The Big Issue : Edition 456
THEBIGISSUE18APR–1MAY2014 13 RAZER PHOTOGRAPHSBYJAMESBRAUND(RAZER)ANDALANATTWOOD(RICKY) Over That RAINBOW » Helen Razer is a writer, gardener and muted broadcaster. Marx and Freud leaned heavily on HER ideas in their work. “The wizard’s ‘power’ was based on nothing more than some cheap stagecraft and the belief that sustained him! As a kid, I found this troubling...” WHEN I WAS small, the movie The Wizard of Oz scared the stuffing and wonder right out of me. This was due less to the Cottee’s cordial- coloured witch and very much more to the scene where Dorothy Gale seeks and finds the wizard. Young Dorothy has been looking for a human source of all power only to find that he is not the omniscient guardian of truth and being but, rather, some old duffer behind a curtain. His might does not inhere in magic but in levers and concealment. The wizard’s ‘power’ was based on nothing more than some cheap stagecraft and the belief that sustained him! As a kid, I found this troubling and immediately excused myself from Roman Scripture, absolute faith in my parents and the belief that the Prime Minister was a nice man. If the wizard was a sham, went my logic, then clearly so, too, was everything else. I imagine I was not the only child whose slight reality frame came crashing down around her (or him) with this revelation. The idea of a false god was pretty powerful. From that moment on, I have not been able to look up at any firmament without thinking, “I wonder who built that?” I have always been baffled by the thought that so many other folks grew up to uphold the message of this movie as one of hope instead of brutal disappointment. When some hear the song ‘Over the Rainbow’, they are filled with optimism and a belief there is a better place than the one they now inhabit. Whenever I hear it, I am reminded that everything magical in life is a matter of curtains and pulleys. The rainbow and the hazily drawn land we can see beyond it are just props made by some guy. I have long since ceased to be depressed by the thought of an ersatz wizard and a life where rainbows are a wonder in themselves. I grew up heavily influenced by this idea of a tiny fake wizard and went on to read books at university that urged me to indulge in further critical thinking. Thanks not only to Judy Garland but also to Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud, I came to believe that not only was life and its purported magic not just a matter of sleight-of-hand. I found that it wasn’t even people who performed the trickery; not knowingly, anyhow. Things that we believe in – gods, market economies, the ‘difference’ between sexes and ethnicities – were a sort of terrible magic that had become so natural to us, we weren’t even aware we were making them happen. This is not to say that spiritual inclinations or feelings of awe at the immensity of the universe or the strangeness of love are wrong or unhealthy. It is, however, to say that I have begun to see life as a bunch of stuff that happens largely due to the unconscious efforts of workaday wizards. There are so many levers and pulleys and curtains, we have forgotten why they were put there in the first place. But we yank them, nonetheless, to uphold the industrial and social magic we confuse for the way things must be. Some kids stayed shocked at the revelation of the wizard and grew up to believe in conspiracy theories. If there was one guy able to fool and control the kingdom of Oz, they reckoned, then surely there were guys at the helm of our world beyond it! But personally, I always saw the wizard as just some guy who was doing what he did for no reason greater than habit. Which is to say, I grew up to believe that the bad magic of everyday thinking is something we just end up doing without conscious thought. So I stopped looking behind curtains for evidence of a cover-up. I stopped believing that there were so many things that ‘They’ didn’t want you to know. I knew that the secrets of salvation were not secrets at all but could be seen in the trickery of the everyday, if one looked closely. In seeking to find the evil behind the curtain, one can miss the power that is right in front of one’s nose. And in seeking to find something beyond the rainbow, we miss the loveliness of the rainbow itself.