To compare things in the present to events in 1984 is a pretty over-subscribed cliche and is obviously simply a useful distraction for our reptilian overlords. Like most of Orwell’s work (and yoga) it’s pretty popular amongst lefties and therefore everyone who works in the arts.
As someone who works with words, its the ideas surrounding Newspeak (the official language of Oceana) which have always fascinated me. The Party realises that, by restricting the language people have at their disposal, you limit their ability to communicate with any specificity. If you erase the language which allows us to declare the difference between a cow and a horse then good luck complaining to the chef about your horsey burger.
And yet, a few years ago, a word started to disappear. In newspapers, in government briefings and on organisation websites, it’s frequency was slowly reduced until it was almost invisible. The word ‘art’ (pronounced a:rt) had been taken out to a field, beaten over the head and buried in a deep grave at a crossroads. Seemingly, no one wanted to talk about art anymore. Over a period of months I’d gone from working in ‘the arts’ to working in the ‘cultural industries’ and from being an artist to being a ‘creative entrepreneur’.
Simply put, we got defensive. As soon as David Cameron limped into office with the help of Nick Clegg, we knew dark days were ahead. Fair enough, if we were going to go for this whole austerity thing, I’d rather we miss out on another production of Hamlet than close a school down and much of the electorate would agree. At the first hurdle though, we agreed to have this debate in their language – they’d brought the ball so we’d play this out by their rules.
At a time when Nigel Farage was gaining popularity by ‘saying it like it is’, we were trying to role-play House of Cards in order to protect what we could. Don’t get me wrong, cultural leaders across the country did this for the best of reasons, and unlike independant artists it’s less acceptable for them to use naughty words at politicians, but it meant we instantly started this fight on the back foot.
At around 6am this morning it was clear that David Cameron wasn’t gonna be needing a removals van and I’m not sure that it takes a genius to work out that the arts might be in for a further beating. We’ve got a fight on our hands again, but this time, lets sound proud of what we do. That starts by not using their language. If we’re gonna head into battle, then let’s dictate the rules ourselves.