As an artist who works a great deal with political and social satire, cartooning and lampooning the often ridiculous actions of people, governments and “corps es”, I have observed for years the “culture clash” when our western parody and humor is misunderstood or used by groups or individuals who find offense there.
We may be missing a big piece of the puzzle when we attribute this type of terrorist attack (Paris today) as one against “free speech” when part of the problem is the ancient prohibition in Islamic art of portraying any humans or animals. Portraying a deity as a mere human, when even drawing the likeness of a person is taboo, gives rise to deep anger in some Islamic fundamentalists and could provide an excuse in their minds for retribution and destruction. There is never an excuse for killing and sadly those on that path can always find fault to justify their violence; but since the “pen” or paint brush is mightier than the sword, that truth can lead us to actions that don’t dignify terrorists or elevate them by adding fear to our minds or retaliation to our response.
It is in part because of this religious restriction in Islam and their art that western cartoonists have become a target. Holding humor and truth hostage by a tiny and misguided minority must be met with expanded appreciation of hard-won liberation from oppressors and oppression everywhere and, when possible, by creating understanding and context. Similar to North Korea’s cyber-attach against Sony to stop the release of movie spoof about their leader, a terrorist attack on a humor magazine, however irreverent, is symptomatic of vast cultural misunderstandings at best and dangerous, unaddressed tensions driving more “crazy” behavior by disassociated groups and disaffected individuals at worst.
Art is what is left to history to define and remember cultures and eras past. What will history record of these interesting times and how can artists be instrumental in bring peace and prosperity to a very challenged world? As activists and artists many of us are on the forefront, reclaiming the “avante guard” – advance guard role to see, envision and propose a viable future. Let’s think of how energy and art can be directed to solving problems that are going unaddressed by traditional systems. Personally I believe the uniting focus of “Soil not Oil” movement in 2015 has great potential to unite all people in the common causes of Earth stewardship and resource equality.
Art in action that unites not divides using humor that helps us all laugh at ourselves, not humor that ridicules individuals, can be a powerful tool to achieve better results. In my work to address and inform people about the plight of the planet, and the need to conserve the commons, I find the lack of creativity among non profits, government and corporation is the main thing lacking. Artists can reclaim a shamanistic role of leadership through responsible visioning for “the tribes” and since the pen is mightier than the sword, we can be aware that the pen (and paintbrush)are wielded responsibly and with care.
As Tom Hitchcock shared today
“A powerful possible strategy for those opposing fracked gas pipelines (and us all!) :
A Canadian Artist Halted Pipeline Development By Copyrighting His Land As A Work Of Art
Maybe this type of creative opposition strategy could be expanded to all peace-loving lands. Declare all the beautiful lands with all the beautiful people, resources and sentient beings as works of art – AND HANDS OFF!!! BY THE GOVERNMENTS, CORPORATIONS AND ELITIST INTERESTS!!!
Chamber of Commons
P.O.Box 33, Ashland, Oregon 97520
Join us on Facebook at Chamber of Commons and champions of the commons