On envy and solidarity

An uneasy feeling creeps among musicians these days: to do well, in these times, is to be envied – and it is a terrible thing to be envied by your friends and colleagues. It is to have one’s place in a foundering boat challenged: don’t you belong in that bigger boat just ahead? The one swamping ours?
This strikes me particularly hard when I think of my brothers and sisters in the United States; from that vantage point I share another, larger boat with my Austrian colleagues. While we go demonstrating because our country (I say “our” as a convenience, being neither fish nor fowl myself) has forgotten those of us who make art, I read the news daily from a country much further down the road toward to perdition than we, a country where the very idea of government support for the arts – and for more basic needs – is utopian (which, lest us not forget, means: no such place).

I attended a demonstration to appeal for help for the arts community on May 1st. Listening to the speakers, it struck me that there were marches and demonstrations happening all over the city (somewhere I read that 15 were registered in total) for the same things. Nothing more than was promised at the outset, really: “no one to be left behind, cost what it may”. Some of the speeches I heard had something of an exceptionalist tone to them – as if we artists were somehow special, as if our concerns and problems were in some way essentially different from those of others. Even dismissing my basic distaste for the idea, I thought from a practical standpoint, surely setting ourselves apart can benefit no one. I had to ask myself: we all need the same things; how is it that we are not all demonstrating together? So too with the divisions between the slightly more and less fortunate, at whatever level. Are we to feel ashamed? To hide our meager advantage as best we can, so as not to suffer the envy of others or the pangs of own own conscience?
To return to my own tiny corner of the world: I do what little I can. I buy (not stream) the things that my friends produce; I speak to others, I write a little now and then – because if I am a little lucky right now, that luck is founded on nothing at all. But much more than that: what affects any one of us directly affects all of us indirectly.