While the cultural colonialists may insist that what they are calling for is simply better art – for art that is free from tired, easy stereotypes and sexist myths – the opposite is true. Art needs freedom to flourish. It’s a space in which mindless fantasies can be indulged, or moral ambiguities prodded and explored, sometimes for no clear reason. Art, as Oscar Wilde famously said, is ‘quite useless’. The moment you try to make it useful, to hector it, straitjacket it and put it to work, its potency withers.
This is something great artists have always recognised. For the 1979 edition of his dystopian, anti-censorship classic, Fahrenheit 451, the late, great Ray Bradbury offered an instructive anecdote:
‘About two years ago, a letter arrived from a solemn young lady telling me how much she enjoyed reading my experiment in space mythology, The Martian Chronicles. But, she added, wouldn’t it be a good idea, this late in time, to rewrite the book inserting more women’s characters and roles… The point is obvious. There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches. Every minority, be it Baptist / Unitarian / Irish / Italian / Octogenarian / Zen Buddhist / Zionist / Seventh-day Adventist / Women’s Lib / Republican / Mattachine / Four Square Gospel, feels it has the will, the right, the duty to douse the kerosene, light the fuse… The real world is the playing ground for each and every group, to make or unmake laws. But the tip of the nose of my book or stories or poems is where their rights end and my territorial imperatives begin, run and rule.’
—“The Year of the Cultural Colonialist,” Tom Slater, Spiked Online.
Sorry for the lack of posts today. Just got back from meeting last night with a few of my fellow cultural rebels, who take iconoclastic stances in Austin, Texas’ bastion of cultural colonialism.