Chitter chatter in a Dublin gallery. Leopard print dresses, frayed scarves, brogues. Wine glasses in hand. Family. Friends. Acquaintances. Opportunists, perhaps. A city ravaged only a decade ago by boom and bust, now bristles with smiles and craic. And at the centre of this revival, at least this night, is art.
In an era obsessed with economics, politics and alternative facts, so much of the western world has been swallowed up by banal arguments of destruction and decay owed to liberal thinking. As if valuing each other equally was plain wrong – an affront to growth in GDP. When news outlets are not bombarding social media feeds with celebrity junk, they are whipping up hysteria of economic and social doom. Immigrants are ‘stealing jobs, thinning the ethnic makeup of the nation’. Daring to infuse this culture with ‘the other’. Forcing so-called natives to retreat to their caves to vote for fragmentation, phobias, restrictions, in the vein hope of achieving an ever-elusive autonomy. An independence founded on exploration, conquest and genocide.
Society has been taught the price of anything, compromising the value of everything. An education is only worth what it buys. So much for freedom, liberty and fraternity. If it cannot be measured in American dollars, then it cannot be measured. And if cannot be measured, it cannot be valued, and so has no purpose in society at all.
Capitalism has generated gross prosperity across the developed world. The gap between rich and poor may be widening, but everyone has been awarded more. Yet the consequence is that society only views gains in monetary or commercial terms. To the detriment of philanthropy and in servitude to greed. And when financial chaos erupts, one of the first victims is creative arts. Reduced funding for ‘soft’ subjects that fail to please the greenback. Young people are steered towards science, business and math, taught that talents are binary – if you’re good at equations you couldn’t possibly want to paint or dance. What would be the value in that?
But take a stroll through a Dublin gallery. Discover an artist. Lose your inhibitions in brush strokes, shapes and frames. Be reminded of humanity. That eminent force that drives us to charity. Because in all the ways that a revenue-driven attitude separates us from morality, the paint, the twirl, the word, draw us right back to what is important. That is, our shared experience of the world. Regardless of our colour, religion, gender, nationality. We are a spectrum of diversity still unified by biology. This is our earth, our family, our community. And we can watch things fall apart through apathy, or we can extend a palm in a gesture of nobility.