Sunday, December 05, 2004

Kidnapped Santa

5 Dec 04 Kidnapped Santa

Kidnapped Santa
Gutenberg index L Frank Baum works
"One would think that our good old Santa Claus, who devotes his days to
making children happy, would have no enemies on all the earth; and, as
a matter of fact, for a long period of time he encountered nothing but
love wherever he might go

But the Daemons who live in the mountain caves grew to hate Santa Claus
very much, and all for the simple reason that he made children happy."

A Kidnapped Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum

Baum opens his Christmas parable with the conflicts of love and hate, wealth and poverty, happiness and sadness. Although already an institution in the United States through the corruption of St Nicholas, Santa represents the base commercial aspects of American Consumerism. Derived from Christian sources, he represents happiness through mass accumulation. He does little to ease the agony of the world or bring peace to embattled countries. Unlike Dicken's Scrooge, he suffers no moral dilemma or repents of miserly living. In truth, Santa is a cardboard figure, planted in busy shopping malls and plastered on plate glass windows to keep the economy circulating in the darkest time of the year. Moreover, he lives at the frigid North Pole and annually drives about in an airborne sled drawn by a team of reindeer. Not much can be more ridiculous than this American fairytale of achieving happiness through commerical gain.

The protests begin, "but Santa represents the Spirit of Giving." Does he really? Enter a church during the Christmas season and what is more commonly heard: The Giving or The Getting? There might be a display of Christian Charity with a heap of presents going to a local orphanage or children's hospital once a year, but what about the impoverished members that live amongst the wealthy congregation? Does anyone approach them to help them establish a new business, enter a new program of study so that they can become more self-suffcient? Or is it really much mor superficial than that with giving a present to satisfy a fleeting interest? How much is a doll or walkman really worth to a child when he does not have love and attention the year round or conscientious adults to provide him with a model of good living? How much are these things worth in comparison to the homeless poverty of many American children or the lack of dental and health care? Santa may indeed be symbolic of giving, but the serious question is what kind of giving?

Taking a superficial story designed for American commercialism, Baum tries to endow it with deeper insight and universal meaning. The biggest problem about Christmas is that it is largely a Christian festival with unscrupulously unchristian values of self-interest, whether consumer or corporation. Christmas is indisputably the season of plastic and increased debts. Mothers and fathers fret about fulfilling the demands of their children and children stressed out about satisfying the expectations of their parents. Kids arrive in school eager to show off what they got, but not what they gave to those in need. It's also one of the few times in the year, when the homeless can stand in long lines and reasonably expect to receive a cooked meal.

What's so generous about that?

In the US, approximately 33% of the children now come from single parent or homeless families. They live in shelters, becoming urban nomads without proper diet, social support or stable foundation. They have no future. This isn't their future, but America's future. People do not live in the street merely because they are shiftless, lazy people. Often they land there as sudden reversals in their lives and catastrophes outside their control. Sudden medical bills or consumer fraud strips a person quickly of his means. A job loss or unexpected accident forces a family from its home. Once on the street or in a shelter, it is virtually impossible to return to a stable position in a society that puts so much emphasis on material accumulation where the rich live like robber barons while exploiting the poorer classes for labor. Compared to Europe, the US is a disaster area fast becoming a country like India with an enormous split between the wealthy and poor with the impoverished becoming the Untouchables and Invisible Unwanted Burdensome People. They eat tax money for breakfast says the big self-serving government.

Moreover, technology affects the working population of America deeply. Without basic education, health or technological skills, an unemployed person cannot find a job. Jobs such as waitressing or janitorial work are unstable. Unskilled labor is dispensible, easily replaced by another drone. Psychologically the worker is worn down by the pressures of society, the unrelenting debts and his inability to fulfill basic needs of his own or family's survival. Certainly a Sony Playstation might be a nice toy to give to a family with limited means, but development skills, constant encouragement and personal interaction will go a much longer way in reversing the ills of society.

Baum tries to rewrite the Christmas Consumer Story, by creating conflicts between good and evil. Certainly it is a much better version than Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer or Frosty the Snowman with much deeper allegorical meanings for the reader, but the problem isn't the parable or the quality of writing; but what the reader does for his neighbor.

" The Caves of the Daemons are five in number. A broad pathway leads
up to the first cave, which is a finely arched cavern at the foot of
the mountain, the entrance being beautifully carved and decorated. In
it resides the Daemon of Selfishness. Back of this is another cavern
inhabited by the Daemon of Envy. The cave of the Daemon of Hatred is
next in order, and through this one passes to the home of the Daemon
of Malice--situated in a dark and fearful cave in the very heart of
the mountain. I do not know what lies beyond this. Some say there
are terrible pitfalls leading to death and destruction, and this may
very well be true."

Succinctly, Baum identifies the demons of contemporary society: selfishness, envy, hatred and malice. Pick any one of them before you enter the fifth cave. Consider which one you can sacrifice to help someone regain a more stable position in life. There are hundreds of social programs available. When you say your time is limited, consider the neighbor next door. Chart two hours a week to help someone at school, at church; at the synagogue, in the street, at work. Instead of plastic, give of yourself this year.

Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum

UC San Diego History of the Wizard of Oz
with book jacket illustrations

American Fairytales
American Fairy Tales by L. Frank Baum

Wonderful Wiz of Oz
Eric Gjovaag was born
January 21, 1966 in Seattle, Washington, USA
has FAQs re L Frank Baum and the books/film

L Frank Baum


offers an index to the books
movie index
has also an index to places, things, characters and weblinks

Lyman Frank Baum
has a collection of links and 26 works online
plain vanilla text—well laid out and legible


Wizard of Oz 1
with pumpkin pie

Wizard of Oz 2 Political Allegory
with roasted turkey


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