The older I get, the more I think we need a word for the opposite of nostalgia — a word to express the dark humor-slash-remorse one feels upon remembering that the terrible things one dreaded in the past have come true, usually in forms even worse than we imagined. Robert Chalmers, in Newsweek, interviews the 78-year-old visual satirist probably best known in America for his collaborations with Hunter S. Thompson:
We were sitting in a bar in Aspen, Colorado, almost 20 years ago, I remind Ralph Steadman, when he first told me that he’d become a cartoonist because he wanted to change the world. It wasn’t the first time he’d made this declaration and it wouldn’t be the last. But it’s a mission statement that seems horribly apposite this afternoon, as we sit in the living room of his house near Maidstone, Kent, watching live news coverage from the print warehouse where Said and Cherif Kouachi, the killers of the Charlie Hebdo artists, are making their last stand.
“It is interesting that you should mention that remark today,” says Steadman, “because, looking at what has been happening in Paris, I now feel that I have succeeded. I did manage to change the world, and it is a worse place than it was when I started. Far worse – an achievement I had always assumed would be impossible.”…
Some years ago, when we were travelling in Utah, Steadman told me that he feels interviews sometimes risk sounding like posthumous tributes. What adjectives, I asked him, would he like to see in his own obituary?
“Distasteful,” he said. “Unhygienic. Truculent. Moody. Provocative towards bastards.”
“How about long-lived?”
“Oh, yes. I’d like my obituary to say: ‘He was very long-lived. Endlessly. We thought he’d never go away’. A pause. “And we were right: he didn’t.”…
“I think – I know – that satire does frighten fascists. Fascists don’t like satire. They don’t like it at all. And they especially don’t enjoy visual satire. Because of its unique power to communicate. As Wittgenstein [Ludwig] asserted, the only thing of value is the thing you cannot say. Sometimes you can’t communicate the idea or the emotion, but a drawing can. You draw something, and people say: ‘Oh, I see what you’re getting at now’.” And that thought, Steadman says, “brings us back to what happened in that room at Charlie Hebdo. Some things,” he adds, “there are no words for”.
Steadman’s graphic response to the Charlie Hebdo murders — as well as some of his other works — are at the link. Well worth clicking over to see!