If you think you’re “ordinary”, he thinks you’re pretty damn clueless. So clueless, in fact, that when you get home after a long day’s work and turn on the TV you tune in to live video coverage of social gatherings of film and television writers, producers, actors, technicians and support staff rather than watching the stuff they’ve created – and then get irritated because you find it boring.
“You know, I think when ordinary, working people come home, turn on the TV and see … a bunch of people at a rich gala all subsidized by the taxpayers, claiming their subsidies aren’t high enough when they know the subsidies have actually gone up, I’m not sure that’s something that resonates with ordinary people.” Stephen Harper
So… um…. what channel is that on Steve? Sorry, I was busy watching Trailer Park Boys. I didn’t realize “artists expounding on the grant application process over drinks ” was on. Damn – I sure hope somebody recorded it!
Wait, might as well turn off that VCR. I just remembered artists expounding on the grant application process over drinks is a pretty thick slice of my own social pie!
A lot of the full time, successful, tax paying artists I know got their leg-up from a tax-funded arts grant program like Canada Council. Like my friends Lorenz, Pascal and Olivier. I’m not sure whether Pascal and Olivier have time for many “rich, taxpayer-funded galas” what with their exhausting international touring schedules, but I’m pretty sure I’ve heard them express their (approving, supportive and uncomplaining) opinions of various grant programs and how to apply, and I know for certain there was liquor involved. Beer. Brewed in Quebec. But I won’t quibble over such small details.
I also know full time artists who got their leg-up via tax-funded arts grant programs like welfare. I won’t name names, as they will surely be hunted down and pilloried by bureaucrats if they are found to have earned money (albeit far from enough to live on) while chowing at the public trough. But just between you and me, I’m one of them.
I decided one day I wanted to try writing as if it were a job (5 days a week, all day long) and see if I could finish a novel before my money ran out. Well, I couldn’t finish a novel before my money ran out, because as soon as I started writing all day, every day, some kind of metaphysical levee seems to have burst and a flood of stories consumed me. I just had to get them all down. Before I knew what hit me, I had four novels on the go, not to mention a bunch of short stories, and when my savings ran out they weren’t done! So I went on welfare (which paid for my rent and, if I was very frugal, enough “spaghetti, garlic and butter” to last through the month) and kept writing for a few more months. Then my glasses broke, so I had to get a job, since there’s no margin for such things on welfare. It was write or see. I had to choose.
After I stopped working in writing and started working in a job which, as any non-creative job does, made me suicidally and catatonically depressed in a manner of months, a painter friend in a similar situation with a much higher tolerance for hardship and discomfort got his work into a top-notch gallery. Suddenly his paintings were selling for thousands of dollars and flying off the walls. No more welfare for the painter, tax money flowing to Ottawa. Win-win.
The point of sharing this is to illustrate that welfare, like any tax-funded arts grant program, sometimes produces wealth and sometimes it doesn’t. But, with welfare, artists are not supposed to work. They can actually get in trouble for it if money changes hands. They are supposed to be “job-hunting”, but I know from intimate experience that someone who would rather be writing is not a very productive private sector employee, particularly when entrusted with a PC and left to their own devices. With legitimate arts funding programs, getting artists to do their work is the whole point and there’s no need to be furtive about it. In fact, there’s every incentive to embrace the opportunity and work harder than they ever have before – mostly because that’s what artists do whenever the opportunity arises, but also to demonstrate they are deserving of the help.
Somebody needs to explain to Stephen Harper that arts funding is not the handout to burgundy-sipping parasites he believes it to be. It’s venture capital for entrepreneurs. Seed money. Plant it wisely and wealth will grow. Plant no seeds, reap no harvest. And, like any vital commodity, the culture my country fails to produce will have to be imported. I know Harper is a big fan of the US, but I’d sit through an episode of Da Vinci’s Inquest before I’d sit through 24 any day.
If I had a TV. Which I don’t. Actually, at the moment I’m watching episodes of Heimat (German) on DVD and before that it was Survivors (the 70’s BBC drama, not the American gong show). But it’s the principle of the thing!