Tuesday, May 27, 2014

After Dark, May 27, 2014

And The Action Plan?
Never has it seemed so important.
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

Times are rough. That didn't need to be said, obviously, but what does need to be said is that they are rough in a new way. This is a time when - theoretically at least - coming together and doing something besides holding-hands-swaying-and-singing-We-Are-The-World should be easy. We are in an age of networking like has never existed in history.

But from my view, the arts have never been so Balkanized. 

We go onto Facebook, Twitter, wherever, and post links to horrific articles about cuts to the NFB, the CBC, to arts; about companies going under (especially in opera); about our government working to change the country in the worst possible way - a way that will no longer include any arts. Yup, we post those links and get the shares and likes and Amens and then crowd mentality takes over. Nothing is done because we all assume someone else will do it. We don't assume...we believe someone else will do it.

We need one person running one big, angry organization...

So despite this glorious age of networking, actual coming together for action never happens. Worse, each art form thinks they have it worse than another. (I remember when I was working in print the horror over architecture, then books, then dance, then visual arts, then theatre sections being cut cut cut. I kept thinking: first they came for architecture and I said nothing...)

Don't get me wrong! Arts action groups (AAG) do exist in many cities. But there may be the problem: each city, separately, cannot deal with the issue of arts cuts, for instance, on its own. That's a provincial and federal thing. Moreover, these AAGs, because of what they do, have to cozy up to governments and that is the crux of it: the arts, separately, the AAGs, separately, and the angry artists on Facebook and Twitter are so wonderfully easy to ignore.

We need one person running one big, angry organization...

Yeah, right.

However, while we wait for the Messiah...

If there is one thing I've learned in the past few years is that although organization looks pretty on paper, sometimes it is joyous anarchy that captures the public's imagination and draws attention to a problem. On the face of them neither the Occupy movement or the student crisis in Quebec solved anything, but they did focus our attention - if only for a little - on the issues. 

But there is another way to do it. As artists we have it in our tool bag: stealing the spotlight. Recently, on an incredibly popular talk show on Radio-Canada (CBC's French-language sister) all the on-air personalities of most of the Ceeb's information shows - news, science, investigative journalism - went after the government and explained how much the Corp's cuts were going to destroy the conveying of actual information to Canadians and, ultimately, the fabric of our culture. You cannot buy that kind of attention. It was unprecedented. (I wonder if an excess of politesse at the English network is what is preventing them from doing the same.) 

It is crucial that we stop believing others will do something. They support you, they will sing in your choir, but that is all they feel they need to do. 

We all, in hundreds of small ways, need to break through the wall of organization and be a little louder, a little more insistent and, if need be, a little ruder with our elected officials. All our elected officials. Not just in government but in our arts bodies as well. 

You don't have to scream obscenities at them in public! That's what Twitter and hashtags are for. You can aim your wrath directly at the people who use PR as their main weapon. I hit Twitter, recently, to bitch about my bank charging me $90 for a fuckup by Paypal. The bank tweeted back. The $90 found its way back into my account. 

So grab the spotlight! Something pisses you off - Tweet direct! Go to the politician's or company's Facebook page and have a ball. Start a website. Lordie, as I've said before, the least you can do is create a Facebook group to protest. That takes all of two minutes. 

Stop waiting for others. Use the Balkanization. Break away from Facebook's and Twitter's powers to subdue and soon you'll find others who are as angry as you and, better, want to do something about it. 

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