Mar 14, 2013 - Issue 508

Making the Bad Good: Oz the Great and Powerful

Allegory is a fictional story composition device that uses characters and other story phenomena to stand in for real concepts and historical people. Allegories broaden these associations and comparisons through the story lines and, thereby, make subtle and not so subtle comments and judgments about the real historical thing. For thousands of years, humans have used the social psychological power of this device to convey complicated, memorable concepts and to push emotional responses in particular directions. But, most importantly, allegorical stories are teaching devices for our children.

As children and some adults get swept up in the fantastical aspects of fictional stories, they are opened up to the underlying morality and political values embedded in the drama. Well done drama, itself, tugs at the instinctual emotions in us all: fear, love, safety, accomplishment, etc. Associating these emotions with fictional characters that stand in for real concepts and characters is the art that can be used for good or bad results depending on your point of view. Conscious awareness of what is being done to you and your children is really important in this multicultural, complicated political world. Wake up before they “chain” your children’s minds!

My 10-year-old granddaughter took me to the Disney 3-D prequel to the classic L. Frank Baum tale, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. This prequel, Oz the Great and Powerful, debuted in first place and earned $80.3 million at the weekend box office, according to studio estimates Sunday. Kyla, my granddaughter, did not like it but for different reasons than I disliked it. She did not like it because it was scary and too long. I did not like it because it was poorly done and, more importantly, because it turned Baum’s allegory – condemning centralized banking – completely on its head. The character that stood in for BAD bankers was made into an essentially good person in the prequel. 

According to the Money Reform Party and many others, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’s author, L. Frank Baum, was a supporter of William Jennings Bryan who stood three times, unsuccessfully, as a U.S. Presidential candidate for the Democratic Party. “The particular concern of both Baum and Bryan was the nature of the money supply then prevalent in the United States, and in the Mid-Western States in particular.” Just prior to the publishing of the book, the US had suffered another of the “boom bust cycles” that are inherent to unregulated capitalism, and people were suffering greatly. “There had been a severe depression. Many businesses had gone bankrupt, farmers forced to sell up, factories closed and workers made unemployed. True, some farms in the Mid-West were suffering from drought, but most were still capable of growing food; the businesses and factories were still capable of providing the things that people needed; the workers still wanted to work to provide those things, and people would still want the goods and services produced if they had the money to buy them.”

“The money in the USA then, as now, was entirely created by the private banking system. The pretence existed then that money was based on gold. (Even now some people still think that it is!) The major banks, based on the East and West coasts, could vary the amount of money in circulation, lending more to encourage commercial activity, then foreclosing on loans to put people out of business, enabling the banks to acquire their businesses cheaply. Baum and Bryan wanted money to be based on silver, not gold, as silver was more readily available in the Mid-West, where it was mined. Such a money supply could not be manipulated by the banks. So the story of the Wizard of Oz starts with a cyclone in the form of imagined electoral success for Bryan...” “Dorothy, a sort of proverbial ‘Everywoman’, lands on the Wicked Witch of the East (the East-coast bankers), killing her, so freeing the Munchkins, the down-trodden poor, but the Wicked Witch of the West (the West-coast bankers) remains loose.”

The Money Reform Party is quite convincing in their explication of the allegory by pointing to the character stand-ins. The famous 1939 movie with Judy Garland did the first damage to the allegory by changing the silver slippers from the book into ruby slippers in the film. In the prequel, Oz the Great and Powerful, most of the characters in Baum’s story are missing. The behind-the-curtain trickery (science) of the new main character, the Wizard-to-be, becomes a virtue. The Witches (women) switch sides from good to bad and fight one another. There is a character from China Town that is fragile porcelain and that is healed by the glue of the Wizard-to-be. And nobody goes home to Kansas. This is very far from a prequel because it does not sync up with the original story. This prequel must represent a purposeful attempt to destroy Baum’s allegory.

There is a valuable history of the people’s struggles against the money changers embed in Baum’s allegory. speaks of it. We may start with Jesus Christ who became violent only one time: when he chased the money changers out of the temple. British King Henry I invented tally sticks, polished sticks of wood, to avoid the strangulation of the goldsmiths and later signed the Charter of Liberty which led to the Magna Carter and the Constitution. Colonial Scrip was used to avoid the restrictions of the Bank of England and to pay for the Revolutionary War; as an act of war England counterfeited the Colonial Scrip and destroyed its usefulness. Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln opposed these villainous bankers and showed us what to do – if we have the courage to take action. In the US we have broken free of central banking and allowed it to weasel its way back through lies and bribes six times. There is little doubt that the Federal Reserve caused the 1930’s depression by reducing the money supply (Milton Friedman). And we have previously talked about Alan Greenspan’s contribution to the current recession.

Bankers are presently on the top of almost everybody’s S*IT list – for good reason. Humans all over the planet are grasping after ways to put bankers down. There is also great ignorance about the nature of monetary systems, the history of monetary systems, and the alternatives that exist that communities have the power to put into place. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz book could be a great tool to open up our thinking and end the fear that we have about making these changes. Let’s not let that tool be so easily destroyed. This is the most popular children’s story in history. It is a desperate flare fired into the night of history. Let it not be extinguished by the Walt Disney Corporation. Columnist, Wilson Riles, is a former Oakland, CA City Council Member. Click here to contact Mr. Riles.