In the comments below Tony Thomas’ recent piece on woke museums, subscriber Subrosa raised some very pertinent observations and questions, a few of which are answered below
As a young person, my question to Quadrant and Quadrant readers is: What are we going to do? The long march through the institutions is succeeding, in part, because there are no/few alternative options for young, ambitious, intelligent, creative minds. Or even old, ambitious, intelligent, creative minds for that matter.
Virtually every major award, scholarship, grant and research opportunity in the humanities comes from the hard Left – with only a few notable exceptions. Quadrant offers magazine publication, sure, but little chance of a book going on to win a major award. Same/same with funding within the museum sector. It’s shallow but many are willing to “play the game” and accept wokeism just to get their own piece of the pie. Sometimes it’s as simple as paying rent and putting bread on the table. Same/same with landing great jobs. I’m sure there are non-woke employers out there, but how you connect with them is anybody’s guess.
Paying the mortgage, covering the kids’ school fees — they’re powerful incentives to keep the mouth tight shut, particularly when your pay cheque is drawn on the account of a woke entity and your woke supervisor has staffed adjoining desks with the likeminded. Consider this telling anecdote, related by last week by an old friend here in the US, from the days when the Black Lives Matter mania was at its peak. The vice-president of a large media outfit posted on an internal company web page the names and amounts contributed by her underlings? The journalist who related this story chipped in $20 for appearance’s sake and to avoid harassment, denied promotions etc. It was a culture war shakedown, but what is one person to do but suffer the consequences of acting on principle?
Closer to home, imagine the discomfort a Qantas employee, say, might have faced had they objected to the airlines’ planes being turned into flying billboards for the Voice.
The usual sectors (church, education, even science) cannot be relied upon not to force cultural Marxism down your throat anymore. Could Quadrant hold a literary prize that out-moneys the Left somehow? Could Quadrant find creative ways to reward regional museums for their balanced displays and champion them? Could Quadrant set up a real truth-telling history scholarship? This might all sound impossible, but the fact is, the Left have done it, while the centre/conservatives have put their energy elsewhere.
That “energy” is mostly devoted to survival. It’s the public purse which underwrites the citadels of wokeism, from the Australian Human Rights Commission to the ABC and so many other spigots pouring out the approved and endless narratives. Quadrant, for example, once received a trifling annual sum from what was then called the Australia Council. That funding was cut off without rhyme, reason or explanation. We’ve been self-supporting ever since, which is why taking a subscription is so vital.
Yes, many of these museums are full of woke “true believers” but they’re also full of curators who love their collections; they’re playing the game to keep the funding coming in to keep their storehouses from going to ruin. I absolutely agree with [commenter] en passant that museums should pay their way by attracting paying visitors, but a shift in the market won’t occur until there are real alternatives in the culture wars. After all, most of the time people go to galleries, museums, bookstores, etc, because they’re pleasant activities.
The average person doesn’t really know the background political story to the various prizes being handed out, they just see the “prize winning” stickers in the corners and get curious.
Again, it’s all about the Left’s access to the taxpayer dollar. Would the ABC be a viable commercial entity were its standard fare supported only by ad and/or subscriber revenues? Would dreadful plays be staged without government grants? Would the woman who makes “art” out of her own multi-coloured excrement be producing such crap without the generous hand of government attending to her bottom line?
The key would seem to be a conservative government prepared to cut off the luvvies, to make them pay their own way, as does Quadrant.
Well, one can dream.
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