I am sending out two messages today: one to you, one to our members, and another to our students.
My message, on behalf of Arts Emergency, is short. And apologies in advance that I resist adopting the faux statesperson tone everyone else appears to be doing today – there is much we don’t know about the impact this result will have on the lives of the young people we’re supporting, much we don’t know about the political terrain in coming months and years, and whether or not our movement survives that storm is very much down to you and me.
There is something I do know, however, that I want to tell you today having stewed all weekend on what’s going on. As an educated, generous, progressive, open-minded, empowered and engaged person, it is YOU YOU YOU that gives reason to be hopeful right now.
I believe our cause is more vital than ever, more important than even I realised back in 2013 when I established AE. With what feels like a surge in nationalistic sentiment, and what appears to be a spike in hate crime and xenophobic and racist incidents, and more over, at a time when ‘experts’ are derided, fact is dismissed in favour of bellicose fiction and many are saying we’re entering the age of post-factual democracy – a liberal arts education, set within a broad, free and fair system accessible and comprehensible to ALL is more important than anything in the greater scheme of things.
Critical thinking, and all the associated skills obtained through the study of history, philosophy, sociology, languages, geography and media studies, help us dismantle bad arguments, they give us the weapons we need to fight back, and decipher fact from fiction!
Creative thinking, and all the associated skills obtained through the study of art, performance, literature, music and film give us vision beyond the status quo, they help us to not only imagine a better world, but give us the tools to share that vision with others.
Perhaps more importantly at this worrying time, these subjects collectively allow us to see into each other’s lives, to understand each other better, to bind us together through a shared understanding and in celebrating our differences, give us the empathy and communicative ability we need to protect, cherish and value one another.
We need open minds, open hearts, open borders and open arms and, if like me you are fearing that such things are a pipe dream I just want to urge you to look around you, look at those who help in times of crisis around the world, look in the mirror – because while our leaders appear to have committed a gross dereliction of duty, the duty we have as artists, thinkers, graduates is to our fellow citizens and our children.
I may be rambling, but I just know so many people are feeling the same as I do today, and I really want to hammer home just how much I think our cause at Arts Emergency matters right now – it may not be the loudest all action player on the pitch, but in all honesty, if we lose touch with all these things we’re set up to defend then we lose our very humanity. And I’m just not having it! Sure you feel the same too.
I’ve also written to you and other members first, as the next email I’m writing is more difficult and I wanted to pump myself up a bit with this bombast. I’m writing to our young members – our mentoring participants and alumni, many of whom are people of colour or white working class kids from the poorest backgrounds, some of whom have moved here from the EU at a young age, and are rightly very worried right now. I want to remind them all that regardless of their background, they are our future, that we believe in them and their ability to improve and beautify this world.
Most importantly, I’m going to remind the that they have YOU, me, and nearly 4000 others who they can count on in this confusing mess for solidarity, support, kindness and a very, very warm welcome wherever they go.
Have a good week, it’s sure to be very busy, I’ll sign off and let’s all crack on with it!