I raised my hand a lot in grade school. Didn’t always know the answer but so pumped engaging on the questions. One day, I found myself in the hallway with the teacher explaining that my class-mates were bullying me because they were jealous. Jealous? Of me? “WHY would ANYONE be jealous of me?”
Raising my hand was a symptom of raising myself, surviving an abusive home, so my self esteem wasn’t always strong. I guess my hand raised in class was a plea to the multiverse, a signal for some lifeguard somewhere that I wanted to learn. To swim, not drown.
“Never stop raising your hand” my teacher said in a fervent, personal way. Even at that young age I understood someone must have laughed at her, tried to thwart her. She was warning me never to give in to the bullies as I would only betray myself. Her kindness and humanity, her warning about never limiting my own “possibility,” her willingness to be vulnerable yet strong were the underlying lessons.
CUT TO :
A few years later, I’ve been skipped grades and I’m the youngest kid in high school. Now I’m summoned to the principals’ office. Never been in any principals’ office, like, EVER. He’s yelling at me. My offense? I got accepted into early enrollment for University. I’m skipping the last years of high school, the diploma and the prom because University is offering me full scholarship. This principal guy is yelling at me because his school is “losing money” due to my leaving early. WTF.
CUT TO :
A few years later, I’m still raising my hand.
Dear Honorable Members of Congress,
Dear Honorable Executive Branch,
Everyone who cares about Art, Democracy, Civilization and Food,
Rescuing Independent Artists,
An Endangered Species,
Gentrification Of Culture
President Biden described America in one word : POSSIBILITY. I’m addressing you because I believe we have succumbed to a dominance/superiority based bully culture thwarting our possibility.
DISTRIBUTION of Movies is Like BEEF … or Generally, FOOD
It may seem odd, but I’m referencing Senator Jon Testers’ Montana bill, protecting small meat producers from the monopoly of mega-distributors here. Obstruction & lack of fairness in distribution opportunities for independent artists is oddly similar to that of beef/food. This also reeks from our nations’ dependence on oil and victimization at the hands of conservative obstructionism including the supremacist misogyny, racism & homophobia on display in the current state of the so-called Supreme Court.
Like Ben Franklin, influenced by the “Enlightenment,” we can push back the Dark Ages by unlocking that forbidden door embracing the heart of our resistance, choosing disobedience over dogma, lest we become willing victims of so many contemporary “blue-beards.”
The parallels to distribution of film, music, arts, humanities & other cultural “products” (among our greatest “exports” like Democracy) could not be more pressing as we approach upcoming elections. Of course, the big-money-media dominance problem likely stems from an antitrust problem that maintains artificial hierarchies of false superiority, so deeply entrenched, for so long, in the highly influential cultural “media products” we all consume daily (and export too) which has infected our global cultural psyche, railroaded political discourse into a reality show circus and left us, the planet, where we are today.
I am trying to share what you may not know about the day to day details affecting the soul of an independent artists’ life, the vocation, the “calling” of culture-making. I’m trying to build a case for some possible solutions that might help us all.
I’m an independent artist who founded my own SustainableStudiO™️ where we make movies, music & publishing about social & climate justice themes with diverse crews. When a small independent filmmaker, like myself, used her meager savings along with some angel investments to make a tiny highly innovative movie & album with a diverse all female crew and then went “begging” to several film distributors, their response-echo was invariably :
“we (the distributors) do not accept unsolicited submissions
from producers we have not worked with in the past.”
So, these distributors are admitting, in writing, the insanity : that if a filmmaker like me, has not distributed a movie with them before, there is NO WAY to distribute my independently made, non-corporate film in any of the major American cinema or global marketplaces and get paid fairly in order to continue to do my own life’s work. The entertainment industry is arguably among our most lucrative ( for the few ) & exported sources of “American made product.” Or, is it ?
We Need a Thriving Artist Community Of Non-Billionaires
Distributor responses like these, were most devastating from so called (imposters) “indie” distributors who held out promise to those of us creating fresh projects unaware that status quo is already busy buying up all the possibilities while portraying themselves to the public as though they themselves are “indies,” thieving from actual independent artists like myself, as we scrape together pennies in spite of the “gentrification of culture.”
“Gentrification of Culture”
“ Independent Artists are ‘First Responders’ to the Soul of Culture
Early on I recognized that my culture valued me as a “baby-maker” far more than it valued what I consider my “babies” : my works of art. Authentic independent artists need breathing room and respect, in the same way parents with young kids, senior citizens or students, are understood and valued in this culture. Yes this may seem a radical idea but guys, people have paid millions for the progeny of Van Gogh, Picasso, et. al … How about affording some grace for living artists? How about a similar tax structure for artists, like the great director John Huston initiated in Ireland?
Why are Corporate Entities allowed to appropriate / impersonate the important role of artists in culture? We have quietly slipped into an Entertainment Oligarchy where manufactured superiority rules. This “Dominance / Supremacist Fiscal Model” also reflects our dependence on the oil industry and victimhood to Conservative Obstructionism. This is us, in the fun-house fascist mirror we seem to find so fascinating. Lordy I hope we don’t find out for real. Popular culture tends to deride the “starving artist.” I’m asking us to consider, who is getting the last laugh and at what expense to democracy, freedom, civilization, the planet ?
Recently 60 minutes did a story about Wall Street taking over housing and making it almost impossible for people to own homes or pay rent in the 21st Century. The story aired on March 20, 2022. I’ve personally experienced the horrors of gentrification, when my own tiny sustainable, hand-built studio located in a sleepy little beach neighborhood was targeted by developers. We fought back. I’m asking us all to do the same.
Corporate talking heads blithely spout false equivalencies and casually endorse products like books, movies and other entertainment products on the so-called “news.” Our culture has long been indoctrinated into worshiping money and dominance, so we no longer show respect for authentic artists not “so-called-curated” by corporate gate-keepers. To me, that means we have lost respect for ourselves, doomed to be groomed in the worship of the corporation.
A compromised culture incubated, birthed, indoctrinated into gentrification
and “worshiping at the altar of wealth” will logically elevate notions like “superiority” and “dominance” at the expense of the necessary humanities that celebrate non-transactional human behaviors and values necessary to healthy culture and democracy. I am advocating for non-corporate, authentic independent artists but also for the simple concept of “truth.”
Who writes the A-List?
We need to support “artists for artist’s sake” which is to say “liberty” “freedom” and the “pursuit of happiness” for their own sake too. We need to secure “UNCURATED” yet remunerative spaces, for the artist in society. Europe and Canada maintain a healthy respect for artists, why can’t we?
Please help us all stay independent from the Cultural Industrial Complex, let’s create a “farmers’ market” for indie films & music. Let’s have an online space where seasoned directors & producers can directly communicate with newcomers like me. Let’s not limit our own possibilities, betray ourselves. Let us “raise our hands” in the global classroom, ask questions, not settle for the candidate, or the movie or album with the biggest budget, the loudest voice, the most cruel derisionor worse, the indifference of apathy.
Big money media is so dominant over every screen, from big screens to cell-phones, that they are literally “authoring” – “dictating” not just our thoughts, but the very process of thinking. We need new common sense thinking and action addressing culture-making by independent artists – and also – the mechanics of why we need to vote for ourselves.
The independent artist, unowned, like a public servant who does not answer to big money, is never beholden to big money corporate conglomerates
and therefore represents the deep “infrastructure” of the soul of our nation,
without which, we collapse deeper into the transactional, corporate, oligarchical reality show culture that got us where we are today.
So Let’s make the possibility of a better tomorrow possible. “
“ We raised and released 42 monarch butterflies last season and during this year’s cycle from the returning mommy monarch fluttering all around our faces, entrusting us with her eggs, to the fat caterpillar crawling into chrysalis then magic emerging newborn into flight, I marvel that every moment is a “time of useful consciousness.”
“Time of Useful Consciousness is an aviation term defined in Wikipedia:
“the amount of time an individual is able to function effectively (e.g. perform flying duties) in an environment of inadequate oxygen supply. It is the period of time from the interruption of the oxygen supply or exposure to an oxygen-poor environment to the time when useful function is lost, and the individual is no longer capable of taking proper corrective and protective action. At the higher altitudes, the TUC becomes very short; considering this danger, the emphasis is on prevention rather than cure.”
Like many young Americans aware of gaps in my education I know enough to understand these midterm elections 2022 are indeed a “time of useful consciousness” for the ideas we cherish, for humans being, wildlife, sea-life, America, global democracy, the survival of our mothership, this blue planet and the multiverse in which we float, hurtling toward our future past in a time-space continuum which barely recognizes us.
“Losing consciousness” would mean losing democracy and sinking into the warm bath before the ice cold fascism shuts down humanity by legally assassinating the constitution from within, using our own petard as hoist.
We’ve managed to avoid asteroids and now, we know how to billiard them away from impact with our cool-AF NASA pool cue. Now we must build ourselves a different kind of pool cue to tip away impending “asteroids” hurled at us by the 21st century American iteration of that smelly old cult of authoritarians, that deadliest plague on humanity, fascism.
Break down the word “fascism” for demystification in the word “fascia” a thin casing of connective tissue binding together the internal structure of a body.
Our choices in life, including a girls’ right to make her own decisions, will be subject to the will of the state, which will always usurp the will of every individual.
Not just HER choice.
YOUR choice too.
Every individual would serve the state. Not just the unfortunate 10-year-old rape victim in some news story.
You will serve the fascist state.
You down to clown?
The “us and them” mentality serves fascism. Are you REALLY “US” ? Or are you really THEM?
Are you a member of the LGBTQ community?
Are you Jewish?
Are you a person of color?
A vegan ?
“Are you … or have you ever been … ”
It’s been said that antisemitism is the oldest hatred and while those old tropes live on in conservative ideologies,
I’ve posited in my movie “Eve N’ God This Female Is Not Yet Rated “ with original soundtrack album “this female is not yet rated“ that the “independent female” characters known as “Eve” and “Lillith” from the Bible story, who represented “female freedom,” were the original “scapegoats” illustrating that older hatred against : the independent female.
Anyone feminine, including those in the LGBTQ community, any femme creature who is vulnerable, wild – and free, including wildlife, sea life and nature was and is demonized and targeted for control.
The power of the independent female, which I suggest, thrives in the souls of all living beings thinking freely, yearning for an independent free existence on this beautiful blue planet, was and is – so scary to the patriarchal “state” of mind, SHE in all her wildness, beauty and freedom, needed to be “tamed, “held back, lest she “learn” too much from that “tree of knowledge” and choose to leave Eden for a new kind of paradise.
In my movie, I’m suggesting that the “original sin” was and is, in fact, the sin against our sisters. “eVe” tells about the added disgrace of Nazi Germany, along with the dehumanizing of Jewish persons labeled by “yellow triangles” and that of homosexuals by “pink triangles,” women with “choice” who opted for birth control and lesbians were labeled with “black triangles.”
“they were called workshy”
My movie posits that the supremacist societal ideals expressed by the psychotic Nazi slogan “work makes free” be countered by a 21st Century humanist ideal :
“Play Makes Free”
The hatreds function like a roaming virus seeking entry points at weakened gateways of the body politic. As if some cosmic surgeon left behind a scalpel for an opportune infection moment. That moment when a culture sleeps through her “time of useful consciousness,” relaxes into the simmering bath, if only just to rest from the incessant drone of propaganda garbage pails spilling over into the street, courts, congress, the connective tissue.
You know that moment when your dentist, doctor, veterinarian, or lawyer delegates the bill for their services because this highly paid “professional” needs to look away from you and your dog or cat, like so many look away from a homeless person?
High paid “professionals” benefit from American “Liberal Arts” education, yet some denigrate the word “liberal.” American culture has been poisoned. Some of us chose to defend our liberal arts, while others just cashed in at the ATM. We need these professionals to stand up with us, the people, if only at the ballot box.
I could quote Emerson, Thoreau, Billie Holiday, Langston Hughes, Nina Simone, Mahalia Jackson, Studs Terkel, Leonard Cohen, Tupac – many “liberal” cultural icons warning us against cultural poison.
I’ll just sample Thomas Paine:
“ ‘Had we a place to stand upon, we might raise the world ‘ The revolution of America presented in politics what was only a theory and mechanics. So deeply rooted for all of us, governments of the old world,and so effectually had the tyranny, and the antiquity of habit established itself over the mind that no beginning could be made in Asia, Africa, or Europe , to reform the political condition of man, freedom has been hunted around the globe, reason was considered as rebellion and the slavery of fear had made men afraid to think.”
We never dealt with what happened during that other “time of useful consciousness” : the candidacy of Hillary Clinton. So now, let’s use it wisely.
Let’s bind together our connective tissue : all decent Americans, all women , persons of color, LGBTQIA, anyone who cares about wildlife, sealife, nature, climate change, natural disasters, clean air , clean water, ocean life … Mother Earth – let’s all of us , together, finally use this “time of useful consciousness” to form “the more perfect union. “
Let’s beat the fascists at their own game, “binding” together, so we don’t fall for anything, and everything, anymore. “
In today’s 21 st Century Media eco-system I’d extend the urgency of “Play Makes Free” toward a subject that in full disclosure directly affects my professional work and personal life so I have a vested interest, but I believe that makes it no less relevant. I’m referring to what I call “ the gentrification of culture,” which in my opinion has flooded the cultural conversation spaces of both big money media and social media with corporate dollars to such a saturated tipping point that our very freedom of thought , our ability to think independently away from the corporate “cultural industrial complex “ has become an endangered species. Independent artists, working class artists, are the canaries in the coal mine and if we are not provided access to distribution of our independent art, including film, music and all forms of media our cultures will continue to bottle-feed from ideas by corporate money mind instead of finding “soul-food” from home-grown, wild-harvested, organic artists like me tending our crops, bringing them to market like farmers and food-growers, like artisans of handmade bread or cheese or cookies, distributing them fairly. In my letter to Congress and the Executive Branch I referenced the recent fair meat distribution bill put forward by Senator Jon Tester in Montana who stands up for independent meat producers. We need a similar bill for independent artists. You can read an excerpt from my letter to Congress and the Executive Branch here : “Independent Artists are First Responders To The Soul Of Culture” https://calililiindies.com/2022/07/10/independent-artists-are-first-responders-to-the-soul-of-culture-dearworld-lets-quit-our-addiction-to-superiority-dominance-motherearth-kindnessculture-thrive-21st/
Actress-Director & Singer-Songwriter Cali Lili was skipped several grades (having been tested as reading at college level in grade school) took her first college course in the entire works of Shakespeare, at age 13, never graduated high-school, never even went to a prom, was swooped up, by NYU, then earned her Masters’ Degree on full scholarship with awards / stellar reviews for early works.
The Cali Lili ™ Band recorded Cali’s original Debut Album: “ this female is not yet rated ™️“which forms the core of the soundtrack for her debut Oscars 2020 Contender feature film 🎬 eVe N’god this female is not yet rated ™️“ 🎬 available on iTunes movies 🍎 Apple TV, Google Play Movies, YouTube movies & Vimeo worldwide. Album available on Apple Music 🍎 etc
Most Recently Cali was hired by award-winning producers to sing one of her songs on camera as the title track for an upcoming documentary .
That on camera recording session was filmed at the legendary “Nightbird Studios” housed in the equally legendary Rock N’ Roll hotel the “Sunset Marquis” in Hollywood. There was thunder and lightning in Hollywood that night. ‘Nuff said.
Stay tuned for the release of that new single, lyrics uploads and more upcoming movies & music by Cali Lili from her sustainable upcycled SustainableStudio™️ a SurfShackLoFt™️ green space in Venice Beach Los Angeles where Cali composes and releases sustainable movies & music.
You can read an edited version of this essay published as a guest piece at Will Pollock’s Cranky Yank
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