My Libertarian Totem Pole

A woman I know recently told me her totem was a cat. I didn't have a clue what she was talking about. A totem, like a totem pole?, I wondered, my brain locked in puzzle-mode. A totem pole with a cat as part of it? What? I realized I didn't exactly know what the purpose of a totem pole was, even though, like everyone else, I knew of them. I could see one in my mind, although in her case I was seeing a fencepost with Felix the Cat sitting on top of it.

Thank goodness for Google, that wondrous and almost instantaneous Galactic Encyclopadia. The world at your fingertips! Google told me that "totem" is just another word for "symbol." The woman I know thought a cat symbolized what she is. This doesn't surprise me, considering the strange symbiosis between women and cats. It's not men who keep 200 of them in their houses, torturing them to insanity (a short trip for a cat) with Hugh Grant movies and Michael Bolton CDs.

The totem pole is a way for each of the symbols on the pole to tell a story about the culture. It's the same with our flag (it's even on a pole, heh heh). It's a totem--in one glance it tells the story of a country that originally had 13 states and now has 50. There's a lot of other things the flag is supposed to symbolize--liberty, mostly, although I know a lot of people in the world now despise the American flag as a symbol of oppression. It means one thing to us, and another thing to them.

Too bad I can't carve or sculpt, because I created my own libertarian totem pole. My Paint program worked just fine, though. Instead, I'll just print it out and frame it on my wall. You can, too. Let's your kids meditate on it. It might keep them away from neuron-exploders like rap and American Idol.

Why is Underdog on it? He is a Lovable Libertarian Underdog. He is a hero, indeed a superhero. He fights for what is right. He wears a Cool Superhero uniform. He can fly, as I do in my nightly dreams, although I wear a helmet and have a jetpack on my back, like Rocketeer. Underdog fights for his own, in his case the adorable Sweet Polly Purebread. He doesn't fly around the world trying to right every wrong in it, or eradicate evil, something that's impossible, anyway. He tends his own garden, and does what good he can. He is, in a word, truly virtuous.

And he is, obviously, an underdog, like all libertarians. But does that stop him? Nope. He may only be a Shoeshine Boy (a Lovable and entrepreneurial one, of course), but inside he knows he's a hero, and acts as all heroes act--he whups all the loathsome, trouble-making riff-raff.

The wisdom of Underdog--or any cartoon hero, for that matter--tells us how to live our lives. Evil is always here, in some form (and that form is always human), and must always be fought. One of those ways is by creating good things, even if they are only silly articles. Underdog, like all heroes, creates. Maybe he only creates bad rhymes ("When Polly's in trouble/I am not slow/It's hip-hip-hip/And away I go!"), but that's pretty good for an imaginary dog who makes his living shining shoes. It's pretty pitiful to realize a talking, flying cartoon dog has more sense than pinheads like David Frum and Richard Perle, who actually wrote a very silly book called An End to Evil.

Spongebob Squarepants? Our friendly talking sponge with the big blue eyes and the baby teeth symbolizes innocence. He lives safely and peaceably in the womb of the sea, away from the evil and war of the world above. One of the things that Underdog is fighting for is a return to the safety and peace that Spongebob symbolizes. It's what all heroes do. It's the opposite of what all villains do, who lust for political power, war, and destruction.

Spongebob is child-like, but not childish. His world is a return to the innocence of the Garden of Eden. I think that accounts for the popularity of the program. Spongebob is a happy little guy. He's also very weird, which I think has something to do with it. He certainly ain't perfect, considering the fact he apparently has Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

As much as I like the program, if I lived in Bikini Bottoms, I don't think I'd care to have a diving-helmet-wearing squirrel as a girlfriend, as Spongebob does. Besides that, I could live there quite happily, even with Squidward around.

Now we're got Pinky and the Brain. Brain symbolizes every twisted, power-hungry nut throughout history who tried to conquer the world and always failed, smacking his head in the process. Brain symbolizes the insanity of hubris and the destruction to which it always leads. Evil, unlike good, always destroys.

Not only is Brain not virtuous, unlike Underdog, he's instead got everything exactly backward. If I had to sum up his beliefs in one sentence, it would be, "Submit or die, puny humans!"

We have a bunch of these riff-raffish, needs-a-whuppin', Looney Tunes Brains in the current administration--Dick "Five Deferments" Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, and John Bolton, among with non-administration meece like Max Boot, William Bennett and William Kristol. Each, like Brain, is afflicted with hubris, and is clueless about the affliction. Each fails to mind his own business, unlike Underdog, and is instead trying to conquer the world, like our mutated little monster of a lab mouse, with his swelled head and crazed eyes.

These guys, like Brain, have everything exactly backward. And when the rulers have everything backward, they take society backward with them into war, poverty, political power, destruction--every violation of the Ten Commandments and the Seven Deadly Sins that exist. Even though they don't have a clue as to what they're doing, they're creating and celebrating a Carnival of Evil.

Brain is a "would-be world conqueror." It's always "would-be," and always will be. No one has ever conquered the world. They've destroyed themselves in the process. If Brain fits any archetype, it is that of Satan. It's the same archetype all would-be world conquerors fit. Even if they say they are benefactors to the world (which is what villains always say).

Pinky symbolizes the nitwit know as Mass Man. He's the one who follows Brain and thinks he knows what's he doing, even if they end up going straight over a cliff, to fall 2,000 feet down and turn into a puff of dust, like Wile E. Coyote. Currently, these Pinkies have removed Jesus from the right hand of God and installed George Bush.

As the hero has a thousand faces, so does the villain. Some images resonate with us more than others. Brain, who is one of those images, strikes us, in his grandiose overreaching, as something that says: We know he and Pinky are buffoons, like all those who want to conquer the world, no matter what excuse they use. They are ridiculous, and they are preposterous. Deep inside, everyone knows it, although it takes some people a while to come around to that realization.

The hero resonates with us, too. He doesn't give up. He understands his limitations. He has power over himself. Despising power over others is why he fights the villains, who want little else.

The essential difference between a hero and a villain is the between Jesus and Satan, when the former was offered by the second, political power over "all the kingdoms of the world." The hero always says, "No." The villain, always "Yes."

Not one superhero has ever been a supporter of the State. How could they be? Nearly all have been victims of it. One was the Hulk, who spent most of his time smashing the puny military-industial-complex humans who were always trying to murder him.

It's the villains who want to conquer the State, so they can have political power over all the kingdoms of the world. Indeed, their defining characteristic is wanting to conquer the world. But, helpless by themselves, they con Pinkyish Mass Man into doing their bidding, by telling them they are under attack by something that will conquer them. And Pinky falls for it, every time.

More than anything else, my libertarian totem pole instructs us to always try to smile at things. It tells us that we can feel good about the world, because in the long run the villains never win, although in the short run they can cause unbelievable catastrophes. But, in the end, Brain will always conk his head and stagger around dizzily while everyone laughs at him. This is something to which those in the administration should pay attention.

Even the heroes don't take themselves too seriously, unlike our villains. As for the villains, all--just like Satan--cannot stand to be laughed at. Considering the fact that all, inwardly, really are as crackpotted as Brain, the only thing they deserve is to be ridiculed.

I do it to them every day, mentally dressed in my Underdog outfit. Have been for years, and will continue to do it, for years. It is the dose of ridicule I give those overdosed on their pompous and self-deluded selves.

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Bob Wallace's picture
Columns on STR: 89