Saturday, 28 January 2012

Of Cultures and Vultures

The announcement (see that: “Applications are currently being invited from members of the public who are interested in becoming Trustees of Manx National Heritage (Manx Museum and National Trust)” made me laugh out loud.
Why? Well, partly because a former Trustee used to tell me that MNH board meetings are like a wet Friday in a small town morgue. He seriously wondered if some of the superannuated fossils in the room were still alive, and used to joke that one executive deliberately dulled proceedings and used their failure to respond as a sign of assent when trying to push through dodgy business.
But mostly because any serious analysis of ‘Manx Heritage’ (there hasn’t been much) would worry about the McDonaldisation of ‘heritage’ to suit the tourist trade, and in particular the whimsies of potential upper middle class visitors with a drippy hippy past and more money and spare time than sense.
Related to that is the more serious problem that the public cash and effort thrown at ‘culture’ is based on a (frankly) racist definition of ‘culture’ that even some Nazis would have problems with. It is propagated by folk who simply don’t understand the basics of sociology, anthropology and cultural (and more particularly subcultural) theory – or anything else which actually studies how societies tick and individuals interact within those societies. They completely fail to recognise the contributions and lives of the vast majority of Manx residents, past or present.
The few serious studies which do are all by off-island academics who consider the matter in contrast to developments in heritage, tourism and cultural policy elsewhere and end up falling about laughing. I know about them because some 20 years ago I was headhunted to do a Ph.D. as part of a massive project by professors at two once great universities who were being funded to make the only significant analysis, then or since, of regional development and the late 20th century ‘heritage industry’.
The disinterest of the Manx government in either current affairs or serious cultural analysis meant I never got a grant, so the project went on without me. But I stayed in touch with the professors and we still swap jokes (disguised as examples of political and bureaucratic cretinism), or commiserate with each other about declining standards in academia and the state of the world. Ironically, the completed project featured prominently in the readings for my Cultural Studies M.A. through the Open University, which I also funded myself due to continued Manx government disinterest in such topics a decade later.
One of the few interesting, though not encouraging, snippets of information to come from the latest futile exercise is the information pack (see which chunters on ad nauseum to excuse the project, but also mentions that any loser considered brainless enough to join the Trustees will get £78 a time (plus around 50p a mile ‘travelling expenses’) to snooze or pick their noses while 3rd division marketing morons lay out the strategies by which the great Manx public will subsidise our regression back to the Bronze Age.
I keep hearing about retired executive types who are trying to flog the poor judgement that ended their careers to Manx government ‘advisory bodies’. Jobs like this should keep them in claret for another day without a free business lunch - and never were two dimwitted interests better matched.

No comments: