The Meaning Of Culture

March 4th, 2008

The Proms attract too narrow a section of society, culture minister Margaret Hodge has suggested in a speech.

Margaret Hodge biography includes:

Margaret entered politics in 1973 as a councillor for the London Borough of Islington where she was Chair of the Housing Committee from 1975 to 1979 and Deputy Leader from 1981 to 1982, before becoming Leader from 1982 to 1992. She spent two years as a consultant for Price Waterhouse from 1992 to 1994.

She was educated at Bromley High School and Oxford High School before obtaining a BSc at the London School of Economics. Margaret Hodge is married with four children and one grandchild.

So, the qualifications to be a Minister for Culture are…? I would prefer to see Brian Sewell, Mark Kermode, Jon Wozencroft, Bruce Gilbert.. even Rolf Harris!

She praised “icons of a common culture” from Coronation Street to the Angel of the North and said culture could “enhance a sense of shared identity”.

Icons of a common culture? The Angel of the North? To share a liking (or a dislike!) for a particular sculpture does not ‘enhance a sense of shared identity’.

As for Coronation Street, Hodge clearly misinterprets a commercial vehicle designed to attract the largest audience of a particular category in order to sell premium advertising time as a piece of ‘art’ through which one can connect with peers from all manner of social backgrounds.

But the Proms was one of several major cultural events many people did not feel comfortable attending, she said.

So by extension, any public performance (or ‘major cultural event’) should be dragged down to the lowest common denominator. Is classical music, as a part of culture, not intended to push boundaries, to increase our understanding of each other and ourselves through the generation of shared emotions? Why then should anyone feel excluded? Everyone has the personal choice to go or not. When the Hodges of this world start telling you what you may and may not enjoy as part of our ‘culture’ then something is seriously awry.

Tory leader David Cameron said she did not “get it” and said the Proms were a “great symbol of our Britishness”.

He is kind of right, but he only really means that non-skinheads get to wave the Union flag without getting beaten by policemen. The Proms are certainly a symbol of openess. Look at this list of concerts at last year’s Proms, the sheer breadth of music should be lauded as a wonderful acheivement, moreover since every night is sold out. That does not strike me as a series of concerts failing in their task.

He also stressed the numbers of other Proms during the concert season – such as Proms in the Park and the Electric Proms.

‘Feel at ease’

In a speech to the IPPR think tank on Britishness, Heritage and the Arts, Mrs Hodge said a “shared sense of common cultural identity” was a key part of social integration and cohesion.

Since the rise of the British Empire, how can the population of Britain possibly have a shared sense of common cultural identity? This statement is either based on a misunderstanding of ‘cultural identity’, possibly mistaking ‘living in Britain’ with ‘being British’, or a misunderstanding of what constitutes ‘culture’. Living near Stamford Hill in London did not let me share a cultural identity with the Jewish community. My living in Hackney did not encourage my muslim neighbours to drink ale or eat black pudding, things I may place as part of my cultural identity. By not choosing to get hideously drunk on tasteless lager while wearing a short-sleeved shirt in all weathers and letching at anything with 2 X chromosomes every Friday and Saturday night I am culturally alienated from a large part of my generation. What should I do?

But then what does Hodge mean by ‘culture‘? It is a word with a particularly broad meaning, and I would very much like to hear her definition.

She said she wanted to “challenge our sectors square on”.

I would also like to hear what the blue blazes “challenge our sectors square on” means!

“The audiences for some of many of our greatest cultural events – I’m thinking particularly of the Proms – is still a long way from demonstrating that people from different backgrounds feel at ease in being part of this,” she added.

Just as culture pushes the boundaries it can make some people proud to belong, it can make others feel isolated and deeply offended Margaret Hodge
Culture minister

“I know this is not about making every audience completely representative, but if we claim great things for our sectors in terms of their power to bring people together, then we have a right to expect they will do that wherever they can.”

Hodge should try reading Lydgate (and Lincoln)

“You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time”.

If one point of art (and culture, of which art is a part) is to challenge, then not everyone will like everything. It’s no more than common sense, Margaret. Is she determined to demonstrate exactly why Rolf would make a better Minister than her?

In her speech, Mrs Hodge praised other institutions for “creating the icons of a common culture that everybody can feel a part of” – such as the Angel of the North, the British Museum and the Eden project as well as TV and radio shows “from Coronation Street to the Archers” and shared public holidays.

Well, I can take or leave the Angel… I’m certain some of Britain’s Greek, Mexican, Egyptian, Italian, Indian (et al.) communities are offended by the contents of the British Museum (or, rather, by the fact that the British Museum contains THEIR stolen cultural artefacts while portraying them as part of Great Britishness … the Eden project (if one can call it a cultural ICON is highly doubtful) is simply dull compared to the natural landscape of Bodmin Moor, for example, or the Cornish Coast, or Yorkshire Dales, Highlands… Coronation Street we have covered, and I abhor it… and if there is one programme which has a particular and non-inclusive audience then it is the Archers on Radio 4!

National motto

But she acknowledged that culture could also be divisive – citing the examples of Jerry Springer: The Opera, which Christians said was blasphemous and Behtzi, a play which depicted sex abuse in a Sikh temple and was cancelled after protests.

“Just as culture pushes the boundaries it can make some people proud to belong, it can make others feel isolated and deeply offended,” she said. […] From BBQ.

Did she not notice as The Point Of It All flew right over her head? “When a finger points to the moon, the imbecile looks at the finger.”

I can’t dissect further. Her idiocy is certainly all-inclusive. Her sectors are undoubtedly challenged square-on. Yet this woman has powet to decide ‘cultural priorities for museums and funding projects supported by you and I. It is not funny and it could be very damaging. I would not be surprised if the only culture Margeret Hodge is familiar with is thrush.

One Response to “The Meaning Of Culture”

  1. irdial Says:

    Margaret Hodge, and her Fascist buddies are all making the sounds of “The Theatre of Noise”:

    “…units of detuned escalatories have not, however, prevented virus and ordnance from invading our centers…”

    “Economics must not dictate situations which are obviously religious”.

    “Combined with economic advantages of the mating structure, it far surpasses any disadvantages in increased perversions. A final tran – An infinite translated mathematics of tolerance and charity among artificial memory devices is ultimately binary. Stimulating rhetoric absolute. The theater of noise is proof of our potential. The circulation of autotypes. The golden talisman underfoot is phenomenon approaching. And, in the history of now, our ethos of design”.

    I keep referring to this film because more and more it intersects with our reality.

    These monsters are slowly moving to a style of language that involves less and less meaning and substance whilst maintaining the same number of words. Their ultimate arrival will be when they can use The Theatre of Noise like the holograms of THX-1138, and everyone will ‘understand’ what they are saying without anyone questioning a single sentence.

    The Americans are well on their way to this zenith of meaninglessness.

    “They hate our freedoms” is a perfect example. Another is “more secure”. People will have arrived when even the latter will be too laden with meaning. But I digress.

    These are the same imbeciles that are driving billions of pounds out of the UK with their philistine, sour grape, dyed in the wool socialism…part of the problem is that people use logic and reason to try and attack these beasts, and this is a wholly inappropriate response.

    These people must be cut off from the reigns of power at the molecular level, and in any country, the molecules of power are the smallest unit of the currency.

    We are beyond argument, debate, reason, points of view, patience and logic. The kind of dystopian hell hole that Britain is becoming before our very eyes requires only one response, and I have been reliably informed by that very reliable barometer of all things British, the London Taxi Driver, that this response is coming very soon.

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