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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The PVV and music - no real issue.

The Freedom Party (PVV - Geert Wilders' 2-issue-party), department of Groningen, organizes a poll in which you can vote which government grant from the province of Groningen has gone to the most useless project. PVV pre-selected five projects. One of them is a project in which we (our research group) is involved: a project in which we try to find out how, through music, the local community of Pekela and the inhabitants of the asylum seekers' centre can live together peacefully in the same village.

Of course PVV thinks that such a project is nonsense. It is a project in which (possible) immigrants play a role, and the immigrant is one of the 2 PVV-issues (the other one is Europe - basically PVV is against The World). And of course PVV says they are not against the project because of the migrants; no, the idea that music may bring people together is a typical 1960s-idea, according to the PVV. And that, apparently, says it all.

The funny thing is that at the same time that same PVV subsidizes local brass bands in the south of the Netherlands with 5 million euros (the Pekela-project received a provincial grant of 6020 euros). 'Folk culture' must be stimulated, says the PVV - but what does folk culture do, other than bringing people together? It is clearly not the case that PVV is against the 1960s idea of music bringing people together. PVV is against music bringing certain people together. Migrants, to be precisely.

No surprises there.

But all the humdrum shows how accepting grants from governments - local, regional, national - leads to a responsibility which must be taken very seriously: the responsibility to justify, in public, why precisely public money owned by everyone - including those who voted PVV (to paraphrase Wilders: I am against the PVV but not against the PVV-voters) - is spent on certain projects. There is never an automatism in receiving grants, and never such a thing as being entitled to them. Receiving a grant is a favor, and we, the receivers, must be able to explain why we - and our projects - are worth it.

As I sometimes say to our conservatoire students: be prepared to explain to the woman behind the counter at the bakery around the corner why it is justified that most of your education is paid by her and the rest of the general public.

Better start thinking about an answer now.

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