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Art optimists, speak out!

Published 26 Oct 2017 at 14:00 by Leon Caren

Today, our society isn’t so much divided by rich and poor, religious and nonreligious, Feyenoord and Ajax, local or international. Last month, I visited the Dream Out Loud exhibition in Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam’s contemporary art museum. With a great collection of work by young makers working to build a better future using technology. It made me incredibly happy. Then I realised: Holland today is divided between the people who embrace the future, who see opportunity in innovation, who want to take on today’s challenges with a positive attitude. And people who are afraid. Afraid of change, afraid of Europe, afraid of newcomers, afraid of acts of violence. Above all, afraid of losing their achievements.

This column was previously published in De Volkskrant newspaper on 27 October 2016.

Fearful conservatives

This is not a problem exclusively taking place in the Netherlands, of course. Take Brexit, for example. A whole generation of young English people became the victims of a group of fearful conservatives. That polarised political climate can clearly be recognised in Holland, France and America. Unfortunately, it seems, people spreading negative messages are more stridently vocal. Frustration is apparently a better fuel for action that optimism. That’s why, slowly but surely, media and politics leaves us convinced that the world is falling apart. That it’s time to step on the brakes. That we have to be intolerant. That we need to defend our own interests, at all times, and that we cannot be open to change.

Frankly, I’m sick of it. And I know I’m not alone. Look at the IEDER1 movement (translates to ‘EVERY1’), that demonstrated that plenty of Dutch people do embrace our multicultural society. There’s also a real optimism alive amidst the new generation; an optimism about the other issues of our times. Developments in science, technology, art and innovation offer us opportunities to build towards a better future. Creativity is being used with full force, using experiment to discover new solutions.

Adventurous makers

People that want to stand up and speak out are everywhere. With new ideas. In the field of green energy, for example. Independent journalism. More sustainability. More tolerance. At We Are Public, we’re doing that for art and culture. Our mission is to generate larger audiences and incomes for the arts. With a particular emphasis on young, adventurous makers. We use our innovative membership to do this, building a loyal community of people that want to discover and support art and culture in a new way. A modest endeavour in the context of global issues. But we’re part of a much larger movement of optimists. And it’s high time that we let ourselves be heard.

If you have good ideas and you’re looking forward to the future: speak out. At full volume. Let’s turn the tide and form a resistance against fear, intolerance and conservatism. Let’s build coalitions and grab the future by the balls.

Dream out loud!

Leon Caren is an anthropologist, cultural entrepreneur and co-founder of We Are Public.


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