As a criminal lawyer with over 20 years’ experience, and as an artist and curator, I have been reflecting on the steady cuts to legal aid and the arts.

One of the reasons why governments act with impunity against artists and legal aid services is because the majority of voters don’t give a shit.

Voters, generally:

1. Have no idea how difficult the criminal justice system can be without experienced representation — until, of course, they find themselves or their family in a spot of trouble; and/or
2. Have no idea how dull life can be without the arts.

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But to get good representation and to be stimulated by life, someone has to:

1. Undertake years of training in law or in the arts;
2. Sharpen their skill and style from experience and constant practice; and
3. Have a life-long commitment to practising their skill and passion despite the general public’s ignorance and indifference.

Art — like social justice — is not for the faint-hearted. Those among you who are content with being passive consumers of an artificial bliss; those who are lazy and content not to entertain an original thought from birth to the grave.

Criminal justice lawyers and artists work long hours, on their weekends and their days off.

The great majority of people will ignore the social good lawyers and artists provide until they find themselves locked up and accused of a crime they didn’t commit/over-inflated offence; or in an artless life that is dull, dark, ignorant, soulless and bleak.

Start recognising the importance of social justice. Start respecting the worth and value of the arts.

Stop your tokenistic regard for criminal justice and the arts. You would not work for less, or for free, so why should we?

Demand of your representatives to support these social goods.

Recognise that you and your community will only become more vulnerable without these.

Start by entertaining these thoughts for a little while.

Stop your passive conspicuous consumption of mediocrity and think about what I have just written for five minutes.

Begin by accepting that no one should be represented by an underpaid and under-experienced lawyer, and no one in the arts should work to make your life brighter and richer for a pittance or for free.

This article was first published at Bob Gosford’s Crikey blog, The Northern Myth

I subscribe to Crikey because I believe in a free, open and independent media where news and opinions can be published that I can both agree with and be challenged by.

As a Crikey subscriber I always feel more informed and able to think more critically about issues and current affairs – even when they don’t always reflect my own political viewpoint or lived experience.

Jess
Singapore

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