Sunday, September 20, 2015

Mouseland -- A 21st Century Vision

by Fraser Needham

Once upon a time there was a place called Mouseland.

And even though the majority of animals in this place were mice, and this is why it was called Mouseland, it had always been ruled by either black or white cat governments. So, not surprisingly, these governments were quite adept at passing laws that were good for cats but not so good for mice.

So, one day, the mice had had enough and they created their own mice party. Many mice were active in this party and they set about drafting and debating policies they felt would truly best serve mice. These policies were then put into election platforms of the mice party and this party began to contest elections.

It wasn’t too long before the mice party was winning seats in the Mouseland legislature. And, although the black and white cat parties still held more seats than the mice party and were able to continue forming governments, with their new party the mice were able to put enough pressure on the government so that the odd time the cats actually passed some laws that were good for mice. What progress!

The long term goal the mice believed in was that if they continued to work hard and compete in elections with their new party, they would one day gain enough seats to form government. And, when this happened, a mice party government would be able to pass laws and create a society that was truly beneficial for mice and history would be changed forever!

However, although the mice worked very hard and continued to contest elections, progress was slower than initially anticipated. In some elections the mice party would gain seats, only to see them lose these same seats in the next election. This was because the issue at hand in elections was far more complex than mice voting for a mice party. Some mice continued to vote for the black and white cat parties because this is all that they had ever known. Many other mice did not vote at all.

But the white and black cats continued to vote in every election as they had always done.
So, while the mice who were active in the mice party continued to believe that if they worked hard enough that they would one day elect their own government, the elected mice began to see things differently. They began to seriously wonder no matter how hard they worked, if they would ever live to see an actual mice party government.

And, they began to wonder what all the fighting was for? They not only had to fight tooth and nail in the legislature to get any mice laws passed against the white and black cat governments, they were always fighting against other powerful forces as society at large remained controlled by white and black cats.

And, the more the elected mice began to spend time in the legislature with the white and black cat politicians and the less time with mice, they began to think perhaps these cats aren’t so bad after all. I mean, there must be some reason why they have always ruled Mouseland and some of their ideas seemed to make a whole lot more sense than they once did.

And, although with everyone watching the mice party politicians continued to kick up a fuss and pretend to argue with the white and black cats in the legislature, after hours it was quite a different story. It was well known within certain circles in the Mouseland capital that the mice politicians had become quite friendly with their white and black cat counterparts. They ate and drank together and started to agree with the cats on many things.

The mice politicians also realized one other very important thing. They could continue to fight with the white and black cat politicians and greater society at large in the hopes of getting a few laws passed to benefit mice which was all of course a lot of hard work. Or, they could try and get along a little better with their white and black cat counterparts, stop all the fighting for limited gain and generally let the cats impose their will as they had always done. The latter option was of course much less work and, at the end of the day; they still got paid the same. Their mice supporters would of course not like this but what choice did they have? They could either vote for a mouse or a cat and they knew that they would almost always choose the former regardless of what the mice politicians said or did.

Not surprisingly, the rank and file mice party members began to complain that things seemed to be moving backwards instead of forwards. The mice politicians had given up fighting for laws to benefit mice and more often than not supported laws that benefited cats. “How did it come to this?” they asked. At the same time, the mice politicians, who now rarely found the time to attend mice party events, even if they were supposed to as set out by the mice party constitution, would chastise the mice when they did find the time to speak to them.

“You just don’t understand,” the mice party politicians would say. “Things have changed and it is much harder to get mice laws passed than we initially thought. The cats control everything and it is next to impossible to get this to change right now. We understand this better than you because we are in the legislature with cats, we know and understand them and they are not to be trifled with. So, the best course of action is to reduce our expectations and build to fight another day. And, unfortunately this means going along with some of the cat ideas just for now. We don’t like it but we don’t really have any choice.”

And so it went for a number of years. The mice politicians continued to challenge their white and black cat counterparts less and less until eventually almost never at all. Perhaps what was most difficult for the rank and file mice was they continued to work very hard and passed resolutions at the mice party conventions with the intention of putting them into election platforms, as had once been the case. Yet, time and again, these resolutions would never make it into the mice party electoral platform but would instead be replaced by proposals that appeared to favour cats. After awhile, the hierarchy of the mice party began to destroy these resolutions and even deny their existence.

The mice party members became very frustrated by this seeming betrayal by the elected mice politicians but still felt they had little choice but to vote for them and hope things improved some day. After all, voting for a mouse had to be better than voting for a cat although this certainly didn’t seem to be the case on a lot of days!

And then one day something very strange happened.

An internal battle within the white cat party, which had been brewing for several years, boiled over and this party effectively imploded. All of a sudden, the white cats couldn’t decide amongst themselves on a leader, they couldn’t decide on policy direction and they certainly couldn’t effectively contest an election. For all intense purposes, they were dysfunctional.

By default, the vacuum created a tremendous opportunity for the mice party. Because of the implosion, some white cats began to vote for the black cat party. However, others began to cast their votes with the mice party. The way they looked at it was the mice party was now running on a platform that, if implemented, would certainly benefit cats and besides; a number of them just couldn’t stand the black cat party leader.

So, without changing course, the mice party began to increase its seat count in elections. And then one day it happened, the mice party won enough seats in the legislature to form official opposition to the black cat government – the first time in the party’s history! The mice were ecstatic! Just a few short years ago it seemed as if they would never form government and now for the first time in history it was within grasp – the next election would be crucial!

And then another strange twist occurred.

One day, the senior leadership of the mice party, along with the elected politicians, got together and brought in a white cat to be the party leader and the mice were even more confused than ever. “How could a white cat possibly lead the mice party?” they wondered. “Wasn’t the main goal of the mice party to elect mice so they could create a society that would better serve mice, once and for all?”
The mice party senior leadership assured them not to worry and that the new leader would address them in good time, explain everything and it would all make sense. And eventually that day came.

As the new leader entered the mice party convention hall the chattering mice fell silent. You could not hear a pin drop as he walked to the podium and prepared to speak.

And very quietly and confidently he cleared his throat and this is what he said:

“Look, I understand your reservations about all of this and if I were you I would probably think the same thing,” he said. “You must certainly be saying to yourselves, ‘how can a white cat possibly lead a mice party?’

“I know it all seems strange but you have to look at the bigger picture. I am a white cat and I understand how they think and I know how to get enough of them to vote for this party so we can win the next election and form government. Many of them trust me and they will trust that I will run this party and a government in their best interests.

“So, what does this mean? It means this mice party will run on an election platform that is more favourable to cats than ever before. And trust me, enough white mice will trust and vote for us so we can win.

“And where’s the catch, what’s in it for mice, you might ask? Once we have won the election and formed government, then we can start passing and implementing laws that will benefit mice. However, we can never talk about this other plan until after the election is won, otherwise it will scare the white cat voters off. Trust me, it is a great trick and it will work. You just keep the mice voters on board and leave the rest to me.”

The mice remained silent for a moment but then a few started to grumble and one particularly brave mouse spoke out and this is what he said:

“I don’t know, it just doesn’t seem right. We run on one platform and then go ahead and do something totally different once we get in government? It seems dishonest. Why don’t we just do like we used to do and run on a platform that will benefit mice? For sure the mice will vote for us and maybe some of the white cats too and so we could still win the election. Lying in order to get in power just doesn’t seem right, as far as I am concerned.”

Suddenly the white cat leader grew very silent and his eyes glazed over. He asked that the mouse that spoke out and the few others that seemed to support him be removed from the convention hall.

And then with a very serious and stern look on his face he began to address the mice again:

“Look, I am going to be 100 per cent honest with you and tell you a few things that are going to surprise and maybe even upset you. You have to understand that not all mice are good. Not even close to it, as a matter of fact. And this includes some mice that have been standing right beside you here in this convention hall that you think are your friends.

“Remember, I am a white cat and I know a thing or two. Some of these mice are Bolsheviks, some of them are Communists and some are anarchists. And some, are even spies for both the white and black cat parties! Trust me, I know and have seen it from the other side.

“Sure, they pretend they are your friends but the last thing they ever want to see is a mice party truly succeed and form government. Now that they see you are so close to success, it scares them and they will do everything in their power to sabotage your success. If they have to twist the facts, lie, cheat – whatever the case may be – they will do it to stop you from succeeding.”

The white cat leader then grew silent again and he looked out across the crowd of mice seeming to lock eyes with each and every one of them before saying, “I think you now know what has to be done,” before waving his hand as a motion to bring the mice who had confronted him back into the convention hall.

The mice came back in and the hall grew silent again – even more so than when the white cat leader had first addressed the convention hall. And then, after what seemed like an eternity but was probably no more than 30 seconds, he nodded ever so slightly to the mice he had most recently addressed.

And then suddenly, without hesitation, the majority of mice in the convention hall turned on the mouse who had spoke out and his few friends and viciously attacked them. The mouse who spoke out was killed within a few minutes but his friends were lucky enough to escape the hall with their lives in tact, if only barely. Not surprisingly they were never seen again.

And so that was that and preparations for the next election campaign began in earnest. And when the time came, the mice party was better prepared then it had ever been for an election and the mice worked harder than they ever had to elect their first government.

And then the day finally came – the first ever mice party government in Mouseland’s history was finally elected! The mice partied long into the night on that day as they talked about all the wonderful things they would do for their fellow mice now that they finally controlled their first government.

They even had to pinch themselves every now and then to make sure it had really happened and was not just a dream.

The next day, the newly elected head of government – the white cat leader of the mice party – returned to the convention hall to address the mice. He had a very self-assured and almost grimacing smile on his face as he approached the convention hall. He had been elected leader of Mouseland and not through a white cat party but a mice party of all things. And he had done it all on a platform that would surely benefit cats. Who would have ever thought, he laughed to himself.

Now all that remained was to speak to these darn mice again. Now that he was leader of all of Mouseland, this is not an event that would be occurring very often in the future. I mean, he didn’t mind the senior leadership of the mice party, or the elected politicians, but these rank and file mice were a damned nuisance as far as he was concerned.

So, the white cat leader entered the hall and gave a very perfunctory speech. He thanked the mice for all their hard work during the campaign and said that this was certainly an historic day for all mice and great things surely lay upon the horizon. He was just about to wrap up his speech when a mouse spoke out from the back of the hall.

This mouse had been loyal to the mice party through thick and thin, through ups and downs, for a great many years. He had stuck with the party even when he did not understand why the leadership was making certain decisions it had made. His loyalty had never wavered and he had even endorsed the white cat leader without question.

“Great leader,” the mouse said, “now that we have won the election and elected our first mice party government, when can we start talking about and implementing the other plan? You know, the secret one we weren’t allowed to talk about during the campaign. The one that will enact good laws for mice and create a society once and for all that is truly beneficial to all mice.”

The white cat leader suddenly looked dumbfounded and was clearly at a loss for words. In all the elation of his election as leader of all of Mouseland, he certainly had not been prepared for what the loyal party mouse had just said.

But, being the seasoned politician he was, he quickly recovered himself and looked straight into the crowd of mice. However, he did not so much look at the mice but above them and a look of hostility came over his face but then quickly passed.

And then, he suddenly broke out into uncontrollable laughter but it was not a laughter of joy but one more of contempt. And for someone outside looking in, it was clear that he was laughing at the mice and not with them.

Finally, when he had further regained himself enough to speak, he addressed the mice again, “Oh we will certainly get to the other um,” he giggled, “plan in good time. You just be patient and wait. It will all happen in good time…”

And before anyone knew it, his handlers were whisking him away from the convention hall and into a waiting car outside as his laughter continued to echo all the way throughout the hall and beyond.

And that was the last time the mice ever saw him.

Fraser Needham is a freelance journalist living in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. He has been working and writing in Saskatchewan for the past 15 years. Aside from the Saskatchewan CCF/NDP, he follows Aboriginal issues and politics closely.

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