Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Jim Flaherty and the Tea Party Abandon the Arts

It was once suggested to Winston Churchill that he cut funding to the arts to pay for Britain's war, to which he responded "Then what would we be fighting for?"

A nation's arts and culture are as important to their identity as their historic landmarks.

Yet neoconservative ideology suggests otherwise. If it doesn't make a profit, then it's not art. And in the same way that Margaret Thatcher declared that "there is no such thing as society", the Harperites believe that there is no such thing as a Canadian culture.

The Tea Party/Republicans believe that the National Endowment for the Arts are "elitists" and even go so far as to suggest that their main function is to create propaganda for the left.

Sarah Palin says: "NPR, National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, all those kind of frivolous things that government shouldn't’t be in the business of funding with tax dollars — those should all be on the chopping block."

Jim Flaherty listened and has announced that he will be cutting funding for the arts. No big surprise, since Harper himself has referred to artists as those living in "ivory towers".

Lighthouses on stumps, fake lakes and his singing off key, are the only artistic endeavors that we need to pay for. And we are indeed paying for them.

William Osborne wrote a piece for the American Arts Journal several years ago discussing the neoconservative principles of Milton Friedman and the Republicans, when it came to the funding of arts and culture.

He had spent several years in Europe, and was amazed at the divide.
As an American who has lived in Europe for the last 24 years, I see on a daily basis how different the American and European economic systems are, and how deeply this affects the ways they produce, market and perceive art. America advocates supply-side economics, small government and free trade – all reflecting a belief that societies should minimize government expenditure and maximize deregulated, privatized global capitalism. Corporate freedom is considered a direct and analogous extension of personal freedom.

Europeans, by contrast, hold to mixed economies with large social and cultural programs. Governmental spending often equals about half the GNP. Europeans argue that an unmitigated capitalism creates an isomorphic, corporate-dominated society with reduced individual and social options. Americans insist that privatization and the marketplace provide greater efficiency than governments. These two economic systems have created something of a cultural divide between Europeans and Americans.
Canada used to care about cultural events without worrying over whether they produced a profit or fit a mould. The neocons will pick and choose what events they fund, and only those that conform to neocon ideology will ever see a dime.

Gay Pride parades out, reenactments of battles in. Next summer it will be the War of 1812, only in this version, the Americans win and we hand over to them everything we own.

And the Harperites belittle artists to justify their heavy handedness. If you can't sell your painting, then you shouldn't be painting.

Says Osborne:
European politicians avoid attacking the arts for populist and opportunistic political gains. This is a taboo that is seldom, if ever, broken and the perpetrators generally only discredit themselves. Few mainstream European politicians would make remarks such as North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms, who said, “The artists and the homosexuals ain’t seen nothing yet.” Europeans would find it absurd to eliminate almost half of a nation’s arts funding because of two or three marginalized avant-garde artists. After the traumas of both fascism and communism, Europeans realize how destructive the intimidation of artists is to the dignity and cultural identity of society.
Ah yes. Jesse Helms. Did I mention that Arthur Finklestein also handled his campaign?

Don't you just love the ignorance of neoconservatism?


  1. It makes me sick, Emily. I just finished commenting on a blog by Canadian artist Aleta Karstad, whose biodiversity paintings and watercolour sketches delight me. I'd far sooner support Aleta than a re-enactment of any battle except, perhaps, the battle for women's rights.

  2. "The meaning of art is explored in a branch of philosophy known as aesthetics, and even disciplines such as history and psychology analyze its relationship with humans and generations". (Wikepedia) Clearly the Harper government has no concept of how "Art" is a reflection of who we are and how we are perceived on a global and cultural stage. In fact an inability to show creativity and imagination results in our dismal standing on that world stage where we have been in a steady decline over the years of Harper's leadership, or lack of it. Culture and art has been the benchmark of all civilizations whether it be cave paintings or architecture.

  3. All that right wing stuff is reckless talk and untrue and it's just nonsense, but why do they want to say that stuff? They want some different type of world. But, which world would it be that they want? Well, they don't know. But these Tea-Party bimbos don't like this one. OK: So, welfare for conservatives is the right policy option for the times. You need a little conservative park, like an animal sanctuary --- where they would get their little way of life. But it would be a trifle more humane than a zoo, of course, because the liberals who would set that up are not as ignorant as these so-called conservative fake leaders. We are a lot better looking over them than they will be on the day they get to "watch over" us! So there is no choice about it -- it's the day of the liberals.

    I liked the article