We’re all rootless cosmopolitans now, aren’t we? We’re at home in airports and hotels and coffee bars wherever they be, we seek out global brands in local shops and inhabit fashions we’ve shared via fb and are generally ready to adapt to living no-place in particular. For once arriving at Helsinki-Vantaa didn’t feel so great.
Fingerpori the cartoonist has once more left us totally perplexed. To be honest, it’s Hesari that has, by publishing another anti-semitic strip in yesterday’s paper. Helsingin Sanomat is the only nationwide daily in this country of 5 million, so when it publishes cartoons that ridicule genocide and stigmatisation several times a month, one is hopefully forgiven for assuming that this reflects a widespread notion of what is acceptable. It’s not dismissable as internet-mediated nutty racism.
I’d much rather that these cartoons were the quirks of someone who peddles in a kind of adolescent humour that’s childlike in its cruelty. Such a cartoonist should be published, if anywhere, where those of adolescent humour would find them and leave the rest of us to develop other talents.
Anyway, the man behind Fingerpori will be speaking about his work next weekend as part of the Maailma Kylassa (World Village Festival) event next week-end in Helsinki. Perhaps he will expand on the letter he wrote on 7.5.2010, a couple of days after his previous non-joke. Among other things, he wrote that “For my own part I find it disturbing that citizens who sympathise with the far-right may see my strip as supporting their own distasteful views. It’s possible then that I misfired here, I apologise to those who were upset.”
But it’s hard not to think that Hesari are being ignorant as well as irresponsible. They don’t seem to understand that even in an era of speed and virtual life, of lives lived as if there were no consequences, holocausts are still made through language, images and insults as well as of instruments of terror and death. Or they don’t care.
In anticipation of landing in Helsinki, I was reminded of the recent talk in Finland of a generation of young adults who have, well, not quite grown up. They are the pullamössö generation (so toothless they can only subsist on milky gloup), a product of a materially easy life possibly combined with inattentive parenting. The result, as the wikipedia (!) article about them suggests, is people who display something between helplessness and ineptitude when it comes to everyday needs, who are somewhere between confident and arrogant when it comes to consumer novelties (including the latest technologies), and who are as uninterested in the past as they are ignorant of it. (Later I hope to blog about Paul Connerton’s provocative book on this topic: How Modernity Forgets).
We here at JHJ have a hunch that a person with a developed sense of empathy doesn’t have to be lacking in a sense of humour let alone talent for comic writing or even drawing comics. In fact, the tragedy of the Holocaust itself provided a vehicle which actually gave the whole art form a bit of a boost and some innovation. Art Spiegelman‘s Maus, and the same cartoonist’s work after the attack on New York’s Twin Towers, are proof that the comic is a fabulous medium for expressing empathy, for narrating a story that makes no sense, and for being subversive of convention and for trying to understand the baffling human condition – all at the same time.
Spiegelman incidentally also demonstrated in In The Shadow of No Towers that it is possible to be a rooted cosmopolitan.