Wild screaming beaches

sneetches.jpg

Diversity in Dr. Seuss?  Look no further, says Tami, than The Sneetches.  Well YES!  Let’s look at those sneetches!  This story is frighteningly good.  And its great teaching is both problematic and provocative: that an oppressed race cannot make a breakthrough without racial assimilation.

Remember?  The star-belly sneetches won’t let the plain-belly sneetches play their games or come to their weenie roasts.  They are the cool ones;  they have all the fun;  they are the boss race.  And do the plain-belly sneetches throw their own weenie roasts?  Do they play their own games?  No.  They can’t.  They’re a depressed class.  They’re the have-nots.  Poverty and disenfranchisement have wormed their way into the plain-belly soul.  All they can do is stand around on the margins of society, watching the star-bellies have fun.

Then Sylvester McMonkey McBean shows up and puts all the plain-bellies through the machine that gives them belly-stars.  The star-bellies are upset because all of a sudden they can’t tell who is who.  McBean offers to take off their stars, and they accept.  So now the racial markings are exactly reversed.  But what happens?  The old privileged class is still privileged, duh!  “To be wearing a star was now frightfully bad.”  Even with stars, the mark of the overlords, the old underclass remains incapable of roasting weenies.  All they want to do now is get rid of their stars.

There is only one solution:  in and out of the machines everyone goes, all day “on those wild screaming beaches” – Seuss’s best line ever — until McBean has all their money, at which point some of have stars and some don’t but no one can tell who used to have what.  Is interbreeding the only solution for racial oppression?  Seuss thinks so.

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5 thoughts on “Wild screaming beaches

  1. Well, that sure is one interesting interpretation – I had not considered before! I always just thought of it as a nice moral story about how it doesn’t matter how you look, it’s that you are good person inside that counts. Now I learn that we have to alleviate the obvious differences in how we look into order to be able to get to the “real person” inside. What a shame; I like the different looks and cultures. I like those who are open minded yet different from me. Who need’s clone’s of one’s self everywhere. Yikes!

    A second thought leads me to consider that it is then all about how one spins the tale. For example, perhaps Seuss had intended for this to be a lesson on economics. ….

    ….. Clearly it is a cash society; indeed all the Sneetches had brought cash to the beach, and McBean was there anticipating pay for service. McBean, here, may be thought of as an entrepreneur – who has found a way to make money providing a high demand service. Is building a creative profit-making niche a great economic choice, especially if you can tap into superficial frailties, or insecure ego? Suess thinks so.

  2. Mmm, yes. And notice his name: McBean. As a half-Scot half-Jew I feel personally addressed by this story, and my Scottish half is somewhat affronted.

    But Seuss may be wrong on the race issue. He wrote the story at a time when everyone was talking as if inter-marriage was the solution to the race problem. I remember Pete Seeger singing “soon the world gonna be all mixed up,” as if that were an unadulterated good. But people don’t much talk that way any more. And those who acknowledge that racial hatred won’t cease unless/until there is One Race at least acknowledge that this is tragic.

  3. But then, what IS race? Wikipedia says it’s social categorizing of phenotypic characteristics. That is, self-identification with others in a group who share the same “important” surface characteristics as you. In that light, “intermarriage” as a solution is sort of like imagining all the people as colours on a paint wheel, then mixing them alltogether – until what is left – brown sticky goo.
    As for Pete Seeger, in theory probably that is a “good”. But I sure will miss Friday night Chinese food, and Italian on Mondays. And traveling the globe to see all the different ways of looking and thinking of things. Not to mention the undermined biologic pinnings – which I know are somewhat forbidden to even mention – but there’s benefit to selective breeding to some degree. For example, I was teaching about sickle cell anemia the other day, and how people who carry it on one gene (the heterozygote state) have a healthy life AND resistance to malaria. Accounts for it’s prevelance in the malaria infected parts of mideast, africa etc. Two copies of the gene – and you get sickle cell and are very sick. Now, dilute the human race proportionately by 6 million, and you loose tolerance to malaria in the middle east, not to mention every other beneficial trait the human race has been harboring in phenotypic pockets that persists in the non-dominant state.
    T.

  4. Very interesting! So when we are all the colour of brown goo (which actually sounds rather attractive to me, and certainly couldn’t be worse than my skin’s pinko-grey) we might also all be sickly!

  5. sounds like a good start for a sci-fi novel perhaps…..
    Sagan, novelist and visionary, passed away this week I think. Talked about not always necessarily getting it right – but rather extrapolating from what is to what could be. So, what is – is racial/ethnic/ geopolitics – one supposedly desired line is Pete Seeger’s “all mixed up” – where might this go (other than the unrealistic but desired direction of utopia?).

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