The story is rarely what we say it is

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The story is rarely what we say it is

Post  Sean on Sat Feb 14, 2009 6:23 pm

(reposting an excellent article from Del Marbrook, reinforcing what I've said elsewhere)
If Iíve learned anything at all as a journalist itís that the pressing issues of the day that cry out for headlines often turn out to be much less important than back-of-the-book stories. But to redress this problem we need a culture more respectful of history than our own.

The politicians and the press have been treating a proposed $50 million pittance for the arts in President Obamaís overall stimulus package as an inarguably dispensable portion of the whole without any regard for the historical evidence that civilizations are memorable (or not) for their attention to arts and humanities, the latter being what civilizes civilizations. To say nothing of the fact that you can create jobs as readily in the arts as you can in the factories.

What we fail to see as a culture is that the arts and humanities reflect our highest aspirations. We fail to see this because we regard them as entertainment, therefore disposable. We suppose we can do without them, but theyíre not entertainment and theyíre not luxury items. Theyíre as essential as overcoats and food.

We have only to look at films and television to apprehend the truth of this. They show us what our culture is like and they often dare to raise issues the press fails to raise. They show us our heroes, while the heroes weíd like to have in Washington and our state capitals and cities and town often fail to measure up to our film icons.

We neglect the arts for many reasons. A latent Puritanism regards them as frivolities. Ideologues regard them as dangerous. Our media trivialize everything; the arts then become one of the many victims of trivialization. Our schools depict the arts as extracurricular, hardly as important as football. Our stubborn know-nothingism, hitched to ideologies, rejects the arts as subversive and sissified.

Science would suffer the same fate if we could not draft it to the service of war. If science were left to pursue fluid mechanics, cold fusion and many another prospect for the betterment of human life it might change the balance of things, and so we handicap it by supporting it when it can build war machines but regarding it askance if it might threaten the oil industry or the military-industrial cartel.

Renewable energy and a cancer cure, to name only two possibilities, would reduce the estate of vast and influential industries, and that is why they havenít been pursued with the same vigor with which we prosecute wars. The arts have the power to open our eyes to what we ordinarily sweep under the carpet, and that is why our dismissiveness conceals a fear of them.


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