What about culture? | Conversation avec Jacques Attali

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The French presidential campaign is probably the first one, since the beginning of the Fifth Republic, to end without cultural issues being raised in a serious manner; without support committees gathering prominent artists, writers, and musicians, calling on to vote for one of the candidates; without each contender eyeing a bid for the Elysée having demonstrated, in one way or another, the importance that he or she attaches to this issue.

There has been no full-blown confrontation on any of these issues: the days are now gone when we fought tooth and nail over the architecture of a museum or the content of a library; when songs composed in praise of the various candidates were thrown like a pie to the face; when we insulted each other about the place of contemporary art in public orders or on access to music and cinema over the internet.

Certainly, the candidates have all, or almost all, engaged in the compulsory exercise where they outlined a cultural program. And almost all of them, to varying degrees, spoke about artistic education, the income support system for artists and the opening hours of libraries. Some even mentioned, with no particular enthusiasm, La Francophonie.

But none of them have made it a key point in their program. None of them have taken openly tco the battlefield a major reform in this area as if it had definitely become secondary. As if culture had definitely been replaced by entertainment.

Artists of all disciplines made no mistake as they did not pledge to support any candidates. And the candidates to the French presidential elections did not try to win votes from those artists, aware that the public no longer believes that artists are legitimate prescribers, but views them as among the illegitimate privileged, that we must get rid of them, or at least be wary of them, one way or another.

And yet, so many key issues should have recalled notions of culture!

For example: How do we ensure that all the inhabitants in our country speak the same language and speak it well? Which means, for example, devoting much more resources to teaching French as a foreign language, in France.

Or how do we ensure that our culture continues to feed on cultures from elsewhere, without becoming a juxtaposition of distinctive cultures, and even hostile ones? This presupposes tolerance, curiosity, a taste for human relations, as well as a clear idea of what France is, and what it must continue to contribute to the world.

Or, finally, how do we ensure that all the inhabitants in our country, wherever they are, wherever they come from, secure and maintain their whole life the desire and the means to learn, to be curious, creative, and original? This presupposes learning to become yourself, a passion for testing, effort, risk-taking, sharing; an ability to assume failure; and even ridicule.

So far, we have not talked about what makes a great nation. In any case, not yet. And it is a very bad sign.

Nations are nourished by great cultural dissensions. They die when these dissensions no longer exist when all resign themselves to being no more than a consumer of entertainment, lonely and juxtaposed. This represents a serious threat to us all. This represents a serious threat to all developed countries, weighed down by their heritage.

It is by rediscovering our collective creativity that we will reopen the road to prosperity and happiness for all.

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