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Posts Tagged ‘Le Monde Diplomatique

Neither with the West nor against it, and not ‘Arab street’

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Map of the social uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East, for Le Monde Diplomatique by Philippe Rekacewicz

Map of the social uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East, for Le Monde Diplomatique by Philippe Rekacewicz

In the ever thoughtful Le Monde Diplomatique, senior commentators Alain Gresh and Serge Halimi consider aspects of ‘The New Arab Awakening’, which is the theme for the 2011 March edition.

“The fantasy that the Arabs are passive and unsuited to democracy has evaporated in weeks. Arabs have overthrown hated authoritarian regimes in Tunisia and Egypt” – Gresh has written in his commentary, ‘Neither with the West, nor against it’.

In Libya, they have fought a sclerotic regime in power for 42 years that has refused to listen to their demands, facing extraordinary violence, hundreds of deaths, untold injuries, mass exodus and generalised chaos. In Algeria, Morocco, Bahrain, Yemen, Jordan, Iraqi Kurdistan, the West Bank and Oman, Arabs have taken to the streets in vast numbers. This defiance has spread even to non-Arab Iran.

And where promises of reform have been made but were then found wanting, people have simply returned to the streets. In Egypt, protesters have demanded faster and further-reaching reform. In Tunisia, renewed demonstrations on 25-27 February led to five deaths but won a change of prime minister (Mohamed Ghannouchi stepped down in favour of Beji Caid-Essebsi). In Iraq, renewed protests led to a promise to sack unsatisfactory ministers. In Algeria, the 19-year emergency law was repealed amid continuing protests. The demands are growing throughout the region, and will not be silenced.

The revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, the uprising in Libya, and all the other popular movements that have shaken the region are not just about how people want to live and develop, but about regional politics. For the first time since the 1970s, geopolitics cannot be analysed without taking into account, at least in part, the aspirations of people who have retaken control of their destinies.

“Governments of very different shades find common ground in the same disinformation. Iran has claimed that the Arabs’ democratic revolt heralded an Islamic revival, inspired by the 1979 Iranian revolution” – Halimi has written, in ‘Could Iran be next?’

Israel repeated this claim, and pretended to be alarmed. But when the Iranian opposition gathered to celebrate the demonstrations in Cairo, the ruling theocracy opened fire on the crowd. The Israeli army does not massacre unarmed civilians – unless they are Palestinian (1,400 dead in Gaza two years ago) – but Binyamin Netanyahu does not welcome young Arabs’ demands for freedom any more than Iran does. Israel fears it might lose excellent partners in power, autocratic but pro-American. Its only recourse then would be to cry wolf against Iran.

But tensions with Israel and international sanctions enable the Iranian regime, emboldened by the weakening of regional rivals Egypt and Saudi Arabia, to play the nationalist card. It sees this as useful, since the 2009 Green Movement has not succumbed to ceaseless repression. The Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, hoped the vaccine of hanging and torture had eradicated the virus of opposition. Sadly for him, the Arab revolt and the humiliating contrast between a highly educated population and an archaic political system undermine the dubious legitimacy of his regime.

Rather than follow the Libyan example and order the air force to machinegun the crowd, the ruling elite has unleashed the murderous demands of its followers. When the opposition mustered its forces, 222 of the 290 members of the Iranian parliament called for Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi, former government dignitaries under house arrest for opposing the Supreme Leader, to be brought to trial.

The devil’s summer camp

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Thanks to the ever-nouvelle and culturally rich labyrinth that is Le Monde Diplomatique, among the most readable journals in the world. They have talked of the work of a variety of artists and visual commentators, who have at some point or other had a connection with the Diplo. I’ve selected just three to show how varied and interesting a visual contemporary account of our world can be.

Artists Pat Shewchuk and Marek Colek“The source of inspiration for the comic was our interest in folklore and mythology, and our ongoing research in this area. The experiences of a winter holiday we went on to an organic farm on Salt Spring Iceland, influenced the comic as well: the moonlit nights, a flock of crows in the nearby woods and a herd of wild goats nearby gave rise to the kind of picture-book fantasy, the central point of our art and animations. During our walks in the lush rain forest, we discovered frequently huts that were built from branches and were sometimes enormous proportions. We imagined that this would be the devil’s summer camp, whom he visited when he was down in hell too hot and humid.”

Pat Shewchuk and Marek Colek working collectively under the name Tin Can Forest live in Toronto, temporarily elsewhere (wherever it suits them over time). They mainly work as animation film makers, but also as combined graphic designer, cartoonist and painter.

Graphic artist Henning WagenbrethThe graphic artist Henning Wagenbreth has found a good solution to handle the daily flood of words from messages. He cuts it simple – as in the comic book for Le Monde Diplomatique:

“The illustration was created with the automated system ‘Tobot’.  ” ‘Tobot’ cuts through the world of images and texts into tiny components and uses the fragments according to different rules together. The results are often absurd, paradoxical and strange, but so are the various forms of politics in anything after.”

Henning Wagenbreth attended the art academy in East Berlin Weissensee. Before the fall of the Berlin wall, he supported various citizens’ movements in the GDR with its posters. Since 1994 he is professor of illustration in the Visual Communication course at the Berlin University of the Arts. For his posters and book illustrations, he was awarded numerous prizes.

Artist Mark MarekFor Le Monde Diplomatique, the American artist Mark Marek has drawn a history of his favorite character ‘Father Dirty Harry’. “I was raised Catholic, so is the inspiration for Father Dirty Harry.” I wrote it originally for a Rolling Stones album ‘Dirty Work’, back in the 1980s. However, the legal department of CBS Records got cold feet. I have something else then devised. But I liked the character very much. Some comic strips appeared later in the satirical magazine National Lampoon, until its legal department got nervous.”

Mark Marek has worked many years as a cartoonist and illustrator. Meanwhile, he made animation and even ‘Dirty Harry Father’ has been animated.

Meanwhile, the latest Le Monde Diplomatique’s annual Atlas (2009) takes a thoroughly different world in mind. I’ve taken this from the Deutsch edition and this map is called ‘Die Welt von Morgen’ or The World of Tomorrow. Using as its backdrop the events of the deepest crisis in the world economy since 1945 (the end of World War Two), the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China; actually the BASIC bloc since South Africa is included), are depicted as having shifted the geopolitical balance of power.

Le Monde Diplomatique, Atlas 2009 — Un monde à l’envers

Le Monde Diplomatique, Atlas 2009 — Un monde à l’envers