Art and Politics
The Declaration of Independence states that the purpose of government is to promote and protect "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." According to the Declaration, governments that prevent these values are illegitimate. Can there be a politics where the qualities of art form the basis for all policies and decisions, thereby celebrating life, liberty and happiness through harmony and beauty? Throughout human history Art and Culture have demonstrated the unique characteristics that make people human, and they have expressed the highest values of societies.
A society in which art and culture are diminished is on the road to losing its core values and risks becoming hard-hearted and insensitive to human needs. What is most important to people, especially in economic hard times and in times of irrational conflicts, are those uplifting cultural experiences that give hope.
Works of artistic expression, be they imaginative or utilitarian, reveal the human urge for beauty and the desire for a more perfect and glorious world. Through the eyes and expressions of artists in all cultures we become more of a human family united in the common appreciation of beauty. Cultural works of beauty open the human heart and break those man-made prisons where fear, selfishness, ideology and dogma keep the spirit in chains. To experience a work of beauty is to visit the land of liberty and to celebrate life.
In the midst of the horrible images of war and suffering, the beauty of spring was a source of hope and healing. The effect of beauty on the human spirit is to uplift the consciousness and to stimulate the recognition of the most essential life values. When a dry and seemingly dead landscape is reborn in color, fragrance and new life we are taken out of the confining cave of pain and ignorance. When we see a beautiful painting, hear inspiring music or view a joyful dance, we momentarily leave the suffocating emotions of worldly cruelty. This is not mindless escapism but rather a journey back to the core wherein lie our basic humanness and our most important values.
For people who value culture, one of the greatest tragedies in the current war in Iraq was the assault on civilization and human values demonstrated by the priority for protecting the Oil Ministry rather than the Museum of Antiquities in Baghdad. A people cannot be "liberated" while their art and cultural heritage are destroyed. The works of a nation's artistic expression belong to all humanity and make us all more human.
Politicians are currently making decisions, which threaten culture, art and the individual pursuit of happiness due to budget deficits, fears for security and the desire to control public opinion. These decisions contradict the mandate in the Declaration of Independence and erode the principles upon which our society is based. In addition, our children are at risk when school districts cut art and music programs due to tight budgets while there seems to be endless funds for tools of war.
politics and materialistic priorities have created the "need"
for weapons as people are made to feel threatened by other cultures
and beliefs. A political culture that values the principles of art will
become adept at creating harmony and understanding rather than conflict.
War as a tool of international politics, so long dominated by the psychology
of fear and hatred, will continue until we have politicians who express
priorities which value beauty and culture and thereby create harmonious
relationships. Such a politics will be just, humane and promote a peaceful,
© 2003 Richard Sidy