Yesterday I got incensed on the Art Creates Community thing. It’s been appearing on more and more bumperstickers around here, and makes me roll my eyes.
I identified this with the sixties, even though – to my knowledge at least – this one is recent, simply because it seemed a characteristic of the sixties (perhaps due to the mass media of the time) to push ideas as slogans. These slogans, everywhere from t-shirts to bumperstickers, got repeated so much (particularly at my young and unsuspecting generation) that they got accepted by the majority, totally unexamined as “everyone knows.”
You know, “Make love, not war.” Why? What about one prevents the other? In most cases, people make love AND war. If you believe the legendary works of the Greeks, people go to war because of making love – or even closer at hand, if you read a lot of WWI and WWII set or written fiction, you get the idea people went to war to impress girls.
Of course it was an excuse to stay at home and do hippie chicks, instead of obeying the draft, while managing to abrogate to yourself the mantel of virtue. “Hey man, I chose to make love not war.” Of course, they were actually making sex not war, and most such men – like all weasels – treated women very badly. BUT the slogan hid a multitude of sins.
Then there’s – please gag me – “What if they gave a war and no one came?” I swear I want to print response stickers to put underneath that say “Well then the war comes to you.” The same with “What if schools everything they wanted, and the army had to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber” – which makes me want to say “well, I hope the school enjoys having its *ss bombed.” Or “It all ends with sending ill-equipped children to the front to die.”
The problem with post-it thinking is that it hooks into humans social nature, i.e. wanting to be in with everyone. And while it’s easy to come up with totally ridiculous sayings that SEEM well meaning and that people put on their cars, t-shirts, websites to seem virtuous, it’s much harder to make a cogent argument in that space. And it’s impossible to counter a slogan someone embraced to be “in” with logical thinking.
Take “No blood for oil.” Tell someone that’s the stupidest thing you ever heard/saw and they ask you “Do you think people should die for oil?” Well… no. No one should die without heating too. And no one should die in famines.
The problem is the operating word there is “should” which is the language of desire, not the language of reality, which uses “would” and “could.”
No one should die for oil – which btw, was not even close to what the war in Iraq was about, as proven by the fact being simon-pure we didn’t take the oil – but as the country shouldering world peace (I’m not going to get into a discussion on whether we should or not. Pax Americana is a globalist project and I’m not a globalist. OTOH I believe we should be well defended and bellicose enough no one even looks at one of our citizens crosseyed.) we have to ensure enough stability that oil isn’t used as a tool of terrorism (that works) and that the prices don’t spike so much (that works too!) that poor people at home are dying from LACK of oil.
But ignore that energy is the basis of our economy. Ignore that oil is the main part of our economy. Think of it as shiny black liquid, and “No blood for oil” is obvious. It’s also vapid, childish, and wrong and avoids discussions of “How were we to maintain world stability without going into the Middle East.” Which is the entire purpose of it, because half the people the “Should” side gets to back them would get bored and wonder away when you start discussing comparative strategic advantages of going in elsewhere or of not going in and just bombing the heck out of the place, or– They don’t want the details. They want to sound thoughtful and caring. “Make love, not war.” “No blood for oil” Look, what good people they are. They don’t want anyone to die. No one “Should” die. Forget that this is impossible, and that they have the median IQ of a half brick. They have their slogan, and it shows they’re GOOD. And they’re willing to die for this half-baked slogan. Because that makes them saints or something.
In that context, “Art Creates Community” is a bland and innocuous slogan. Mostly I see it in cars when I go to art classes.
However, I’ve reached the point when, frankly, any and all postit thinking drives me batsh*t insane and makes me start jumping up and down and screaming. (Yesterday at the con someone told me that I couldn’t be Latin – she was sure I’d grown up in the Soviet Union and she thought that was a good thing. Children, I was so tired I skittered away from THAT fast – because you know, I’m so laid back, and cerebral. Ah! I’m just PRIVATE. I don’t roam the corridors of a con screaming. I roam the corridors in my HOUSE screaming.)
Let’s examine the slogan – it’s absolute true at face value. There’s a community of people who form friendships and networking and interests around the museum and the art school. So, Art Creates Community.
Only, the bumper stickers have a line under it from some government fund that underwrites them AND art.
Um… Look, my writers’ group, when I had one, created community. We helped each other through illnesses and financial distress. But we had no government funding. Did we need government funding? Well, we subsisted ten years without it, and in that time most of us transitioned to professional status. So…
The thing is that ANY shared interest creates community. I have friends who know tons of people in their gun-collectors/gun-manufacturers/gun-dealers community because, well, they go to the same shows, and they get to know each other.
So, Guns Create Community (a well defended one.) I say the city government should finance guns. No? Why not. They create community.
And, as a commenter noted, churches create strong communities. Should city government finance churches? Why not?
ANY shared interest creates community. Gaming Creates Community. Should the city subsidize that? Why not?
And don’t tell me sometimes good art needs public support. For the love of Keemchee, the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany supported all sorts of art. When the government supports art you get gigantic statues of Mao Tse Tung, (Or gigantic statues of Martin Luther King looking like Mao Tse Tung.) And please, don’t bring up the Italian Renaissance. That was different. The patrons were individuals who just happened to be massively rich.
The best art done with government patronage was Shakespeare, and frankly those are the worst of his plays (which his having learned to write for the people first, still aren’t too bad.)
So do I think we “shouldn’t” support art? Well, I do think a city government so far in debt that they can’t keep all the street lights on AND stop a popular inter-city bus CAN’T support art. That is the language of reality. It has nothing to do with should. It has to do with could and the fact that there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. You take money from one side, it’s gone. You don’t have it for the other.
So don’t I think we SHOULD support art? That’s neither here or there. I am an artist myself – very beginner – as well as a writer, which some people would consider an artist.
Do I think every artist should have enough to live on and pursue his or her art? Sure thing. In an ideal world, in which soup rains from the sky, clothes grow on trees and a two-bedroom home sprouts after the rains like a mushroom.
But that’s not the world we live in. A world in which if you pay for soup you can’t pay for art is the world we live in. A world in which if the government finances art, it can’t finance lighting the streets is the world we live in.
Now, I happen to think that worrying about the daily bread and having only a little time to do art sharpens the art and gives it a human touch. (But then, of course, too much worry can kill it. We’re human. It’s all imperfect.)
But even if I didn’t believe that, I still would have to say that while I think EVERYONE should have enough money to pursue whatever art or hobby they wish, I don’t think it’s possible to make it so that everyone CAN. I also think everyone should live forever. I don’t think everyone CAN (or anyone, right now.) I think it SHOULD rain soup. I don’t think the government should at great expense send helicopters overhead to dispense soup.
Art Creates Community. Guns Create Community. Religion Creates Community. Make your community self sufficient. There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch and no one SHOULD be compelled to pay for yours.
Ignore that long enough, stick to post-it thinking, and the gods of the copybook headings come to tell you that if you will have art on the streets, you can’t have lights. And then no one can come and look at the art in the evening without being mugged.
Or… you could think past post-its.