Big, orange banners

Over at Carbongeek, Tom writes: “Apparently having solved all problems with crime and education, New York City spends $21 Million on lots of big, orange banners.”

Set aside for now the fact that NYC didn’t pay for the Gates. (Christo did, by raising the money himself. He’s even paying for the cops who are protecting the project.)

Tom seems to think this $21 million is a waste of money–that no matter who raised it, it should have gone instead to solve problems of crime and education.

I disagree with this on a couple of counts: First, problems crime and education will always need more funding than governments are willing to give. The War on Poverty and the War on Drugs and the War on Illiteracy and the War on Obesity and the War on Other Unpleasant Stuff are just as unwinnable as the War on Terrorism.

Throw ALL your money at them, and you’ll never win those wars. That’s not to say we shouldn’t generously fund education, antidrug programs, welfare, and so on. But to say, We can’t build new parks, or We can’t go back to the moon, or We can’t fund the arts, because we still have hungry people…

Well, we’ll always have hungry people. Throw all of NASA’s budget into food programs and nutrition education, and we’ll still have hungry people. Wait to fund art until you’ve “solved hunger,” and you’ll never have art.

Second, this is $21 million. That’s not a lot of money when you think about it, and as I noted before, it was funded privately. If George Lucas had funded hunger relief instead of Attack of the Clones, I kinda think the world would be a better place. Why is it cool for Steve and Tom to reimagine War of the Worlds, but it’s dumb to put up “big, orange banners”? To pick on someone other than Hollywood, how much did the Grammys spend to fête John Mayer and Bratney Spears last night?

Finally, if Christo’s priorities are screwed up, perhaps we should examine our own as well. We spend money on comic books, Maxim subscriptions, cigarettes, video games, DVDs. Perhaps all of that should go to the poor instead. Perhaps, instead of going out drinking, we should spend our time teaching people to read.

The Gates might not be your thing. That’s cool; many things aren’t my thing. But let’s please not make the Gates a moral issue. You spend your time on pop tunes and dumb popcorn films; I’ll spend mine among the banners.


5 thoughts on “Big, orange banners

  1. Thanks for correcting me on the where the funding was coming from. I was just wrong on that one, obviously.

    My original statement was off the cuff and was just meant as a small snide comment, not a moral judgement.

  2. I should have written this more generally instead of specifically aiming it at you, Tom. I’ve read snarks from other sources against this project, and of course, this thing always comes up when private or public sources fund “unnecessary” projects of any kind. My comments were directed more at the general arguments; your Carbongeek post just served as a jumping-off point.

  3. Mike, I didn’t take this as you calling Tom out (and I do like checking Carbongeek, btw) but as it being a jumping off point for your thoughts. I didn’t read it as setting up some sort of confrontation but more as inspiration.

    Now, I want to say that I’m going to refer to this post when I tell people what my problem is with all the folks who are harping on the cost and supposed morality of The Gates. What I do like about Christo is the fact that his work is Public Art, so to speak. It sets off a chain of events, thoughts on Art both grand and intimate that is usually reserved for the monied or educated class and leaves most folks out in the malls instead of drawing them into a hopefully better world where maybe, and this is just my idealistic nonsense, just maybe they brush up against a thing or two that pushes them to want something that doesn’t come from Corporate Branded Worldwide Consumer Brands.

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