When I heard the news about RTE’s apparent financial difficulties last week, & the accompanying announcement of a shock therapy solution by the station’s odious higher management, I knew immediately the next set of headlines would be about cuts to the arts & cultural programming. And so this morning headlines announce that LYRIC FM faces the axe.
Cuts to arts coverage mean cuts to the least-funded, lowest-staffed section of the national broadcaster’s output. But also the most accessible part of the station to the most living participants i.e to the most members of the nation.
Many hundreds of independent artists & freelance culture workers in Ireland recieve a lifeline & a boost by having their work broadcast or reviewed, or by appearing in person, on RTE’s arts shows.
Taken together with the hollowing out of our small towns’ cultural life by rural depopulation (and the accompanying dumbing-down of local life), and with the cultural nuking of our cities by impossible venue rents & insurance costs, this move to abolish or near abolish arts coverage by RTE would have a huge impact on every Irish person’s quality or potential quality of life.
A country in which canonical & contemporary non-commercial literature, music, theatre, visual arts & so on are wiped off the airwaves – with nowhere else to go – while culture-less executives and multi-millionaire spokespeople for the ruling class (a.k.a celebrity presenters) continue to draw criminally excessive salaries from the public purse is in a kind of national crisis and approaching a kind of national death.
For what is it that distinguishes us from any other part of this rapidly homogenising planet than our songs, poems, stories etc?
And I am not thinking of the right-wing versions of the nation.
The secular right are happy to have us serve as an aircraft carrier for US Imperialism (Shannon) & a laundering base for multinational capital. To the FF/FG/LAB/GREEN coalition governments, Culture is just tourist industry advertising & a minor weapon of diplomacy – nothing vital or challenging required.
The fever-brained religious right/alt.right would hang our writers, shoot our musicians, & crucify our independent film makers if they ever got a chance.
A living, properly supported contemporary national culture is what links us morally, spiritually, & intellectually to both our own past & to the borderless & infinite INTERNATION of the arts.
The death of contemporary independent non-commercial cultural production in Ireland would cut us off from the endless genius of our artistic past. Remember that it is the mass of contemporary out-of-the-limelight practitioners which keep our traditions alive & breaths new life into them.
The old & glorious tunes will die forever when no-one can earn even the meagrest of livings from playing them & adapting them for new times.
Cultural asphyxiation would also cast us adrift from all that is truly novel & inspirational about world arts and culture – novelty & inspiration being what cultural workers import & export!
Without all this we will be left with nothing but our own imitative versions of the likes of X-factor & a few mind-numbing poshly profiteering bores producing all our books, films, plays etc. It would be nothing but Bono & Colm Toibín forever & ever, amen.
Perhaps it’s inevitable in the dying times we live in.
If the beauty & diversity of nature has to die to give way to the ugly similitude of cash-crops & factory farms & airbnb bungalows galore, why shouldnt that part of our society most alike & aligned to the genius of nature also shrivel & perish?