Bring me the arts, please! We do need them so much!

By Santiago Crespo-Martín. Santiago, 34, is a transport manager in London, from Oviedo, Spain.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, life expectancy on Earth was around 50 years. Today, the average has reached 71.4 years and in countries like Japan and Italy, it is even much higher: 83 years.

Fifty years ago, one in every eight children died at birth whilst today, twenty nine out of thirty children survive what is, according to the vast majority of the doctors, the most crucial moment in our lives: the first breath.

Mortal diseases like smallpox and tuberculosis are, fortunately, bad memories from the past that have already been eradicated and, even though we are still struggling in the battle against cancer and aids, recent discoveries appear to invite mankind to look into the future with some optimism.

Science has advanced at a speed that could have not been imagined two centuries ago, and not only in the world of medicine.

Development in means of transport has practically eliminated distances, and today we can fly around the entire world in less than three days.

The internet has definitely changed the world up to a point, and the future will say if it has supposed the beginning of a new age. Communication, knowledge and entertainment are, nowadays, dependent on the net, which is more accessible each day and can be surfed even from a low-cost phone.

But let’s just stop for a second, and try to find an answer to the following question: have all these improvements made our planet a better place to live in?

Mankind has discovered a way to live longer, to travel faster, to communicate quicker and in a more reliable way, to search for knowledge from anywhere… Is that entirely right? And, if anything, at what expense?

It is utterly irrefutable that since the first days of what was later known as the industrial revolution, back in the second half of the eighteenth century, science has developed the means of production; that is, we can now produce faster and, in many cases, at better standards. But production has always been linked to sale: no one would neither set a business nor keep it running if there is no profit associated somehow.

Basics economy tells us that to maximise a profit, to can either sell more or lower the production costs. In the best scenario, we can try to maximise both.

To sell more, we can create the “need” of what we sell, and advertising and marketing play a key role in any business today, using the television, the radio, internet etc. to reach the biggest number of people.

To minimise production costs, companies have realised that employing workers in Africa or Asia in almost slavery conditions (but to whom, slavery is better than starvation) compensates the transport expenses.

And that leaves, according to a study made by the World Bank in 2015, 71% of the world population – that is, more than 5 billion people – living in poverty conditions, of which more than 1,450 million live in what is known as extreme poverty: with less than $1 per day.

Even more astonishing is the fact that the richest 1% of the world´s population has as much wealth as the rest of the world combined. That is to say, to set a clear example, as if the population of both the United Kingdom and Ireland together would treasure as much wealth as the rest of the world.

Sadly, it is not just about money that I am talking about: all those great advancements that I mentioned at the beginning of this text, are only available to less than one fifth of the population of the world. The other four out of five, not only will have to live without any of those advancements but, even worse, knowing they are just a reality that they will never be able to experience, no matter how hard they try.

Even though, I still see the future with optimism: if our species has been able to defeat such awful things like the bubonic plague or the holocaust (just to mention two of the worst stages in our history), I still believe that this heinous capitalism, which creates more poverty and inequality than welfare, still can be defeated.

It will be a tough and long battle, that is for sure. And the main weapon that shall be used is not any other but education.

By education, I do not mean accumulating some knowledge and learning to behave and obey the rules per se. If anything, that is only the first step. I mean integral education that make us not just square-minded consumerist bodies but what we are: human beings.

And in that what I called integral education, the study of the arts is definitely a must.

Subjects of the artistic spectrum such as music, art and drama will make us more sensitive and will show us that joy and true happiness can be found in simple things like a painting or the sound of a melody.

The study of languages I would say is vital: without a proper knowledge of our language we would not be able to think; and the richer vocabulary we have, the deeper our thoughts will be.

Also, in this globalized world we live in, the ability to speak as many languages as possible, will let us understand each other better and will help us to discover other cultures, new ideas.

Philosophy will develop our critical thinking and will help us to discern what can be considered as real concerning matters, such as ethics and values.

And what to say about history! Eduardo Galeano wrote that: “History is a prophet whose eyes are turned looking back: for what it was and against what it was, announces what it will be”. We are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past again and again if we do not acknowledge them.

So, for the sake of a world that can be, indeed, a much better place for every person to live in… Bring me the arts, please! We do need them so much!

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