Creativity is a huge unknown. Yes, there are theories about what it is but no consensus. In the medieval period, the creative person might be considered saintly, devil-possessed, or a mystic. Today if I were to say that the creative person sees what others do not, some might suggest a form of medication was in order. Many cultures admire or even worship creativity. Repressive societies fear it. Yet it is something any civilization needs for survival.
Even when creative art forms idealize life, like many of the American sitcoms of the 1950s, they make a statement about society, whether suggesting we live in a fantasy world, want to live in one, or are told we should. After WW II, Europeans fell into a deep and understandable, collective depression. The arts reflected it, depicting the human form as an object of revulsion, rejecting structure or beliefs, and mocking the concept that any individual life had significance. It was a way of dealing with unspeakable horror. Creativity is a way of teasing us with our illusions, giving solace in times of tragedy, and jolting us out of complacency.
Should there be restraints on creativity in any given society? Reason would suggest that we accept what we like and ignore what we don’t. (And I am not talking about things called “art” just to get around laws.) After all, the history of official censorship is pretty dismal. Some things found acceptable by the Authorized Board of Moral Authorities are shocking while reasons behind the banned works can be almost comic. The film, Birth of a Nation, is, in my less than humble opinion, an example of something that should have been “banned in Boston” while Lady Chatterley’s Lover and The Well of Loneliness may not be great works of literature but hardly warranted all that brouhaha. Perhaps our official reactions to creativity also make a noteworthy statement about our society.
In any case, that powerful and irrepressible human quality called creativity is a force that may be fenced in, as it has been in repressive times, but one that survives, even if it has to go underground, and will inevitably return to comfort, tease, and educate.