I’ve looked the word up; looked at definition, synonyms and the languages of the world that include the word in its vocabulary and find that I feel a little uncomfortable.
Based on definition, which includes “deride and criticise“, I find something different implied in the use of satire than that which I had envisaged. As for synonyms, I don’t feel much happier at learning that one of my favourite words (a suggested synonym) “lampoon“, is defined as “publicly criticise (someone or something) by using ridicule, irony or sarcasm”. Another synonym “travesty” is defined as a “false, absurd or distorted representation of something” when I had thought it involved an horrific representation of someone or something – a long-held misunderstanding of the use of the word that I have held. There are other suggested alternatives to the word satire. I hovered over: mock, ridicule and deride and felt a certain sense of discomfort. I continued, followed further links and discovered the word pasquinade; I liked the sound of it until I learned that it is defined as satire or lampoon and that it involved the display or delivery of such in a public place. I read on and learned that pasquinade derives from the word pasquino, Italy in the late sixteenth century, pasquino being the name of a Statute of Rome and on which, abusive Latin verses were posted annually and I smiled at the potential. With another click of the mouse, I find satire is to imply: poke fun at and take off and I started to feel a little happier. This is the only reference to humour I find on my click travels around satire until I follow the link to cartoon but before looking closer at cartoon, I wanted to learn something of the use and views held in other countries.
I learned that the word satire appears in most if not all languages of the world and that satirising has a place further back in history. Nero and Caligula are still subjected; Adolf Hitler, Political figures, the Church and Dictators have received the attention of the satirist and little has diminished this almost universal mode of communication. I don’t know if definition or effect of the practice of satirising is consistent around the world nor do I know if it has remained so throughout history but we learn that representation by satire does cause offence.
For me the expressions of satire feels all the more uncomfortable when I think of “freedom of speech and expression” and wouldn’t wish to weigh this against the sensibilities of individuals who find certain or even all satirising repugnant.
This is where I arrive at support for freedom of speech and expression as promulgated by the maxim attributed to Voltaire; that is I may say: “I disapprove (as opposed to agree or disagree) of what you say but defend your right to say it”. I reserve the positive right (for I know of no law to the contrary and probably wouldn’t pay more than lip service anyway) to say that I disapprove but do, wholeheartedly, support your right to say it. This sentiment is not set in stone anywhere, it is not imposed with the fear of sanction or coercive measures, it endures by and with the consent of society that has won freedoms when life might have been as Thomas Hobbes described in his Leviathan on the life of man without society, the paragraph ending: “And the life of man solitary, poore, nasty, brutish and short”.
I am glad to have followed the link to Cartoon and to have a full account of this visual form as an artistic style of caricature described as either simple or exaggerated; non or semi realistic, humorous illustration. The definition has evolved and presently rests squarely with humour and of course satire; the satire that exaggerates in a non realistic or semi realistic humourous illustration of a subject and to poke fun at. Perhaps we can all accept that exaggeration, non or semi realistic and humour is our preferred take on our appreciation for the art of satire and when we don’t like an example or even disapprove we may say so.