Gov. Perry has released his proposed budget to account for Texas’s enormous shortfall, and, among other things, he’s cutting all funding to the Texas Historical Commission and the Texas Commission on the Arts. The story cites concerns from “cultural leaders.”
If you’re like me, you read the phrase “cultural leaders” and think of people like P. Diddy, Martha Stewart, and the costume designers for Mad Men. Ya know, the people who lead the culture.
Instead, the “cultural leaders” in the story are: “Nancy Bless, executive director of Texas Folklife, a statewide nonprofit organization that promotes traditional culture,” “Amy M. Barbee , executive director of the Texas Cultural Trust, which promotes the importance of the arts,” and “Tere O’Connor of the Heritage Society of Austin.”
Ah yes, “culture” doesn’t refer to our actual culture. It refers to select elements of the culture of yore that some quirky people believe are worth preserving. You see, our actual culture – the books we read, the music we listen to, the way we dress, the tools we use – doesn’t need government’s help in preserving it, and it doesn’t need “leaders” in the people-with-titles sense of the word. We’re a free people who do what we want, and as such our culture is organic, ever-changing, and self-sustaining. It doesn’t take a government handout to support modern cloth production the way it takes a government handout to support some woman in a period costume who handweaves cloth from hand-picked cotton so she can tell school children about it.
So let me suggest a rephrasing. The people in this story aren’t actually “cultural leaders,” and calling them such gives them too much credibility. “Oh no!” says a reader, “Gov. Perry’s budget eliminates our culture!” Instead, let’s use the more accurate phrasing: ”people with jobs that revolve around their unusual tastes.” I think that gets across the point that, in essence, government support for these groups is taking from the many to indulge the odd preferences of a few. Though now that I put it that, I can see why they prefer “cultural leaders.”