Monday, February 08, 2010


I have a new found respect for parents who live vicariously through their children. Although, this may mean I respect all parents, which certainly isn't how I feel.

You see that parent that says 'little Andre, go on outside and hit 1000 serves before dinner.' or 'Pete, we're going on a drive and you are going to dribble that ball out the window or I'll take your damn arm off!' or 'Michael if you don't hit those high C notes I'm going to punch you in the eye!' are at least trying to break the cycle of banality, if not for the children's sake.

But most parents under the guise of 'wanting it for their childrens sake' vicariously look for a secure life absent of any pitfalls. And I think, certainly the private secondary system has come to reflect the strong market demand for 'all the things we didn't have in life'.

But it's more like an insurance advisor got in the ears of private schools and said 'what we want to do is spread the risk around such that everybody leads average mediocre lives'. Any kid aspiring to a 'dreamer' profession can be resolutely crushed by denying them electives and streamlining them into subjects they would never want to do in a million years like further maths.

In fact vocation type courses is now firmly aligned with kids that are struggling, kids that have nothing else. Except for those kids that do have something else, this something is what I have come to term as 'the fallback fallacy'.

Most true vocations of dreamers are 'scalable' that is if you look at the job market for that vocation the average wage will be somewhere below the poverty line, and those that call themselves 'artists, actresses, actors, musicians, table tennis pros, custom motorcycle builders etc' are more readily identified by society as waiters, call center workers and factory line workers.

But if you look at the top of those professions the best in these professions earn 'obscene' amounts of money.

It's because they are usually globalised professions in limited demand. Thus a few hundred people can fulfill all the studio needs for actors in big budget films for the whole world 1 in 10,000 artists can produce enough art to fill all the offices and museums in 3 cities. You only need 20 AFL players out of all the hopefuls to make up a side. You only need 5 starters for an NBA team. And so on BUT, the value they then generate is immense. These scalable professions are 'winner takes all' professions, and the rest live below the breadline.

This it is high risk, you have say a 90% of never making it, a 9% chance of earning a living and a 1% chance of hitting the jackpot. Thus parents vicariously wanting 'a better life' for their kids will in most cases get anxious at all the 'actor' and 'artist' and 'drummer' talk and try and encourage their kid into becoming a statistician or some shit as 'a fallback'

Now the odds I gave above are meaningless. If say you put 4 years concerted effort into your desired vocation as a teen your odds will be more like 80% chance of never making it, 17% chance of making a living and 3% chance of hitting the jackpot.

If you hadn't guessed it, I'm just making these numbers up. It boils down to 'you have to be in it to win it' or 'you miss 100% of the shots you never take' or other reassuring sporting/lotto cliches. The point being, that sometimes these scalable proffessions are vicious cutthrought dog eat dog, fish eat fish darwinian battle royals... aka actually worth fighting for. But the thing that makes you a minnow in this ocean full of sharks is dedicating time and resources to a 'fallback' career.

The logic is thus - it's hard to be a popstar (allegedly) so just in case you don't make it get a degree in pharmacy, just in case you don't make it you can still enjoy a 'quality of life'.

So young girl slaves away through years 11 & 12 gets into uni studies for 4-5 years blows some money on a gap year or touring round the world and discovers that they are 22 all of a sudden. Most of the chart topping popstars are onto their second album by that stage and they haven't had a singing lesson in 6 years.
Good thing you have that fallback career now?

Fallacious, absolutely fallacious. Putting effort into a fallback qualification is in most cases the very act of 'not making it', and what is the fallback career anyway? It isn't something you wanted to do. It's not your first choice in life, it's at best your second, it comes often with huge debts and as is often the case, the only security to be had in this world - the security of failure.

There can be no prize to pursue or claim now that you have fallen back, it isn't your dream to be a pharmacist, engineer, chemist, actuary, lawyer, doctor, whatever... you wanted to act, you wanted to hold a championship trophy aloft, you wanted something that would bring tears to your eyes not through love, not through religion but sheer effort.

Instead you are left with a career, a career that could have waited for your decent and dedicated attempt to make something special of yourself as an artist, singer, writer, acrobat or budding entreprenuer.

And what is a career, Bob C* Cock aka Adam Gates summed up what I call the 'cycle of banality' in a way that spoke to me at the age of 16 so vividly that I remember it today:

Obviously any half-intelligent dimwit would see the folly of pursuing a "quality of life". This very pursuit reduces your life quality to that of a lab monkey. But they wave the golden carrot in your face. When you make this much money THEN life will finally start. THEN you can relax a little, read a book , enjoy a good fuck . When you get that raise, enter that income bracket and swallow without thinking. Perhaps that's all our modern educational system really is, the elimination of the choke reflex.

Now mind you, many of your teachers won't fess up to the intellectual laziness on their parts. That's all part of the game. An obstacle race really. Just get through High School and things will be better. Just get through college and things will improve. Just get that promotion and life will start. Why bother filling kids heads with IDEAS? What good will Camus do a freshman anyway? And that my friends is where the true sickness really lies. They simply cant be bothered to remind themselves (as well as you) of the association of thoughts, ideas, creativity,critical thinking etc. to the "real world". For to do this requires not only hours of hard work, caring and intelligence it demands that they fight the one mind set that most of them have been entrenched in for years and years-

plus it's worth reading the whole thing.

This is what I have struggled through and come to accept, it seems vicious and cruel and whatever to encourage a kid to pursue something that seems almost impossible. ALMOST impossible, but the alternative is really to 'sit this round out' but the round is your life and you only get one shot at it.

Sitting it out, if not as melancholic as Bob Cock describes, involves exactly what most lives amount to - study for the first 21 (to 23) years of your life in the most developed and priveledged nations in the world, then get a job, then get married, (these days buy a house each before you get married) buy as many houses as you can until all your descretionary spending is taken up by mortgage repayments on investment properties. Then have kids. Then flip your properties at (hopefully) a profit so you can afford to send your kids to a private school where they will be faced with the same dilemma. Spend their life pursuing something worthwhile (to them) but ALMOST impossible to obtain, or play it safe and sit this round out?

Propogating the species, your genes and your memes may seem noble. But not if they are just using up resources consuming goods made unsustainably for offspring that within 4 generations will bear almost no genetic or ideaological resemblance to you at all really isn't. If nobody breaks the cycle of banality, what's the point?

Furthermore, in a country like Australia there really is no risk. If you spend your years 18-26 pursuing a stand up comic gig and you never make it and one day you accept that you just don't have the fire in the belly, the eye of the tiger anymore so what? Quit. Go to school, go to uni, it's much easier to get in now than straight out of highschool now you are a mature age student. You will almost certainly be in a better financial position than them. You will be relaxing when your own high school buddies are prematurely ageing from mortgage stress thanks to taking financial advice from the same qualified source that gave them career advice - their parents.

You will outperform the other students I guaruntee it, because you will care about this course. You've had 6 years to think about your decision. They most likely had a matter of weeks to lock in their preferences. Most of them will end up changing career anyway at some point. The most annoying ones drop out. An employer will hire you once you are qualified and then your colleagues will find you more interesting than themselves because you spent 6 YEARS AS A STRUGGLING STAND UP COMIC.

Doing it hard will have taught you something that most people if not born with it, never get - kindness, sympathy and persistence. You will have the precise education a private school fails to deliver - the ability to back yourself, to take risks and live with the consequences. To haul yourself out of deep funks by your own bootstraps. THAT is a fallback career. One where at 35 you don't wake up at night and think 'What could I have been' one that involves no boredom.

Even if your fallback career fails, what of it, back to uni again. Or buy a franchise, make gourmet burgers. Learn woodturning, sell all your assets and set up a business. Whatever. Do anything, just break the cycle.

' Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.' said Samuel Beckett.

Words to live by, any other life is not worth living.

It is why I fear not trying more than failure itself.

*The 'C' is for 'Cock'

1 comment:

<:)-+ said...


Perhaps less so for a black kid in Harlem, where quality of life aint such an assurance, but for Australians man, very, very true.

Which is what I tell my sister actually.