has never read a novel? EVERYONE benefits from the arts. They get us through the daily grind, keep us sane, provide inspiration, heal, and bring people together.
What happens when the artists are priced out of their life (And I do mean life. One needs food and shelter in order to survive, and those are paid for with money)? Who will be creating the art the rest of the population so loves to consume?