This is Part 2 in a series about my influences. See Part 1 here.
The Lorax Gets Me.
If you have not read “The Lorax” by Dr. Seuss, don’t be worried. This article is littered with quotations from the book.1 But also, you should probably read it.
So why does the Lorax get me?
We can start with the physical resemblance:
The Lorax is about embodying idealism. Obivously, the book is about environmental issues, but I see him as an embodiment of the inner voice of the Onceler, telling him that what he is doing is wrong, that he needs to think about the environment. In that way, the Lorax is really representative of all the moral arguments and decisions we have to make.
“I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees.
I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.
And I’m asking you, sir, at the top if my lungs”-
he was very upset as he shouted and puffed-
“What’s that THING you’ve made out of my Truffula tuft?”
“Look, Lorax,” I said.”There’s no cause for alarm.
I chopped just one tree. I am doing no harm.
Just one. What’s the harm? The Lorax is a story of understanding impact, of ramifications. I see a lot of parallels to the current technology sector boom as well.
I meant no harm. I most truly did not.
But I had to grow bigger. So bigger I got.
I biggered my factory. I biggered my roads.
I biggered my wagons. I biggered the loads
of the Thneeds I shipped out. I was shipping them forth
to the South! To the East! To the West! To the North!
I went right on biggering… selling more Thneeds.
And I biggered my money, which everyone needs.
While my issues with modern capitalism I don’t exactly want to get into here, it boils down to this: corporations have a duty to provide financial return to their shareholders. That responsibility to shareholders can contradict responsiblity to the public, which often leads to decisions that maximize profit at the expense of some public good. In our current political system, the way to solve that is primarily through regulation.
The argument that the Onceler makes is similar to the arguments many industries make to avoid regulation when the government wants to introduce new policy.2
And then I got mad.
I got terribly mad.
I yelled at the Lorax, “Now listen here, Dad!
All you do is yap-yap and say, ‘Bad! Bad! Bad! Bad!’
Well, I have my rights, sir, and I’m telling you
I intend to go on doing just what I do!
And, for your information, you Lorax, I’m figgering
turning MORE Truffula Trees into Thneeds
which everyone, EVERYONE, EVERYONE needs!”
Especially in the wealthier parts of the word, we have a lot of difficulty understanding the differentiations between needs and wants, and the interconnections between the two. I have some much longer posts planned on that subject. It’s something I spend a lot of time thinking about, especially now that I work for a company that makes high-end goods. It’s easy to see your product as the center of everything. Something that “everyone, EVERYONE, EVERYONE needs!” It’s our responsibility to balance our love of our products and financial obligations with their long-term impact and externalities.
I believe that every individual has a moral obligation to try to make the world a better place. I haven’t figured out how to do that yet, but in the words of the good Dr. :
So yeah. The Lorax gets me.