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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Sweet Side of the Bitter Pill

The Harper Minority did not earn itself a mandate last night - but I would dare say that the Arts and Culture community has.

In an election where we (writers, musicians, key grips, sculptors, painters and more) were successfully played against the masses as "effete elitists" we learned, first-hand, just how wide the disconnect between 'Arts' and 'ordinary Canadians' has become.

And yet in the wake of it all a new challenge has been laid before us - a challenge I think we all should be more than happy to accept.

You see, having talked to the people I know, having scanned MANY of the CBC message boards (and weeded out the Trolls) there's still a disconcerting amount of people in this country - otherwise active, engaged Canadians - who just don't 'get' what we do.

And if those who're active and engaged in the system don't seem to understand our role, how then can we hope that those with little interest are faring better?

Plainly, that is something we're going to have to change. We can't just be jumping together, rallying at that CBC when the threat looms large - and, to be clear, I don't mean that as any sign of disrespect.

I just believe that we have to keep that threat from ever gathering in the first place.

I've also come to understand that we're going to have to do that with gentle nudges, not sledgehammers (something I admit I've been guilty of as I flailed around and tried to catch my bearings). We're going to need concerted efforts by us all to maintain an active presence in the lives of the people we hope to entertain.

Because, even if we get rid of the emotional side of things, the 'beauty of Art' arguments - hell, it just makes good business sense. We who are trying to make a living off of entertaining CANADA and CANADIANS should know our market more and know our market better.

Essentially, we need to do what we do best: Communicate and Listen.

Go grass roots.

And I don't mean to take away from those who're already doing that (I'm looking at the Department of Culture and Vote for Environment who both brought forth valiant efforts and should be proud) - I mean to take a solid look at what's working and what's not. Where was Harper's divisive message the most effective? Who was he targeting and why did it work?

Hey, maybe we need to get more Stompin' Tom out there (did anyone think to ask him what he thought of being called 'elitist'?).

The good news is that we don't have to rush this. We don't have to take our already battle-weary bodies and hoist them up and try to mount a decisive front against Harper's assault. We don't have to hastily educate our own about how they're under direct attack and why they should care.

We don't have to try and undo years (or decades) of passive indifference in 37 days.

Now is the time for us to rise to the challenge we have been given.

We've been told, in one way shape or form, that we need to do better. We need to reach these people and show them that the Arts are as essential as the weekend. As essential as the chance to escape our daily and weekly burdens. That it's relevant and fun and needed - that it truly is the voice of the 'ordinary Canadian' even if there really isn't an 'ordinary Canadian' anymore.

Now more than ever we've been told exactly what we need to do - and not many are lucky enough to be sent such a clear message.

We need to connect.

Lucky for us: That's what we do.

Yes, the real work is just beginning - but somehow, I can't help but find that new-found purpose exciting. It's not going to be pretty, its not going to be easy, but change - real change - rarely is at first. It's time to dig in and start rebuilding the roads.

Cheers to everyone who gave a damn and still chooses to.

It's not a fight, it's not a battle, it's not a war.

It's a realization.

And time is on our side.


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