This is something that I’ve been thinking about for a while now. It all started when I was in Paris two years ago and looking at some of the most beautiful buildings that I have ever seen. I’m always drawn to the ornate historic buildings for the stories that they tell and that allure is doubled when those landmarks happen to be iconic theatres. The thing is, though, that people no longer value them as much anymore. There is still an understanding for the value that tourism brings to visitors and that’s cool and accepted but we only accept this because the buildings are already there. I was reminded of this idea when tragically Notre Dame went up in flames last month we saw the affect that losing a structure like that can have. We also saw the criticism of investing in rebuilding such an institution. The major fashion houses committed millions to the reconstruction of the cathedral which was a lovely thing to see, but there were also people who criticised their priorities. If you have millions to spare, why have you not used that to help human beings in need rather than a church? I can totally understand both sides of the argument and I definitely prioritise human welfare but there is still a huge amount of value to be given to cultural landmarks. This blog post is about the societal change that has caused this different attitude.
So what we need to think about here are a few concepts; neoliberalism and socialism. Around the 1980s an ideology called neoliberalism came into play which basically shifted society into being more achievement based and individualistic, coupled with the rise of globalism and capitalism, we developed into quite singular people rather than being communities as much. What we see nowadays is a reaction to that train of thought, where people fight back against the cut-throat mentality and want to provide better welfare for people of all backgrounds. This thought is why people are a bit more humanitarian and why we think there are always better uses of our resources. The problem is we now have the connectivity to see the entire world’s problems and not just the ones on our front door and so there are so many different causes conflicting to be a priority.
Another thing that neoliberalism contributed to was the need for culture to prove its instrumental value – more and more the arts and culture sector have to prove their worth by the positive impacts they can provide, rather than them being valued simply for what they are. This is because arts and leisure are thought of as less important and necessary than other things. This means that culture has to take a backseat to welfare, and fair enough. If you’re not fit and healthy then you cannot enjoy music or art. It is a need that comes after our basic physiological survival, agreed. But many people are surviving but still not getting to that next step because society has deemed the arts as superfluous and unnecessary.
This is a post fighting for the value of arts and culture. It has the ability to change people’s lives, to open others up to new perspectives on the world or to help someone process their own experiences. These things are so important, the issue is that they’re hard to measure so they’re hard to prove! I just wish there was a bit more support available for arts and culture (as long as we’re looking after people’s health first). I’m not saying waste millions on ornate new buildings but I am just saying, culture is a way to improve mental health and it definitely needs its place in society.