And now something completely different from Superhero comics: Joe Sacco’s “Kushinagar”. This is a webcomic that’s available online from Joe Sacco, legendary cartoonist/reporter who actually writes about foreign policy while actually traveling to foreign places. He is the author of such well regarded and well awarded works as “Palestine” and “Footnotes in Gaza”.
This is a part of his new collection called “Journalism”, which will be due out in 2012. That would be an audacious and perhaps even arrogant title for just about any other cartoonist unless you happened to be named “Joe Sacco”. Sacco is kind of a Michael Moore of the cartooning world. He really writes about stories that wouldn’t be news if the corporate media did stories that actually mattered. We kind of get the same kind of corporate media that Jim Carrey gets in the Truman Show and for pretty much the same reasons. (Or here’s why you get car crashes and the murders between poor people instead of real stories in your newspaper. I also talk about these things here. Need to review more of those books…)
For example, a number of his books deal with sectarian conflict in the Middle East. You will wait decades before getting any real news about that area of the world and you will never ever ever get anyone to interview Hezbollah without condemning them first as Evil terrorists. Unless you’re a rogue blonde elf information terrorist who runs his news show. There are people who think Julian Assange is doing a great job. Likewise, the subject of this comic is foreign poverty in India, especially the untouchables. You don’t get news like this because one its a downer and most news outlets are there to prep you for the ads. Advertisers like happy talk. Two: you’re not supposed to know how people in other countries live. You’re not supposed to know about the Mythical World of Norway, or the third world poverty that American multinationals make profits from.
This comic is a primer as to why poverty in India will probably continue to endure. Its not fun to read. It’s even more depressing when you realize there are people in the United States that want you to live just like an untouchable in an Indian village. This is the dream of Austerity in black and white. But while well rendered its not pretty.
Here’s a page. This is the setup:
“We met in Lucknow, where he is based, and drove for a day to reach the district, where many of the dalits—“untouchables”—are experiencing not just abject poverty but real hunger. After three visits to the same hamlet, Piyush and I were essentially chased out of the area by higher caste individuals who did not like us snooping around. We decided to visit other villages, but briefly, for no more than a couple hours each, to avoid the same result.”
This is heartbreaking.
You find out that kids usually only go to school for the meals but half the time the meals aren’t there. You find out that while the peasants have land its usually not enough land to do anything with. Further, their land is often swindled away in what looks like the Indian version of predatory loans. Same as it ever was and all over I guess. You find out that corruption is so rampant that very seldom do things ever work. You find out that the poor in India either get no justice or slow justice that’s a day late and a dollar short. You find out that not only do the upper caste members hate the poor they continue to rule over the peasants. They’ll even hire thugs to beat up the few who do fight back and even to chase away Joe Sacco when he asks too many questions. You find out that while you may have complaints about how you’re treated in the United States it’s not quite as horrible as the Third World, yet. On the other hand, people in Norway or France probably look at how I live as an American–with student debt I’ll probably never pay back and no health care insurance–as some other level of Hell.
A fantastic and disturbing read. This is the kind of journalism your newspaper should be doing–I’ve given up all hope on local tv news–if they were allowed to. 4.8 out of 5 stars. Just outstanding work. I definitely look forward to the whole collection.
- Joe Sacco wins Oregon Book Award for Footnotes in Gaza(comicsbeat.com)