I don’t actually want Batman.

A day after reaction to the Summerworks Shoptalk debate from August 14. There were other triggers as well, but I think those will be integrated into later posts.

There’s a fantasy about the rich guy (and sometimes his friends) with the great heart, skills and all the best toys who protects the rest of us – King Arthur, Robin Hood, Batman, Iron Man, Rockefeller and Carnegie.

We’re in a crazy age of comic book and fantasy movies – technology, movie profit models and a deep need to be rescued, have combined in time to bring these epic fantasies to life. And I love ‘em, always have – even as I’m growing a bit bored and fearful that everything else is out of sight. Plus the last Batman movie was crazy propaganda.

But it’s a fantasy. And we are in reality.

The fantasies never show the aftermath – there is no discussion of whether Tony Stark can pay for the damage caused to the destroyed city infrastructure or the hospital bills of the carelessly wounded. There is no before, there are no systemic changes required. There is not reality.

Yet here was Andrew Coyne arguing for no government involvement (funding or tax breaks) in anything (arts, media, oil companies, roads) except for the narrowest view of the “public good”1 in favour of user fees and the “fair exchange of value” and invoking the impresario and philanthropist as the savours of the rare, the new and the radical.

I respect his consistency and at times (like today) agree with him. But I don’t think blanket solutions of any sort aren’t so good for the complex world we live in.

I’m sure this system would work great for him and his friends – but for the rest of us? It is, as Nadia Ross pointed out, hopelessly (willfully?) utopian and naive.

I was flabbergasted and so rambling in my question – I could barely get out an un-articulate “Really?” I am grateful for the event and Mr. Coyne for reminding me where the differences are.

His insistence that “I don’t see these ‘market forces’ people talk about” felt like a fish asking why everyone is so worried about having their head held underwater.

A full-bore version of the rational actor theory given the amount of money spent on product and political advertising seems delusional. It requires ignoring a lot of experience and data to claim that this would be a level playing field where good things will naturally rise up, regardless of the wealth and access of the creator. I don’t believe in the straight line of progress – but I had hoped we wouldn’t have to re-tread this ground.

I am really willing and wanting to have fundamental discussions about the nature of our government and how we arrive at “the public good”; I’m willing to have fundamental and difficult conversations about arts’ place in the world and how the current funding system supports that or doesn’t2.

But these discussion need to be based on reality and not fantasy.

Tony Stark turns out to be Vladimer Putin and Karl Rove is Alfred to G.W. Bush’s Batman – all funded by money, hate, lies and ponzie schemes posing as financial markets.

Probably abstractly radical.

  1. Police and defence were cited – the public is apparently very scared. ↩
  2. Hint: I’d lead with the proposal that it’s not the bogeymen of “corperate boards” or “beaurocrats at the Arts Councils” – it’s the poverty of imagination, vision and dynamism in the Artistic Directors, the work getting done and the decisions of the artists on the peer selection juries.) ↩

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