One of my memories of reading ‘The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists’ is where Owen argues that, if they could, capitalists would sell us the air we breathe. I read it before water, energy from natural resources and lots of other things had been privatised, so it was a prophecy.
In this brilliant article, Ian Martin brings Robert Tressell’s argument up to date with a rhetorical demolition (pity it’s not a literal one!) of the architectural bullshit that’s accompanying the social cleansing of London and other cities.
I was thinking about Ian’s piece while standing outside the National Gallery in the rain yesterday where trade unionists came together to oppose the privatisation of art. In another victory for price over values, the trustees of the National Gallery (clue in the title), chaired by a Getty scion, are trying to privatise access to art owned by the nation. They want to bring in G4S or similar to replace hundreds of public sector workers who lovingly look after the gallery’s collection. As ever, this move is part of an attack on trade unionism. Candy Unwin, who’s a PCS rep fighting to protect jobs, pay and conditions, has been suspended on the usual trumped up charges. The National Gallery is already a bad employer. It’s one of the only museums that doesn’t pay the Living Wage.
It’s an omni-disgrace! As Ian Martin argues more eloquently than I can, these acts of socio-cultural vandalism do more than fill the pockets of greedy corporations. They suck at the very essence of our society. Whenever I think about these things, I think about my dad. He was a self-educated aesthete who left school at 14 without any qualifications and spent is whole working life in low-paid manual jobs. Dad got his education at public libraries, art galleries and attending free or cheap concerts, plays and lectures. In this internet age, I recognise that access to ‘culture’ (as Raymond Williams said, one of the hardest words to define) has changed, but no amount of Twitter or Flickr can replace the experience of art in the raw. We must fight to defend it from those who would steal it.
More information about what you can do here.