The UNESCO ICH Convention contains many good ideas and even more good intentions. In our view, it also poses big problems: conceptual, political and moral. Here are some of them:
- it reflects an arbitrary division of reality into material and immaterial spheres, ignoring the need for a holistic perspective in the study of culture and society;
- it fails to take fully into account the dynamic, disputed and deterritorialized conception of culture used in the social and cultural sciences today;
- it blinds us to the fact that collective memory and identity involve not only repetition, transmission, recognition and celebration, but also substitution, innovation, destruction and loss;
- and trickiest of all, it pretends to cleanse culture and tradition of all of their violent, discriminatory and disciplinary functions and effects.
We believe that an important way to spark critical reflection and debate about these problems is through parody, and where better to start than with Swiss banking secrecy? Its essence and enormous economic success reside, in theory at least, in its intangibility; it has been central to Switzerland’s identity and place in the world for more than a century, and it may well be in need of urgent safeguarding today.
But seriously folks, why parody a beleaguered U.N. institution with a terrific motto?