As you know, I’m very interested in the intersections between art and science. I’m also passionate about social justice. Today, I’m thinking about the relationship between social justice and creativity.
Russia may need to re-think its harsh and punitive anti-gay policies, not only because they are obvious human rights violations, but also because, ultimately, they are creating a country that will keep lagging behind the rest of the world in terms of innovation.
What Type of Countries Are the Most Innovative?
There are many surveys of creativity and innovation. None of them lists Russia in the top 10 most creative countries. Instead, the countries that make these lists tend to be, with only a couple of exceptions, very open and queer-friendly. European countries, especially Northern European countries, tend to rank high on any measure of creativity and/or innovation. Canada does as well. The US is also on these lists. American progress with LGBT civil rights does lag behind other innovative countries. But the areas from which innovation arises in the US are themselves very LGBT-friendly – like the Northeast and the West Coast.
I’m not saying that LGBT people are the source of all creativity. (Although the evidence for significantly higher creativity in homosexual and bisexual people is quite intriguing.) I’m saying that policies that quash and oppress LGBT people, who tend to be more creative themselves, may have a chilling effect on all people who are creative.
Creativity and Non-Conformity
Creative people, whether LGBT or heterosexual, tend to be non-conformists. They find it difficult to conform to the “mainstream”. They are outsiders. If they see other outsiders being viciously attacked, they may be less likely to allow their own differences to show. They may be less likely to be creative or innovative at work, for example, for fear of exposing their own “differentness”. This could be one reason that countries that oppress LGBT people typically do not rank very high in terms of creativity and innovation.
Legalized Gay-Bashing Stops National Progress
Russia has many problems, of course. Today’s legalized gay-bashings – in any country – are obviously indicative of societies that are oppressive and likely not very creative. But by legalizing gay-bashing, these countries put a formidable obstacle in their own paths to progress, economic and otherwise.
I don’t pretend to know all the problems these types of countries have, nor do I wish to cover them all in this blog post. I’m just very interested in the fact that the countries that are consistently the most innovative also happen to be those that are also the most LGBT-friendly.
Embracing LGBT People Can Help a Country Flourish
While creativity – including LGBT creativity – has existed and will continue to exist under a variety of circumstances, it seems that embracing, rather than attacking, LGBT people could have tremendous positive effects for a country. It gives that country access to the gifts of LGBT people, and it also creates an environment in which difference – regardless of what kind of difference – is welcomed. That is the perfect atmosphere in which creativity can flourish.