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Column for February 2006

I was a Film student quite a few years ago, and some of the studies that we encountered were really of the esoteric nature, that very few people, it seems, knew about.

Donald Duck*In Carleton University Library, as well as through our course of study, I ran into a book about ill feeling from South Americans, who detested the anthropomorphization of animals in Donald Duck cartoons, very popular to this day, by such industries as that started by Walt Disney. Yes, people down south were appalled at the humanization of ducks, and protested by banning Walt Disney cartoons in such provinces as Peru.

* Animation of Donald Duck thanks to a free graphic site by: I Love Disney .com

Some peoples' anger at image seems inane (and it does seem very trivial to an artist) but, these people are convinced that stratagem have been employed (through high tech processes), to disable the cultural immunity a certain society may have set up - against , for instance, scorpions, or migratory paths of animals which could effect the ecology in a disorderly manner, to cite a couple of ideas.

In the case of Donald Duck by Disney Industries, Donald becomes an actual guerrilla in Vietnam, demonstrating his dislike for "wogs". This type of slant, glamourizing or cupidizing warfare, is not considered to be wholesome for children (hear, hear)!

It seems to me, having worked in web for a while, that some of our microwave processes do appeal to little creatures, and may, at times attract them.
As a (former) long term member of a music ministry, I can certainly tell you that there are works of art, or words in litanies or hymns,the music and rhythm of which might assist in healing people of their unwanted flora and fauna, along with the power of carefully constructed cultural effects in all religions, like votive foods, colours, shaping and so on. An example of votive food is the Passover pancake, which is made with de-wormer herbs, helping to clarify a persons' health for the spring to come.

Even if stupid or thoughtless sentiments get bunged (where they belong) into the toidy, there might be eco chains from that effort, perpetuating diseased thinking, or actual disease formations, so one needs to be clean, orderly and, in fact, aspire to kind ideas about whole societies. Eventually, it will "toil" right back on your head, if you are not careful!!

I am, of course, writing about inane humourists and recent angry demonstrations about a cartoon, in Afghanistan.

My reason for choosing this as a topic is threefold. Number one, I am an artist, and I do care about image and mass communications, as well as freedom of speech, or our universal right to self-determination.(articles 17 to 20).
I do, though, as well, care about preventing or altering things which become a massive insult to societies, since whatever could incur further disparities or prejudice, should be focused upon with a pacifists' concerns.

Now, funnily enough, I am a bit of an historic researcher, and chose to purchase magic lantern slides this month, at an antiques auction.

photo of a magic lantern slide subject: Rt. Hon BalfourWhen I found an image of a young Rt. Hon Balfour, along with seventeen other slides made in about 1860, I researched this image, to see who Balfour was.

Please, do not take copies of this photo -it is in private ownership.
See my BLOGSPOT on Google for further notes on Magic Lanterns.
I discovered that not only had Rt. Hon Balfour become Prime Minister of Great Britain at the turn of the century, after having been secetary for Scotland in his youth, but that he was responsible for much discussion and research behind what the British call the Balfour Declaration.

The Balfour Declaration is fairly simple, as presented, but the discussion behind its' concepts is rich.

Lord Balfour was a proponent of Jewish Zionism, with a sense of fairness, originally manifesting from the need to make just reparation after the bitter and cruel crusaders had ousted Israeli Jews from their own lands.
Together with other principles, he worked upon the restoration of Israel to Jewish peoples, serving to buffer some of the anti-semitic sentiment which, at the time, prevented Jews from settling in some areas, or, from being considered to be citizens in others.

Looking at the manifestation of anger on TV, at the frustration and bitterness of the Afghanistanis ,who feel that they have been made fools, with regard to their religious preference, I felt tempted to ponder some of the wise ideas of our forefathers, whether British, Russian, Jew or Communist.

There are pros and cons to these issues, which should certainly be considered. And certainly, as I read documents posted on , I was interested in the numerous perspectives offered, in the c.1917 discussion about re-issuing British-held lands in Palestine to Jewish peoples.

In a sense, one is witnessing today, struggles served by various Democratic nations, as to the reclamation of self-determination in the Middle East.
These struggles can be compared to the displaced Jews in the diaspora (meaning their exodus from Israel as a people, and the scattering of culture), since most Islamic people in Afghanistan or Iraq might feel somewhat apprehensive about the redefinition of their established cultural identity. A type of intellectual expatriation provoked by what seems to be via harsh symbols of cultural apartheid may be the reason for such unrest.

I am terribly opposed to warfare, but principles which applied in 1917, as they do now, to the dignity and sanctitude of the Jewish faith, its works, holdings and the holiness of its origin, should most certainly be upheld,and, in turn, with regard to the dignity, holiness and cultural solace which a religion affords to any society,the cultural immunity of which is, in focus at the moment, Islamic.

The quotation below is from Lord Balfour, Prime Minister of Great Britain

In 1917, in an introduction to: a book published in 1919, 'History of Zionism 1600-1919' by Nahum Sokolow

'But why, it may be asked, is local sentiment to be more considered in the case of the Jew than (say) in that of the Christian or the Buddhist? All historic religions rouse feelings which cluster round the places made memorable by the words and deeds, the lives and deaths, of those who brought them into being. Doubtless these feelings should always be treated with respect; but no one suggests that the regions where these venerable sites are to be found should, of set purpose and with much anxious contrivance, be colonized by the spiritual descendants of those who originally made them famous. If the centuries have brought no change of ownership or occupancy we are well content. But if it be otherwise, we make no effort to reverse the course of history. None suggest that we should plant Buddhist colonies in India, the ancient home of Buddhism, or renew in favor of Christendom the crusading adventures of our medieval ancestors. Yet, if this be wisdom when we are dealing with Buddhism and Christianity, why, it may be asked, is it not also wisdom when we are dealing with Judaism and the Jews? 'The answer is, that the cases are not parallel. The position of the Jews is unique. For them race, religion and country are inter-related, as they are inter-related in the case of no other race, no other religion, and no other country on earth. In no other case are the believers in one of the greatest religions of the world to be found (speaking broadly) only among the members of a single small people; in the case of no other religion is its past development so intimately bound up with the long political history of a petty territory wedged in between States more powerful far than it could ever be; in the case of no other religion are its aspirations and hopes expressed in language and imagery so utterly dependent for their meaning on the conviction that only from this one land, only through this one history, only by this one people, is full religious knowledge to spread through all the world. By a strange and most unhappy fate it is this people of all others which, retaining the full its racial self-consciousness, has been severed from its home, has wandered into all lands, and has nowhere been able to create for itself an organized social commonwealth. Only Zionism -- so at least Zionists believe -- can provide some mitigation of this great tragedy.

This long statement  by Lord Balfour  is an answer which should by now be commonly accepted. Respect for all religious bodies and for their unique customs or social aspirations, within the established tenets or morality of accepted faiths, exists for many people of the world. Whether there is a question of land ownership, or intellectual property, or perhaps health issues, people have the right to sympathy and action  which will support their peace of mind. Peace of mind is sometimes more important to people than property ownership. Without sanity and quietude, when the need arises, who can enjoy the material manifest of cultural striving?

As the 1917 proposal to reclaim Israel took shape, it:

'invited intense opposition from a small group of rich and influential assimilated Jews, who felt threatened by the possible implications of double loyalty....the idea was opposed by Edwin Montagu , who made a bitter attack against the Balfour declaration. He claimed that the declaration would cause Jews to be expelled from every country, and that given the new found freedom of Russian Jews, there was no reason for the declaration..... The original text of the declaration had read "Palestine should be reconstituted as the National Home of the Jewish people." After Montagu's attack, the text was changed to read "the establishment in Palestine of a Home for the Jewish people." A clause was also added protecting the rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine and more curiously, to meet Montagu's objections, a clause was added protecting the rights of Jewish communities outside Palestine.'

From Balfour Introduction. Please take time to read the several pages from which some of these concepts have been cut and pasted, since the history of The Balfour Declaration was compiled by: Zionism-Israel Information Center.

Acculturative process re-invents peoples' mindsets or philosophies, so that recent protests from Islamic people in Afghanistan have been met (in microcosm) in the same climate by Islamic Europeans as was shown (above) to exist from settled, rich Jews in Russia.
 Danish or North American Islamic people have recently spoken, in the news, against mass hysteria with regard to an alternative issue - publishers and artists' right to  freedom of speech, (freedom of expression) or of the press.  Living in more western climes, these are modernized and comfortable people,whose wealth and lifestyle testifies to an acceptance of their religion and racial circumstances in these countries. Apparently those Islamic people want their own body of faith to have a sense of proportion.  They have not yet mentioned the obvious, that negative focus upon a poor and troubled people induces a backlash of fervor,after people have become disoriented, scared or insulted by differing cultures, technologies, and the daily turmoil of warfare.

Without seeing the cartoon (I imagine that this material may not be shown further, due to the enormous annoyance of thousands of people) I cannot be a judge of who is right, or whose rights should be given priority. Cartoons get lost pretty easily, but not if these themes instruct a people ignorant in social graces.... A good example would be the "nigger"  caricatures of the 19th and early twentieth century. African peoples were depicted as step 'n fetchit, stupid, humorous servants whose great thrill was shown to be no more than having 'rhythm' while posing a sexual threat to white peoples' daughters, all the while too lazy to do more than chew on their watermelons. I am sure these are now highly prized by black collectors in the US, since African Americans are now an integral and vibrant part of a whole society, which will tend to poke fun at the stupidity of our bigoted forebears, and little more!  Someday, Islam will look back on frail, biased caricatures, and will laugh at them, the way I laughed at the Killer Weed (marijuana) commercials of the twenties, shown on a TV documentary last night. Perhaps they will wear these on bravado T-shirts, like Western young people lampooning  McCarthyism, or  Victorian prudery of any kind.

Until the eighties, a strong voice controlled film making in the US. They called their group the "The Legion of Decency". These church people (Christians and Jews) formed to screen film content to exclude suggestively biased material of any kind, whether showing religious, sexual or anti-american persuasion. Today, society has been strengthened through documentation of how social bias and hate literature hurt innocent members of society. They are more able to cope with individual perspectives, even if they seem biased, through conscientious airing of these difficulties in publication. A good example of this process was the public outcry, made by the Methodist church, against a film work called "The Last Temptation of Christ". Though church members had not seen the work, and though they were told that this was a work of fiction by Nikos Katsanzakous, they did not allow for artistic impressionism, or self-determination from within their own tenets. That is, they tried to block the film before it was marketed, in the belief that this effected hate propaganda toward the image of Christ, forgetting that each one of them had been taught to see themselves, their lifes'paths and society as the "Christ within".
Where one persons' intellectual perspective proved to be an enriching and intruiging journey for intellectuals, here were the dove-flinging fundamentalists who loudly indulged their perogative to badger the arts, without intelligent application. Human Rights issues must work both ways, or a society becomes stagnant, and , in fact, slanted or biased from oppression.

'Very probably there were some, including Lloyd George and Balfour, who intended the declaration as the Zionist interpreted it, as an intention to create a Jewish State or British - protected Jewish entity in all or part of Palestine. Certainly, the Arabs had this view as well.

"... it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country."*

..This wording was at least in part, a reflection of Edwin Montagu's conviction, shared by other influential British Jews, that the very existence of a Jewish state would call into question the loyalties of Jews living in other countries and be a source of antisemitic persecution."

The above is an excerpt from a long description of works and philosophies surrounding Israel and Zion towards the aims of Britain and Lord Balfour.
Balfour Declaration Page

*What is important, whether, eventually, the youth of Afghanistan will lampoon the offensive European art, or whether the upsetting cartoon is so boringly biased that it deserves strong criticism, is that acceptance for ones' own established way of life should not be so fatuously indulged as to supercede the worlds' cherished aspirations towards entrenched freedoms which serve everyones' needs. (This should be emphasized for both cultures, considering disproportionate rioting and subsequent deaths after the protest in Afghanistan.)

As important is that imaging language (the semiotic implications) should be refreshed by discussion and allowance made for the inevitable - not all people perceive in the same manner. We do not know (as plebians) about intellectual trespass, and it is because of a hidden type of McCarthyism in Doctoral societies. Since no-one will talk about health or cultural fundamentals, as if millions more people would know what psychological weapons to use against each other, there is much secrecy and even belligerent suppression of the freedom we people should have to explain some difficulties to each other.

I will mention a pretty well- documented example.  The Turkana African tribespeople are afraid to use spoon shapes to stir food, saying that they do not wish to disturb their connection to God. British people came back from India and Africa, after meeting with differing cultures like this, saying "mind your p's and q's".  In those days, meditative intellectuals probably grasped the physiological foundations synthesizing powers of illumination in both speech and  vision. So, they asked people to be polite to neighbours who were more sensitized (probably because of diamond dust in a nations' ecology).

Today, the idea just means "be polite", because science will have it that only what it has founded through experiment is a realised fact, and modernized society will not observe some of the articles or relics religion keeps, to "show" what problems people may face. Modern societies do not seem to have the time to study arts or music languages, so on the whole, it will make a vulgar (read fundamental and not educated) interpretation, leaving us all subject to the whims or omissions of aristocrats in governments.

If a whole nation protests the portrayal of someone holy in a rude fashion, there may be marked physiological reasons, due to an oil or mineral rich ecology, where earth conditions are not well-groomed. So, "civilized" or richer countries should start assisting publishers with some sympathetic guidelines that make both cultural and scientific sense. Mass Communications rely upon hard science, so some intellectual discussion from not just ecumenical council, but from the arts and scientific communities, should precede any possibility of accidental insult.

So, what we all need is governing that, as in the sixties hip revolution,  budgets for and celebrates the languages of acculturation.

PS: See "Backspin" (Evolution of an Outrage),re: cartoons and The Middle East, and watch how tied up in knots people feel. Time to alert people toward understanding image as documentation, not just for personal, emotional re-interpretation!
(Clue: Politicians present a voice for troubles societies, and may embody what is problematic as themselves.
Link to: Backspin Forum

Bye for now, Sue



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