The Sound of Wheels Spinning
By contradiction I don't mean disagreement. On the contrary, the level of agreement is thoroughgoing. The problem is, the two propositions that everyone seems to agree about are contradictory.
First, there is a general sense that "we" need some sort of centralized cultural authority to deal in a coherent and coordinated fashion with the array of issues raised by Bill Ivey.
Second, the prevailing mantra is that cultural authority is bad, especially when it is centralized.
Bill has done an admirable job of raising a set of interrelated issues and tracing the connections among them. But while no one is proposing a U.S. minister of culture (or to use the more likely term, culture czar), many of the arguments posted here point to a desire for some national entity powerful enough to direct resources in a more fruitful direction, maximize the amount of expressive life flowing in all directions, and (most important) re-order the perverse priorities of an irresponsible private sector.
I am in sympathy with all of these aims, and I will leave aside for the moment the question of whether the government has either the power or the will to impose any sort of curbs on the entertainment industry.
The point is, you can't want a culture czar and at the same time decry any exercise of evaluative judgment as "elitism." (In arts circles, I find that "elitism" is like "racism," an epithet that effectively paralyzes thought.)
Resources aren't infinite, and the unspoken goal of every human being's self-expression being appreciatively received by every other human being is absurd. So choices must be made, and unless the cultural marketplace is to become even more of a lottery than it is now, those choices must be based on some sort of evaluative judgment.
So elitism -- i.e. cultural authority -- is required if "we" are going to achieve any of the goals presented here.
Adrian Ellis; Alan Brown; Andras Szanto; Andrew Taylor; Bau Graves; Douglas McLennan; Ellen Lovell; Bill Ivey, William James; James Early; Jim Smith; Lewis Hyde; Marian Godfrey; Martha Bayles; Nihar Patel; Russell Taylor; Sam Jones; Steven Tepper
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