A British-American bluestocking living in the UK writes about politics, pop culture, and emerging new paradigms as they unfold on both sides of the Atlantic. (New content.)

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Don't Miss: "The Secret of Oz" on Friday October 29

As a child, one of my favorite stories was "The Wizard of Oz". In high school, I had the privilege of having a fantastic American history teacher who lectured to us on William Jennings Bryan and the "populist movement" and his famous "Cross of Gold" speech which I remember delivering as part of an extra credit report. But the most fascinating thing I recall learning from that glorious class was that "The Wizard of Oz" wasn't just a "fairy tale" about a young girl named Dorothy who goes on a series of adventures (which the movie capitalized on fully). Instead, the book was an allegory  which clearly referenced the monetary climate in the United States at the end of the 19th century. L. Frank Baum (the author of the famous children's book)  was a supporter of William Jennings Bryan who ran on the Democratic ticket three times and lost. Bryan (and Baum) wanted America to abandon the gold standard to switch to the silver standard which was more plentiful and mined in the Mid-west and would not be as open to manipulation from the banks. Bryan was supported by   "The People's Party" or the Populist Movement  an independent party that championed agrarian values, the rights of farmers, the direct election of U.S. Senators (which was later implemented during the administration of Teddy Roosevelt) and a return to the silver standard. Bryan was considered the first "celebrity" politician in that he canvassed the country giving paid speeches and was a very recognizable (and lampooned) figure.

L. Frank Baum

The United States and Great Britain were undergoing a severe depression in the 1890's and very similar to what we are experiencing now. "The Wizard of  Oz"  was a metaphor for all that Baum saw as unfair in the United States at the time. The Scarecrow (for example) represented the farmers who were not "thinking" how to outwit the bankers from taking over their farms, the TinMan represented the industrialists who "had no heart" and the Cowardly Lion was embodying the politicians (Bryan himself actually) who were afraid to stand up to the "Wicked Witch" (the controlling bankers). Bryan was the "Cowardly Lion" and was referred to as that.   Dorothy wore "silver slippers" to go on her journey to the Emerald City. (They were changed to ruby slippers in the movie because the siler slippers did not show up well in technicolor.) Dorothy motivates all three characters to travel with her to The "Emerald City" the city of the colour of money. Dorothy wears her silver slippers on the "yellow (gold) brick road".  There is a lot more to the symbolism of this tale, and still  incredibly pertinent to today, perhaps even more so. This award-winning documentary shows how governments that issue their own money (without a debt system) flourish and when money is issued through central banks, they slip into depression. Because gold was so easily manipulated by the banks, and silver was plentiful and not controlled by the banks, the latter was clearly the exchange of choice for the populists.

William Jennings Bryan Campaigning
Journalist Bill Still had not heard this interpretation of the "Wizard of Oz"  until a few years ago. When he did, he went on to learn all he could about the allegory and made a documentary film called "The Secret of Oz" which will be aired in the UK this Friday, October 29, 2010 at 10 pm on Sky Channel 203. I urge you to view this. (It is also available for purchase both in the UK and in the USA). While this film talks about the US economy, the truth is that the British economy is run by the same bankers and it has always been the Bank of England since the times of the Revolution of 1776  that has had its hands in the US pockets. (Surprised?) So, it's not just a documentary for the US--this is a film for everyone who cares about the state of affairs in the world. Here is the trailer for Bill Still's, "The Secret of Oz":