Can cultural production make people less angry at each other?

Arno Vinkovic

Arno Vinkovic was born in Zagreb, Croatia. Completed degrees: MA in Philosophy and Sociology and MA in Political Science (University of Zagreb) Study visits: University College London and Bauhaus University. Currently employed as a Project Manager in the Open Media Group (NGO). Worked as a Project Manager Assistant in Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Expert Advisor on Statistical Analysis and Research, and has completed Blue Book Traineeship in the European Commission (EASME). He is the Founder and Creative Director of the FPZG Drama Group (Drama group of the University of Zagreb) and DG DRAMA (Drama group of the European Commission Trainees). He has written and directed 7 award-winning plays and received 5 awards for different scripts and for the overall contribution to humanities and social sciences. Arno has worked as an Assistant Director in numerous theatres in Croatia and Germany. He thinks politics is the ultimate performance art.

doi: 10.18278/aia.2.2.32

We are all currently living in a marvellous age of uncertainty. Anxiety is clearly visible in government policies, media outlets, fake news, and social media posts. It presents a clear statement of suppressed anger towards social and political issues. Anger is an agent that shields against the unknown, uncertainty, and weaknesses. The pluralism of narratives and discourses has not enabled us to be tolerant and understanding, but rather we have become more fearful and frightened of the uncertainty of everything around us.

Fear lies in the root of all evils, from which anxiety blossoms negative emotions such as disgust, shame, loneliness and at the end, human uncertainty. Anger builds up in destructive bursts against something specific: religion, social policy, ethnicity, history, forms of expression, or person. But those targets are often scapegoats for something else. Unfortunately, it is very unlikely that humans can escape the social patterns that enable anger and anxiety. In his Philosophical Enquiry, Edmund Burke states that fear deprives our conscience of all reason. Furthermore, Martin Heidegger clearly connects fear with uncertainty and perceived possible threats. Anxiety puts us off the root of the problem—our hidden fears.

Humans try to avoid the core of the problem as much as possible and try to withdraw from it the best way we can. But is it even possible for us to be reasonable about it? To put aside emotional turmoil in favour of rational argumentation, which democratic decision-making requires, is not a simple task. Take for example the 2016 Brexit and U.S. presidential election votes, which exposed polarized reactions against democratic values. Only the enlightened few would agree that rationality is possible on such scales; everyone else uses emotions to communicate rather than cognition to articulate.

As scholars and arts practitioners, we must ask: What is the role of cultural production in contemporary context of fear and security? The artist who wants to face opposing narratives needs to expose the root of anger and anxiety in the issues they are targeting in a way that can be communicated to all sides. But the artist’s observers are also consumers, spectators, and audiences that can participate, interpret, and create simultaneously. Therefore, the artist and his productions—what we can consider cultural by-products—are potentially positioned to relieve the burden of uncertainty that fuels anger and anxiety.

This is just one proposed remedy, however. Until our anxiety is relieved, let us all take a deep breath and count to ten. One, two, three…