It is, of course, the big things that define the nation. But it’s often the small things that make us wake up to what we are, or what we’ve become. The advertisement had “UK Government” prominently displayed – there is not the slightest doubt that it reflects Government policy. A policy that is demeaning to the Arts and which praises the vague cold world of “Cyber” – whatever that is.
Here a young woman of colour, a ballet dancer, is being told that she will have to “rethink, reskill, reboot” but that she doesn’t know it yet. In other words stop doing what she has chosen to do and do something else. It’s insulting, ignorant and pointless. The latter because it can have no effect other than to irritate those in one of Britain’s great areas of strength – the performing Arts.
Any young person entering into the world of ballet knows that it is tough. The young woman looks to be in her teens. She will already have been through tough selection processes – auditions at every step of the way – and survived. She doesn’t need to be reminded that the high standards required mean that her career choice is precarious.
Performers above all need encouragement to test and hopefully realise their potential. That’s what the colleges of drama, the music conservatoires and the ballet schools do. The majority of students won’t make it because the standards are high. Here in effect the dancer is being discouraged – told that in a while she will hang up her tutu and spend her days not on the stage but in front of a computer screen.
Communication is about checks and balances and here they were obviously absent. But it’s not a one off. Some of the messages from the Home Office about asylum seekers recently have been as insulting, illiberal and idiotic as this one. And the tone is set at the top. Someone in Government, a Cabinet Minister no less, was responsible for this. The “National Cyber Security Centre” is a Government body – someone is ultimately in charge of it.
Joined up Government is difficult and, yes, sometimes the left hands of the bureaucracy don’t know that the right hands are doing. And not everyone in Government is as crass and philistine as whoever signed off this advertisement. Just as not everyone is as uncaring and insensitive as the Home Secretary who signed off the asylum seeker communications.
Someone needs to lay down the law and get things back on track because at the moment Boris Johnson’s Government is compounding its glaring incompetence and mendacity with communications that make them look like uncaring fools. And if they’re not careful the international perception of Britain, already at a historic low, will tumble into “failed state” territory.