Allegory

I’m fascinated by George Orwell, and to a lesser extent Ayn Rand. These are authors who turned to creative writing in order to make a strong point, a point that likely would have been lost if they had just tried to communicate it by writing a letter or expository essay or something like that. George Orwell was a master of the allegory. In Animal Farm he was able to make a very deliberate and compelling statement about Stalinist Russia, and about dictatorship in general, using a story about pigs on a farm. To me, that’s amazing. It’s truly amazing to see how potent a statement can be made by taking characters, events, and concepts, and simply substituting them with something else. I suppose it’s a way of simplifying things; people can relate to the conflict between pigs on a farm more easily than the conflict between historic political factions in another country, and so the issue can be brought to a level that’s compelling and meaningful to the everyman.

One of my projects-in-waiting is what I hope will be a successful allegory. (Successful in the sense that it will be completed and will appropriately expand on the ideas it’s meant to be an allegory of, not so much successful in the sense of making any money). The concept I want to allegorize is prohibition. To me, the current laws on drug possession and use are fundamentally identical to the laws during the prohibition years in the 20s and 30s. Prohibition, of course, was a miserable failure. It did nothing to stop people from drinking, but it did create a booming business for organized crime. It also drove up the value of alcohol to the point that people were bootlegging it themselves, which resulted in all sorts of people dying and going blind from alcohol poisoning. I guess it’s a little like making abortion illegal. Some people think that’s a good idea, because they think people shouldn’t have abortions. What they fail to acknowledge is that making something illegal doesn’t actually stop it, it just drives it underground where dangerous criminal activity springs up to supply the demand.

I think this concept is rich for an allegory. My idea, not all the original I know, is to use magic as the allegory for alcohol, drugs, abortion, or any substance or activity made illegal that probably shouldn’t be. I should make a comment here about the difference between a drug being illegal and something like murder being illegal. To me, if there’s a victim, then it’s appropriate that we have a law to protect the rights of the victim. When there’s no victim, there should be no law. There’s a lot of grey area there, I know, because people would argue that drug users are victims and aborted fetuses are victims, and so forth. But I dont’ want to write forever about this, just let me say that some laws have victims and some don’t, and the ones that don’t shouldn’t be laws.

So I’d like to spend some time, likely in a future post, drafting ideas for this allegory. What I need to do is brainstorm a crapload of concepts around prohibition and its effects and start allegorizing them. You know, I should get a book about prohibition…

 

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