Something for nothing

Monday 24th October

We seem to be living in a something for nothing society, which is I suppose slightly preferable to living in a nothing for something one. “Nothing for something?”  do i hear you enquire.  And actually that does happen quite often, not only when you are actually robbed or when something you have ordered fails to be delivered, or if you have paid for concert tickets, often months in advance, and then nearer the time realise that it clashes with another event which you cannot postpone, and there is no refund available. (but at least this is ones’ own fault)  More often you get nothing for something when things are not exactly as you expected them to be, and you are left with that awful feeling of disappointment; a Hotel which though advertised as four star would be awarded only two by anyone with a discerning mind; or a jacket which looked fine in the changing room mirror, but now you have it home sits awkwardly on your shoulders and hangs like a sack, so that you cannot possibly get any use out of it.

But what I mean by the something for nothing society is that it is being driven by the internet and a whole generation of young people who believe in its’ promise of free everything.  They seek out file-sharing sites where they obtain not only computer programmes, but music and films too, without paying a penny in royalties or anything, and they feel outraged at the concept that they should ever pay at all.  Quite illegal of course, but so many are now doing it that it is increasingly difficult to stop.  Added to this is the propensity for newspapers to ‘give away’ free CDs or DVDs in order to boost their flagging circulation, which is also encouraging this viewpoint.  You only have to observe the burgeoning pound shops where people are happy for any old substandard goods so long as it is almost given away.  So, more and more there is an attitude of “Why pay, when I can get it for nothing”.

But I do pay, and I do not mind paying a fair price to listen to my favourite artist or to hear new music, or to see an exhibition by new artists, or for clothes that are well made.  I appreciate the hours of dedication and sheer hard work involved in creating the piece of music I am listening to, or the paintings I am lucky enough to be looking at.  And if nobody is willing to pay for their hard work, do you really think that they will continue to do it just for the fun of the thing.  And it is the same with anything well made, unless the maker is rewarded, they will cease to bother making things.  Even Karl Marx acknowledged that; his gripe was not with the artisan worker, but with the Capitalist system for stealing the fruit of his labours, which is exactly what the pirate download sites are doing, not in the name of Capitalism but in the name of ‘Something for nothing’.

But seriously, this attitude of something for nothing is detrimental not only to the creative arts but also to the listener or the viewer; if they have paid for nothing then nothing has any value, and if they have no values then there is no appreciation or discernment and eventually there will be no choice and no amount of ‘something for nothing’ will then improve the paucity of their lives.