Current events in the US has me thinking often about the Wizard of Oz: the pertinent question of the film is not how a second-rate, mediocre conman managed to land in Oz and convince the people of Oz that he was a great wizard. The formula is simple and has been used by many dictators and leaders who have manipulated power:
- First, use a lot of pomp and circumstance and plenty of smoke and mirrors to lull your people into a sleep so they can’t see through the illusions (the Great and Powerful Oz).
- Second, find an enemy from the outside and make sure your people are terrified of them (the Wicked Witch of the West).
The real question is: what was the state of Oz before he showed up that allowed this conman to take control? And what kind of system was in place that ensured that he kept up the illusions and maintained his power?
How much division, fear, greed, anger, self-righteousness, oppression and complacency was already present in the current climate of Oz that allowed for the citizens to be so disappointed, manipulated, left out, and betrayed? How spiritually bankrupt was it, that it was so easy to fall for this false god/wizard? And how blinded by power, greed and shortsightedness were the people in power, that they played along with this conman to ensure that the illusion was upheld?
It’s interesting that what it took to take down the conman and the system was a teenage girl, who was seen as an upstart, and her misfit friends who happened to live alternative lifestyles on the fringe of the mainstream. From one perspective, they didn’t have much power; but their determination (“nevertheless, she persisted”) was enough to show that when you confront your fears, the object of fear loses its power, leading to freedom. The core message that Dorothy gives all of us is that when we stop looking outside of ourselves to find security and power and we stop projecting our problems, hate and fear on to others, then we see that our power has always been within and we wake up out of our dream/nightmare.
In the story of Oz, the conman manages to slip away with the power of his “hot air”, escaping the consequences of his greedy and deceptive actions. However, despite the chaos and havoc he created, he did manage to inadvertently create the causes of hope for an enlightened, awake society:
- His actions cracked open the space where a girl/young woman could find her personal, internal power in order to face her fears and the expected role that was imposed on her, and also armed her with the grace and fierceness needed to take down the oppressive, patriarchal structures.
- He helped the marginalized of the culture realize that they have always had the courage (Lion), compassion (Tin man) and wisdom (Scarecrow) within them that they were so desperately seeking outside of themselves, giving them the impetus necessary to share their gifts, power and creativity that will be needed to create a new society based on respect, inclusivity, peace, equality for all and love.
The Wizard of the Land of Us has done the same.
He too will probably use his “hot air” to find a clever loophole to cleverly slither away and avoid being held accountable for his actions. Again, whether the conman is in power or not is not the crucial concern. He didn’t create the problem; he happened to be in the right place and the right time to take advantage of what the people of Us either wanted, of the blindness created by self-righteousness and apathy, or the powerlessness some felt to be able to do anything about the problems.
What will it take for the citizens of the Land of Us to wake up out of our dream and see behind the curtain of a society that has become spiritually bankrupt, corrupted by greed, self-righteousness, complacency, privilege, oppression and ignorance? Some of us say that we are “woke,” but what does that really mean? Some of us may be more aware of the consequences of harm and recognize the power of love than others, but are we living that from moment to moment? Are we using “woke” philosophies and values to overcome the illusions and create the new?
While Dorothy managed to disintegrate the fear of a collective enemy (the Wicked Witch of the West) and dismantle the illusion of the patriarchy (the Wizard of Oz), she did it with compassion and a lack of animosity. It wasn’t until she went within to find her own personal “home” that she finally woke up. Now that young people, women and girls, and the oppressed and marginalized of the Land of Us are feeling more empowered, how do we bring about lasting change without falling into the old patterns of the patriarchy and the oppressor?
I suggest we seriously consider practicing the philosophies of two American icons and an Australian Murri activist that may help us establish a strong starting point:
The Peace Pilgrim (US): “We will not end world war and strife until each of us look at our own personal, psychological violence and take steps to eliminate it.”
Grace Lee Boggs (US): “A movement begins when the oppressed begin seeing themselves as pioneers in creating new, more human relations and thus advancing the evolution of the human race. Confident of their own humanity, movement builders are able to recognize the humanity in others, including their opponents, and therefore the potential within them for redemption.”
Lilla Watson (Australia): “If you come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”
We are in a time of human awakening and civic rebirth. Let’s live fully in this opportunity, find our internal power, connect with each other’s humanity and reimagine the Land of Us filled with generosity, equity, joy, peace, courage, wisdom and infinite interconnected possibility.
Joe Weston, founder of the Respectful Confrontation method, is an international workshop facilitator, author, coach, creative social activist, and advocate for peace. His book, Mastering Respectful Confrontation, is selling throughout the world.