A conversation on the immigrant mentality, the arts & truth

As someone who was brought up in a household where the Arts were not regarded as a legitimate career path, and yet also being someone who feels the Arts are a vital component of her life, the UK Government’s recent cyber campaign hit me at an odd angle.

I’d be lying if I said my upbringing didn’t also lead me to believe that the Arts are not essential. It’s not easy for me to say that, and the irony isn’t lost on me that I have also come to say this via writing a blog post, producing content, whilst I have this bias. I have early memories of how this view became nested in my mind, memories such as telling my uncle I wanted to be a writer, only for him to respond that I could do that ‘on the side’, but what did I really want to be?

To me, it always seemed as though the Arts and being creative were mutually exclusive to earning a good, stable income and being able to lead the ‘high life’. To this day, I’m in awe when I see someone in a creative field earning a good living – almost as if I didn’t believe it could be possible. It feels ugly even writing this out, I know, but I recognise this in myself. And yet, there’s another part of me that feels disdain when I’m around people who do not value the arts at all – in those circles, I find myself defending the creative fields, stressing it is important to have art and new content around you, to express ourselves in more ways than one.

What does that say about me then, and about anyone else who might resonate with the above? Does this mean I’m no better than whoever approved this tone-deaf campaign, that I’m going to teach my own kids not to recognise the Arts as a legitimate path to venture? It’s hard to know until I get to that stage in life, I suppose, but this campaign brought those questions to the forefront of my mind, bubbling and hissing up in all its panic, as much as I wanted to shove them back down, embarrassed and ashamed.

It’s also another reminder of how much our upbringing can impact our views, even when you believe yourself to be a rational adult with a fully-formed mind. It’s why I find conversations around what is ‘true’ to be arbitrary, because we all have our own truths, and even if every single person on the planet agreed on a certain viewpoint, that doesn’t define truth because we could all be wrong. It’s almost comical the cyclical nature of the definition of “truth” – in my mind at least, it boils down to this idea of being “right”, which is like truth’s more stubborn, demanding sister. It’s a never-ending spiral and in my book, you’re best off being at peace with the idea that no truth exists, but I digress.

There’s no question that I thought the campaign missed the mark, it unduly belittled the creative industry which is such a large component of our lives, our economy and our well-being, and it’s no surprise that that meant it upset a large part of the UK population. The question I ask myself more generally, is why we continue to have this view, and is there anything we can really do to change it?

For me, I feel it’s the immigrant mentality that tells me in hushed, but fervent tones, that it’s just ‘not done’ to forego your numbers and your ‘hard’ subject areas for the love of the Arts. Having an immigrant mindset means we are not afforded the luxury of being able to be creative, with no whims or worries about putting food on the table, or being able to legally stay in the country. Our parents were not allowed to entertain this idea, and neither are we if we want to ‘make it’. Make it where? I’m not sure I even know.

Having an immigrant mindset means we are not afforded the luxury of being able to be creative, with no whims or worries about putting food on the table, or being able to legally stay in the country.

So that leaves me here, today, blessed with the good fortunes of sitting in my warm, safe house, reading about the troubles of society and nation-wide campaigns that demean a population of people who are already significantly more vulnerable and facing a lack of job security due to the pandemic, and I sit here wondering why I think I get to look down at the Arts and think it’s a “nice-to-have”, when I know how crucial the creative realm is to me and to my mental well-being. When I know what it’s like to be amongst people who disregard the very thing that I hold dear, when I find myself lingering on opportunities and pieces that people around me would not give a second look.

In a way, this is my way of saying I recognise you, the Arts – I recognise your importance, your value, and I regret that I have not always been able to lead my example on this, and that my circumstances have meant I have had to put it to one side, for now. My relationship with you is complicated, because I so badly want to be a part of the Arts, but my entire life I’ve felt I can’t. I don’t think we do enough as a human race to recognise everyone’s own individual circumstances and challenges, and there is a space for that in creativity too – recognising that all jobs require hard work to exceed, and that includes the Arts. If we were in a recession and banks were offloading people like garbage, no one would tell bankers to re-train – if you hear how paradoxical that sounds too, then you see the issue.

Thank you for what you give us, thank you for continuing to entertain, to move, to bring joy despite all that is going on in the world – thank you for giving us a window to escape, to free ourselves of our minds and our bad days, the Arts – thank you very much.

PC: Jeremy Lishner