KRZYSZTOF PIUS ZANUSSI: Without culture, the economy stands on an empty field
Krzysztof Pius Zanussi is a world-class film director, a screenwriter and a producer that Poland is justly proud of. He has many different awards. Including the main prize of the Venice Film Festival “Golden Lion” 1984 for the film The Year of the Quiet Sun.
In the same way as Ukraine, Poland is also trying to conceptualize itself as a kind of cultural, civilizational, geostrategic borderline between the East and the West. Therefore, Zanussi attaches great importance to understanding the reasons for the differences in cultural and economic behavior between the peoples of Western and Eastern Europe.
He sees the root of these differences in a various understanding of the relationship between “earthly” and “heavenly”. If in the Byzantine system of values a person is faced with a choice: either God or material goods, then for Western European all material is given by God, therefore, it is perceived as his blessing.
In an interview with our almanac, Zanussi discusses the deep relationship that exists between economics and culture.
How does culture and art affect the country’s economy and society? This issue can be considered in two directions: how does the economy affect culture, and how does culture affect the economy?
There is a legend. During the war, the former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was told by his subordinates that the budget for culture should be cut and everything should be directed towards defense. He answered them, “What are we going to protect when there is no culture?” Perhaps, it is not true and he never said that. But this expression is still very valuable.
If there is a state, there is a nation, then it is expressed by culture. And if there is no culture, it means that the economy is on an empty field.
Therefore, in the 21st century, when we feel that we are united by culture, it is a collective memory that concerns a certain community, people who were connected because of it. In our case, in Ukraine, it is a memory from Kievan Rus to Maidan. It unites people. Frequently, when someone in Russia asks me how Ukrainians differ from Russians, I answer, “Well, at least the Ukrainian people are different in Maidan”.
CULTURE IS STRONGER THAN HUNGER
On the other hand, the economy itself creates conditions and very easily suppresses culture. Although even in concentration camps, GULAGs, where there was extreme poverty, people were dying of hunger, culture still existed.
People told and listened to books, poetry. It turned out that culture is as necessary as bread. In this sense, even if society is impoverished, culture always exists.
We can not say that bread is first in line, and culture then. We must not think that culture is an additive. When we have already achieved a certain way of life, then we spend money on culture. Absolutely fake image. Culture is essential. When hunger, it also plays an important role. It unites the nation, makes the foundation on which we build the state.
CULTURE AS A BUSINESS
Culture has always been a business, but there is a problem of order that comes first, because every human activity has an economic side. Even a divine service in a church means that you need candles, heating, and so on. It is an economic aspect. Worship does not exhaust the meaning of what it is for, but without economics it will not happen.
Likewise, culture in general also depends on commerce. The problem is in what order it happens. It applies not only to the economy, but to society. To what extent should commerce serve human development in our culture? How easy is it to exploit human weaknesses and flaws?
What values does the society address? And if it only thinks about how to get rich, culture dies. And if a society wants to express its desire for a dignified life, freedom, development, diversity – then the economy can be a tool, resourses that society uses.
WE SHOULD NOT BE EQUAL TO THE MASS CONSUMER
Nowadays, there is a popular opinion that the quality of culture meets the needs of the mass consumer who is ready to pay for it. The key word here is mass consumer.
The French king, around whom the flourishing French culture revolved, was also a consumer. But the level and demands of this consumer were very high. If we look at society, we must all be equal in relation to the law. We should have equal opportunities, but we are never equal in our achievements.
In any society there is a more developed layer and vice versa – a tail and a head. The most important thing is what the head is striving for. Today, statistics in commerce confirms that the mass consumer seems to be more important than this educated developed consumer. It is a mistake; in fact, it is less important. Although it brings a lot of profit.
STATE INSTEAD OF CHURCH AND KING
The state today must fulfill the same role that was previously performed by kings and emperors, the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church. They were patrons and sponsors supporting culture that could not earn money for itself, but was more important than mass culture, since it pulled the entire nation forward: from barbarism to high development.
Let’s not forget that in the history of mankind there have always been regular wars, epidemics, earthquakes, meteorite falls – all the misfortunes that we now face. It is not new.
Culture expresses the aspirations and dreams that unite us. And we form a certain community on their basis. In difficult conditions, it is culture that helps people to determine what is important to them, what is not important? What to do and what not?