Editorial cartoonist Patrick Chappatte is a true global citizen – Lebanese/Swiss by birth, born in Pakistan, he publishes in the International Heritage Tribune and other global newspapers. Introducing him, Bruno Giussani explains that a session on global power is best closed with a person who mocks powerful people.
Chappatte starts by asking if we’ve heard of the newspaper, a revoluitonary technology that weighs less than an iPad and costs slightly less. He asks whether there are any computer designers in the audience: “You guys are ruining my life. Trackballs were easy to draw – how do I draw a trackpad?”
His talk features his cartoons, many of which look at the rise of technology and the ways it’s changing the world. We see a cybercafe in the midst of rural Africa, with a sign that says, “No coffee”. Another points out that the developing world now has email, and shows a screen with incoming mail saying, “I’m hungry”. A cartoon drawn in Vietnam – while he was under surveillance – shows the monitor as a telescope allowing the authorities to watch the user.
The wifi hotspot has liberated us from our desk, but shackled us to our laptops. They shape our desires, as in the iPad cartoon above. Technology even changes our relationship to God – a man confesses, “I’ve sinned”, and his priest, using Google, says, “I know.”
Referencing the Danish cartoons controversy, he turns serious and says, “This is sickening – people died because of cartoons.” 24 Danish cartoonists received the assignment to draw the Prophet – 12 refused – “did you know that?” The cartoons didn’t cause controversy at first – they did so once they became politically useful to another group.
Chappatte doesn’t just work from his home – he traveled to Cote d’Ivoire to document the civil conflict in the country. He led a workshop that brought together cartoonists from around the country and asked them to work together for three days. They ended up producing a book that looked at 30 years of political crisis in the country. Other projects have worked on the same ideas in Kenya and Lebanon. In Lebanon, eight cartoonists from different ideologies published cartoons together in a wide range of papers – pro and anti-government, Christian, Islamist. In Kenya, cartoonists produced video clips that cross lines of ethnicity.
What can a cartoonist do to lead to peace? At least, he can do a cartoon that doesn’t support hatred. We need to support responsible, critical voices – in Africa, in Lebanon and even in your local newspaper. And we need to take on power, even if it’s technology companies, not dictators.