Modern cartoons, ancient ideas

Martin Rowson is a British cartoonist. You can find his work in The Guardian, like this one, which connects the Tottenham Riots with the financial crises that continue to plague the western world:

I think it’s brilliant, but that’s not why I am writing this. The same comparison – politicians doing nothing while the world is burning – is made in the next cartoon, which appeared on 28 October 1912 in the German satirical journal Simplicissimus. It illustrates the outbreak of the First Balkan War: “Unfortunately,” the caption says, “the united European fire brigade was unable to stop te fire”.

The fact that two cartoonists make the same comparison, illustrates the power of the metaphor. The idea that the world can be set ablaze, is a very old one. I believe that it stems from Stoic ideas about ekpyrosis and Christian and Jewish apocalypticism. Both are, in turn, inspired by Zoroastrian ideas about the end of the world.

2 Responses to Modern cartoons, ancient ideas

  1. hirundine608 says:

    I have a difficult time believing the rioting in U.K. was un-orchestrated? I’m sure there were many who joined in spontaneously. Those will be the ones in court, soon? While “mob mentality” is a part. There are those who will urge them on, only to drift away once the riot is well under way. …… certain people make money out of chaos. Nor is it the first time a peaceful protest turns ugly, seemingly from nowhere.

    That’s when you and I, lose out rights. After the actions of a mob, we have absolutely nothing to do with. Yet we will share in the loss of personal freedom, we enjoyed prior to the confrontation. Now that does not seem right, somehow?

  2. mikemagee says:

    hirundine608 doesn’t get the point or deliberately ignores the meaning. The cartoon makes the ruling elite and the bankers into the looters and arsonists. High Street looting and burning is negligibly important compared with the banking robbery of our public treasuries and the failure of politicians to control the robbers.

    The old cartoon makes a similar point, as the blogger makes clear.

    The High Street looters may have been mainly street gangsters and criminals, but the far worse criminals, if cash value counts, are the bankers and the rich elite. It will amaze me if we avoid serious rioting of the working people and even the middle class before long. We are being treated as cash cows by the wealthy, and none of our politicians have the guts to object. Doubtless they all hope to get a cut eventually, like Blair,the Peace Envoy to the Middle East, who is now calling for wars against Syria and Iran.

    The older cartoon was only a couple of years before the outbreak of WW1. The last serious financial crisis was only resolved by WW2. And we, in Britain, at any rate, are being subject to constant militaristic propaganda. It bodes ill.

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