Tag Archives: arts funding

Why Protest the Olympics

There are people out there wondering why anyone would protest the Olympics while others are happy to protest anything for the sake of protest and anti-disestablismentarianism. Recently as the torch relay began in Victoria, pre-emptive strikes were taken by the organizers to ferry the torch bearers in a van around protestors. According to other media reports the protestors and police both met their mandate without violence or arrests.

Yet these torch bearers were cosseted away so that the protestors couldn’t protest the relay. Now I don’t know what exactly this group of protestors were trying to raise their voices against in regards to the Olympics but the last I remember (despite the changes to human rights laws that Harper has been making) Canada was a fairly free country with the right to freedom of speech. That means that if we disagree with our government and politics, or if we agree, we are allowed to voice our opinions.

BC MLA Harry Bloy would rather we have a totalitarian state in which everyone is a shiny happy person loving all that the government does. And if not, well then, off with their heads. He in fact stated the following: “People who protest the Winter Olympics are nothing more than terrorists with limited intellect…” Wow. So now we have one of the new catch phrases in our modern vernacular, right after George Bush’s overused hyperbole of “axis of evil”  and the “war on terror” with using “terrorist” for anyone who does something I don’t like.

Here’s how I see the whole Olympics thing. The Olympic sports are a great thing. Having the top athletes compete against other countries in something that isn’t blood and violence is something that should be encouraged. Extolling the best in the world in athletics is a memorable moment and people who excel whether as brain surgeons, ballet dancers, runners or engineers should be acknowledged and cheered for their excellence and skill. I applaud that.

What I do not applaud is the Olympic committee (both internationally and VANOC) which makes their rules over those jurisdictions civic, provincial and federal. What I do not believe in is spending millions, promising the taxpayers all the time that the Olympics won’t run overbudget nor will our taxes be raised (can anyone say HST) to pay for this fanfare…and all the time we know they are going to go overbudget. What I do not support is millions of dollars spent for fancy buildings, some of which are only temporary, while people are losing jobs, and lives, because of healthcare cuts. What I protest is a million dollars worth of free tickets for politicians when nothing has been mentioned on what people who don’t have a $100 for a ticket can see.

I think these are worthy things to protest. Not the sports themselves, nor the athletes. I protest attitudes and security of a greater level than that of visiting heads of state even seem to get. I protest to the fact that anyone who has a problem with so much money gone to frivolity is deemed a terrorist by an arrogant politician who has no clue what it’s like to be underprivileged. I protest to a lowbrow attitude that anyone who dislikes the Liberal government’s brazen disregard for people in real straights (and taking forever to even give paramedics a contract) is considered of low intellect. Mr. Bloy, let’s you and I go take an IQ test and see who comes out on top.

I also protest people who protest anything just for the sake of being contrary, but I don’t believe this is the case with many of the protesters. They want people to know that not everyone is happy with the money being thrown at the Olympics, and when has an Olympics event ever made money for the hosting city? Isn’t it only once in recent memory? It would be better to say that I don’t protest the Olympics but that I protest VANOC and the International Olympics Committee, and I’ll continue to as long as we see unfairness and inequality happening even with this.

http://www.bclocalnews.com/greater_vancouver/burnabynewsleader/news/68785952.html

Addendum: Feb. 14–In light of the fact that this is now getting even more attention, although I wrote it several months ago, I’m going to add to it, to clarify. And to comment to the comments below.

I’m a little amazed that the commenter below equates spending tons of money with fun, joy-filled lives and spending no money with a boring, joyless life. There is quite a range in between no money and some money. Not to mention that, guess what, you can actually have fun and not be bored by spending little to no money. But I’m not going to list activities for you here. Spending far overbudget on the Olympics does not necessarily lead to joy. Did you see anywhere in my post where I said this or that we should spend no money? Nope. What I protest is the overspending and VANOC/IOC’s attitude.

If you’re not sure what I’m talking about read my recent post about the IOC’s attitudes towards Australia’s athletes hanging the boxing kangaroo flag in the Oympic village, or my post of Feb. 9th in regards to overkill on the budget. Here are a few more examples of the wastage of money better spent.

I know someone who was hired to get the communications village built up at Whistler for the various media. A temporary structure, it was already behind schedule and he was the second or third person hired to oversee it. Meetings in Madrid and other parts of Europe and a command to get it done, no matter the cost. He was also replaced by yet another person. Who knows how many to this date but you can bet money was wasted replacing person after person as some used the prestige of having an Olympics contract to push them into a better job, or the ones in charge let people go so they could maneuver in who they wanted.

Here’s another example. Campbell bragged this week of the $450 million spent on sports as part of the Oympics while at the same time his government has cut the arts funding budget for BC from $47 million to $3 million in just two years (that’s over 90% cut which no other area has experienced so drastically). Arts, like all the ones seen at the Olympic opening ceremonies. It’s not wrong to support sports but it is wrong to slash and get rid of arts and then demonize and pit artists against children saying if we give money to the arts we cannot give chidren a school lunch program. Even $47 million is pretty small peanut next to what’s been spent on sports or the Olympics over all. Oddly they didn’t pit the athletes against the children.

I talk to people in this city worried about the raise in taxes that will come (and has in several ways already) because of the Olympics. They worry about their children suffering under the debt that we will still be paying off twenty plus years from now. Yes, the Olympics cost money. That’s a given. But there could have been much more of a middle ground and I for one never believed the glosses that  came out in the beginning where they (politicians of course) promised us that we would not see a hike in our taxes to pay for this and that it wouldn’t run overbudget. Oddly enough, to the commenter below, because of spending all this money we could very well be leading boring and joyless lives for years to come because of the tax burden that we will be shouldering. Next time you choose a book over a movie or a walk in nature over dining in an expensive restaurant, tell me if you’re having a boring and joyless time.

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The Importance of Art

There has been some brutal slashing of arts funding in BC, not to mention Canada. However, the BC government slashed funding quietly, in the background and almost to nil for most things. Magazines and performance groups that have continued for many years have suddenly found themselves out of business. We already know that Prime Minister Stephen Harper believes artists stand around at elite galas sipping champagne and hobnobbing.

Well let me put into perspective why art is important, and to do that for our local governments I’ll talk about it in a way they can recognize.

First, why does Canada subsidize the arts and have arts grants that other countries scoff at or are jealous of (let’s just say the US)? Because it costs the same to produce a movie (renting equipment, paying actors and crew), or produce an album (studio and recording fees, paying musicians), or publish a book (printing and layout costs, staff, distribution), etc. For every form of art there are costs and they are similar no matter which country one is in. However, Canada’s population base is much much smaller than the US’s. To make any profit from the expenses that go into producing anything from a stage play to a picture book requires a certain number of sales/patrons attending or buying. Canada’s population tops out around 33 million to the US’s 304 million. Even ten percent attendance/sales is a big difference between these two countries.

Of course, if we want to just dismiss Canadian culture and say we are a cheap facsimile of the United States, well then it won’t really matter and Canadian art be damned. Yet that is only part of the picture, Mr. Premier and Prime Minister. There is far more that makes art than sales.

Without art you would not have those campaign speeches, nor the speeches you give throughout your term in office. Speechwriters learn their craft and writing is an art. Without art you would not have campaign posters or brochures or pamphlets without which it would be harder to influence the voting public. Graphic designers go to school to learn the elements of design, composition, color, effectiveness, etc. and that is an art. Without art you would not have those televised moments of your promises or the carefully crafted ads to make you look good and to make your opponent look bad. TV ads are done by camera men, directors, writers, and a host of people. Putting together a good ad is an art.

Without art you would not look so good in your suits. Clothing is designed by people who go through school to perfect their craft. You’d be wearing handcrafted burlap of a similar design to everyone around you. Clothing design is an art. Without art you might not have a national anthem. Musicians and songwriters go to school and work to hone their skills, and music is an art.

Without art you would have a world of unhappy people with no entertainment except for the elite rich who could pay the high prices. There would be no music to listen to, no books to read, no shows to watch, no beautiful pictures or dances to see. Without art you would enter a dull policelike state where unfortunately even the signs would have to be done by some artist but where the voice of knowledge would be silenced. Yes, knowledge comes with education. Knowledge of the history and depth of a discipline whether it be music, dance, writing, drawing, painting, sculpting, designing. Without these skills we will enter back into the simplistic drawings and songs of children. Without art challenging boundaries and perspectives, we cannot grow as a society or reflect on our deeds.

Next on the chopping block will probably be literacy. I’d think that the ministers of culture in the respective levels of government might be doing a nervous dance right now. After all, without art and culture that the BC government has almost wiped out, we won’t have very much and those ministers won’t have a job. So, Gordon Campbell and Stephen Harper, have you yet figured out which part of art is part of every day life and keeps you in your jobs?

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