Laugh in the Face of Danger

By Mia Wallace

June 6, 2016

Humans have been drawing for the past 40,000 years. To put this in perspective for you…

  • Language is approximately 35,000 years old
  • Humans arrived in North America about 13,000 years ago
  • The first book was written 4,500 years ago
  • The first newspaper was published 400 years ago
  • And we have only been able to talk on a telephone for 140 years

Drawing is one of the oldest forms of communication and human expression around. Martin Rowson, a political cartoonist at The Guardian, taught us all about the history of drawing and cartoons today. He showed us this drawing from 36,000 years ago:

It’s particularly interesting because it depicts a very normal rhino except for the fact that it has an abnormally long horn. Now this is a sign that even back before language was developed, humans had a sense of humor and inclination for storytelling.

Drawings have been helping us to control and understand the world since prehistoric times. Media has been doing this as well. Obviously for not as long but the main basis of mass media and the many components that lie within it are all geared towards helping us comprehend, understand and be able to control the world around us. But one of the main ways humans control reality is through humor.

According to Rowson, there is no better way to control, tear apart power and stop tyrants than through the influence and impact of humor. To show those who abuse their power that they are not above humanity is to show them doing the most utterly human functions possible. As depicted here through one of Rowson’s pieces:

Martin Rowson 15.2.2016

The key, according to Rowson, to knock those in power off their high horse is to show them either pooping, vomiting or stuffing their faces with food. Make them as utterly human and disgusting as possible.

But what I was not expecting to learn about being a political cartoonist was how dangerous it was. Depending on where you live, what newspaper you work for and who you decide to depict in your next drawing, you could find yourself behind bars, executed or murdered. Rowson told us that he has received countless death threats for some of the pieces of work he has published and often has to discuss his pieces of work with his boss and family about the consequences that may come from publishing it. Probably one of the more ironic and comical circumstances came when he drew a cartoon satirizing a politician who was pro-life and received multiple death threats from pro-life supporters and groups. The irony.

To sum up what I learned about political cartoons and power today is that humor is the best weapon we have and without it, we let the enemy — whomever that may be — win.

IMG_4584.JPGTo see more of Martin Rowson’s cartoons, click here!

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