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November 24, 2007

« Disneyfication of Toronto? | Main | India and China »

My new Globe and Mail column is out.

I recalled hose Saturdays recently when I had my hair cut in Toronto. It turned out that the hairdresser, a stylish young man in his late 20s or early 30s, was once a resident of Birmingham, an upscale suburb of Detroit that I knew well because my wife lived there when we met.  Without thinking, I said, "My wife used to get her hair done in Birmingham; what salon did you work in?"  "I wasn't a hairstylist then, man. I worked for General Motors," he said.  "Really?" I said, trying to dig myself out of a hole. "What plant did you work at?" "Plant?" came his reply. "I didn't work in a factory — I'm a mechanical engineer and I worked on new product development."

My jaw dropped. This man had quit a high-paying job in a good company so he could cut people's hair. He had left the creative class because it wasn't creative enough for him and had gone into a service industry to express his creativity.

The rest is here.


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The most recent column by Richard Florida in the Globe and Mail triggered a small storm of confusion and vitriol by commenters on Globeandmail.com. Some context from the article: I recalled those Saturdays recently when I had my hair cut in Toronto. I... [Read More]



When you say "Creativity is a virtually limitless resource that defies social status.", it really makes me wonder how urban planners still require to extensive vision sessions and compile a tonne of statistical research, when all they need to do is either open their eyes that the very graffiti that poor urban planning can create is actually creativity that defies social status, and what is graffiti other than human beings creating a billboard that says "our creativity is being ignored, our humanity will be expressed and our environment is not a cage".

Of course those who create graffiti also are imprisoned by their own ideas of identification, so where creativity should defy social status, identification defies social status where defies is no longer contains the meaning of being "unaffected" but transforms into the meaning of "resistance". The fault line of creativity therefore is as much responsibility in the hands of someone who creates destructive creativity as much as it does in the hands of people who should connect humanity to their profession and who serve to elevate creative destruction.

So while it is true that "We systematically neglect the creative potential of the 60 to 70 per cent of the population" the view of that reversed from the grassroots level also points to the failure of personal imagination to do the most with the opportunities that are provided, creativity is not an archetype or a stereotype but so often it becomes that, because we are not creative enough about creativity and in some ways become far too creative about creativity rather actually "do" and "be" creative. To defy social status we merely have to shift our position from creative observation to creative action and that means instead of recognizing the creative act, use the Socratic creativity of asking, "where can you best use this creativity you have" and "where can I best use my own creative being".


Alex MacLean

So, there's a really key 'creative class' that drives the innovative city of tomorrow, or something,but really, we're all creative given a chance. Well, glad that's cleared up. It would seem we're all set, then. Okay. Bye.

Larry Berglund

I enjoyed the link of diverse cultures to diversity in problem solving.

Vancouver should benefit more from this creative synergy which is created but is not tapped into enough. Status quo is very strong.

Read about the Dysney-effect in Toronto - however, the more dramatic Dysnesque treatment is being provided through out the Caribbean resort towns. Cozumel with Starbucks front and centre. Jimmy Buffet's water slides and bars in Jamaica and elsewhere - move out locals, enter the corporations. Creative or crass?


Creative Seniors

Albeit the friends I just visited are part of the 'creative class' but in their mid-eighties they are still at it (as if creativity should ever end). She, at 82, just published her first mystery novel as a follow up to other successful non-fiction works. He, at 86, was pouring concrete to shore up the walls of an old farmhouse they have made their home this past forty years.

I'd like to hear your thoughts about what we should do to tap the experience of the millions of boomers on the eve of retirement (or ready for a second try?) who are part of the 60% you say we undervalue as creative agents.

What an opportunity to leverage the life experiences of so many.

Michael Vertin

I think Richard is quite correct that every person, whatever his/her job or state in life, has creative potential, and that a society greatly restricts its collective possibilities when it envisages this potential as limited to people with advanced educations.

Here's a note about the correlative view of Bernard Lonergan, a prominent Canadian philosopher/theologian who died in 1984. In 1988, the U. of T. Press began a multi-year project of bringing out 24 volumes of his collected works. (At present that project is roughly half finished.) The best-known of these works is INSIGHT: A STUDY OF HUMAN UNDERSTANDING, first published in 1957, and now vol. 3 of the UT series. The book begins with Aristotle's claim that to be human is to be curious. Lonergan then delineates various forms of the "insights" that satisfy this curiosity (though always just partly, since no answer ever makes all questioning cease). Chapters 6 and 7 are devoted to "common sense" (by contrast with "theoretical") questions and insights. When I read Richard's column, I immediately thought of it as an excellent illustration of what Lonergan discusses in those chapters. The chapters are worth knowing about for anyone who would find it useful to have a philosophical study that backs up in great detail the points Richard was making on Saturday.

(Lonergan's ten public lectures on his own book were subsequently collected as UNDERSTANDING AND BEING, vol. 5 of the UT series. A popular and accessible version of the key themes is available in Terry Tekippe, WHAT IS LONERGAN UP TO IN 'INSIGHT'?)

For the record, Lonergan and Jane Jacobs were mutual admirers.

Michael Vertin
Professor Emeritus of Philsophy
University of Toronto
(St. Michael's College)

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