Friday, February 17, 2006

The cow theme in Danish and Saudi Cartoon Art

There is something called peaceful co-existence, where you can compete without becoming enemies.
You try to see who is best at something, for instance in this case cartoons, and then you can have a wholesome laugh about it. No harm's done. You don't have to hurt the other party's finer sentiments. If you know that the relationship is based on mutual love, understanding and respect, you can feel free to laugh a hearty laugh at something the other one cherishes the most. Take for instance the Danes. They have very fond feelings for the cow. They can nearly compete with the Hindus in this respect. They might be hurt when they see this cow (Arab News beginning of February), jumping or being thrown up in the air and entering a string that may mean the death of it. Or if it doesn't meet its death this way it may come to a more violent end due to the explosive contents of its stomach, placed there by some friendly person, who wisheds the best for Danish dairy products.

The Danes also know how to make funny cartoons. Sometimes the target is found abroad, sometimes it is found among themselves. In this cartoon (Roald Als in Daily Politiken beginning February) You hear Danish foreign minister Per Stig Moeller complain about the Muslim consumer boycott. The man in front with both arms raised is the CEO of Dansk Industry (Confederation of Danish Industri). He critized the Danish government's handling of the cartoons crisis. The members of his organization have lost substantial export orders. What is the cost - or value - of freedom of speech? In a biblical sense there is no doubt about which value is heaviest. But in this context we try to not let religious sentiments interfere.

The two very little caracters crouching and bowing to the Cow are Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen in his cave man costume, and Pia Kjaersgaard the leader of the Danish People's party. These two are the two most powerful Danish politicians. He is PM and leader af Venstre, the Danish liberal Party, which forms the government in Denmark, together with the Conservatives. The Danish People's party is the parliamentary support party that supplies the votes necessary for the government's parliamentary majority. Dancing to the right (with a V) is the finance minister.

Why does Anders Fogh Rasmussen wear a cave man's costume? This is the cartoonist's way of describing his ideological transformation from a hard core liberalist believing in the virtues of the free market system to a more softspoken responsible politician, who is also preoccupied with maintaining a well-functioning welfare society in Denmark. The money saved on development aid to poor countries is given to old age pensioners. That secures the government's longevity.
Anders Rasmussen was hard core right wing when this stand could favour his career among the young lions of the liberal party. When he got closer to power he knew instinctively that to get the top post and keep it, he would have to move towards the centre of Danish politics, which means that he is squeezing the once dominant Social Democratic party in the centre of the political spectrum in the Danish parliament.


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