care in the community
A metaphor: At a ceremony concocted by the Scottish Media Group (a local
monopoly) and a Swiss Bank, Scotland's first "politician of
the year" was announced together with further endless awards for
all the new politicians. The same day a conference was held by a new organisation
set up in March, the Scottish Civic Forum "in the wake of it being
awarded £300,000 by the Scottish Executive." The Forum will
"encourage participation in the work of the Scottish Executive."
Its funding has been secured for three years. Its convener (a known hustler)
said "this is a step forward for making a difference to Scottish
Government." Although they do not know what they will do they've
got the money to do it. Organisations which question the Scottish Executive - and
indeed their relationship with Swiss banks and the media - receive
State support, in its broadest sense, continues to be systematically politically
allocated. This is disguised in political language which mimicks that
of self-empowerment groups. The emphasis on individual 'self-help'
puts the accent on the guilt of individual failure and serves to relinquish
the State of any culpability. As one of our writers notes: mental handicap
is now termed " learning disabilities", largely because of the
expediency of care in the community. Within bureaucratic culture the shutters
come down on any reality - any potential heresay - which deviates
from the culture imposed from above.
Public sector funding is administered by people who have conditioned themselves
to think that culture is a game: they watch themselves lose their soul
as petty bureaucrats obstruct and fabricate conditions. In the arts inventing
priorities has become inventing basic exclusions. This year's qualifications
are next year's disqualifications. There is no leadership from these
organisations, there is no direction.
Tough on Art - Tough on the Causes of Art
The political fixation with the designated look, or designed reception
of policy is discredited. The UK government is set to sustain its concern
with 'correctional facilities' through its various obliging
'arms length' arts bureaucracies. Here this self-help goes as
far as doing-in what actually exists on the ground and replacing it with
a speculative clientele bidding. The effect on artists and their practices
as directed through the mechanisms of the public funding system, and more
importantly the communities and groups that are set to be targeted, has
become an attack on freedom of expression. There are too many voices around
and some of them are saying the wrong things for those who seek to imprison
The zombification will come in handy. We are being prepared - well
bound and gagged - for the type of art which will inhabit the galleries
of the future. Most big cities are having their big art spaces done up
with Lottery money and if they are compliant enough... as one reader writes:
"The Dome should be seen a forebear of what we have to look forward
to: nothing less than the monumental re-embodiment of the State, a theme
park to Civic pomposity. It is time for artists, individually and through
their organisations to get together and attack the cowardice of the Arts
Councils. Or you can apply for some money. That's really what they
are trying to make people think, that there is no sense that you can influence
policy, simply subserviently trail their money."
The government have their attempts to control culture: their efforts are
pathetic and deplorable. The meaning of life is not contained within a
government edict or a grant. Why should we tolerate facile categorical
imperatives imposed on freedom of expression, they are humiliating and
degrading - the end product of years of materialistic priorities with
entirely predictable inhuman outcomes. You can get a glimpse of another
time (before all those years of wallowing in the mire of sheer ideological
manipulation of the arts) by looking at what Roy Jenkins wrote in the
"First there is the need for the State to do less to restrict personal
freedom. Secondly there is the need for the State to do more to encourage
the arts, to create towns which are worth living in, and to preserve a
countryside which is worth looking at. Thirdly there is the need independently
of the State to create a climate of opinion which is favourable to gaiety,
tolerance, and beauty, and unfavourable to puritanical restriction, to
petty-minded disapproval, to hypocrisy and to a dreary, ugly pattern of
life. A determined drive in these three directions would do as much to
promote human happiness than all the 'political' legislation
which any government is likely to introduce... In the long run these things
will be more important than even the most perfect of economic policies."
The Labour Case (London, Penguin 1959)
Written some forty years ago (expressing basic liberal attitudes) this
stands as an indictment on the present state of affairs. What progress
has been made when people had greater freedom in the past? The Welfare
State was set up when Britain was at its poorest, and owed millions, after
a war which almost destroyed the country. What existed then was the political
will. Today affluence is everywhere yet we are told we have less money.
The result of all this is a worse quality of life; the demise of the public
sphere altogether. Politics becomes deals done in a back room.
It is one thing to blame the ongoing crimes of bureaucracy on one or two
stupid individuals who make up the rules as they go along; it is another
to go along with it.
That which is termed responsible: official 'Culture', and exposure
to it has been routinely represented as having a positive, corrective
influence. Unfortunately today there is still scant questioning, let alone
discussion, of what and who compete to constitute 'acceptable'
culture, and what exactly are its ideological values.
There is going to be a history of this period and someone is going to
write it. Who writes history has always been the privilege of the victor
but there can never be only one voice. For if there is only one voice
what need have we of truth.
An example of how the arts are covered in Scotland
Pathetic non-stories, inflammatory gibberish and a lascivious pouring
over of weird fantasies are the hall-mark of most tabloid press attempts
to cover the arts.
The Scottish Media Group decided in its Glasgow Evening Times to allege
on its front cover that Lynn Ramsay's film Ratcatcher was an "under-age
sex movie". Ratcatcher (a work drawing on many Scottish, UK and European
film traditions) opened the Edinburgh Film Festival. Instead of offering
appreciation and encouragement to view the work Scottish Media Group contrived
a mindlessly salacious headline implicating Lord Provost (Scotland's
equivalent of a Mayor), Pat Lally, his image appears on a TV set in the
Thus the headline "Pat in under age sex movie" was part of an
"exclusive" story dubiously written by Andy Dougan. Above the
headline is a picture of a "Bonnie Babies" winner and below
it is an advert for the "Ultimate Kids Play Area". News vendors
were giving away a free bar of chocolate with the paper. Underneath the
story on page four is one headlined "Boy's club sex fiend drops
appeal". It is a fairly standard example of how sick and pathetic
coverage of the arts has been in Scotland for as long as anyone can remember.
It is also an example of the Scottish Media Group's cultivation of
an obsession with child pornography.
The sub headings within the story are "Lally's movie shocker"
and "indecent". The story was a bizarre contrivance made up
to coincide with the film's premiere which opened the Edinburgh Film
Festival a few days later. It is hard to imagine why Dougan provides such
statements as: "The most explicit is one in which she frolics in
a bath with a 12-year old ..." One paragraph (in bold italics) is
little more than a parade of words such as full-frontal, young girl, topless.
The only point of the article apart from Dougan's own distorted self-indulgence
is to try to create/ test the waters for some kind of 'public outcry'.
There is a spurious quote from a spokesman (sic) for the British Board
of Film Classification who says: "We cannot comment on a film before
we have seen it. But we would always look very closely at any film which
involves children in such scenes." [emphasis added] You can almost
picture Dougan thinking "that'll do."