Winston Churchill

Perhaps you’ve seen this quote lately:

When Winston Churchill was asked to cuts arts funding in favor of the war effort, he simply replied “Then what are we fighting for?” 

Alas, Winston Churchill never said that. I’ve heard various accounts of how it was he never said it–one blamed Kevin Bacon because he knows everybody–but Winston never said it. He so never said it I laughed the first time I read it because it seemed so ludicrous. For one thing Churchill would have starved his own grandmother to defeat Hitler. For another almost everyone artistic was drafted into the service or being used for the war effort in one way or the other (many of the young male leads you see in British war-era films had been wounded and discharged already.)  Thirdly, England was in hock so deep to the United States even before we entered the war that it eventually had to sell off its empire to pay us back, so arts funding would have meant nothing compared to, say, India. And finally I wonder if most of Britain’s arts funding already came from the aristocracy. There were enough of them. Still are.

In a country that didn’t even have enough bomb shelters for its working class population, detouring scarce funds instead into the arts would have been a travesty. Those were different times, desperate times. We can’t even conceive how desperate. We should be thankful that we can have debates about arts funding. That’s an option of civilizations not facing annihilation.

However, Winston Churchill did once say that a man who blew the trumpet for his living would be glad to play the violin for his amusement. And I have never been able to figure out what the hell that means. But he was a painter, and you how they are.

 

 

 

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