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Moment of Truth: Imagine

Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.

Like everything else – education, housing, food, medical care – luxury needs to move from being privately owned to being entirely available for public use. Just like Yellowstone and Arches national parks, luxury homes, luxury cars, luxury jewelry, clothes, art materials, foods, wines, all of it. Every bit of luxury available all the time for the public to share.

Oh, no! shouts the person with no imagination. But then no new luxury homes will be built. Who will make exceptional wines if they can't hold them hostage for the highest price the market will bear? The only reason we have luxury at all, you know, is because fabulously wealthy people can own it. Their snotty patronage, their willingness to pay top dollar for excellence, is why excellence exists at all.

Maybe so. After all, ever since the social system under which the great Egyptian pyramids were funded and built, we haven't had a similar project, a gigantic pyramid- shaped tomb wasting land and resources so a self-important egomaniac could be buried with all his servants and animals. I guess we'll just have to enjoy the ones that remain from that beautiful time of enslavement and mass stupidity.

True, without kings, no new palaces need be built. Without private luxury, no new mansions need be built. We'll just have to enjoy the ones remaining from that beautiful time when people were stupid enough to believe that a handful of wealth-hoarders deserved the wealth they hoarded, and were so much better than the rest of us that they merited six or seven or a dozen over-sized private habitats. Maybe, if some of them are so determined to hold onto the old ways, we can display them in their former homes like animals in a zoo.

But surely there are people deserving of luxury, the ossified mind persists. You can't mean to suggest that any old self-appointed sculptor eating raw roadkill by the highway deserves to carve their pedestrian design into a singularly glorious piece of marble! Yes, I do. A great artist will make something great out of anything to hand. We needn't worry about running out of art. We might run out of Art Star art. We might run out of the ego- stroked narcissists who get paid hundreds of thousands for their work. Bless 'em, I don't begrudge their success under the current market-obsessed zeitgeist. But once we throw off the tyranny of the market, if an artist was only doing it for the money, I don't know that we'll miss them.

John Lennon owned his very own private white Steinway grand piano. I'm not even a musician, but there was a point in my life where I'm pretty sure I was as good a piano player as John Lennon. Y'know who could've put that piano to good use? Jellyroll Morton, or who knows what poor but brilliantly talented homeless kid or poor soul incarcerated for whatever necessity of impoverishment our society has decided to outlaw. We act as though, if we opened luxury to the public we would somehow lose the human capacity for genius. Yes, just imagine a world without the magnificent piano works of John Lennon. How empty.

Nothing against John Lennon. But it's not like he was Chopin, or was even playing Chopin, or was even able to play Chopin. Deedle deedle deedle deedle DUM dee deedle deedle deedle – he could've written that on a Baldwin spinet. You don't need a white Steinway grand piano to Deedle deedle deedle deedle DUM dee deedle deedle deedle.

I know songwriters who won't ever become superstars, and I feel very comfortable saying, even in a world without privilege and stardom, there will always be brilliant, beautiful music created. And you won't have to spend $180.00 a ticket to see the best. The best will be the best, even if it's free.

Yes, we will be leaving this point in history behind someday. We'll look back at when Jay Leno could afford countless collector automobiles, and the truly gifted mechanical genius was busted for shoplifting at age 12 and tried as an adult, because a judge with Alzheimer's just setting in decided to make an example of him by ruining his life.

I like Imagine. Deedle deedle deedle deedle DUM dee deedle deedle deedle-dee-DEE- dum deedle deedle deedle DUM dee deedle deedle deedle dee Imagine no possessions, I wonder if you can, no need for greed or hunger – Imagine a world where you wouldn't need to write that song, and I wouldn't need to sing it in that agonizing way, for which I apologize, because it was already true.

John Lennon also wrote the song, Working Class Hero. It's a misanthropic song. It's a polemical, didactic song. It's a song containing as much disdain as compassion. It's ambivalent. It was written by a man who hated himself as much as he loved himself. That's a pretty healthy balance to achieve in a world as messed up as ours.

Even if we make a more equal society, and at the same time somehow wrangle ourselves a world fit for human and delicate amphibian life, we'll still give ourselves nice things because we deserve nice things. All of us. And we'll achieve excellence because we like excellence. We want to be excellent for its own sake. And people recognize excellence.

You know who appreciated excellence? Salieri. And in a world where he wasn't jockeying for the approval of the Habsburg court, he would have been a happier man. I don't even know what he was so upset about. He was a very accomplished composer. He was the Austrian royal Kapelmeister. He had illustrious students, including Beethoven. He was a highly regarded figure on the 18th-century Viennese music scene.

Now, legends say Salieri was angry at God. He was angry at God for giving a daffy, uncouth nincompoop like Mozart such musical brilliance. See, he wasn't angry about all the money. He was angry about excellence for excellence's sake. But that's just a legend.

And so, even had 18th-century Vienna had a more egalitarian socio-economic system, Salieri might have still have been as cranky as legend has it he was about Mozart being an undeserving vessel for the musical excellence Salieri recognized in him. And Pushkin could still have written about it, and Tom Hulce could still have done his touching death scene in Milos Forman's unfortunately and unnecessarily naturalistic film adaptation of Peter Shaffer's non-naturalistic play.

How is such a system to be set up? I don't know. There are economists and politicians and lawyers, maybe they can figure that out, many of them have extraordinarily expensive educations – so you know they're really smart. And they get paid top dollar, so you know they really care about getting the job done right.

This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!

Moment of Truth


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