The White Elephants of Oz – a post-modern fable.

There was once a country on this side of the planet where life’s priests lived and flourished. We still do not know its authentic name.

The role of the life priests was to make sure that all life (human and non-human) reproduced itself in the proper way. This they had done since the beginning.

The esoteric knowledge they needed to play this vital role had been perfected over countless generations, and was passed on across generations under strict supervision. They used highly abstract languages which could represent the poetry of eternal living country.

Meanwhile, in another country, on the other side of the planet, the life priests had been nearly all been killed by a variant type of human. The variant type of human – the Wrongheads – had their heads on backwards and did everything back to front.

In place of the life maintenance practices of life priest in that country, new cult houses were founded for the production of masks to disguise the faces of those who substituted themselves for life’s true priests.

As a result, life in those places was rapidly filling with chaos. Eventually the people living there – surrounded by masks – became used to this daily disorder and they came to regard a high degree of chaos as ‘normal’. Their masked rulers prospered accordingly.

The growing chaos eventually propelled some of their number into the well-managed lands and lives of the people on this side of the planet. The Othersiders renamed the country here as the land of Oz.

What is not generally known is that when the Wrongheaded Othersiders arrived in Oz they came with specially trained White elephants.

These enormous beasts were trained to locate life priests and to render them inoperable (one way or the other) by sitting on them. By this principal means, life acquired its present curious shape in the land of Oz.

The trained White elephants preformed their task without fail for over two centuries, and multiplied greatly. They are to be found in large numbers in all parts of Oz.

The everyday Othersiders – those who took their bearings on reality from the Otherside of the planet (God save the Queen and …) – had long learned to pretend that these elephants did not exist. “Elephants?” they would say, “Nonsense. There are no elephants. We are all the same.”

This meant the everyday Othersiders, like their masters, could help themselves to the lands and resources of the life priests without the need to learn the languages and poetry of this land. If it wasn’t Otherside, it could not be language, poetry, culture… there was an world heritage Opera House to prove it.

Surprisingly, and despite the impossible odds, not all the life priests perished. Their living conditions were greatly reduced and they died a lot earlier than they should have – but (loved by the very land itself) they still managed to survive.

Living under the enormous pressure of the trained elephants they laboured relentlessly to perform the duties life had bestowed upon them, seeking to keep their societies and their countries well balanced.

They even managed to gain some support and recognition for their place in life.

As it became clear that people living in other countries were beginning to discern the existence and role of the introduced elephants, the highest court in the land of Oz (concerned for its protective patina of respectability) began to say things like “While we can’t quite make out the existence of these elephants, it might just be possible that, um, er, yes, but … maybe another time , er, soon perhaps …” Papers were shuffled. Otherside law books strained the shelves. The obvious stared them in the face.

This deviation from the agreed elephantless script drove the chief Wrongheads into a wild frenzy. They had been in Opposition when the the highest court erred. These Othersiders were also the chief White elephant keepers, and their very Being depended on the ongoing and secret existence of White Elephants.

The Chief White Elephant keepers quickly regained control of the main cult house – this was a true national emergency – and looked around for some means of making good the failure of the elephants to (a) remain invisible and (b) completely silence the life priests. Some means were required to restore the illusions of Otherside ‘normality’ – and, by way of a bonus, to render voiceless any of the life priests’ supporters.

Smearing life priests in excrement (to disguise the fact that the respectability of Wrongheads themselves was on the nose) was one well tried method – and they quickly settled on their game plan.

One of the chaotic social norms which the Chief Wrongheads decided was of critical important in assessment of the worth of a whole peoples – “Ah yes, now we see it!” – was decreed to be the degree of cleanliness of the anus.

Yes, anal cleanliness was what mattered – not the mounting chaos and wrecking of the well-being of a whole Peoples and the destruction of their country as a result of Wrongheaded attempts to dominate life. Activate the media! Manipulate the public mind! Turn all attention to a spectre hanunting the land in the form of imaginary personality failings of the original peoples.

Now, despite the best efforts of the life priests on this side of the planet, the weight of the trained elephants sitting on them resulted in a small amount of anal leakage.

It seemed the whole of society had an opinion on this matter of anal leakage amongst the life priests, and the extent of their opinion was proportional to their inability to see the vast herds of introduced elephants. “Elephants? What elephants etc…”

So there was a carefully staged uproar in the cult houses of the Chief Wrongheads when they learnt about this anal leakage. Shocking! Their leaders, in the name of ensuring the anal hygiene of the nation, took immediate action to send in the army to end this disgraceful state of affairs. What the army were to do was not so clear. They most certainly weren’t going on an elephant hunt.

There was also much public debate about how to end the anal leakage, and this debate always took place in a context which made sure there was never a hint about the existence of elephants.

It seemed the whole of society (excepting the life priests) had an opinion on this matter of anal leakage amongst the life priests, and the extent of media coverage of this opinion was proportional to an inability to see the vast herds of introduced elephants across the land. “Elephants? What elephants etc…”

One very popular option was to design far better rectal sphincters (to meet Otherside specifications), even if this meant totally refashioning the original life=design of the life priests. It would be ‘for their own good’ after all.

There was much media coverage by people who – while they understood nothing about the ways of the life priests and were completely blind to the existence of elephants – knew enough about the importance of clean anuses to be promoted as overnight experts on the whole subject. Many had once read a women’s magazine on the subject.

While all seemed to know about the existence and details of a very remote and distant indigenous anus, no one was allowed to admit to the existence of the enormous elephant in their own living room, television studio, university seminar room, board room, parliamentary committee room or Otherside Only debating chamber – nor to admit the existence of the many introduced White elephants across the country (now in plague proportions).

No one considered it important to ask the life priests themselves what they considered might be the solution.

Just as it was considered ‘normal’ that life priests had no place in the main cult houses, so too it was deemed ‘normal’ that they – who were cast as the voiceless object’ of these busybody discussions – should not be present when their lives where being critically debated by others. The trade in mass produced stereotypes flourished accordingly.

Most Othersiders willingly agreed that the degree of indigenous anal leakage had to be attributed to some personality flaw or character defect of the life priests, or their inferrior cultural practices in comparison with those on the otherside of the planet etc.

And so it is today that, in the absence of the voices of the surviving life priests, we can only wonder what they would say if we asked them about their pressing priorities and suggestions for solving life problems. We must wait to hear.

But, while waiting, there is good reason to believe that, translating loosely from their own high languages to a more vulgar tongue (in order to better capture the emphatic emphasis), it may be something like this:

“Get those fucking enormous White Elephants off us!”

Bruce Reyburn
27 July 2007