Thursday, June 2, 2011

Commentary: Federal Cuts to The Arts - A Special Report from Abroad*

This is war. Stephen Harper and The Conservative Government with their newly elected majority is sparing no time in laying down their law, and the first to go are the sacrificial lambs of curators from our National Gallery of Art and  part-time scientists, already reduced to contracts, from Environment Canada.

It’s become clear that politics is a game for Harper, and ministries are pawns in his strategy to maintain on top.  

Harper has been hacking away at the arts, environment, overseas aid, women’s rights, queers, universal health care, and all other social programs during his reign as a minority government. Now in a real position of power for the first time in his long and winding political career, Harper at last can flex his ego by immediately showing how weak the NDP opposition really is by slashing into their weakest and loudest points, the environment and the arts.

Harper began as a whippersnapper in the heydays of The Reform Party, but he left the party because he thought Reform was too socially conservative to ever be a powerful Right-wing party. Strategically, Harper rose to power in the then-collapse of Right-wing politics starting with that l’efant terrible, The Canadian Alliance, merging with the weakening Progressive Conservatives.  The Liberals ran wild, unchecked, and now there’s hell to pay. In serving the ideals of an ultimate Right-wing party, one that Harper has conflated with his evangelic faith, Harper will lead the country into a state of complete retardation. 

Canada’s reputation for politeness has been our pride and will become our fall. This country produces an outpouring of amazing minds, many of them writers and artists. Art, its creation, appreciation, and acceptance is rooted in our identities, and our identity in Canada has only half-formed, with little resistance. There are patches of resistance within the larger framework, the First Nations people and Quebecois identity are the two most visible, but only because they have fought to remain visible. 

Distance brings perspective, and I cannot believe my eyes with every news story I read.

The cuts will keep coming, but resist them through actions loud and soft. Pronounce who you are and what you believe in through everything you say and everything you do. Art does not just exist in galleries and galas, art is being aware and making aware of our human rights and existence.
Art is resistance, Resistance is art!

 *Amy Fung is currently completing an Arts Writing and Curating Fellowship in the UK.

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