A dialogue of dumbs (on political and institutional discussion)

Fernando Gómez de la Cuesta
July 27, 2022
Kendell Geers , "#NEW Speak (Entertain The Masses), 2019.
Kendell Geers , "#NEW Speak (Entertain The Masses), 2019.

After many meetings, a lot of time and a lot of effort, I have the feeling that we are still trapped in a recurrent and insubstantial loop that repeats, over and over again, the same discourses, the same (im)postures, the same lack of efficiency, the same inaction. We always sit around similar tables, with similar individuals who say similar things while seeming to listen to us. Let no one think that all this is accidental, that so much rhetorical redundancy and so much passive bureaucracy is due to random, to the conjunction of the stars or to the direction in which the wind is blowing, not at all. Nor is it the consequence of the crisis, the war or the bloody pandemic, even if we now want to blame it all on the fucking coronavirus; don't fool yourselves, that is not what it is about. In truth, this ineffectiveness that affects cultural policies and that emanates directly from the ruling classes (those who have the code of domination and the capacity to change the situation) responds to biased, partisan objectives that have been tortiously planned from those in power. It is not just that they don't know how to do things, that could be fixed, it is simply that they don't want to, it doesn't suit them, nor is it in their interest.

For years now, with few honourable exceptions that usually lie in the spirit of very specific people or in the sensitivity of small administrations (those closest to us), public cultural policies have based a large part of their (non) action on a very simple premise: let time go by and try to do as little as possible. Doing is a verb that often creates problems for politicians, especially when they don't have the right knowledge, when they don't want to take action or when it becomes a synonym for risk or change. The tactic of kicking forward the ball of dung that the necessary reforms and unfulfilled promises have become is something that works very well for them, which serves them to gain time towards the next term of office with as few complications as possible, losing as few votes as possible and believing that they go (almost) unnoticed. A big ball of shit that continues to roll and fatten its perimeter at the same time as it consolidates our precariousness, our discouragement and our pessimism. After all: who cares about culture? And above all, to how many?

Hunger is the cause of the silence of many. As Madariaga said in a well-known anecdote: "As regards my hunger, I'm the boss". We are all in command of our own hunger, in better or worse ways, and little can be demanded, the need is pressing. Being hungry is a critical situation and, like any extreme circumstance, it dilutes the responsibility for the servile acts carried out by those who suffer from it. Starving, precarious, dependent and weak, that is how they want us. It is from this powerful position that they convene their gatherings, their meetings, their commissions, their competitions and their prizes, again and again, every time they need to divert the attention of an anxious public. Some grateful stomachs and many hungry people pop up there, hoping that their free collaboration, their smile for the photo, their handshake, their complicit silence or their animated and altruistic involvement will end up generating some alms that will allow them to get through life. This is the system: to delay as long as possible the drafting of the plan, of the bases, of the actions and their lines, so that it may seem that the representatives of the sector, of the associations, of the network, endorse these hackneyed proposals, so often repeated and so little applied and effective, so that those who feel paid, but also those who are undernourished, support a false and empty participation with which the ruling class tries to justify the tyranny of party dynamics and its countless ignominies.

After dozens of pantomime meetings with governments, communities, committees, commissions and town councils, where many have put forward their ideas and applied their endeavours, after all that, for the umpteenth time, they invite those they decide to tell them, once again, where they should go. They ask again, with no shame on their faces, how they should do the work they themselves have not done. So yes, of course, without wanting to pay a euro for the advice, while they sit at the same table in exchange of a sure fee. They question, as on other occasions, pretending to listen to the answer, with little desire to implement the idea and letting time go by. A feigned participation that only aims for the associations and professionals who lend themselves to this game, on the basis of their much, little or no prestige, to legitimise the (non) action and (in)decision of the public administrations, of the party leaderships and of some museum experts.

Time goes by and the traps they set for us keep on proliferating, traps that we allow in our state of desperate need, dishonest collaborationism or adherence to the elected regime. Meanwhile, they give shape to a list of good practices deformed and manipulated to their convenience: by putting places and proposals out to tender while selecting a jury of like-minded people who apply cooked-up rules that benefit their friends; by burying any procedure, management or appeal under an excessive bureaucracy; by confirming the power, bad manners and nepotism that certain officials who cannot be removed from their posts bring together; by endowing the spaces with artistic directors who only pop up to collect their salaries, who schedule by call with a miserable budget and a great lack of knowledge; by generating their activity as opportunities, influence, occurrence or propagandistic image-washing arise that resort to the flags of the moment, without a plan, without aims, without criteria, a dialogue of dumbs, where the dumbs are only among us.



English translation: Beatrice Krayenbühl