Follow the yellow brick road to the Emerald City where the Wizard of Humongous Metaphors will grant the key to this classic.
“Oh Toto, Why couldn’t we have been swept up in an allegory for the Spanish-American War or Swine Flu or something?”
That’s right. Didn’t know you were watching a 19th century economic sermon while hiding under your blanket, didja? No, you didn’t.
Baum was a Republican, and, such as today, Republicans are suspicious of any government scheme to manipulate the economy outside of Adam Smith’s ‘invisible hand’. ‘Get out of the economy’s way!’ is, and was then, the Republican mantra. How does one get IN the economy’s way? Well, in the 1890s, pretty much the same way as today…by taking wealth-creators and money out of it through taxes, regulation and crony capitalism (the anti-free market capitalism favored by D.C. kleptocrats) and to ruin the wealth-generating engine of the American People by printing worthless money backed by nothing but words. Other than whether or not we could trust the Indians, in the 1890s this was THE raging controversy.
The Federal Reserve was coming, an institution that solidified all of Baum’s fears, an unaccountable cabal of unnamed bankers issuing loans to pork-hungry politicians leaving the United States, eventually, owned by its creditors…the Fed was the wank-fantasy of evil fiduciary criminals already enslaving the American people state by state. Baum and the Republicans HATED the banks, their ‘easy credit’ was merely a trick to enslave and eventually own, not only American labor, but any property, too…and now they wanted to make this gradual counter-revolution happen NATIONALLY with a behemoth central bank who would issue currency, instead of the treasury, and whose currency would be backed by*poof* nothing. The fact that Woodrow Wilson betrayed his country by enabling the banker-blitz on Baum’s Kansas to go nationwide, would, to a gun-slinging man of the West, be more than enough justification for a “.38 Caliber Impeachment”.
The problem in Kansas (and almost everywhere else) was simple: The dollar. A strong dollar bought more, it secured the wealth in your bank account (which doesn’t exist in real terms) so it was imperative that your dollar be worth something tangible…not love, or fairy kisses, which is exactly what a centralized variable currency issued by a faceless jury of nation-rapists would have…gold! goddammit!…(But gold is tricky, Bart, you say, the fact that it’s so rare makes it unwieldy and unresponsive to economic turn).
[clears throat, puffs out chest]…SILVER! Godammit!
You are correct. The problem with gold is that in the whole world there’s LITERALLY only enough to make a cube 60 ft x 60 ft…think about that!
all the gold,
in all time,
in all places,
everything at the bottom of the sea or wedged in somebody’s teeth, everything in Tut’s tomb or electro-plated on your grandad’s wristwatch… could only make a block about as big as a downtown Applebee’s. Ponder that for a moment. (then google it, then return here ashamed for having doubted me)…
SILVER!’s the medium we should use, but we must keep a large stockpile of gold in the treasury, of course. A bedrock of negotiable gold would solidify our national wealth, while a currency of articulated silver could bend and whip with the economy, the dollar must be silver!
Why silver? Why not copper? or Ytterbium?… I’m so glad you asked…
Other than being the only foundation other than gold CONSTITUTIONALLY MANDATED FOR MONEY, at 1/13th the price of gold it’s got a lot more wiggle room, it’s usable…unlike gold…for practical things like fancy tea sets and surgical instruments…but the selling point has to be that there’s so damn much of it. America has coughed up three of the five biggest silver strikes in history…it’s our natural national metal, there’s something very clean and precise about silver, something inherently honest…it’s Quaker-common and Whig-wise whilst still being able to hold its liquor. In a weird way, it’s us, at our most essential …also it kills werewolves, and I don’t have to remind an American how much of a nuisance they were (for confused foreigners ignorant of American history, see The Werewolf War, also Steel Collars: The French&Vampire Campaign 1840-43:…both by Shelby Foote)
Silver is the reasonable, undebauched brother of gold (If there was a dramatized cocktail party of all the negotiable metals, ‘silver’ would be played by Brian Dennehey)
“I love my brother, but…and you can tell me…was he arrested bare-ass on the hood of a camaro going 80 mph? You were with him, they said…he was? What would posses him……St. Patrick’s Day is not an excuse!!”
Everyone wanted the American dream, but west of the Mississippi you HAD to achieve it, a house and some land couldn’t be rented as the profit/loss figures put you upside-down immediately, build your house and buy your land…subsistence farming was the one way an uneducated person could support himself and his family…and buying land meant banks. And now these Central Banksters wanted to make the dollars worth…well, something worthless…they wanted people to go broke, waiting for one rainless spring so they could descend and own whole regions of the state…of the country…of the continent.
I’m J. P. and Saving’s for fools
I have the king of all consumer tools
Credit is free money in a Woolworth’s bag
So, that’s how we play it,
What your momma won’t say it,
That’s how we play the White Slave Rag!
Those goddam robber barons had a stranglehold on the economy through their regional banks, to get the American dream they made it so you had to go through them, and they offered credit for everything…you know what happens when you offer a starving man a piece of poisoned chicken, even if he knows it’s poisoned?…he eats it, because in his need-addled mind dying with a full belly beats dying with an empty one. Debt slavery was rising, year after year the little un-iodized emergency purchases inflated into a fat goiter of debt on the westerner’s neck, you went underwater very quickly in the west chasing your birthright even though we, as a people, already shot Lord Nigel McLimey in the face for that very same thing. Add to that the BATSHIT INSANE WEATHER of the west, irrigation still needed to be dug and drought, it seemed, was always a week away…and now the bastards wanted our dollars to be worth whatever pixie fart the Banks dictated they were worth merely by the amount of bills they printed, not an actual quantity of something valuable…something physical, that was tradable,that, say, you know, we had a shit ton of and what basically invented the state of Nevada…something like that maybe?
Add to this the factory workers who comprised the urban areas…they were less free…they didn’t live or die with the rain but a weak dollar meant lower wages, it meant having to work the same week for less pay, which meant you could not save and could not progress to the middle class. The factories were filled with boys and men who gave up hope, they drank and sometimes rioted over the brutal 16 hour days, when they did no one was spared, women, passing horses, that one kid with the squinty eye…profitless labor mixed with booze and endless ragtime music caused some to snap. Leading newspapers to declare these urban miscreants soulless .
Some people were trying to help, there were reformers who actually gave a crap, but when J.P. Morgan or one the others would put on the heat, they shut the hell up…they were grandstanders, mostly…looking for good press when the Banksters owned all the newspapers…they were pretty useless.
This was the situation when Baum published The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, he was convinced he had a solution for Kansas and the country.
Enter Dorothy, Baum’s Everyman, a normal, good-hearted farm girl whose only friend was her dog ‘Toto’ [‘toto’ was the last word on every page of a 19th Century bank ledger] …Kansas, a vicious twister makes an appearance, it scoops up poor Dorothy’s bank-owned house and tosses it screw-wise into the Technicolor crevasse of economic allegory. It’s important to remember that OZ is not a separate place from Kansas, it IS Kansas, it’s the shadow world BENEATH Kansas, and I don’t mean underground, I mean parallel to Kansas, with all of the issues facing the west in the abstract turned monkey flesh and scarecrow stuffing. And it was elegant.
“Yeah, it looks great from out here, but it smells like munchkin, monkey droppings ruin your car’s finish and a studio apartment costs 5000 bucks.”
Dorothy lands on a witch, the Wicked Witch of the East, killing her, (Lord Nigel) Dorothy lands on her via her house (home ownership, the American Dream)…[the witch in the movie has ‘ruby’ slippers, in the book she wore silver slippers…this is key to Baum’s message, forget ruby, ruby was a stupid change to highlight the brilliance of technicolor, no ruby, the slippers were silver]. Upon killing the Wicked Witch of the East her silver slippers are transferred to Dorothy[Nevada belongs to us, bitches!), but then her sister shows up and demands them, that she was the just inheritor [the semi-successful attempt to remold an American aristocracy has never waned, with every new rich, swinging-dick dubbing himself the Duke of Peoria…just moneyed-folk being moneyed-folk, to the American people’s credit it’s only meaningful if WE believe it, which we don’t, being a citizen of a country entirely comprised of immigrant tradesmen brings with it an anti-snob attribute, think of it this way: we are silver, they want to be gold, and they resent the other silver for laughing when they douse themselves in mustard ]. The Wicked Witch of the West is two things, she is the Central Bank, now called the ‘Fed’ and those pushing for it in Baum’s day, that silver belonging to her sister now should belong to her, she is, by extension, the ultra wealthy industrial magnates who all lived in the west, J.P Morgan etc., who were trying like hellfire to get a central bank.
The good witch of the North [dressed in white. What came from the North for a Kansan that was good. The answer being snow, more specifically snow run-off that lubricated the fields] she rebuffs the West Witch whose greedy for that silver and tells Dorothy to seek the Wizard of Oz [‘OZ’ being the abbreviation for ‘ounce’] who lives in the ‘Emerald City’ [the one dollar note then had a picture of Washington D.C. on the reverse, Baum’s ‘Emerald City’], Dorothy was to take her silver slippers and walk along the yellow brick road, to the wizard who would solve everything [a currency of silver atop of a treasury of gold being the chief metaphor from Baum].
She meets a scarecrow, basically crucified, harried by mocking crows, and cuts him down. His chief complaint? he doesn’t have a brain [the farmer’s were typed as brainless, uneducated fools]. The Wizard could help him too, right? They meet a tinman [factory workers] so rusted shut he couldn’t move [poor working conditions and un-maintained equipment a constant pain in the west] he wishes he had a heart [and wasn’t considered a low-brow thrall of industry, pitiless and violent]. Surely the Wizard could help him, too!
Then they’re beset by a growling, merciless lion…who is scared of them and everyone else [reformers], he really wants some courage so he can be a lion for real. The Wizard can do all!
These four set off down the the golden road, led by Dorothy’s silver slippers, when they come to a forest of talking trees [newspapers] for no reason whatsoever the talking trees start throwing apples [libel] at them as they try to pass, peppering them and making them cringe as they walk.
In this hailstorm, the wicked witch sends her flying monkeys [local bankers] to terrorize the group , mainly the scarecrow, which they rip apart mercilessly.
“You want another day off?! You amble in at ten , you leave at three, then you want holidays for everything…I don’t care if you went to the Wharton School…alpacas! I’m getting those flying alpacas you talked me out of!”
Piecing the scarecrow back together they travel on into a poppy field, [drug use] here the witch has planted the field to make them all sleep and she can sneak in and steal the slippers, roused back to consciousness the group bolts out of the field and make it to the Emerald City.
“Could somebody put on some jazz……or Spongebob or something?…THERE’S RAMEN!……Don’t let…somebody get the ramen, before it, you know, boils over or whatever.”
The city is grand and full of pomp, and each person they talk to looks exactly like the other [one party in charge], the doorman lets them in to see the wizard who is fierce and mysterious, just a floating head above a trough of flame…the poor lion is shitting his fur, but they’re all scared, Dorothy demands help, but before he delivers help the Wizard demands a prize [votes] held by the West Witch, her broom.
They proceed to the Witches castle, which is guarded by cadres of marching men singing “All we own, we ooo-owe!” [Debt slaves who are business owners, factory owners, they defend the Witch because they have no choice.]
They confront the wicked witch and, quite by accident, hurl a bucket of water in her face. The witch begins to melt [irrigation, side-stepping drought, making the west profitable and destroying the grip of the banks on the American dream]. Dorothy thinks the soldiers will hate her for killing the witch, but much to her surprise they smile and yell “Hooray, for Dorothy!”…they’ve been set free, they give her the broom [votes] to give to the wizard.
But the Wizard [the President] isn’t impressed with his prize, he tells them to come back later…well, the lion says ok, there’s nothing he wouldn’t agree to he’s so petrified, but Dorothy’s mad, after all she did and just as she’s screaming at him to do what he said he’d do, Toto snatches a curtain to their right, pulling it back, revealing a dumpy old man with a microphone, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!” the man with the microphone says but the voice rumbles out of the floating head. They are one and the same. [The President is himself terrified of the banks and the votes they can buy, he presents himself as the great and powerful, but really he is just a fraud that floated into his job on a balloon]
Will Dorothy get home now? Will the Scarecrow get his brain, and the tinman his heart, and the lion his courage? Pish-pish, says the Wizard, he may just be a dumpy old guy, but he sees a lot from his vantage point, he tells the scarecrow he has a brain but what he doesn’t have is a diploma [the farmers are not dumb, and they are not fools] giving the scarecrow his diploma he becomes as smart as any other man. The Tinman already has a heart, says the Wizard, always has, what he doesn’t have is a testimonial [to remind him and everyone else that no one slaves away in a factory unless for love of family and it’s time they were recognized for that] likewise with the lion, he did a a lot of brave stuff, but he doesn’t believe it because no one ever gave him a medal [recognition that the reformers did a lot of things right and risked a lot], he gets his medal. His courage returns.
But what about Dorothy? The Good Witch of the North floats back and tells her to snap her silver heels and say “There’s no place like home.” It is interesting to ponder that the words ‘no place’ means,. literally ‘utopia’, “There’s utopia like home,” tap-tap silver “utopia like home.”
And that’s what you were watching, an economic lecture from a 19th-century Republican…who may or may not have lifted the whole structure of his allegory from a Peruvian fairy-tale called “The Deaf Boy”…(that’s my assertion, Baum didn’t say that or anything, there’s just a lot of similarities).
This movie not only teaches you a lot about the turn-of-the-century west, but why exactly everybody hates the Fed, why the right wants to return to the silver standard, what your money is actually worth, that Newspapers were as much Democrat apple-throwers then as now, who the president really is and who and for what reason he is scared …OH! and Pink Floyd…whether they did it intentionally or not…still sounds great when played over this movie.
Like, cosmically good. (When Dorothy walks from black-and-white into color just as the cash register sounds of ‘Money’ start…knowing what we now know about the story, I swear I had a forty-five-minute art-boner.