IIt is no longer a secret today that the Tories want to destroy the arts in Britain, punish its practitioners and discourage those who would dare dream of studying them, regardless of the minimal financial reward. And the Tories do so either out of ignorance, a simple misunderstanding that the arts have a value beyond money, or as a conscious attempt to silence people who can see through the pervasive language of lies that the thieves sing is the current Conservative Party and its client media. Perhaps the search for a motive consists of paying tribute to the current conservative crop with an intelligence that it simply does not have. Worms are chopped by the plough, but the plow will not harm them. Brexit Britain is that plow. These worms are artists. And Nadine Dorries is a woman crouching at the edge of the field, watching the plow as she massively shits into the nest of a rare bird.
It is never too often to remind everyone that when Sajid Javid was Minister for Culture, he untenably encouraged ticket sellers, whom he saw as legitimate entrepreneurs who angered the gossiping middle class, to profit from the resale of publicly subsidized tickets at higher prices, thereby defeating the whole of trying to make the arts accessible. And Javid’s eventual successor, Oliver Dowden, declared his love for ‘commercial theatre’, becoming the first Minister for Culture to define an arts genre simply by its ability to make money, rather than its composition in terms of style, form and content which had hitherto been standard. Personally, I like commercial flowers such as roses and geraniums, as I disgust wild flowers that loll like gypsies in the parking bays of rural back roads. In the post-Dorries period, however, we look back on these two culture compost bags as moral and intellectual titans of taste. We’ve never had it so good!
Art must survive! I’m in the middle of my second week on the outskirts of Edinburgh. I’ve seen a man dance with pandas on his hands while corn flakes tumble from his mouth; I have seen a young woman embody Kirstie Allsopp’s opinions in the form of an interpretative dance; I’ve watched one tiny man draw the attention of hundreds of passers-by by repeatedly hitting a plastic bucket with whatever he could pick up from the sidewalk; and I have seen a delightful lady sing tenderly about dogging at a well-tuned piano, as Cicero would have done if he had been an ‘alternative comedian’. I realize that for many critics, I’m not making a cast-iron plea for art. But suddenly the very act of going on stage, paying for someone to come on stage, or just buying a good book and reading it seems as subversive as conspiring to blow up Parliament .
The Tories’ cynically fabricated culture war is currently being waged so indiscriminately and on so many simultaneous fronts that confused culture warriors risk shooting each other in the crossfire, while all we hold dear is wiped out as collateral damage. Liz Truss superglues her anti-wake guts back together and Rishi Sunak staples his severed penis to his left buttock while a shrieking would-be poet sprints from a burning English literature class covered in smoldering political announcements, client journalists and backseat cannon fodder Watch as you smoke joints dispassionately and listen to Edwin Starr. culture war? What is it good for? Keep the cost of living crisis off the front page of Times, apparently, and allowed Kwasi Kwarteng to waft through the airwaves and grimly talk about things that don’t even really happen. Again.
Neither Tory leadership hope Rishi Sunak nor 36-hour education secretary Michelle Donelan, The One And A Half Days Queen, want people to study wasteful arts subjects that don’t bring students immediate financial reward. They want to deny all but a privileged few Redbricks a working knowledge of our history and culture. Meanwhile, Dorries has given protected status to a small and architecturally unremarkable plaque on a wall in Oxford simply because it commemorates South African colonialist Cecil Rhodes. So it’s important that we seem to maintain our history and art, but only the racist parts.
And on Wednesday morning the TimesBritain’s second worst newspaper after the Daily Telegraph, was opportunistically concerned that university courses in English literature are teaching fewer books and warning students not to read them so they learn less, although that seems to be exactly what Sunak wants. In its original folklore form, this now-old anti-wake news trope claimed that simple economic cuts in the medieval literature module at Leicester University reflected an attempt by a brigade of guards to quash all evidence of the genius of white, heterosexual, medieval man Geoffrey Chaucer from the university courses in case he offended transgender people. Or so.
A two-minute Google showed that Times Story as the product of a fairly substantial twist, perhaps the work of writers lucky enough to have studied fiction at university, with only two books nationally being actually withdrawn from college. The modern mania of attaching trigger warnings to text has been conflated with the idea of actually removing books. But here in Edinburgh, for example, I could have used to know that the standup show labeled 12+ had a long segment about masturbating in the hospital before I brought my 12 year old in. But come on, culture warriors! If you have to ruin everything, at least show some networked thinking! Those of us old enough to remember the ’70s remember long car ride windshields splattered with thousands of bugs. All around us was a background noise of natural abundance that climate change has burned away. The Tories bring a blowtorch to their cultural equivalent just to score points. When it’s gone, it’s gone.