A great political debate has begun in France that is centered on a thousand and one questions, with each question vying to be more important than the next one. It is true that these questions are related to major issues that have occupied the media and that have also been the source of the different protests: purchasing power, taxation, the environment, the rules of democratic participation, public services and healthcare.
It is, however, astonishing, distressing and intolerable that on this list, so far, no one has mentioned any cultural topics! As if culture was not a topic of national debate. As if all is going well. As if the French population has had access to every cultural element that she craves.
However, if we were to, on the contrary, make a radically different and infinitely sadder interpretation of this omission: culture is not a topic of debate because it is overlooked by everyone; because no one wants it except those who, thanks to their social environment, already have it, and are not in a position to miss it.
In fact, culture is not like food: when one is deprived of it and does everything to get away from it, one does not naturally feel the need for it; it is rather when we begin to have access to it that it becomes indispensable. But today, everything seems to be done so that no one feels the need for it. Because we are overwhelmed by many other solicitations: the hours spent on social networks are robbed from literature, exhibitions, concerts and sharing these emotions with others. And more so to the practice of an artistic activity.
Nonetheless, if we were to really think about it, nothing is more important than culture; that which one acquires by personal curiosity and through the solicitations of parents, professors and friends. It is culture that makes it possible to understand the world, beauty, audacity, creation and emotion. It is by frequenting and contemplating masterpieces (and at the same time, through artistic education) that one can begin to think about leading a successful life. Indeed, it is by having access to culture that the doors of economic and social success open up. This is much more pertinent than changing the rate of a value-added tax or disrupting school programs.
Let us dare to say it: any reform that does not have as an ultimate goal to help everyone have equal access to culture, which is what I call the “essential pathways,” cannot pretend to serve democracy, social justice, freedom, responsibility, or help create a nation that can defend its identity and make it shine. There is no viable solution to the problem of unemployment, social justice and the environment without concrete action on culture. No reform is more important than finding a way to make everyone discover the infinite pleasure of reading, reciting poems, drawing or playing a musical instrument. None could better respond to the social desperation that appears to have manifested its head in all major democracies.
As such, it would be good idea to replace all the questions related to the great debate and begin, with one, which is very simple: “How do we grant to every inhabitant of France equal access to culture in all its forms?”
Everything else derives from it.