I was at dinner at a friend's the other day and the discussion touched on the plight of the Syrian refugees and the opportunities they were being offered in other countries in terms of university bursaries. One of the diners mentioned that the refugees were only being taught science related subjects - things, she said quite adamantly, that mattered, that would be of value to Syria when it came time for the refugees to return home and set about rebuilding the nation. They weren't being taught things that had no value, things like art, storytelling and music. I was so stunned that anybody could seriously consider art, storytelling and music to have no value, especially in a country that had been devastated, I just sat there, speechless.
How else does one discover one's roots, one's purpose and one's future if not through storytelling? How does one pass on a people's culture if not through art and what else can express that which is inexpressible, whether it be love, pain, despair, peace, desire and hope, when one has run out of political rhetoric and the heart's emotion is too great to bear, except through music?
Governments and ideologies that demote the arts do so for a very good reason. Not because medicine, agriculture, maths or science is more important but because the arts keep people human. They are the expression of our souls. The danger of the arts is that when people express their souls, when they imagine life beyond the confines of the regime's ideology, they will begin to think for themselves, to imagine and create a life without the regime or the ideology. They will yearn for, strive for and eventually bring into being a better life. A life of freedom. A government or ideology which doesn't allow creative thought and expression is one built on hatred and fear. And the only natural outcome of that is death. Someone once said, "Governments that burn books, will soon be burning people."
Stand back! I have an imagination and I'm not afraid to use it!