Thursday, February 16, 2006

Ronald is laughing it off.

This picture puzzles me. It was taken during the three-day violent demonstrations against ' THE' cartoons in Lahore, Pakistan. (as many as 70,000 people have been said to be involved according to some reports).
I am not sure exactly sure what these people are trying to do here with Ronald. It looks like one man may be trying to contort Ron's leg but Ron looks like he's actually enjoying himself of course, and that’s what strikes me the most - that RMcD ends up looking so relax, like he's making fun of the petty attempt to destroy him [or to steal his shoes who knows...]. The contrast between the anger of the the guy in white [who looks quite irritated] and the smile of RMcD is interesting. The opposition is also reinforced by the contrast in colors. While the protesters are all wearing grey, brown, and black Ronald is wearing defiant bright colors, the colors of mustard and ketchup. At the same time, it also looks like the other 'protesters' are also smiling or at least enjoying themselves. How serious is the whole thing? There's a guy in the background ready to take pictures.

What is certain is that Ronald looks very western [one does not associate clowns with the Islamic world], but you can also oppose the demonstrators made of flesh and blood which the plastic icon which here symbolizes
America, and even probably Western civilization as a whole. This picture could be easily seen as symbolic for the differences between the West and the Islamic world, and clearly whether metaphorically or not, it is the smile which is most defiant and no matter what, the protesters are not going to take it off. They may be able to destroy this “3-D cartoon” [I’m not sure it can easily burn] but the smile is indestructible. One could also argue that the protesters may think Ronald is the closest thing the West has to a Prophet – but it is probably more simply that it is the only western icon they can put their hands on, along with flags. It's not like there are many Christian symbols in Pakistan! It is in any case one representation against another. Putting down an icon is quite common anyway – let’s not forget the most recent photo op of pulling down Saddam's statue which had quite an impact on the American public opinion.

The less funny part is that three people ended up dead during the demonstrations, including an 8 year-old boy. My first reaction was to think that this demonstration was probably not as orchestrated as the other ones in other countries – 70,000 is no small number. But it looks like things may be more complicated than they look. Many groups are obviously eager to embarrass Musharraf, who is not the most democratic leader in the world either. It’s hard to know, really:

A security official said members of the outlawed militant group Sipah-e-Sahaba and others from Jamaat al-Dawat -- which is linked to the outlawed Laskhar-e-Tayyaba group -- were among the rioters, and were trying to turn the cartoon furor against Musharraf's government.

"People belonging to outlawed militant groups participated in today's rally, and some of them attacked public and private property," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. "They were the ones who stirred up violence."

NOTE: Judging by McDonald's Corp.'s latest results, Ronald McDonald has all the reasons in the world to keep smiling. Who cares if they're trying contort his leg, or steal his shoes. There will eventually be a new one to replace him.


At 19:20, Blogger Ayesha said...

Joker and Thief, I am glad that you do realise that these demonstrations were not so much about the cartoon controversy as they were about the political dynamics of the Pakistani state. And by the looks of it, the militants groups were behind the destruction that took place in Lahore on Tuesday.

I would also like to clarify one thing. The Muslim world is not all gray and white - it is very much alive and colorful. Don't let a handful of fanatical Mullahs misguide you with the Muslim world. :)

At 19:21, Blogger Ayesha said...

the link:\02\15\story_15-2-2006_pg1_2

At 09:20, Blogger Joker & Thief said...

Right. We should have been things a bit clearer. This was really just an analysis of a picture which happpens to have been all over the news and what we were trying to do is see why it was a particularly powerful image - hence our comment on the contrasts, etc... It was not meant to generalize anything about the Muslim world - although I can also see that it probably just reinforces the biased view of the Muslim world by the West.
Thanks for the details on the McDonald's rampage. I suspected there was something like that (see the second half of our post). Now I also wonder if/why/how a handful of "fanatical Mullahs" can get so many people out in the streets. One cannot help thinking there is much "discontent" to say the least.
And yes, I have noticed even Muslim demonstrations can be quite colorful - moslty green it seems though. :)


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