Sunday, 1 August 2010

The Arts?

Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce
I had high hopes when I was proposed for Fellowship of the RSA. A
meeting of minds perhaps; a place where my interest in the arts, in the
process of creation, in the celebration of things that make life grand,
might be shared and appreciated.

Over the weeks and months, not very much has happened with my
fellowship. True, some of this is my fault, I haven’t particularly
engaged with any of my fellow Fellows, or gone to any meetings.

Therein lies the problem.

I am confused. Very confused.

The Royal Society for the encouragement of the Arts holds meetings
with titles such as: “The Big Society Approach to Anti-Social Behaviour”
and has projects for Drug Addiction and Citizen Power, and the

Okay. These are all very worthy subjects, but seem to have remarkably
little to do with the arts (in any form), or manufacturing, or commerce.
I am not entirely sure what I did expect from the RSA but did not expect
to see a agenda focusing entirely on social issues.

There are any number of quangos, interest groups and government
departments whose sole purpose is the discussion and policy making in
relation to Society, or Drugs, Citizen Power, the Environment. I am
curious as to why the Royal Society which is supposedly for the
ENCOURAGEMENT of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce appears to be only
interested or engaged in the duplication of the work of all these other
quangos, interest groups and government departments.

There is a big problem with the Arts in this country. One that goes
largely unrecognised; and I need hardly add that Manufacturing and
Commerce amongst this once great nation of “shopkeepers” is floundering
too. Surely the Royal Society should be engaged in activity which does
something to right these problems. Yes, some social engagement is
necessary, in fact vital, but for it to be the bound and centre of
everything that the RSA does seems wrong and inappropriate.

Which leads me neatly to my next bugbear. The Big Society. Let me say it
now, and get it out of the way quickly so that the shouting and whining
can be over and done with.

95% of the people who are likely to read this will not have the
slightest nodding acquaintance with what the government and people with
posh job titles and high salaries are talking about. Politicians won’t
either. The media paints a view for the clucking classes to shake their
heads over and feel secretly grateful that they don’t have to live like
that. Very, very few of these people have ever lived the lives that
they talk about in such grandiose terms. They don’t understand it, and,
I am certain they wouldn’t survive it if they were suddenly plucked from
their nice hermetically-sealed, money-cushioned lives and dumped down in
this world.

I have. I moved up to Leeds, and for eight months I lived the life. And,
let me tell you that on my own, I would not have survived it. It is a
different world. Some of the societal ills people like to pontificate
about are inflicted upon the people living them. It is simply stunning
the number of times these shortcomings are brought to the attention of
the powers that be, and still nothing is done. This is not about the
last thirteen years, this malaise has been growing for at least the last
thirty years. You can probably trace the origins back to the post war

The cycle of dependency that has been created will not easily be broken.
The feelings of injustice and hopelessness will not be easily put aside
by some sort of social programme dreamed up by politicians and quangos.

The Big Society is another political initiative, put together by people
entirely divorced from the true reality of the lives they are talking
about. It will not succeed in the way that politicians think it will,
because they have failed to grasp the nettle of the things that have to
happen before it can have a hope of success.

Oddly it is in the Arts, and Manufacturing and Commerce where the
answers to some of these riddles would ultimately lie. Not in the social
agenda but in areas that the RSA apparently feels no need to commit to.

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