Save The Arts: End the National Endowment for the Arts

Save The Arts: End the National Endowment for the Arts

Dear Artist:

I urge you to consider this argument for the dissolution of the National Endowment for the Arts.

The United States was founded on the principle of individual rights: life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. Everyone has a right to pursue the arts or enjoy them, provided he does so with his own time and money. To force an individual to pay for someone else’s art is a violation of the individual’s right.

I have acted, and I have written and produced plays; nothing would be more shameful to me than to force others to pay for my work whether they valued it or not.

We will never know the great and revolutionary creations in art, science, and all other fields that were aborted by the government’s looting of the creators of wealth in the name of the looters’ idea of creativeness. We will never know what private joys every hard-working individual was forced to forego to finance someone else’s notion of good art.

Confiscating individuals’ hard-earned money to finance the welfare state is bad enough when the money goes for material goods such as food and shelter; but to use the money to subsidize intellectual products is especially destructive of freedom, because it destroys our means of preserving freedom: it destroys the freedom of ideas. Government funding of the arts is as deadly as government funding of religion or the press.

Not by rational persuasion but rather through the physical threat behind the tax collector, the NEA has enforced a nationwide orthodoxy of thought in the arts; and it has suppressed ideas that are not favored by that arm of the government.

A theater company, for example, that is not “endowed” by the NEA is at a competitive disadvantage in the marketplace. The “endowed” companies can charge less for tickets, have more elaborate facilities—while bidding up the prices every company must pay—and offer more to its actors. Taxpayers, who are already paying for the “endowed” companies, are less able to pay again for the unendowed. Is this the way to safeguard freedom in the arts?

I have written a play that shows the evil of government funding of art, science, and medicine. Will my work be considered fairly by the NEA, or by theater companies that receive NEA funding; or by producers, who nowadays—to siphon subsidies their way—try to have their projects presented by subsidized theaters before beginning a commercial run?

That individuals today are forced to pay for art they abhor is a moral outrage. It is spiritual rape.

NEA Chairman Jane Alexander recently told Congress, “We are jumpstart money, the only national measure of recognizing excellence. We exist to leverage the other public and private monies, and we do our job well­—on average, leveraging $11 for every dollar we award.” (Testimony on April 5, 1995 before the House Appropriations Committee, quoted in Backstage.) Thus, an agency of government force presents itself as the only means available to private funding sources for selecting the best art nationwide. And the NEA’s goal is to “leverage”—that is, to direct, to direct lots of—private money in the direction the NEA chooses. Is this the role of government in a free society?

The introduction of force always has insidious and far-reaching destructive effects too numerous to catalog. The money spent by government on art may seem like a relatively small amount to some, but this “leveraged money” has gone far toward making artistic funding a matter for political edict rather than freedom.

Most people recognize how destructive it would be for the government to “endow” the Catholic Church or some fringe religious group—or The New York Times or some political newsletter. It is just as destructive for government to endow Lincoln Center or some Off-off Broadway troupe.

Advocates for the NEA claim that its opponents are fanatics for censorship. But the NEA, funded through government force, is itself by nature a censor. Any work of art that does not meet the NEA’s criteria—whatever the criteria, stated or implicit—is to an extent censored. Moreover, advocates for the NEA are the most useful—though often unwitting—intellectual allies that any would-be book-burner could have prayed for. The NEA established the premise that government can decide what art is good and will be forcibly supported. It is merely the logical extension of that premise to claim that government can decide what art is bad and will be forcibly shunned. Government propaganda and censorship go hand in hand.

Because it is the only arts ‘advocate’ with the power of force behind it, government thus becomes the only means of recognizing art as good or bad, and the NEA Chairman gets her wish. Advocacy by force is a contradiction in terms. Force preempts advocacy. Government is an arts enforcer.

Art and force do not mix, just as force does not mix with any kind of thought. Art is addressed to the mind; a mind must be free to think, to evaluate, to respond emotionally—or not. An artist can show, persuade, evoke; he cannot force. You cannot hold a gun to someone and command him to enjoy your idea of beauty.

Some ‘artists’ argue that once people are exposed to their work, even if by force, then these people will realize how good the work is. This argument is the rationalization of a rapist: “My victim does not yet realize how desirable I am, and so I will have to take the matter into my own hands, for my victim’s own ultimate good and enjoyment.”

That individuals today are forced to pay for art they abhor is a moral outrage. It is spiritual rape.

It is no wonder that so many of the new works awarded NEA money are expressions of nihilism. Mind-hating motives are consistent with mind-killing means. Government did not cause nihilism in art, but government has helped spread nihilism from the pseudo-intellectual fringes of a few cities to the mainstream of every American community. And government has made it more difficult for real innovators in art to reach an audience. The best artistic minds—the minds that understand and respect the creative potential of every mind when not forced—must struggle even harder, if they stay in their bureaucratized profession at all, or go into the profession in the first place.

Please help save the arts by restoring artistic freedom. Fight for the artist’s freedom by defending freedom as a universal principle, which holds for every individual mind. Speak out for the termination of the NEA and every other means of government force in the arts, including state and local arts agencies, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and government licensing of television and radio stations.

Sincerely,
Ron Pisaturo

P.S. To anyone interested in gaining a better understanding of individual rights, freedom, and art, I recommend the work of arguably the greatest artist in history: novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand.

The above is a slightly edited version of an open letter written by the author in May, 1995, and was first published on the author’s blog. Ron Pisaturo is a writer and philosopher. He has written a screenplay, The Merchant of Mars and is author of Masculine Power, Feminine Beauty. Visit his blog at ronpisaturo.com.

Ayn Rand’s Favorite Poem: “If” By Rudyard Kipling

Ayn Rand’s Favorite Poem: “If” By Rudyard Kipling

Philosopher Ayn Rand said that she wanted no eulogies at her funeral, but only asked that her favorite poem, “If” by Rudyard Kipling, be read.

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run –
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!

The Lady of Shalott

The Lady of Shalott

“The Lady of Shalott” is a Victorian poem by the English poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809–1892).

 

Part I

On either side the river lie
Long fields of barley and of rye,
That clothe the world and meet the sky;
And through the field the road runs by
To many-towered Camelot;
And up and down the people go,
Gazing where the lilies blow
Round an island there below,
The island of Shalott.

Willows whiten, aspens quiver,
Little breezes dusk and shiver
Through the wave that runs for ever
By the island in the river
Flowing down to Camelot.
Four grey walls, and four grey towers,
Overlook a space of flowers,
And the silent isle imbowers
The Lady of Shalott.

By the margin, willow-veiled,
Slide the heavy barges trailed
By slow horses; and unhailed
The shallop flitteth silken-sailed
Skimming down to Camelot:
But who hath seen her wave her hand?
Or at the casement seen her stand?
Or is she known in all the land,
The Lady of Shalott?

Only reapers, reaping early
In among the bearded barley,
Hear a song that echoes cheerly
From the river winding clearly,
Down to towered Camelot:
And by the moon the reaper weary,
Piling sheaves in uplands airy,
Listening, whispers “‘Tis the fairy
Lady of Shalott.”

 

Part II

There she weaves by night and day
A magic web with colours gay.
She has heard a whisper say,
A curse is on her if she stay
To look down to Camelot.
She knows not what the curse may be,
And so she weaveth steadily,
And little other care hath she,
The Lady of Shalott.

And moving through a mirror clear
That hangs before her all the year,
Shadows of the world appear.
There she sees the highway near
Winding down to Camelot:
There the river eddy whirls,
And there the surly village-churls,
And the red cloaks of market girls,
Pass onward from Shalott.

Sometimes a troop of damsels glad,
An abbot on an ambling pad,
Sometimes a curly shepherd-lad,
Or long-haired page in crimson clad,
Goes by to towered Camelot;
And sometimes through the mirror blue
The knights come riding two and two:
She hath no loyal knight and true,
The Lady of Shalott.

But in her web she still delights
To weave the mirror’s magic sights,
For often through the silent nights
A funeral, with plumes and lights
And music, went to Camelot:
Or when the moon was overhead,
Came two young lovers lately wed;
“I am half sick of shadows,” said
The Lady of Shalott.

Part III

A bow-shot from her bower-eaves,
He rode between the barley-sheaves,
The sun came dazzling through the leaves,
And flamed upon the brazen greaves
Of bold Sir Lancelot.
A red-cross knight for ever kneeled
To a lady in his shield,
That sparkled on the yellow field,
Beside remote Shalott.

The gemmy bridle glittered free,
Like to some branch of stars we see
Hung in the golden Galaxy.
The bridle bells rang merrily
As he rode down to Camelot:
And from his blazoned baldric slung
A mighty silver bugle hung,
And as he rode his armour rung,
Beside remote Shalott.

All in the blue unclouded weather
Thick-jewelled shone the saddle-leather,
The helmet and the helmet-feather
Burned like one burning flame together,
As he rode down to Camelot.
As often through the purple night,
Below the starry clusters bright,
Some bearded meteor, trailing light,
Moves over still Shalott.

His broad clear brow in sunlight glowed;
On burnished hooves his war-horse trode;
From underneath his helmet flowed
His coal-black curls as on he rode,
As he rode down to Camelot.
From the bank and from the river
He flashed into the crystal mirror,
“Tirra lirra,” by the river
Sang Sir Lancelot.

She left the web, she left the loom,
She made three paces through the room,
She saw the water-lily bloom,
She saw the helmet and the plume,
She looked down to Camelot.
Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror cracked from side to side;
“The curse is come upon me,” cried
The Lady of Shalott.

Part IV

In the stormy east-wind straining,
The pale yellow woods were waning,
The broad stream in his banks complaining,
Heavily the low sky raining
Over towered Camelot;
Down she came and found a boat
Beneath a willow left afloat,
And round about the prow she wrote
The Lady of Shalott.

And down the river’s dim expanse,
Like some bold seër in a trance
Seeing all his own mischance–
With a glassy countenance
Did she look to Camelot.
And at the closing of the day
She loosed the chain, and down she lay;
The broad stream bore her far away,
The Lady of Shalott.

Lying, robed in snowy white
That loosely flew to left and right–
The leaves upon her falling light–
Through the noises of the night
She floated down to Camelot:
And as the boat-head wound along
The willowy hills and fields among,
They heard her singing her last song,
The Lady of Shalott.

Heard a carol, mournful, holy,
Chanted loudly, chanted lowly,
Till her blood was frozen slowly,
And her eyes were darkened wholly,
Turned to towered Camelot.
For ere she reached upon the tide
The first house by the water-side,
Singing in her song she died,
The Lady of Shalott.

Under tower and balcony,
By garden-wall and gallery,
A gleaming shape she floated by,
Dead-pale between the houses high,
Silent into Camelot.
Out upon the wharfs they came,
Knight and burgher, lord and dame,
And round the prow they read her name,
The Lady of Shalott.

Who is this? and what is here?
And in the lighted palace near
Died the sound of royal cheer;
And they crossed themselves for fear,
All the knights at Camelot:
But Lancelot mused a little space;
He said, “She has a lovely face;
God in his mercy lend her grace,
The Lady of Shalott.”

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – Official Trailer

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, in which Jyn Erso leads a group of unlikely heroes to steal the plans to the Death Star, the Empire’s ultimate weapon of destruction. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story arrives in theaters December 16, 2016.