However, towards the end of the article, Ms Wheeler offers an analysis of the place of the arts in the hierarchy of human needs with which I feel obliged to take issue. She is quoted as saying: ‘So to me, the cultural nourishment of people is a luxury … culture should not be a priority of aid … art comes second (after the essentials of survival – medical support, food and drinking water)’.
Yes, health and sustenance are absolutely fundamental, but if achieving them requires any level of social organisation, collaborative art-making enters the picture – not as a luxury – but as the essential activity through which we learn to work together.
This not an argument for supporting books or opera (another of her loves) but for making sure that people (especially children) have the regular opportunity to sing and dance together – this is how we learn to co-operate and to enjoy co-operating. Without this experience, we condemn ourselves to atomised individualism (thatcherism or reaganism perhaps).
Seems to me that hierarchies are always problematic, and human needs are a case in point. We have a spectrum of needs, all of which are important.