I feel the need to elaborate a few more practical outcomes of the previously mentioned East / West divide.
The West will see the East’s idea of accepted transience as a sort of bum’s life. In accepting what is instead of striving for what could be, you are in effect making excuses for your laziness and therefor aren’t a contributing part of society. This is partially true – if we were all 100% happy with simply what is, we would really never invent anything new or solve any problem with the famous “this could be better” inspiration we designers think so often. On the other hand, if we were all 100% strivers (and I think this is more true to our reality now) we would run into each other and counteract a lot of innovation with this silly notion of fame or overwhelming financial success.
The immediate example that comes to mind is patent trolling.
I use the word “silly” which implies my feeling for a thing. I’ve received outraged emails before that I’m biased. Well, yes. I am not a journalist and as such under no such obligation to unbias ‘truth’ (as if such a thing were to exist, anyway). With that said, my bias will often change and occasionally flip to the opposite completely over time.
But I do think it’s silly that someone or a company will have an awesome idea, spend all the money and time and effort to patent and… not do anything after. No attempt to actually make it or implement it. They wait instead for someone else to have the idea and make that awesome thing real, and then sue them for “infringement” walking away with money. It’s just, counter productive to society in favour of personal profit.
Does this make me anti-capitalist? Debatable. I would say in this example it shows that I value the greater advancement of design (both as a physical and an ideal outcome) over mere personal gain, yes. I think a truly capitalist person would look at this as the ultimate way to make money without having to do anything besides predict future inventions and get there first. If money is the measure of success, then yes, this is a very successful practice.
Full circle: if that’s the West’s true pantheon, I would argue it’s corrupt. Is infamy the same as fame? Depends who you ask. The funny thing – the fickle thing – about fame is it inherently cannot be available to everyone. While everyone can learn to be content, not everyone can make themselves famous. As the number of famous people increases, the disparity between ‘fame’ and ‘non-fame’ lessens. Essentially, we could all say we’re all famous right now, but because everyone is, it’s not special at all. Now, you can re-read that entire paragraph and substitute the word ‘wealth’ for ‘fame’ and it’s the same thing. The pantheon of the West, it seems, is inherently unavailable. That is the point – you could be the person who rises over everyone around you.
Call me socialist if you want, but doesn’t that goal seem pretty messed up?
But it’s not about me, this is about design with me as an author-proxy.
Should design be socialist? And by that I mean, available for everyone? I’d say so. The Eames definitely would say so. Rams, given his economic time, would say so. The ultimate irony is the remnants of their legacy is the exact opposite: their works are inflated and expensive now because someone more recent decided that rarity implied disparity. Obviously I can’t point to Herman Miller as evil, but I do think the Eames would be disappointed if they were alive now.
Full circle #2: the pursuit of money is not evil in itself, but to put it before the greater good of design is selfish in the bad way. If it were not a status symbol thing as the West insists it should be, it would happen less. If there was some compromise in the middle that took the West’s ability to create new and awesome things and the East’s ability to allow it to be nameless and freely available, we’d be better off.
Next week: the Scandinavians do just that.