Part 3 - THE RISE AND RISE OF THE COMMITTEE
THE RISE AND RISE OF THE COMMITTEE
AND WHY AGENDA ARE SUSPECT
The Committee, in all its manifestations confers respectability on THE DECISION. And it is THE DECISION which now, throughout the civilised world, determines which artist gets paid how much for doing what work. Committees are seen as irreproachable because their DECISIONS are always deemed to be FAIR. They are deemed to be FAIR because they are warranted to be NEVER BIASED.
That's the theory. I pass on the absurdity of this proposition - for the moment. As I suggested earlier, a non-biased decision in the arts is a contradiction in terms. Art is subjective, and any reaction to it, by definition, reveals some kind of bias. So let's concentrate on the magic formula which is supposed to eliminate the possibility of bias. This magic formula can be conveyed in one word. AGENDA. In order to have a basis for its DECISION-MAKING, a Committee has to have AN AGENDA. What, you may ask, is wrong with an agenda? A great deal. Firstly, the word is being misused, or rather, its meaning has shifted. To understand how and why, we must explore what the word "agenda" originally meant. This is a surrealist exercise!
The word "agenda" derives from the Latin verb "agere" which means "to act" :- hence "agent" , one who acts, and "agendum" , meaning, originally, "something to be acted upon" -
just as an "addendum" means "a thing to be added" , derived from the Latin verb "adere" - from which we also get "adhere" mean "to stick to" - having been "added on" .
"Agendum" is the singular, meaning "a thing to be acted upon":-
"Agenda" is the plural, meaning "things to be acted upon".
The singular form is no longer used. Dating from 1882, the word "agenda" - plural - was used to mean "things to be done at a meeting" , hence "items of business to be done at a meeting" .
At this point in the evolution of meaning, the rot sets in. We all know how rare it is actually to get things done at a meeting, which explains why that meaning could not be sustained in usage.
Consequently the meaning of the word "agenda" now shifts so that it comes to mean: "a list of items of business to be talked about at a meeting" - no longer "items of business to be done at a meeting" , but now, as in current usage "a list of items of business to be talked about at a meeting"
The purpose of a meeting has now become "to discuss whether or not these items of business should, in fact, be done". But you will note that, as a result of this shift of meaning, the word "agenda" , which is a plural word , has become a singular word .
It becomes "an agenda" . Thus "Agenda" is no longer "things to be done" , nor is it even "a list of things to be done".
The word is now used to refer to the end product of a discussion about what to do. In other words, "An agenda" now exists because it is the result of a meeting, or of a series of meetings, the purpose of which is to establish "an agenda".
So the word now effectively means "a program of action which excludes alternatives" - because all the decisions about what to do have already been made. "An agenda" no longer means "a range of possibilities, of options, of alternatives" .
It now means one singular purpose , which has been cast in concrete, and which is not subject to any further discussion - unless, of course, another meeting is called whose agenda is to discuss the agenda.
In short, the word "agenda" now means the exact opposite of what it used to mean.
The shift in meaning reflects the action upon language of human nature. Another example comes to mind. The word "pacification" , derives from the word "pax" meaning "peace" . " Pacification" means "to make peaceful" . In the Vietnam War, when a village was bombed, killing everyone in it, this was called "pacification" . The village was made peaceful by the method of applying violence until all movement ceased. The village became "pacific". The ocean of that name was so-named because its waters tended to be peaceful.
So, in military parlance, the word became used to mean the exact opposite of what it originally meant. What was the motivation in human nature which brought about this change? Simple: the need to deceive, to misrepresent in order to achieve an objective.
Now you understand why Committees love AN AGENDA. Establishing AN AGENDA removes the need for, removes the obligation to consider or discuss any proposals which are put to a committee, excepting a discussion about whether or not the proposal fits THE AGENDA .
It is not the committee which makes the decision, you see. It is THE AGENDA which makes the decision. The Committee is absolved of any responsibility in accounting for its decision. All it needs to do is to cite THE AGENDA.
We will shortly see how important this strategy is to the Australia Council whenever it is asked to fulfil its statutory obligation to give reasons for a decision it has made. But not yet. There is more ground to cover before we get to that point in this evening's deliberations. It's time for a reminder of this evening's AGENDA.
Yes, I've given in. AGENDA is the buzz word, and I intend using it too. So - time for a reminder of OUR AGENDA in this article. When I say OUR AGENDA , I don't mean to presume that the Agenda under discussion here will become YOUR AGENDA. But it is THE AGENDA under discussion.
Here is a reminder of the main AGENDA:
To find ways and means TO EMPOWER THE INDIVIDUAL CREATIVE ARTIST WITH AUTONOMY.
Let's now amplify that description of the Agenda, and derive from it a simple proposition that describes some of the powers the artist should have in order to achieve autonomy.