Monthly Archives: September 2009

The Great and Powerful Oz (Not).

I think a lot about the scene in the Wizard of Oz where the WIzard’s voice booms out, “I am the Great and Powerful OZ!” And then, when Toto pushes the curtain aside and shows the shamefaced carny who’s running the apparatus, booms, “Pay NO attention to the Man Behind the Curtain!” It always makes me laugh. And I always think, giggling a little, that really we could have called EAP, as an alternative, The Man Behind the Curtain Press.

I mean, the main point is of course to get ideas out there. A particular kind of idea, of course…or ideas.  Ideas on how an individual, just one person, can confront all of the looming problems in the world around us without either getting mowed down–without giving up her/his individual pleasure in life–or cowed into denial and servile acceptance “because that’s just the way it is, I can’t change it.”  But I think it’s also part of the point to show that any individual, keeping his/her head down, and determined to both enjoy life and push it in the right direction at the same time, can do that. It’s open to everyone. It’s part of every day life. And don’t let the Man Behind the Curtain fool you into thinking it can only be done by a big booming voice coming from a loudspeaker hidden somewhere in the room.

Now ideas are the reason books are made.  Or they should be the reason, anyway, in the same way that it should be the reason that goods are made that they fill a need, and not just somebody’s bank account. So you can start very small. You can start at home. It can be part of your everyday life, and I’m arguing that it should be–ideas, I mean.  Your ideas, my ideas, then they get exchanged, they turn into a third idea and they launch out into the world.

This is an everyday process, which somehow has gotten taken over by the ‘experts’. Mainly because we let them. Mainly because of a lack of confidence, a lack of autonomy, on our own part…a terror that our own opinion would be scorned, would be wrong, would be…set aside as not as grand as those others. Mainly because we actually believe that voice when it insists it’s the Great and Powerful Oz.

We let ourselves get mystified. And that’s the first place we can start in making our world a better place.  We can refuse the mystification. We can insist on seeing the Man Behind the Curtain.

All of this! Just because I’ve been wrestling all week with admin problems coming out of publishing books. Printing issues. Proofing issues. Sales to foreign countries issues. And, of all things, liquor license issues. I mean, it turns out it’s quite difficult just to serve a little bit of wine to some friends to celebrate a book. At least, if that celebration is in public. And my wrestling with that little issue, as I meditated on it and looked at first that way to solve it, then rejected it to look at another way, I started to get that picture of the poor Wizard fruitlessly pulling levers in my head; it just kept floating through. And I realized as I wondered why that image, that, of course, one of the ways that we mystify the process of getting ideas out there is we mystify the whole production process, and the whole sharing with the world process (the former we mystify by pretending the ideas just got out by themselves by sheer strength of truth–the powerful use this one a lot to hide the monoculture of ideas it’s to their benefit to enforce, I notice–or we mystify the latter by calling it ‘marketing and publicity’ and relegating THAT to the experts again), instead of just making plain what happens along the way. And that this, in fact, doesn’t do the mystifiers any more good than it does us.  I mean, when was the Wizard happier, when he was terrifying the Emerald City, or when he was hanging out at the end with Dorothy and telling her his whole story?

In a way, the entire media business in this country, at least the large, formal, entrenched, monopolistic media that most people see as the whole iceberg, is run as if by the Great and Powerful Oz, the Man Behind the Curtain, with no real story showing at all.  Real story showing being considered unprofessional, somehow…not done. I don’t think this is healthy. I think that curtain’s got to go. And I think one way that curtain can get tweaked is by as many people as possible taking over the means of production themselves…and the means of distribution, too.  And along the way, being quite clear about how the process really happens, and what’s really going on.

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