Harrowing Monday October 26, 2009, 0 comments

As a voter, a tourist and a consumer, as a member of the audience of art, music, and culture in general, as a human being, I am asking when will we stop being harrowed?

I listen to my politicians tell me that we have to do better, that we must feed the poor, save the endangered, and educate the ignorant.

I go to museums, where I am presented with a historical play-by-play of the way mankind is affecting the environment, contributing to global warming and driving whole species to extinction.

Even as a consumer – a North American consumer – I am harrowed. Hell, if I hear the term green applied to any other shopping bag than one that is actually green in colour I might simply explode.

I am an artist. I understand that artists have messages for their audiences. I can understand that artists feel a deep emotional impact from the ills that plague our world today, that sickness and war and violence and injustice move them to create, but how many times do I need to see an art exhibit that exposes the hidden violence against women, or holds to scrutiny the plight of sub-saharan Africa? Artists are supposed to be original, right? So why are they all telling us the same damned thing?

Exactly how many exhibits do I need to go to, containing exactly the same photos of exactly the same horrific events? How many red wax extrusions pushed through ancient doorways representing the horrors of war do I need to be exposed to?

As a society, we risk desensitizing ourselves to the messages these sorts of things were originally intended to deliver. In fact, it might be too late.

Sarah and I actually walked out of the Imperial War Museum in London on Saturday, rather than go through yet another Holocaust exhibition. We simply couldn’t take it any more. Both of us have had this tragedy drilled into our heads since we were little. Over and over. And over. Again.

I recognize that these issues are valid, but still. How often?

Books harrow us. Television harrows us. The newspapers harrow us. Merchants, politicians, everyone. Harrowing. I’m tired of being harrowed.


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