Friday, September 26, 2008

Ordinary People

What? Another post? So soon? Yes, friends, there is a rant a-comin'.

But first, an update on yesterday's entry. The skulls are felted and looking mighty fine.

I found that the smaller gauge that was worked with a single strand felted way better than the larger skulls that followed pattern specs. The larger skulls needed one more wash than the little guys, and you can still see some of the crochet pattern on them. Still, the results are pretty swell. Now I'm trying to decide if I'm going to embellish them or just stick 'em in a basket to look spooky....

So much for the nicey-nice, on-topic stuff.

I have made a concious decision to keep this blog mostly about my fibre adventures, and I've mostly stuck to that. Though I push the boundaries of what costitutes "my fibre adventures" on occassion. This is one of those occassions. Though there is a fibre tie-in--watch for it!

I am not by nature a political person. My views on how people should live and how leaders should lead are not exactly in tune with our times. I have been called "slightly left of Karl Marx". So I generally stay out of public political debate. That does not, however, mean that I do not know what is going on, or have an opinion on it. I'm just usually smart enough to keep my mouth shut.

Not this time.

On Wenesday, September 24, the Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, who is running for re-election, was quoted in several major newspapers as having said:

"I think when ordinary people come home, turn on the TV and see a gala of a
bunch of people at, you know, a rich gala all subsidized by taxpayers
claiming their subsidies aren't high enough, when they know those subsidies
have actually gone up--I'm not sure that's something that resonates with

Okay, so quite aside from the disjointed,rambling structure of the statement, I have a few isssues about this little speech:

1. Define ordinary people. Working-class Joes. Truck drivers? School teachers? Engineers? Carpenters? Accountants? Nurses? Child-care workers? Civil servants? These are the professions of the "ordinary"people who are members and supporters of my local arts community. They care a lot about the arts, donating time and money to all manner of artistic endeavors. And, when they can afford to, they go to "galas".

2. Those people who are attending those "rich galas" are not usually the people who make their(meager) living in the arts. Those people are the local movers and shakers, businessmen and politicians. Trust me, the people who work in the arts are backstage cleaning up, getting ready for the next show or exhibit, or on the way home for some well-earned sleep. When they are marched out for show, the hoi-poloi politely shake their hands, all the while looking at the "artists" like they are some sort of exotic bug. Then they go back to sipping their moderately priced champagne and complain that the government does not support the arts like they do. Trust me, I've been to a few "galas". They are all the same.

3. What, exactly are the arts that do not resonate with ordinary people? Galas are not the arts, they are parties thrown to thank sponsors and donors for their contribution. Turning on your TV is welcoming the arts into your home. Even "Dancing With the Stars" is a gateway to the arts, exposing millions of "ordinary" viewers to the highly theatrical world of ballroom dancing. Who knows, those ordinary people may actually develop an appreciation for dance and go and support their local ballroom dance club, or worse yet, (gasp!) the ballet.

4. The subsidies have gone up? So where is all the money? Statistics Canada indicates that the only profession in Canada that has seen a decrease in average wage earnings over the past year is the arts and culture. So artists aren't getting paid--in fact, the vast majority of the professional artists that I know have to work a "day job" to make ends meet. Why are there so many actor-waiters and painter-janitors if arts funding is going up and everyone is on the gravy train?

And these are just the points that come immediately to mind. I will no doubt cogitate and debate the topic over a glass or two of Shiraz with like-minded folk. There are a great many more literate than I who are blogging, writing and speaking out on this topic. And what triggered this morning's wee rant is the output of one of those folks.

Margaret Atwood is a Canadian icon, for her literary works, her political views, her fearlessness, and her wearing of fabulous shawls and wraps. She is also a passionate supporter of the arts in their infinite variety. She wrote in Thurday's Globe and Mail:
things that are made.

"The arts" are not a "niche interest". They are part of being

Moreover, "ordinary people" are participants. They form book clubs
and join classes of all kinds--painting, dancing,drawing, pottery,
photography--for the sheer joy of it. They sing in choirs, church and
other, and play in marching bands. Kids start garage bands and make their
own videos and web art, and put their music on the Net and draw their own
graphic novels. Ordinary people" have other outlets for their creativity,
as well: Knitting and quilting have made comebacks; gardening is
taken very seriously; the home woodworking shop is very active. Add
origami, costume design, egg decorating, flower arranging, and on and
on...Canadians, it seems, like making things and they like appreciating things
that are made.

She goes on to suggest that the ongoing war on the arts that has been waged by
Harper's government has a more nefarious motivation-you can read the commentary
in full here and make your own judgments about that.

So did you catch it? Yep, knitting is on the list of what makes Canadians creative. And Ms Atwood is right--playing with string is a hugely creative undertaking, whether you are knitting cotton dishcloths or designing your own handspun sweaters and shawls. And it's about as "ordinary" as you can get--knitting is accessible to anyone who can afford two pointy sticks and a ball of Red Heart.

Now, I am hardly suggesting that Mr. Harper is attacking knitting. However, I do feel that his comments, however garbled and out-of-context, do reflect a lack of understanding of the arts, or what it means to be an "ordinary person".

And who wants to be considered "ordinary" anyway?!?


  1. Michelle for PM :-)
    You've got my vote

  2. Anonymous4:25 AM

    Me too Michelle... You tell them how it really is! :)