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Fighting culture wars, gender bias

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Fury over the education ministry’s appointment of a male-dominated advisory council to set up a junior ministry for culture took the argument in the wrong direction.

It drifted exactly where the administration and the ruling party wanted it to go, as far away from criticism of creating yet another redundant state entity.

The debate also absorbed some of the flak over the government’s poor handling of the “golden passports” debacle while the subsequent rethink by the administration helped the whole matter to fizzle out.

With 15 men ‘of the arts’ and a solo woman on the council, the education minister magically produced another nine female names to add to the list, thus satisfying the noises from the initial uproar.

It also solved another dilemma of where to put people left out of previous government sinecures.

Unsurprisingly, the Justice Ministry, which oversees the mechanism for equal rights, as well as the Equality Commissioner, had lukewarm reactions to the initial male-biased decision.

Perhaps they knew there was a B-list right from the start.

However, the argument should have been, do we need a Deputy Ministry in the first place and what is its purpose?

Now that everybody is happy with his or her appointment, nobody will dare criticise the government’s decision.

The only exception being the trade union of the antiquities department staff, saying they would be demoted from an office within a full ministry (Transport and Communications) to a deputy ministry with fewer powers.

Of course, the answer to this technicality is it seems to have worked well in the case of the department of merchant shipping that, too, was a division of the now devolved Ministry of Transport.

To counter that, however, is the assertion that shipping and the entire maritime sector that contributes far more than the official 7.5% of national economic output, had been on a steady path with the perfect marriage between state and private sector, and where all interest is to the benefit of the nation.

We cannot say that in the case of culture, where back-stabbing is ripe when it comes to securing a nice government job or funding for a project that nobody will audit, and where feudal lords command parts of the arts and culture scene.

Initial noises also suggested that the first advisory committee named by the minister did not represent all facets of culture and that it should have been more inclusive, to cover the entire prism from literature to cinema, and fine arts to the theatre.

Had there been a public consultation it would have saved the state a lot of time and yet another embarrassment over silly decisions, while the 25-person council will probably have never-ending sessions and heated debates with zero outcomes.

In the meantime, our national heritage is on the verge of extinction, museums are in disrepair, education is failing, and appreciation of art, culture and music is almost non-existent while the white elephant of the ‘centre for the arts’ never got off the ground, as it had been based on all the wrong objectives.

Without culture, we have no society, no expression and allow for extremism to flourish.

This advisory council is tasked with something far more precious than it realises.

Let’s hope they are up to the task, although past experience suggests otherwise.