In Defense of Satire

“[I]n whatever department of human expression, wherever there is objective truth there is satire.” Wyndham Lewis in Rude Assignment

 

satire cartoons

To write this post, I read about the origin of satire, about Aristophanes (c. 446 BC – c. 386 BC ), a Greek comic playwright, and the Roman poet Horace (65 BC – 8 BC), whose works inspire and form the model for writing modern-day satire. But sha, na dem sabi, I know that I know that I know that satire originated in Nigerian culture. How do I know?

After I ran across a road without a zebra crossing or traffic lights or a pedestrian bridge, just missing that crazy driver who sped out of nowhere, a woman selling oranges by the roadside exclaimed, “You dey craze? You wan kill persin?” so I turned around to look at the yeye driver who’d almost cut my young life short, and then realised she was talking to me.

She could have blasted the government for not providing infrastructure. She could have cursed the driver for failing to observe common-sense speed limit. The irony was that she chose me as the subject of her satire. She exaggerated my role as a potential killer, exposed me to ridicule with her loud gesticulations, and criticized my lack of judgement. And the humour? Well, here I am writing this piece and laughing retroactively, twenty years too late.

You can describe the human condition with white chalk on a blackboard, spacing your letters evenly and clearly, but people may yawn and rub their eyes after a while. You can show how the problems of the world are at once “un”trivialized and brought into sharp focus by employing irony, exaggeration, and/or humour, and people may stay up late to watch the show. This is satire and provoking change, if only in a shift in thinking, is the endgame.

Satire’s overtness, sometimes camouflaged by its subtlety and silent sophistication, is blended into much of what we watch and read, but is often overlooked because we appreciate these works for their entertainment value only. Perhaps the authors want to make people laugh before they make them think.

The #BringBackOurGirls campaign focuses on the serious business of finding and freeing the over 200 girls kidnapped from a Nigerian secondary school in Chibok. While we are still lighting candles for them, questions surrounding the culpability of Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, the legality of the first lady’s “tribunal” and the state of security in Nigeria, especially in the light of recent bomb attacks, continue to make rounds on social media.

It is the cartoons and videos, not the essays, expressing the general mood of the country that have captured my attention the most. I see these works as satires. Some of the media that zoom in on the Nigerian first lady’s perceived gaffes, have come under attack, because satire can be misunderstood when we view these works for their ridicule value alone. Perhaps the authors want to shock people first and then make them think.

 

“Satire is a mirror where beholders generally discover everybody’s face but their own.” Jonathan Swift

satire in cartoons

Politics and satire live on the same street. However, I cannot imagine that President Obama, or any other president pouts and refuses breakfast because of a political cartoon splashed on the front page of a newspaper. This is not to say that satire cannot be a demeaning and horrifying personal attack, the pendulum can swing to any extreme, but I’m referring to satire, which has as its greater purpose constructive social criticism to further dialogue and/or action.

 

Uneasy the head that bears the crown

politics 101

 

As a child, I had frequent bouts of malaria. At my mother’s insistence, not only did I have to wait until the smell of sheltox faded into the walls of my room, but I also had to sleep under a white mosquito net. Once every few months I would stand in front of her under the dim inquisition lights of our verandah, hands outstretched as she placed three tablets of Camoquin in my palm one after the other.

“Swallow it quickly with your Fanta,” she would goad.

I was never fast enough. After taking a sip of Fanta, the Camoquin would begin to melt in the fizzy oasis that was my mouth. I would shut my eyes tight as I swallowed the mixture. After I swallowed the third tablet, the half-empty bottle of Fanta was my reward. I rushed the orange liquid, willing it to eliminate every trace of the bitter Camoquin. After this ritual, my body would stave off malaria for a few months.

This in my view is satire at its best; mix the bitter with the sweet to move society to a better place. When this era is over and the dust settles, the videos, the cartoons, and slangs coined, will be reminders that truth was once too hard to swallow.

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2014

 

Cartoon credits:

Mike Asukwo

Mike Asukwo on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/asukwo

Mike Asokwo on Twitter: @Asukwoeb

 

Khaki no be Leather http://t.co/MAWGvUpCeq

Business as Usual http://t.co/90N6BMfUqu

We, the Experts http://t.co/PeuA19Zsmg

The Eagle has landed https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10203949665842578&set=pcb.10203949674762801&type=1&theater

JTF-Joint Task Family https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10204006243536985&set=pcb.10204006243736990&type=1&theater

 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

WordPress 105… Make Money Blogging or Not?

millionaire

The Introduction

You, online service provider, said your product was free. I downloaded it; waited twenty minutes to install, clicked through for another ten minutes to get past the razzmatazz you call introduction. When I got to the main course, you asked me to upgrade for $49.95. I am not angry… not yet.

I decide to uninstall and search for a truly “free” freebie, but you have refused to go. You have been uninstalling for the past sixty minutes.

However, it is when you, my partner-in-crimefreebies, suggest that I should have read the fine print beneath the shiny free banner that my talons come out, long and wicked like Jezebel’s too. Yes you, I am talking about you, my fellow blogger and friend.

The Main Body

You started blogging because you felt you could write. You started blogging after that status update on your Facebook Timeline attracted 67 likes and 134 comments. Never mind that half the comments were your replies. You did not start blogging because you wanted to make money. You already had a real job. Even after your cousin evaded your question, “Have you read my blog yet?” by telling tales of how people were making money blogging, your heartbeat remained the same. You had looked at him with pity; the jester had never held a job for more than two weeks.

But now you wonder. After a tentative start on WordPress, you danced when your first post gained you five followers and a few likes. You twirled with hands on your hips, and then wriggled down. When you almost reached the floor, you remembered that you have back pain and slowly began your ascent. Your cheeks redden at the memory.

At the recommendation of WordPress, you check out some great posts from your new followers. Like strawberries and ice churning in a blender, one thought revolves in your mind. Can you really make money blogging? Of course, ever since your cousin sowed the seeds, they have been growing quietly like weeds in the periphery of your mind. Five followers have invited you to make money blogging.

Three of the five bloggers are attractive guys in their early to late twenties. They have escaped the corporate slave master’s whip and the income they’ve made off their blogs allows them to live the life they’ve always dreamed. Tanned and bare-chested with surfing shorts and six-packs to kill for, they grin at you, and you wonder how long before you can hand in your resignation. You wonder about the six-pack too—did they get it from blogging?  You shake your head to clear the silly thought. Two of them live in Thailand and the third on some other island. You’ve always known that you are living in the wrong country, and true happiness resides somewhere exotic like Bali.

One of your followers is a mum. She quit her job and leads a stress-free life. Her husband works fewer hours, and together they have more time for their daughter who has a debilitating disease. Their family portrait tugs at something inside you and sentimental music plays in your head. You zero in on the mum’s face to fool your tears. Rubbing your chin, you whip out a mirror and trace the lines on your face.

Your last follower is a bald guy with tattoos. You do not bother to read his profile. You do not want to make money blogging so you can become like him.

You note the similarities of the blogs, and brushing a fly away from your face, you draw conclusions:

Money-seekers are from Mars, altruists are from Venus.

Observing life has deepened your cynicism. When your daughter asked your son for a sweet, he quickly plopped it in his mouth and said it had his germs. When you asked to share his germs, he swallowed and you watched his Adam’s apple bulge. The human instinct is to hoard and not share.

What do Donald Trump and Warren Buffet have in common?

If Donald Trump’s apprentices had to endure the humiliation of elimination, making money blogging cannot be as carefree as white clouds floating in azure skies or lounging on the beach in the prime of your life. When Warren Buffet talks about getting rich, he uses “dirty” words like invest, which connotes delayed gratification.  At this point, you reach for a bowl of ice cream and stop sucking in your stomach. Acquiring a six-pack takes discipline, patience, and determination.

Becoming rich begins with watching a video or signing up for a newsletter.

One blogger declares that he wants to help those who are “serious” enough to sign up for his updates. You have never been more serious in your life. As your cursor hovers over the link, the title of a James Hadley Chase novel floats into your mind: There’s Always a Price Tag. Bye-bye Bali!

If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.

You’ve heard it before and you laugh at the allure that these four letters, E-A-S-Y, hold. The same ideas that sucked people in years ago, now repackaged, suck people in again like a merry-go-round that never stops.

The Conclusion

Thank you for connecting all the dots and for flying with WordPress. If after this post, you decide to unfollow me, I will understand. I have also kissed Bali goodbye.

© Timi Yeseibo 2013

Image design: © Timi Yeseibo 2013

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original