Saturday, 2 October 2010

Paint It Red

I was in the middle of reading Drew Westen’s The Political Brain when I saw a white rabbit running past me muttering, “I’m late, I’m late.” I followed him but soon fell into a hole which turned out to have a very long drop. By the time I landed, ever so gently, at the bottom, the rabbit was already heading out to an open field where a large crowd had gathered. I couldn’t hear what he was saying, but all the people listened to him attentively. Then suddenly a pack of human-sized playing cards appeared from nowhere. The Jack of Clubs pointed at the rabbit and solemnly declared, “Paint it red”. The cards diligently carried out the order. The now red rabbit was dumb-founded. In the next moment, everyone had turned on him. They shouted abuse, threw rotten eggs and tomatoes at him, and chased him away.

Curious as to what had happened, I walked over to what appeared to be a family picnic by a river to see if they could enlighten me. The father wore a very big hat and was totally absorbed in dishing out the food, except he was piling it all on the plate of this one ginormously fat boy. The other ten or so children were frankly emaciated. Before I could say anything, the smallest of the kids, a little girl of four or five, raised her hand and asked, “Why can’t we all have a share?” The father stared at her and replied in a low voice, “Because it’s my food, Alice, and I can do what I want with it.” “But,” said Alice, “that’s not fair.” She had barely finished speaking when those strange playing cards popped up and surrounded her. Contemptuously, the Jack of Clubs uttered as he looked down at Alice – “Paint it red”. The other children glared at red Alice and in an inexplicable rage they pushed her into the river, and the little girl was never seen again.

I wanted to report this awful incident and found my way to the nearest courthouse. As I approached, a huge egg loomed into view. The judge, it transpired, was none other than Humpty Dumpty. I had to wait because he was in the middle of a very serious case. A walrus and a turtle had both been accused of drugging all the King’s horses, a crime punishable by death. In support of his defence, the turtle offered a cast iron alibi. By contrast, the walrus offered a large bag of gold. The turtle was outraged, “That’s a bribe!” But Judge Humpty Dumpty disagreed, “No, no, no, words should be chosen carefully, especially when they mean whatever I want them to mean. And what the walrus offers me is a generous donation. So he can be set free.” The turtle turned to the jury and pleaded with them, “this is madness, you cannot let this happen. You mustn’t let wealth overrule justice.” In an instant, the pack of cards whizzed by and the turtle was painted red. The jurors fixed their gaze upon him and shouted in unison, “Guilty! Guilty!” Humpty Dumpty nodded in approval, “Excellent decision. It just leaves me to record his guilt and give the order for, oh, I never get tired of this part, Off with his head!”

Shocked at what I was witnessing in this topsy-turvy world, I went to the highest authority in the land – the ruling twins of Tweedledum and Tweedledee. At their palace, in front of their subjects, I asked them if they were aware of what was going on under their reign, and if so, what they intended to do about it. Tweedledum replied with a smile, “Those who have can go on having”, and Tweedledee continued, “and those who have not are not going to have”. As they clapped each other, I said there must be a better, fairer way. Even as the assembled masses showed signs of agreement, the pack of cards flew by me and left me painted in red. At that point, the mood of the crowd changed. They started running towards me chanting, “He’s red, he’s red, off with his head!” And then I woke up from the nightmare. Or so I thought.

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