Mouseland: A Tribute to Tommy Douglas and Social Consciousness

Few people are aware of the Clare Gillis political allegory, Mouseland, first disseminated in 1944 by Tommy Douglas, a Scots-born Canadian social democrat who introduced public healthcare as part of a greater package of social reforms aimed at enhancing the quality of life for Canadian citizens.

Douglas, who in 2004 was voted "The Greatest Canadian" of all time in a nationally televised contest organized by the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Company), is the grandfather of actor Kiefer Sutherland.

It’s difficult to compare Douglas to anyone, living or dead. He was a statesman par excellence, a rebel reformer and advocate of worker’s rights when socialism was a dirty word with presumed ties to Adolph Hitler and the Social Democratic Party (SPD) of Germany. In fact, Douglas was convinced that his kind of socialism (the foundation of which lay in basic human rights) would someday triumph over capitalism, which he perceived as nothing more than the blind pursuit of money and power by the few at the expense of the many. 

Douglas introducing rural electrification, public auto insurance, the deprivatization of industry (called Crown Corporations), public service unions, and a (Saskatchewan) Bill of Rights that preceded the United Nation’s declaration by more than a year.

I won’t quote the full text of Mouseland so as not to plagiarize Douglas’s work, but you can read it from the link above or listen to the audio version. My synopsis of Mouseland is that government (Canadian, American, whichever) is conducted by cats, for the benefit of cats, and we mice are pretty much left to fend for ourselves.

The cats, in case you hadn’t guessed, are the 10 percent of the population at the top of the economic and social ladder; the ones we call the “wealthy elite.” In America, they currently hold 90 percent of the wealth. The situation is similar, if not quite so blatant, in every developed country in the world, and (marginally?) worse in so-called "third world" dictatorships.

Today, as I write this, the stock market is imploding from New York to London, the tremors being felt as far away as Asia. The culprits are the cats, for whose benefit other fat-cats (known as the Fed) have voted in favor of cat food (bailouts, conservatorship) versus mouse food (affordable gasoline, housing and comestibles). As long as the cats are in power, expect the living conditions of mice to deteriorate.

French writer Hervé Kempf (How the Rich Are Destroying the Earth) calls these cats, “the global sect of greedy gluttons” and their forms of government oligarchies. They see, in the current social unrest caused by their excessive greed and attitude of entitlement, a threat to their privileged status, and respond by instituting even stricter, authoritarian governments – a trend that can be seen from Canada and America to Australia and even France.

These privileged few not only demand, and eat, vast quantities of cat food (wealth) but lately insist that the mice cut back and pay more for mouse food so that they, the cats, can wallow in their excesses.

I encourage you to read, and listen to, the tale of Mouseland, and decide for yourselves if a government of cats can ever work for a population of mice. I want you to keep the allegory in mind when you buy that next tank of gas, that next bag of apples, or that next t-shirt from some Honduran maquiladora whose workers can barely afford the potable water they need to keep them alive.

I also want you to read Mouseland before you vote in November. I know I will, if I get the opportunity (to vote, that is). As Tommy Douglas noted, you can lock up a mouse (or a human), but you can’t lock up an idea.

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