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This Is Why I’m Feeling Obsolete

Arron J Shay - David Martyn Hunt - Pyragraph
Photo by David Martyn Hunt.

I’ve been thinking a lot about obsolescence recently. Specifically, my own.

There are many reasons why this has been on my mind. The changing seasons, turning 30 years old, feeling stagnation in my artistic labor…but most of all, I’m thinking of obsolescence because of my current day-work.

Presently, I’m pushing paper in a temporary position at an office. It is by far the most boring work I’ve ever done, and yet also the highest pay I’ve made in years. A computer could easily do this job better than I can, given the right tools and instructions. My work here is largely inconsequential. This sort of job will not exist in 5 years; artificial intelligence and automation will take most of these jobs away, leaving many workers unemployable due to no fault of their own.

Is my artistic labor truly of value, in the grand economic sense?

So the hours pass by and I am engaged in my thoughts. Is this what the economy truly values about me? After all, absent any corrective policies, an economic system pays for what it values. Is this the best service I can render my society? What more could I really do? Is my labor the sole designator of my value?

For that matter, is my artistic labor truly of value, in the grand economic sense? What futures remain available to me? I have failed to achieve much of what I wanted to do in my 20s, but does that mean that those goals are now out of reach?

What sort of change/influence do I want to enact on this world, this city, my home? And how would I go about such change?

I am a singer-songwriter. Our forebears have a grand tradition of involvement in political movements within the 20th Century, with luminaries like Zilphia Horton and Woodie Guthrie showing us what can be done. But they are of the past, and their times are not our times—though their struggles are much the same. The exploitation of the working class, the bare face of bigotry, the weakness of moderate complacency…these things have never left us, despite what was written in history textbooks. Despite the long arc of justice.

In the past weeks, the nation made a political choice that horrifies me. Not to imply that there were not horrors before, but it is clear that these horrors will become much much worse in the coming years. That requires me to ask myself: Even when I am successful at my chosen work—music—is there anything about it that does good work? Does it change anyone’s perspective for the better?

I’m not innocent. My conscience is not clear. I have cowered behind my bystander status. I have failed so many times to show up and be counted among those who protest injustice. I have labored, but primarily toward my own goals and aspirations. I’m gonna start doing what I can. Volunteer for progressive organizations that need the help. Write songs that speak my mind, and take them to places where people haven’t met my kind. I will try to reach them. I will try to be better than I have been.

How are you doing with all of this horror-show going on?

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