Tuesday, March 01, 2011
Cruel Cuts Can Create Community > my seventh guest post from Damien O'Keeffe aka @flawedmonkey
The UK Government's Comprehensive Spending Review held no real surprises. As a nation we had been living beyond our means for a long time, and the years of 'live now, pay later' had caught up. The time to pay up had arrived. What did, perhaps, surprise everyone though was the severity of the cuts proposed by the CSR, and the immediacy of their effect.
Frontline public services bore the brunt (hardly surprising with a Conservative-led coalition in power) as did the arts. The NHS, libraries, children's services, even the police force have been told to cut their expenditure drastically in order to balance the nation's books. Local Authorities have made entire workforces redundant in order to cut their costs. Even the Nation's forests were being put up for sale at one point.
Funding for the arts has been slashed. Not only through organisations such as The Arts Council but also in terms of funding higher education courses in arts related subjects. But then, the arts have always been an easy target; they don't really add anything to the quality of life, do they? You can't account for art or calculate it's cost effectiveness. So why should our hard-earned taxes pay for it? It is such narrow-minded and short-sighted thinking that leads to babies being thrown out with the bathwater. A classic example of this is David Cameron's speech glowing with pride at the success of the British film industry at this year's Oscars. The best picture of 2011 is 'The King's Speech', a film only made possible through the funding and support offered by The UK Film Council, an organisation that David Cameron has decided must go as it is not cost-effective!
The big idea behind the Government's thinking is 'The Big Society' - a radical notion that, somehow, we are all in this together (apart from the bankers pocketing bonuses for not losing too much more of our money, but let us not even start on that little injustice!) and that we must each take a bit more responsibility for the services and resources we use. On the face of it, not an unreasonable idea but this does assume that this hasn't been happening previously, that we have all been acting totally selfishly. Such an assumption, I would suggest, says more about those making it.
The actual effect of the spending cuts and the privatisation plans and the securing of larger profits for a smaller elite has been to strengthen the bonds of community that already exist, and to increase the ways in which people are willing to support one another. An attempt to force people into competition with one another has, in reality, begun to bring them together.
There have been a number of high-profile campaigns against various aspects of the proposed cuts. Organisations and lobby-groups have sprung up, galvanising support for libraries, the NHS, the arts in general, and the publicly owned, publicly accessible national forests.
On a smaller but equally as important level, there has been an increase in the ways people have supported artistic and creative endeavour. Social networks have brought together like-minded individuals who are collaborating on projects, pooling resources, and promoting one another's work. This very post is the result of such interaction. My kind and generous host has also provided photographic artwork to a range of up and coming musicians; not for monetary gain but for the pleasure of helping someone else. One of these musicians is collaborating on a project with a student from my College. A professional actress is 'giving something back' by coming to talk to and mentor some of my acting students. All of these meetings and sharings have occurred either directly or indirectly via twitter.
I know that Thomas is passionate about many things and a man of faith. I also know that he understands how small acts of kindness and support can mean so much. In giving a little we have both gained so much more in return.