Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The comics as an impetus for social action

"Pearls Before Swine" by Stephan Pastis was picked up by my local paper only recently and it has become one of my favorite comic strips. Pastis uses an unlikely menagerie as spokes-animals for his commentary on a variety of social and political issues. Rat and Goat are featured in the strip that appears above but others include Pig (and Pigita), crocodiles, zebras, and sometimes Pastis himself.

Today's strip caught my fancy because as a nascent blogger I can identify with Goat's frustration at learning that the only recognition that his blog garners is that it "sounds pretty boring". I mention this only because it got me thinking about earlier strips in the series, and I think I have had a revelation involving a current hot topic in current events: I'm pretty sure that Stephan Pastis is the creator of the "Occupy Wall Street" movement. Seriously.

A few months ago "Pearls Before Swine" featured a story line that highlighted the economic divide that separates the "haves" from the "have-nots" (the ninety-nine percent), and culminated with one of the characters (Rat, maybe) calling for an armed rebellion against the powers-that-be. While it was all presented in the context of a comic strip it was impossible to escape the conclusion that Pastis was addressing a serious issue, and that he really felt a rebellion (not necessarily armed) was needed to bring about the necessary change. (The story line ended with Pastis in Federal prison on charges of fomenting insurrection.)

OK, maybe the strip wasn't the sole reason for the OWS movement. but it certainly raised awareness of some of the issues that underlie the movement and suggested a possible means of redress. That didn't come from the news coverage or the op-ed page; the comics provided this bit of socio-political awareness. So that's my point: sometimes to really understand what's going on in the world and what we need to do about it, you don't need to read the news section, you need to read the comics.

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