Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The cartoon and the beginning of the 21th century

Por: Osvaldo Macedo de Sousa
CONCLUSION

A couple of things were said here but many are still untold. Each country is a situation, is a different mode of life and with this questionnaire we looked for the most common aspects among them. We talked about censorial problems; about some constraints to the freedom of expression; about people’s disinterest in humoristical civic intervention, in the irreverent expression of thought.
Many questions are still to be made. For instance, will the new cartoonist generation have cultural and journalistic capacity to question in a satiric way the political and social acts? To be an editorial cartoonist, besides being a synthesis journalist, a communication design artist, a visionary sociologist in constant ironic precaution, must also be a small encyclopaedia of cultures (metaphorical and allegoric), of political and news knowledge.
Will cartoon keep motivating the public? Will the current deficient cultural and philosophical education of young people put in danger the creation of new readers? The printed number of humoristic publications is getting smaller in the so called Democratic world. Is seems contradicting, but this kind of periodicals is prospering more in countries with oppression governments than in free countries. Is the spirit of survival desperately fighting for human kind?
Will we have to think and rethink about the cartoon pedagogical side in this intolerant society? Will cartoon be compelled to better study the opposing sides, criticizing and, at the same time, also reconciling cultures and harmonizing conflicts? Will a cartoonist need to have in consideration that he is no longer talking with his local community only, but also with the global planet?
In a Plantu’s letter on the occasion of an UNO organization, the exhibition ‘Cartoons for Peace’, he wrote: «Cartoonists are frequently questioned because of there caustic drawings, which is normal. Over the past years, I have noticed that there is a mutual lack of comprehension between two opposing cultures, East and West, with each side, whether consciously or not, merely serving its own purpose. Frequently cartoonists have a particular slant, in which case the role of the cartoonist is more of a militant than a journalist. To my mind, cartoonists need not stop thinking or drawing, but I do think that somehow there is a way to continue being critical, forceful and penetrating without hatred and, above all, without such a marked disrespect for the religious convictions of believers and non-believers alike. Of course, I am not talking about establishing some sort of moral rule to follow – that would be contrary to the nature of cartooning – but merely taking a more journalistic approach. Let cartoonists who feel the need to blaspheme continue to do so: I just want to make them think about how some of their drawings may be seen as offensive in Beirut, Paris or Jerusalem. We are no longer at the beginning of the 20th century, during which the artists gave total liberty to their liberation and anarchist thoughts by looking at umbilicus. Welcome to the world of internet.»
The artists commonly complaint about the editors’ despotism who restrain their satire, pushing them to illustration. The editorial cartoon by being a metaphor and allegory game, in which the commentary makes the readers think, becomes a threat in this consumption society of pre-manufactured. It is a world of strong contrast in black and white and not in shadier or wateriest like the editors and commentators writing. An editorial, a chronic does not question, it says, while the cartoon alerts. People do not usually cut out an article to put it in a placard but they do it with a cartoon… Therefore, in this stressed world, where the powerful lords do not want us to think, there is a fear that an image can stimulate opinions, susceptibilities, achieved privileges of whose in control.
I have asked if there were any changes in the satire way, along the years, but my question should have been if the journalism changes along the last decades. Is there still any objective information, or just opinions from opinion leaders? Are there any investigation journalism or just some cut-outs and gluing of texts from news agencies? In those eventual contexts, is the editorial cartoon (not the one from humoristic gags) annoying to editors, to administrations more interested in economic questions, than in journalistic intervention?
In the current economy, is cartoon profitable? Some say yes. There are periodicals (each time less), who would like to have their own graphic line characteristic, a distinctive and exclusive opinion. Nowadays in the world of globalization, to have a local importance, a specific reflex of irreverent style for its readers is almost a luxury, and therefore very important.
But, the majority of people do not want to be specific, they want to be like everyone else. The majority oppressed by members believe that cartoons are not profitable. In spite of, nowadays, advertising people want to make humor; companies are very afraid of that style and so they do not invest in humoristic newspapers.
In this stand-up comedy time, everybody is funny, at least they think that, and those who have humor are very rare. Many editors find themselves very funny, by imposing their gags to the artists. If they think they can do this for fun, why spending money with an exclusive cartoonist, with a scrawl maker?
On the other hand the marketing economy originated the creation of several Syndications of artists which offer at a sales price, cartoons for every style. They are cheap, they do not bother (they think - ‘If they were published in hundreds of newspapers they won’t make any trouble in this one), they fill the spaces for the drawings, they have political correctness…
Is it wrong to say that the editorial cartoon is in a critical situation, or should I say that the written press is in crisis? This is an ecosystem, and even if the journalists of the written press do not want to admit, we all get affected by others’ diseases.
I do not believe that the editor cartoon will die, because when a cartoonist gives up, there is another one who stands up. We cannot forget that if there are murdered journalists for investigating corruption, predominance… there are also victims among the cartoonists. The Palestinian Naji Al-Ali is a symbol of many others who have been murdered for having courage to draw annoying facts. The Turkish Turhan Selçuk is another resistance symbol who was tortured, became blind but only in his eyes and not in this mind. According to Wagner Passos the cartoonist must «always impose himself and never give up! If the newspaper fired a cartoonist, he should go out to the street and start painting the walls, and use the same pages of the newspaper, the old sheets and make a cartoon in an empty world. An artist never shuts up. If he accepts censorship, he will be psychologically dead. The power comes by the owner of the newspaper. If you are an artist and also the owner of a newspaper, the power comes by your sponsor companies and they are pressured by the government, by the church or by bigger companies. But the thing here is to think in alternative ways. There is a lot of corruption in the world, even more than it is announced in the media, much more than we have ever thought. And all kinds of corruption and illicitness, which are connected with each other, like funds deviation, drugs traffic and weapons in wars».
We do not want to finish this book with a fatalist mood. And curiously, if I decided to make this questionnaire because of what happened with the Mohammed’s cartoons, one of the big hope of the cartoon survival is in Muslim countries, or in the in the underdeveloped countries…where humor has been an instrument of survival, an instrument to fight for the freedom of speech, for progress.
Now I pass the word to Stane Jagodic: « It is however encouraging that satirical thought is also making inroads in the Muslim world, as demonstrated by the exhibitions of cartoons in Istanbul and Teheran. The Turks and Iranians are becoming better cartoonists year by year, not only in the field of humour but also in satire. In the aesthetic refinement of their drawing and the profundity of their ideas, they sometimes outdo the achievements of European satire. The catalogue, or rather leaflet, from the Istanbul exhibition, contains a rather cutting cartoon (by an Arab cartoonist) about the Catholic clergy, whose barb was uncompromisingly directed at the Vatican – though not a single European has protested about it. I should mention that I myself have managed to get into the Teheran and Istanbul catalogues with a photomontage that was not wanted at certain conservative European cartoon festivals. Among the selectors at these festivals, who fortunately do not represent a majority, the myth of the sugar-sweet cartoons of Walt Disney is still strong.»
While there is an intelligent smile, there is hope !!!

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