Well, it seems as though the abusive relationship between BC artists and the provincial government continues. We're battered, but we're not ready to do anything about it just yet, because, well, maybe Gordon Campbell will still say he loves us. And it might be all we can hope for, because the cuts aren't being funneled into a home for abused artists.
Normally I'd say the details hardly matter. Usually, it's some insulting figure like a 20 per cent cut to grants, or a freeze on any new funds being handed out, and none of it replaces the larger point that some politicians deal with their anger-management issues by beating up on the arts.
But in this case of Gordon Campbell v. BC artists, it is worth mentioning because the BC Liberals' contempt is so deep as to be fascinating from a psychological perspective. Between last year and the end of next year there'll be a NINETY PERCENT REDUCTION in arts funding. One can only wonder if Campbell had a bad experience with a clown as a child - and there's no shame in that - many of us did, or if he was horribly jilted by a novelist as a young man. I mean, maybe we should feel sorry for him. Or not.
But you have to wonder what's behind these decisions. Or maybe the real question is whether to file the whole episode under Contempt, Ignorance or Stupidity. Because the arts is actually the last thing that should go – it's what get's us through hard times; it's what separates humans from vegetation, although I did come to know a very wise hibiscus – but that was a one-off. And when artists start making economic arguments to defend themselves, you know we're in trouble. Sure, the arguments are there to be made, but art is what contributes to our very identity. Without it, we'd be soulless automatons, which I'm sure Gordon Campbell would prefer. I've learned as much about how to live decently from novels, plays and cinema as others have from the Bible, the Koran or the Bhagavad Gita. In fact, if you want to make an argument for the arts, I think we're better off filing it under mental health care. The stronger our sense of self, the better our self-esteem, and this is what the artists in a community are up to. By driving the conversation of who we are, we come to know ourselves better, and we're healthier humans for it.
I don't expect the fans of “Corner Gas” or “Red Green” to know that those shows didn't just spontaneously materialize out of the ether. They're written by people who struggled until they got breaks, became known with the help of organizations that get funding, and eventually make it on the national stage where it looks like they just dropped out of the sky. Well, they didn't. And while I don't expect every Canadian to know the sausage-making process of their favourite form of art, I do think the political leadership should. And the political leaders in BC sure as hell don't.
In fact, as the crowning glory to display his contempt, Gordon Campbell appoints Kevin Kreuger as minister of Tourism, Culture and the Arts, who, before entering politics, was a manager of road safety for ICBC. So, as an artist, I guess it's fair to say to Kevin Kreuger: You complete me.
Although, his understanding of Arts and Culture seems to be on par with FEMA director Michael Brown's understanding of how to deal with a flood in New Orleans. When Kreuger was asked a serious question about the initial round of 40 per cent cuts to the arts back in February, his response was to quote Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount, saying “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” I mean, what the hell? He might as well have said “The Beaver's Tail Slaps at Midnight.” I don't know what that means. Actually, I'm kidding – I do know what that means, and I'll set aside for the moment how deeply disturbing it is that he's quoting scripture at us like he's Billy Graham with a canoe.
This little gem comes after Jesus runs through the greatest hits of the Sermon on the mount. He starts with the blessed are the meeks, goes into the Lord's Prayer and later starts hinting about the Kingdom of Heaven. But then he says “take no thought for the morrow. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” And you know what? The “morrow” he's talking about isn't to-morrow, it's the biblical 'Morrow” as in the afterlife. He's saying, don't worry about what happens after you die - our present conflict with evil in this world should be enough for us to contend with right now. And you know what? He's right! I'm dealing with the ignorant wickedness of a government willing to choke off the life of it's storytellers. So, yeah, I got you covered, dude, I'm not worried about the afterlife right now.
Or maybe the statement was just meant to be so much hocus-pocus to distract us from what the government's right hand is doing. But no amount of prestidigitation will keep us from this fact: The Liberals actions are a classic case of self-loathing.
Bottom line? You don't commit culture-cide and then call yourself a patron of the arts. Now that's just sick.
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Lalo Espejo is a writer, monologist and political satirist whose work has appeared on CBC radio, campuses across Canada. He has also taught writing and presentation skills at career colleges in Vancouver. firstname.lastname@example.org