There are few Melbourne institutions quite like the work of Michael Leunig. He is a strange man, with sometimes quite strange insights. He is a newspaper cartoonist, yet he barely draws a caricature. For a cartoonist, his best work rarely has much to do with his drawings. In fact his artwork is simple at best, rarely detailed and not necessarily all that beautiful. The beauty in Leunig’s work is in his ideas, in his thoughts, in the dream he conveys on the page.
I’ve always felt an affinity with Michael Leunig. I would love to be a newspaper cartoonist but for the fact that I can’t really draw. And it’s really Leunig’s words that capture the imagination. His prayers, to a God he knows he doesn’t understand, and his pleas to a world that doesn’t understand him. When he was on “Enough Rope” a few weeks ago you saw a man who couldn’t answer a question directly, and yet one who has incredible wisdom and insight into the world.
Someone at Home Group the other week mentioned their love for Leunig’s stuff, and specifically mentioned one of Leunig’s philosophies. He put it like this (and I haven’t found the actual quote so this is paraphrased somewhat) – “In any situation, there are only two reactions: fear or love. And in every situation, you can choose which reaction you will have – a reaction of love or a reaction of fear.”
We live in a country, and in a culture that has consistently chosen fear. We send back boatloads of innocent people who are fleeing oppressive regimes because we are frightened we might let in a terrorist. Our news and current affairs are focused on one thing and one thing only, exploiting the fears and concerns of the nation to build ratings. We are told every day of all the things we need to be afraid of. And in the words of those great philosophers – The Black Eyed Peas – “Where is the love?”