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This Country Needs Artists

03 December 2013, 08:43

It's a popular saying (and a logical one too) that our country needs scientists and doctors and engineers and the like. Nobody can dispute that, but I can't help but wonder if it wouldn't do us some good to get some artists in there too.

Art, in contrast to most of science, is seldom seen to be a serious endeavour and career field. Sure, we love reading books and listening to music, but few parents will really encourage their teenage son to pursue a career as a rapper. A career as a writer, musician, painter or filmmaker is seldom lucrative unless you hit the really big heights. Forgive me if I'm perpetuating any falsehoods, but this is the general understanding - you can make a better living as a doctor or an engineer.

But just because someone isn't paid much doesn't mean their role isn't valued - there are more measures of value than just money. I wonder if perhaps we wouldn't do good with a few more artists and (genuine) religous leaders and philosophers in this country. I'm not talking about crazy politicians who want to nationalise everything into their own bank accounts and invoke painful emotions from Apartheid. I'm talking about intelligent people, influential people and popular people who speak the language(s) of the people and are able to mold and build new patterns of thoughts, to break walls and burn bridges and to inspire new ways of feeling.

Maybe if we had more people inspiring children to study hard and forsake unhelpful traditional conceptions of concepts like gender roles, we'd have a better pass rate and less rape. Perhaps a genuine black (or rather, South African) consciousness leader without their own private agenda could inspire people to take a bit more pride in their history and not sell their votes for the sake of 'comraderie'. Maybe a brilliant Afrikaans or Venda or Zulu writer could inspire people to cross cultural barriers and invoke empathy for nation building (Imagine a view of Apartheid and post-Apartheid RSA from one of those sweet old white ladies who've seen it all and been part of it all, the good and bad, written in Xhosa to be read in rural villages in the Eastern Cape!)

While it's great that we have brilliant minds with fascinating opinions on this forum, I can't help but wonder why we don't have our own town crier in the taxi rank, attracting crowds to listen to common sense.

Probably because discourse and opinion is a messy and thankless job compared to opening up your own law practise and at least sweating to make some money for yourself and your family. Someone has to do it though, and I can't help thinking we'd all be better off. If you look at the great Western Nations people on this forum are so fond of talking about, you'll find that most of their progress wasn't a result of science, but the science came about as a result in changed ways of thinking (like the Renaissance).

In conclusion, please add to your list of things this country needs, artists, writers, playwrights, filmmakers, poets and musicians. 

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