Essays by Carl Nelson

It's a Small World2

It’s a Small World

(when it’s Fascist)

 

Every story takes place in a country where the character must be sacrificed for the good of the whole and the author is the sole authority.  There is a “greater good” to be achieved.   “Kill your darlings”, is the much quoted classroom tutorial phrase which comes to mind.  In a story there is no Constitution, no Bill of Rights, no questions of debt or expense – because stories are about conflict.  That is, they take place on a war footing.  A great problem is afoot, great things are at risk, strong leadership is required, new thinking is required.  Quibblers need not apply.  Basically a story is a country with a ‘strong man’ ruler where the author owns all means of production.

Even in the Land of the Free we are not so hostile to this moral fascism of the “greater good”.  We honor our military veterans, our fallen, our departed leaders, our selfless citizens who sacrificed for their children, their town, their school, the fire department, the police and all those who are self-supporting, pay their taxes and honor the law.  And as humans everywhere, we think in narrative.

But in our published narratives we demand a little more and peer a little further.  We do an autopsy.  We lift that curtain on the ‘soul’, take the character to task for their choices, dig and scratch right down to bedrock where we assay a true nature and a truth, and decide whether or not they are useful to the greater purpose.  Should the character be obliterated from history or enshrined in the canon?

If you are of the progressive turn of mind and worship at the altar of progressive change, you might want to extend an uplifting book into realms as yet unwitnessed.  Life is indeed better in some stories.  Why shouldn’t this narrative be extended?  Why shouldn’t what reads well, play well?   Why shouldn’t we fight for justice as the hero does in our book?  Why shouldn’t we change the town to run more like it runs in the uplifting story?  Why shouldn’t we demand more of human character?!  And why shouldn’t we enact laws to help shape and sustain these efforts?  Especially, if a particular story has caused a terrific outpouring of popular sentiment?  Who would be so cynical as to not want a better world?

Indeed.  Who doesn’t love Disneyland, where our positive narratives have been infinitely extended.  The characters entertain.  The workers sing and smile.  They arrive and leave through tunnels and back hallways behind false walls and eat and shit somewhere else.   And you don’t have to pay them.  Just one flat fee and it’s all handled.  No one panhandles.  No one protests (except perhaps the long lines).

One afternoon, while at Orlando, we got caught in a stalled attraction.  We were jammed in this dark, echoing tunnel among numbers of other boaters, while children’s voices of diversity – from all over the world – chirruped loudly through overhead speakers, “It’s a Small World”.  Over and over.  A constant barrage of melodic uplift.

 

I felt as if I might lose my mind.

 

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