South Australia’s investment in arts and culture is falling behind other states and Rainer Jozeps is gravely concerned
Do you have books in your home or workplace? And, perhaps more importantly, do you read any of them? Our guest today, Rainer Jozeps, says the presence of books is a symbol of your curiosity and your interest in engaging with the world (my words). However, that utterance was a small park of a bigger issue he drew attention to in In Review, namely, our state government’s dropping of the ball (so to speak), when it comes to arts funding vs sports funding.
And in the Musical Pilgrimage, thoughtful singer/songwriter, Lucas Day.
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Running Sheet: Rainer Jozeps In The House With No Books
00:00:00 SA Drink Of The Week
No SA Drink Of The Week this episode.
00:02:32 Rainer Jozeps
Books on bookshelves, news avoidance, ignorance, cocooning, and art making. These five topics were woven into an intriguing piece in InReview by Rainer Jozeps, entitled, South Australia Has Become Like A House With No Books. Rainer has been involved in Australia’s arts industry for more 30 years, holding senior executive roles with the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust, Adelaide Festival Centre, West Australian Ballet, Australian Dance Theatre and Adelaide Symphony Orchestra.
Rainer, I’d like to use your article to give structure to this conversation, even though I’m anticipating that we will do an awful lot of colouring outside the lines.
— The Adelaide Show (@TheAdelaideShow) August 21, 2023
Your article begins by recounting your many visits to display homes to sate your curiosity about what was being offered by builders, noting that you’d leave with an empty feeling in the pit of your stomach because the homes had no provision for books. You then quote Greek philosopher, Cicero, who said “a house with no books is like a body with no soul”. I’d like to explore this a little because my initial reaction was to cheer your claim that “books inspire creativity, excite the imagination and stimulate the intellect”, but then I realised that I have a wall or two of books at home and many have not been touched for years. Do you think there’s intrinsic value in “the having of books” or are you assuming that those with books actually read them?
- Does the presence of books create a more thoughtful headspace?
- David Olney noted that seeing books can spark conversation. Our books are on our phones – perhaps our screens could run slideshows?
- Russ Roberts from the Econtalk Podcast says if we read a book a week, we’ll probably read about 2,500 books in our lifetime. That’s not many. Are there any you believe are a must – either by title or genre?
The next theme in your article is ignorance, defined as the lack of knowledge. You argue ignorance can be a chosen state (you realise other people know things you don’t know), or it can simply be that you are unaware of there being things you don’t know. You note that ethicists call the former “recognised ignorance” and the latter “primary ignorance”. This drew recollections of the Johari Window but also the toxic saturation of conspiracy theories that thrive in this Donal Trump-led era of Fake News. Setting aside mainstream news consumption for the moment, are you hopeful or pessimistic about our society’s chances of shaking free from this almost ubiquitous, heavy veil of ignorance?
- I sense there are First Principles at plan here. No matter how deep the proliferation social media, if we all chose to take heed of Socrates’ dictim, that “the unexamined life is not worth living,” we might create space between hearing things and reacting to them. Do we need meditation before education?
- I did talkback radio for a number of years and I was always dumbfounded by vocal callers who robustly stated their position on anything you put in front of them, within a millisecond. My intuition would suggest their arguments were flawed, but I always needed more time and openness from them to investigate what their beliefs were based on. Needless to say, they were never open to that. Have you mixed with such people. Have you developed any strategies, not to trick them, but to engage them in reflection?
- And how important is it to actually challenge bad, stereotypical ideas? I ask this because psychologist and writer Adam Mastroianni has eloquently argued on Econtalk that, “our minds are like the keep of a castle protecting our deepest held values and beliefs from even the most skilled attacks. The only problem with this design for self-preservation is that it also can keep out wisdom that might be both useful and true.” He says there is little to do to change people’s minds; you can’t access our brains through our ears. Your thoughts?
The third theme is the link between ignorance and “news avoidance”. What is news avoidance and what do we know about it?
- I am a former journalist and I get news from a glance through the ABC app, a longer dwell time on the Al Jazeera app, occasional reads of the Ukraine independent app which I subscrib to, Zaborona, and the In Daily newsletter when I see it. That keeps me abreast of most timely stories but for “colour, as I confessed to Peter Greste, I now get my news “sense” from news satire shows like The Bugle, Mad As Hell (when it was on, even though writer David M Green says they didn’t think they were fulfilling such an important role), and comedic articles by The Chaser. By being prepared to describe the context of a story and then shout convincingly that the emperor has no clothes, they keep tabs on those in power. How would you define me on the news consumer to news avoider continuum? And where do you sit?
- The fourth estate has abdicated its responsibility. Peter Greste shared first hand how newsroom editors measure “success” by likes, instead of the important measure of editorial value. Your thoughts?
The fourth theme is cocooning and I confess, I might be in that category. I quote: “Cocooning” is a middle-class phenomenon coined by US futurist Faith Popcorn, who predicted large swathes of the community would, in fear of an ever-changing outside world, equip their residences with entertainment rooms, streaming services, security systems and perimeter walls, and utilise ever more home delivery services. And now we want to work from home! What’s wrong with this picture?
- I have worked from home for almost 20 years and I do everything I can to avoid driving in peak hour, if at all. I was in LA a week or two before Covid and the multi-lane highways were a non-stop channel of filth and waste and exhaust. Come Covid, they became almost deserted and peaceful, and air quality improved. Are there not good things about working from home?
- Going out necessitates a place to congregate with others and bars, cafes, and restaurants typically fill that need. But in an article in 2020, you lamented the noisy architecture of our eateries, where you have to shout to be heard. A client and friend of mine, Laura Drexler, has started a site called, Ambient Menu, where people can review eateries on their level of noise. Is this the other half of the deadly duo strangling social cohesion; crappy, selfish, dumbed down media and news, coupled with venues that encourage consumption and monosylabic conversations?
The final theme in your article is art making. You lament our State’s reduction in art funding, especially compared to its increased funding of sporting events. I quote: “The arts in South Australia are woefully underfunded relative to other states. From 2017-2022, states and territories cumulatively increased arts funding by 22 per cent, while SA was the only state to head in the opposite direction, reducing funding by 9 per cent over the same period.” I think we can accept the funding figures as fact, so let’s look at your underlying reason for frustration here, you state: Our civic life needs thriving cultural institutions to counter ignorance and intolerance. How is that so?
- I have seen some wonderful, thought-provoking theatre that had potential to counter ignorance and intolerance, but it it seen by a select few who can afford $50+ a ticket and who are primarily people from the chattering, enlightened classes who are already doing their best to stay informed and engaged. What is the value of our State Theatre putting on worthy pieces, society-improving pieces, if only the tiniest morsel of the community can see them?
- At the end of every episode since 2013, we have said goodnight to Don Dunstan, to honour his legacy as a Premier who stirred things up and got our kitchen cooking (literally). In a stirring piece you wrote in 2o16, Inauthentic “vibrancy” is damaging SA’s shrinking arts sector, you lamented then Premier Jay Weatherill’s dropping of the ball (so to speak) in reducing arts funding. There are many buzzwords in art but especially in politics and “vibrancy” is one, along with “activation”. What have you noticed about governnment support for the arts from Weatherill to Marshall to Malinauskas?
- Some of the events receiving money at the moment, most likely at the expense of arts, include Liv Golf, the AFL’s Gather Round, and bidding for next year’s Netball grand final. Do you think these events are intrinsically unworthy of funding?
- Our guest, next week, for our 10th birthday episode is New Zealander, Owen Eastwood, who has written a beautiful book about Belonging, drawing on many principles and insights of his Maori culture. He has noted that the communal act of following a team and “being there” every week is actually good for the spirit and the soul. Have you ever partaken in such a thing as “following a team”? And is there something from this dynamic that we can learn from in The Arts?
- I am part of a netball family. My wife coaches three teams and both my daughters play in two teams apiece. It has a strong web of grassroots involvement and is a crucial part of holding many regional communities together. Could there ever be an Arts alternative?
Your words to our government and us?
00:53:22 Musical Pilgrimage
Our featured song this episode is Intuition by Lucas Day.
Guided by what’s left unsaid
Tempted to put my trust in it
Led by instincts rarely wrong
Held by hands with a mind of their own
Let your soul fly free
Your desire run wild
You got nowhere else to be
Than in the shared state of mind
Down that deep end is where I belong
Getting used to that sweet unknown
Let your soul fly free
Your desire run wild
You got nowhere else to be
Than in the shared state of mind
And here’s a slice from his Facebook page with his busy schedule:
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