Political Cartoons

Dec 07, 2010
*Special to asia!

Charlie Brown, Garfield, Mutts, and even Mickey Mouse have been used as tools to convey political messages. Once again, cartoon heroes are being used to make a stand, except that this time the artists aren't involved. It's the people that are taking a stand, with a little help from Facebook.

Google trends marked a spike in spearches for cartoon characters last Saturday. I might have contributed to that spike. When I spotted a friend on Facebook change his profile picture, or avatar, to a picture of Curious George, I asked him, "What's up with the monkey?" He explained that it's part of a campaign to bring an end to violence against children. How curious indeed, I thought. So I did a little search about it.

Nothing much came up about it. No organisation laid claim to initiating such a campaign. Apart from the anonymous Facebook page, there was no actual website, no detailed information about the issues at hand, no way to donate money, and nothing about the history of the campaign.

Regardless, I thought it'd be a nifty thing to be a part of, so I swapped the profile photo of my face for the team from the 80s cartoon series, Mobile Armoured Strike Kommand. It felt great. A flood of carefree childhood memories immersed my mind. But what's next? Trawl through all my friends in Facebook to see who else is making a stand of course! 66 out of 802. Yes, I did do a count. That's under 10 per cent. And only two included in their Facebook status what the whole point of having a Smurf or Carebear in their profile picture was for. How where they expecting to make a stand then? Are the rest of us just supposed to know what this sudden obsession for nostalgic caricatures was about?

I did a few more searches on child abuse, and found out that in the United States, National Child Abuse Prevention Month is April. I copied and pasted that link onto my Facebook Wall. A friend 'Liked' it, shared it on her wall, and changed her profile picture and status to show that now, she too was part of this movement.

During my searches, I also came across the US Department of Health and Human Services' Child Welfare Information Gateway, and was enlightened. Helping children meant helping families too. It is important to remember that the families need as much support and understanding as the children need protection.

Having recently worked with underprivileged girls in Nepal, I thought to myself, what cartoons they would recollect? As soon as that thought occured, I realised, there probably wouldn't be any. None of the 42 girls I worked with had a television at home. They didn't even have electricity. They don't have computers as well, so having a Facebook account goes without saying.

‎A friend's status read: "Change your Facebook profile picture to a cartoon from your childhood and invite your friends to do the same. Until Mon. 6th Dec, there shouldn't be human faces on Facebook, but an invasion of memories. This is in support for stopping violence against children."

An invasion of memories. What kind of memories would invade the minds of the girls I worked with, I wondered. For most of them, those memories might be better locked up in some deep, dark, faraway place. Rima's father died from typhiod, leaving her mom to raise her three daughters alone. Sharmila's father used to abuse her and her younger sister, until her mother decided to run away with them. Binita's father died in a motorcycle accident, leaving her mom to raise her and her two brothers alone. The good news is that all of them, right at this moment, are working very hard, together with their families, to put all of this behind them, and work for a brighter future.

This Facebook campaign was fun, and it was easy for everyone to be a part of. Search, right click, download, upload. Done. You don't have to say an extra word or leave your seat. This told me something - people want to be a part of something good, if it was made accessible. They believed in the cause - children should not have to endure abuse. But now, as December 6th has arrived, and people change their profile pictures from their cartoon heros back to photos of themselves in exciting places and doing exciting things, what happens to the children?


45 Facebook Campaign - Bmycharity


Just as I was thinking about all this a friend in Aceh, who founded an organisation to help children with cleft palates, sends me a link to a new campaign she's launched. It's called Add a Smile. How apt, I thought. ⌘C. ⌘V. And the link was on my Facebook Wall. Another friend 'Liked' it. I'd added, "Don't just talk about fighting against child abuse. Bring a smile to a child's face this season. There are many simple ways you can do it. Here's one."

This time, it will take a bit more than the previous campaign. We will have to get off our seat, go to our wallets (if it isn't already next to us) take out that credit card, key some numbers into the fields on the webpage, and hit that submit button. How many will do it?

Instead of standing against something, we need to spend some time to reflect on what that means. What do we stand for? Let's stand up for safer homes for children. Let's stand up for the parents who need our understanding and support. Instead of pointing a finger at abusive parents, let's offer a helping hand.

debby ngDebby Ng forayed into journalism following failed attempts at becoming a world-class equestrian. A wildlife crime investigator, underwater photographer, dive master and founder of a marine conservation organisation, she spends what remains of her time writing about the environment, its wildlife, and its people.

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