Subscribing to Culture

“Hi, I’d like to purchase a subscription to culture… do you take debit?”

If culture is a string of language, tradition, ritual, value, belief, social organization, ethnicity, art, then we just have to walk outside our door and it must be hitting us in the face every moment, but as a community we seem to look for it with a very narrow scope. Only the most colourful and vibrant forms of culture will grab our attention because hell it sure looks a lot more fun than our own, right? In Toronto there is a continuous demand for more “spice” more “flavour” in our community. We see this in the festivals held in Nathan Philips Square, the Beaches, the Exhibition etc. All of this is a wonderful way to get people out and feel a part of something. What’s got them seeking to be a part of something other than their own culture? This isn’t to say that people are running from their culture, it’s just to say that so many struggle to define what their culture is. So, we eat some wontons, have a roti, throw back a lassi and paint our arms in mhendi. There that’s better; I’ve consumed a little flavour, a little culture.

From Toronto to Oshawa to Montreal culture is organized differently. Truthfully culture is organized to incorporate and legitimize even the most discriminatory values. If it is of my family’s nature to think that gay people spread aids and should be burned then that’s their world view which is likely shared by several families within that same community. Who’s going to tell them they’re wrong? They’ve been raised to believe this and indeed it is socially accepted. I doubt many will identify this discrimination as a cultural entity, but that’s because in many communities culture is either taken for granted or given very little focus. My point is that this is a culture, the culture of not giving a shit about culture.

I’m not sure which is worse: believing you’re uncultured and desperately consuming everyone else’s culture to find identity or to ignore this as any sort of factor in your lifestyle at all? I don’t believe that anyone is uncultured, but I believe that many misunderstand the term. Toronto is a unique example of many cultures living side by side. However we forget that just outside the GTA the terrain alters significantly. Diversity lessens and so does the tolerance of some. I wonder if many new immigrants to Toronto are aware of this when Canada is billed as the land of utmost acceptance and opportunity. Of course racism and discrimination are rampant through this city, but in such diversity culture must become a little muddy. Maybe this is why we look for it elsewhere?

So at SummerWorks we invite you with open arms to subscribe to culture since you’re willing to buy in and well I’d like to see more people coming to watch theatre. Hell I’ll create a brochure on the many ways you can get your fix because arts are important and people need to support them. I’ll cultivate a terrain of supposedly “uncultured” peoples to come and dine with the arts. I’m not providing answers, just what I hope is good art. Whether you’re an AUDience or a SPECtateur I’ll try to satisfy both. Either way you’re going to leave with your values in check. Just keep subscribing…

DD

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