Thursday, September 25, 2008

Trolling for the Arts

Perhaps the most depressing feature of our current media landscape is the blogification of newspapers.

If you want to read a paper, with editors and maybe even fact-checking and all that, you have to buy one. If you want it for free, as many of us do, you know have to endure "comments" after pretty much every news story or article.

The Globe and Mail invites its readers to "join the conversation". Nice sentiment, too bad that the reality is more akin to people throwing up on each others shoes.

Like Mark Geelhoed, it's not clear to me what "value" these trolls add to anything, and I'm fairly certain that most journalists, hacks though many of them may be, probably don't appreciate the fact that their work is now essentially tagged by trolls just itching to get their message out, which is usually that they're really, really angry about, oh, I don't know, being alive.

Anyway, what's this got to do with anything? Well, further to my posts yesterday, I noticed that the consensus of the trollosphere towards Harper's comments was the old saw that in tough times, we need to buckle down, and frankly, supporting culture is just at the bottom of the barrel of things we need to support.

Why am I engaging the trolls? Because this line is pretty common wisdom. I asked a number of people yesterday, none of whom live under a bridge or eat bones, and they all said, yeah, times are tough and so we can't go funding the arts.

And besides, if the arts are such a big industry, what do they need government support for? Can't they be self-sufficient like everyone else? Stupid leeches!

Friends, let me present everyone else.

Artists, people in the know, people with a bigger pulpit than mine, why not pit the mirror down and instead of trumpeting how big the culture industry is, go out there and ask why automakers are deserving of a handout for their failed business, despite all that free-market and competition and know, the things the trolls and everyone else seem to demand of the arts and pretty much nothing else?

Tough times for automakers? Here's a billion. Tough times for artists? Tant pis?

Anyone who's agreed with the whole line over the years, do you suddenly feel that you've been selling someones talking point all this time? And if so, why not ask yourself, why is it so easy here in Canada to believe that there's billions for industry but nothing for the arts, even though artists, uh, pay taxes and you know, contribute to society as much as the CEO and staff of GM do?

Or are we staring at something deeper? Something no one wants to talk about, which is the idea that most people have shitty jobs and crappy lives and that it's better for the government to support shitty jobs than it is to support people creating and performing, those who, at least in popular perception, deeply enjoy what they are doing?

Are we really so repressed and conformist that we would prefer to starve the artists to save the automaker? Or let me put it another way - which jobs are really worth saving in an ideal world, and which jobs would any of you prefer to have?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Onion Rules

Further to my previous post. The danger in courting "working-class" voters, also known as people who don't care about the arts, is that they might actually care.

Yes, I know it's satire, but it's also one of the nicest appreciations of David Foster Wallace I've read! So there!

How did we get here?

Warren Kinsella is depressingly correct about our current Prime Minister's jab at "the arts" and how it must be handled. However, my suspicion is that it will likely be handled in exactly the way he cautions against...

But seriously, how did we get here? How did we get to a point where a major politician feels he can say something as radical as "ordinary Canadians don't care about the arts" and then wave his hands about arts galas as evidence for this?

Stephen Harper doesn't speak for ordinary Canadians any more than I do, but how did we get to a point where people, whose lives are in fact permeated by arts and culture, don't actually see it any more?

What we don't need right now is Paul Gross or Russell Smith talking about the arts cuts. Instead, people who oppose Harper and this approach need to find people like my mother, who, after years working various jobs, went back to school in her 60's to get a diploma in the theatre.

You can go and judge my blog and call me an elitist, and out of touch, but I dare you to call my mother one, Harper. She is exactly the kind of person you are very afraid of right now.

So my lone piece of political advice to anyone who's listening this election is, show "ordinary" people in the arts. Harper's comment is a clear indication that this is an issue that scares him, and gently reminding Canadians that "ordinary" people not only care about the arts, but are artists themselves, might be just the thing to knock him right over during this election.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Tautological Aphorism IV

The people prefer to hope for a better future, provided they don't have to think about the past. Dealing with the past is for historians.