For most of our history, cultural activists in the U.S. have had to make do with a public cultural policy that defers to the private philanthropic sector -- all the while denying that we have any cultural policy at all. (For more background, see "The Privatization of Public Policy" in Webster's World of Cultural Policy's page on Cultural Policy in U.S. History.) It's impossible to track all the damage done by this policy-by-default: how do you measure lost opportunities?
But popular Webster's World essayist Arlene Goldbard lays out the human cost of dealing with our philanthropic system in Let Them Eat Pie: Philanthropy à la Mode (39K, All text). First published in Tikkun magazine in the summer of 1996, this one's been making the rounds in the activist and foundation worlds and getting a big response. Meanwhile, some of her friends have warned her that she's once again gone too far in biting the hand that sometimes feeds.
See if Arlene's essay triggers your own memories of facing the funder, and if so, share them with us: we promise to respect your conffidentiality in doing so.
The family is truly our major cultural institution. The Right has dominated discourse about the family and taken many policy initiatives under the guise of "strengthening family values," while our side has yet to formulate a coherent response.
These two provocative essays are offered as a stimulus to your own reflections on the theme of family values.
This fascinating essay by George Lakoff illuminates the landscape of "family values" from a democratic perspective. (75K, All text)
Arlene Goldbard uses Lakoff's metaphors to guide her own analysis of the sorry state of cultural politics in the United States, then suggests directions for action today. (26K, All text)
We encourage you to read Lakoff's and Goldbard's essays, then share your responses via e-mail or post, in care of the addresses at the bottom of this and every other WWCD page.
Why wait for the national political corporations to lay out their mandates for America? We need to create a forward momentum of our own.
Writer and cultural activist Arlene Goldbard runs her own notion of a national political platform up our virtual flagpole in her essay What's Needed Now: A Call for Courage, Intelligence, Art, Judgment and Guile (39K, All text). Would you salute it?
Take in Arlene's essay, and let us know how you think her program compares to the Corporate Product on offer in our existing electoral system. Sorry: our prize of a free night in the Lincoln bedroom for the best response has had to be canceled. The place is already over-booked
Racism is arguably our society's deepest and most destructive cultural problem. Too many deny that it is a problem, or argue that it has been solved, which only makes it worse. All the more reason to insist on creating as many places as we can to open the issue up and use our social imaginations to envision a society free of racism's curse and ways to get there from here.
We invite you to read another essay contributed by Adams & Goldbard -- Race and Redemption: Notes for a National Conversation (31K, All text). Then join in the conversation by sending your thoughts to Webster's World and turning us on to people who are doing interesting cultural work that takes on this vexing problem.
Watch this space for people's contributions and links to other places where good work is being done to promote respect for cultural differences.
Let Them Eat Pie: Philanthropy à la ModeMetaphor, Morality, and Politics,
Better Late Than Never,
or Confessions of a Premature Cultural-Policy Wonk
A Platform for Cultural Democrats
Race and Redemption: Notes for a National Conversation