This question can seem strange, especially on a cultural magazine but when you see some talks about the BBC from the new British Minister of Culture (or the French one who is just a joke, as every one before her since what?!… the 70’s?!… Well, be nice Helene, let’s say the 90’s with Jack Lang!), this question can appear legitimate. And this is the danger.
Of course, mankind is supposed to be a specie of reflection so we can think about the concept of Culture and its impact in the human lives or why we have found so old marks of it. The problem is more the contemporary (and false economics) rhetoric. Winston Churchill answered (or not?) against cutting the art funds in favour of the war effort “then what are we fighting for?” but in his mouth, art and culture are melted in the same vision of what makes the particularities of a country/civilisation/group of people who share, for a time, identical references and interests. With this definition, we better understand the “titans choc” battle that was the Second World War, that was not only a matter of territories but also a battle of dominance, a civilisations war that could only finish by the supreme victory of one and the dislocation and oblivion of the other.
Nowadays, we are not anymore in this scheme. Some politicians, war Barbarians or other people who don’t (want to?) understand our contemporary world try to keep this old, even if terrible, easy scheme but we are more in a melting pot with many different ingredients that in a “you or me”-Expandable-III-style. So, in this case, not anymore need of preserving past as we share common AND contemporary references: Hollywood films, MacDonald, Facebook, Manga and Chinese food, … No longer need of Shakespeare plays, Prehistoric trails, mid-East archaeological sites and works of art: they belong to a past that doesn’t impact our current days and interest only a bunch of conservative people who live in the past… That we could say. But we don’t.
Unlike more and more people want to make us believe, a melting pot is not a big pot where ingredients fight each other to take the advantage to homogenise the pot, it’s a building system in which one every single ingredient has its place and actively participates to a common: having a tasty meal at the end. This metaphor can seem funny or maybe naïve but think about it: every time a civilisation knew an invasion, as strong as could be the new lords, the only way they had to stay in long was to mix themselves and melt their culture with the native one! Yes, History is lessons, not just mud or dust. That means also that, even if we live in Europe, ISIS attacks and strikes down mid-East archaeological sites and artefacts that has an impact on us because it’s a share history that they are destroying. Humanity travels since its beginning. Thinking that, because fate settled your parents there, is a reason to ignore the rest of the world is like saying “I will not anymore using pepper, tomatoes, pizzas, potatoes or chocolate because I’m British or French” or what else! In two words: stupid and impossible.
But in the same time, Culture is not really about History, it’s all about our day to day lives! I deeply think that History has impact on our daily lives (because that explains why and how we live NOW) but it’s also about to where we are looking. Once again, the aim of a melting pot is not a homogeneous taste but a rich one. That means that we have to be inspired by the others but also suggest, find, test and create new things to allow the heterogeneous taste (or diversity if you prefer) of the final meal! So, why do we care about Culture? Simply because all human wants to live happy and well, be nourished not only fed so, dears “Minsters of Culture” stop cutting in the Culture funds or thinking that innovation is only a pharmaceutical or “hard science” stuff, do understand your job or, at least, try to not destroy it!