‘Humanity has advanced, when it has advanced, not because it has been sober, responsible, and cautious, but because it has been playful, rebellious, and immature.’
So says Tom Robbins on Page 29 in ‘Still life with woodpecker.’ If you read this lovely book way back in 1980 when it was written, and you are from the 60’s, it may have seemed old even then. Kind of all sixties grooviness. But you know what? Guys wearing suits and doing stuff called ‘research’ are, these days, tending to agree with signor Robbins. Conservatism does not lead to advancement. Being weird does. And there is a bonus it seems. Your house will increase in value. Cool eh?
Richard Florida (Heinz professor of economic development at Carnegie Mellon University and the author of ‘The Rise of the Creative Class’) talks about what he calls ‘The tolerance premium.’ Meaning that creative and groovy people tend to end up in the same place because that place is welcoming and tolerant, and then because the creative folk bring with them their inventiveness, the communities around them tend to flourish. And up goes the value of real estate.
Ian Plowman’ s recent research in Australia (see my last post) looking at what helps country towns flourish supports this. He found that the country towns that tend to do really well are those that have a high percentage of newcomers. They tend to be those towns which have lots of people who will contribute effort and ideas when needed without holding formal office, and they tend to be towns which embrace the unusual. They are the towns that that find value in difference and enjoy diversity in their midst. That’s what Ian Plowman says. And he has does done the research to prove it.
I was talking with a friend about Ian’s work and she pointed me in the direction of Richard Florida who I referred to above. Florida has a lot to say that Tom Robbins might find interesting. In an article entitled ‘Creative Class War’ in the Washington Monthly Jan/Feb 2004 he says that:
‘Individuals are sorting themselves into communities of like-minded people which validate their choices and identities…More than ever before, those who possess the means move to the city and neighborhood that reinforces their social and cultural view of the world.’
If creative people gather in the places they find attractive, and both Ian and Richard argue that they do, then it clearly means that they cannot be somewhere else. And this means there will be other places that are lacking creativity. And these places will suffer in numerous ways, including economically. Creative people, the less fitting-in, possibly the more unusual in our midst are needed. Not just because they are cool to hang out with. Though this might actually be enough. But because they can help our towns flourish. So if you yourself are one of what Ian lovingly calls a ‘weirdo’, then you are valuable. And if you have weirdos living near you, invite them in for tea. Possibly ask them to stay.