Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Culture

This week seems to be dedicated to going to launches for friends' books. I did one last night, another tonight (where the wine was very good!) and there's one more on Thursday. Oh yeah, and that night a friend is also launching his new band and I have to go to that.

Now to those of you in the States and elsewhere, we just got finished with a national election here in Canada. Three hundred million spent, 5 weeks, countless miles travelled, commercials shown, debates listened to -- and we basically wound up with the same thing: a Conservative minority government.

Anyway, one of the galvanizing factors in this election was when the Conservative Prime Minister, the Honourable Steven Harper, stated that the average Canadian does not identify with artists dressed in tuxedos and gowns attending gala events that have been supported with public funds. I'm paraphrasing since I cannot find the exact quote, but his off-the-cuff comment cost him his desperately sought majority. Quebec took great offense to this and his party was crushed in that province.

So what am I getting at? Well, I attended a big rally in Toronto a week before the election and listened to all the speeches, talked to a lot of people and realized that what I do, what we all do in our novels is create culture -- and it's no less valid than that big art exhibition, that hit play, that opera commissioned for a great deal of money. In fact, I believe that what we do in our own small way is more valid as culture.

You see, we're holding up a mirror to current society. We're providing a snapshot that freezes a moment in time. Culture defines who we are -- and that's what we're doing.

I'll tell you, I left that rally walking a little taller. And Harper didn't get his sought-after majority, partly due to what he so rashly said. Culture is important and we forget that at our peril.

And that's why I'm giving up those evenings this week to attend these events.

5 comments:

Vicki Delany said...

You are so right, Rick. Someone wrote to the Globe to complain about us artistic 'freeloaders'. Yup, when I look at you, with your family, full time job, writing, supporting other writers, designing book covers, Past-Pres of CWC, I see fail to see a 'freeloader' on the taxpayers purse. Now if you'd only search for oil in the environmentally sensitive areas of the high Arctic.

Rick Blechta said...

It was such a blanket statement by our Prime Minister and very unfair. Almost every artist (and as writers, we should also consider ourselves to be artists) struggles very hard to do their art -- even with government "hand-outs".

The arts industry in Canada contributes 8 billion a year to our economy, and that is a hell of a lot of money. If you are able to tour in Hawaii because of a bit of government help, you will eventually enrich the Canadian economy. It's good business to support the arts.

One of the speakers at the rally, Eric Peterson of Corner Gas, made me realize that culture is what tells us our past, defines our present, and sends a message to our future. This culture come from artists like you and me, and we should be proud of it.

Donna Carrick said...

Rick, I couldn't agree more with your comments about the author as a creator of 'culture'. At our best as writers, we are setting out to capture what I refer to as 'our place and time'. It is OUR moment in history, and we won't get to live it a second time, and it IS important that we define it to the best of our ability for those who will follow us.

How else will they know who we were, and what was important to us?

Imagine, for a moment, how much we all love to delve into history, to read the thoughts and actions of OUR predecessors.

Would we choose to cheat our descendents of that same cherished enjoyment?

This, now, is who WE are, and the written word is OUR voice, and our friends in toil are our comrades in ink.

Keep toiling, friends. Let's not drop the pen now, at this critical juncture in time.

Donna Carrick
www.donnacarrick.com

Debby (Deborah Turrell) Atkinson said...

Well said, Donna. These times are prompting a lot of creative people to pick up their pens (or guitars and video cameras). This morning, I got an email of a couple singing about Sarah Palin, and how they're thinking of moving to Canada.

Rick Blechta said...

I think it's Mary Jane Maffini (one of our recent guest bloggers) who has been quoted saying that she feels the works of crime writers tend to give a truer view into what everyday life is like, much more so than most "serious fiction", and I do believe that's true.

I'm not saying that I think current society is as overwhelmingly violent as our writings taken as a group would indicate, but that under the guise of our mysterious plots, a lot of everyday life goes on. That, in a nutshell, is an important part of culture.

Addendum to this week's blog entry: A friend who read my entry commented to me the other night that those folks with the fancy dresses and tuxes at gala occasions are usually the big politicos and business people who demand that sort of "dressing up".

The only artists I know as a group who tend to have tuxedos in their closets are musicians, and they have them for playing at those swanky occasions.