In developing countries, any attempts to raise an awareness of wrongdoing usually results in imprisonment or death. In the West, unless an individual has clear access to money and power, the system itself stonewalls any recourse. As a political cartoonist, trying to remove himself from the US no-fly list, it has proven very difficult to affect systemic change. Over the years, I was told by lawyers my phone was likely tapped and my garbage was being sifted through; my political leanings were questioned by the ministry of transportation; I was lied to by the deputy prime minister, while police officers surreptitiously questioned a carpenter – asking him how he was being paid for his service during my house renovation. I was sent on multiple goose chases to different government ministries, each claiming ignorance and blaming other ministries for Canada's post 9-11 quagmire.
A six-year process, which culminated at a hearing with the Canadian Human Rights Commission last year has, to date, yielded no clear remedy. The Canadian government's no-fly list is a serious infringement on the rights of Canadian travelers. Federal Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart once said the no-fly list “represents a serious incursion into the rights of travelers in Canada, rights of privacy and rights of freedom of movement.”
Seeking public remedy for a wrongdoing is a near impossibility anywhere in the world. More than 300 people have died this past week in Syria during the uprising against the wrongdoings of President Bashir Assad's regime. Individuals attempting to raise public awareness are killed. The Syrian poet and songwriter Ibrahim Qashoush was found dead in a river with his larynx ripped out. He was abducted and killed by Syrian security forces in a manner only a brute would metaphorically illustrate. Qashoush was known as the “nightingale of the revolution,” who composed political songs that criticized Syrian authority. Since his death, Qashoush's songs have spread across Syria, where anti-government protesters chant them as their own. When individual actions resonate with the greater public, they become part of our daily lexicon – helping us verbalize and protest at societal iniquities and inequalities.
Jonathan May-Bowles, the man who threw a pie at media baron Rupert Murdoch, was also sentenced last week. Bowles pleaded guilty to pieing Murdoch during a commission hearing regarding the phone-hacking scandal. Leaving court, after pieing Murdoch, Bowles cheekily quoted Murdoch when providing evidence, telling reporters: “I would just like to say this has been the most humble day of my life.” Pieing, as defined by the group Entartistes, symbolizes human freedom and is an act of defiance that gives the power back to those people who feel helpless and powerless in the face of authority.
Murdoch who claims he paid little attention to, “maybe a call on a Saturday night once a month,” has now been caught. Murdoch denies any responsibility in the current phone-tapping fiasco. When asked who was responsible he said, “People I trusted and people they trusted.” He then confirmed that he was invited to the prime minister's residence after the election through the back door and was personally thanked for supporting the ruling Tories. He said, “I was invited within a couple of days (of the election) for a cup of tea, to be thanked for my support of Prime Minister Cameron.” This journalistic rot, on full display in the United Kingdom, mirrors the incestuous relationship enjoyed between the political and business elite. The general public has a perception that laws, rules and regulations are routinely bent for those who live and breath within this rarified environment. The perception follows that those responsible in this current scandal got away and knowingly violated the law. Murdoch's editors Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson were both questioned regarding their roles in the ongoing phone tapping and corruption charges. This proved rather embarrassing for Prime Minister Cameron, who had employed Coulson as his media chief. Henry Kissinger, famously said in an interview with The Washington Post, “The illegal we do immediately; the unconstitutional takes a little longer.” Kissinger has never been pied, except in an episode of the animated TV series, “Family Guy.”
During a press conference in 2008 in Iraq, Muntadhar al-Zaidi threw both of his shoes at George W. Bush as an act of protest and extreme disrespect. He yelled, “This is a farewell kiss from the Iraqi people, you dog,” as he threw his first shoe toward the US president. He then shouted, as he threw his second shoe, “This is for the widows and orphans and all those killed in Iraq.” There was no acknowledgement by President Bush to the legitimacy of the public frustration in Iraq for the occupying forces. Bush's response to the shoe throwing was dismissive – he said, “It's a way for people to draw attention. I don't know what the guy's cause was. I didn't feel the least bit threatened by him.” Al-Zaidi was dragged out of the room and severely beaten following the shoe-throwing incident and shouting above the man's screams, Bush quipped, “That's what people do in a free society, draw attention to them.” A large blood trail was photographed where security agents dragged al-Zaidi – beaten within an inch of his life.
There are two methods of removing the causes of protest: the first, by destroying the freedoms which are essential to its existence; and the second, by giving to every citizen the same opinions, the same passions and the same interests. Al-Zaidi later testified he was moved to throw his shoes because he did not know what achievements Bush was praising in Iraq. “The achievements I could see were the more than 1 million martyrs and a sea of blood. There are more than 5 million Iraqi orphans because of the occupation. More than a million widows and more than 3 million displaced because of the occupation,” said al-Zaidi. “I wanted to restore the pride of the Iraqis in any way possible, apart from using weapons.” In Tikrit, a copper monument, three meters in height, was dedicated to his shoe-throwing action. Meanwhile, an online game, “Sock and Awe” inspired by al-Zaidi's actions, has been played by tens of thousands of people around the world – with 100,000,000 shoes smacking George W. Bush in the face.
As of this evening. that number is now 100,000,002.
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