The Illusions of Oz

WIZARD_OF_OZ_ORIGINAL_POSTER_1939April 11, 2013

The Wizard of Oz was the ruler of the Land of Oz in his Emerald City. It is a fable that reminds me of the smoke and mirrors that is the National Myth believe about America. Why are so many today fooled by it and who is that little man behind the curtain, anyway? But perhaps more importantly, does anyone really care to find out?

I happen to have a 1957 hardbound copy of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” written by L. Frank Baum in 1900. Its pages are now yellowed; a few of them have ripped with age. I value it for these reasons. The book also has scotch tape binding the full-color front cover of Dorothy on the yellow brick road with her companions, the Tin Woodman, the Lion, the Scarecrow and her trusty dog, Toto.

Headed to the Emerald City, this unlikely trio each yearned in their own way to meet the legendary Wizard of Oz. The odd inhabitants of the Land of Oz all wore green-colored glasses that made their country appear as a brilliant, magical green land dotted everywhere with precious stones. They revered their Wizard of Oz and told Dorothy and her companions that only he, in his Emerald City palace, might be able to help them resolve their otherwise impossible individual situations.

The only problem was Dorothy and her companions found out that the Wizard of Oz was an imposter. He had appeared to them at different times as a fierce ball of fire, a lovely woman, a great head with moving eyes and as a scary, ugly beast. Behind each charade he declared, “I am the Great and Terrible Oz. “

In the 1957 book version, upon Dorothy and her companions’ second visit to the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy’s dog Toto knocked down a screen in the corner of the room they had entered. There, exposed, was a small old man with a balding head. The Tin Woodsman, taken aback, asked him to identify himself, hatchet in hand. “I am Oz the Great and Terrible Oz,” he said, but this time in a trembling voice. “I have been making believe.”

In the movie version, once exposed, the Wizard of Oz says, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” But the jig was up and he confessed to being a former circus performer from Omaha who had landed in a balloon as a young man in the strange country of Oz. The people upon seeing him drop downs from the sky were afraid of him, he said, and promised to do whatever he wished. He fooled “his” people for as long as it lasted.

I find this fable the perfect metaphor for what has happened to America. As people realize government by consent of the governed has lost meaning and substance, we are told to pay no attention because it is all “conspiracy theory.” As comedian Bill Hicks once said, “You are free to do as we tell you.”

Seems to me the Wizard of Oz lives today as the many ways Americans are led to believe the illusion of American freedoms and liberties. How is it done? It’s the work of the public relations departments of government and corporations shaping how the public thinks and the opinions they hold. Without public opinion in their favor, many politicians, universities, political philosophies, banks, insurance companies, presidential administrations, corporate products and services, etc., would have a more difficult time achieving their corporate goals of market domination.

I have learned that in America and the world the ability to dominate and control, albeit the market or just another person, seems to be the endgame. The end justifies the means and gaining the favor of public opinion is all about amassing the power of money to do so. As a result, the modern “man behind the curtain” is alive and well. “He” carries out his charades with impunity, fooling the people with make-believe; but as I mentioned earlier, most people don’t want to even know what or who “he” is because like the inhabitants of Oz, they are afraid and promise to do as they are told.

Deception is the rule not the exception. Some deceptions are subtle and others are blatant but all are intended to capture your mind in agreement  so you will consent and/or consume. Such make-believe manufactured by public relations departments is the “magic that make something not so great or even horrific in the lives of everyday people, “normal.”

Here are a few examples. Cigarettes were made glamorous in the 1920’s by marketers. No one knew at the time the Affordable Health Care Act was passed it would double insurance premiums for the average American family. Pregnant women are now told to take shots though it was common knowledge until recently never to do so. We are now told public servants are public officials. We’re told unemployment fluctuates between 7 and 8 percent but John Williams, economist of shadowstats.com, reports it is more like 24 or 25 percent.

I could go on and on with examples, but suffice to wonder, how long will the National Myth prevail?

Think outside the box. Live outside the cage.

~sojourner

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