“The Lorax” is probably Dr. Seuss’ most controversial book. Lou Dobbs said the movie was an attempt by the president’s friends in Washington to propagandize our children, even though the book was written in 1971. The book was banned in some schools for what some took to be an anti-capitalist message.
Dr. Seuss admitted that the book was propaganda, but that word just means persuasive speech, and there are somethings a human should not be objective about. To look at the earth objectively, which means without value, without reverence, without allegiance, means to be a stunted human being.
Dr. Seuss was attempting to give a parable whose truth is much needed today. He showed how the capititalist world view begins as an alienation, becomes an addiction and ends as a trance.
When we think of nature as property without intrinsic value, we become alienated from our own roots into nature. Like Woody Allen said, “I love nature I just don’t want any of it on me.” Although we cannot eat or love the artificial symbols of value, and although they cannot nurture our bodies or our souls, we come to value them over the realities for which they stand.
Then capitalism becomes a kind of addiction. Because tokens of value cannot truly meet our needs, our appetites become insatiable. In the book, Truffala trees are chopped down to make a vague product called a “thneed” which is promoted as “what everyone needs.” The business must be “biggered” and “biggered.” Jesus made the same point by telling a parable of a rich man who had so much wealth that he sold everything to build a massive barn and died before he could fill it. While our natural needs can be satisfied, our greed for their replacements knows no bounds.
Finally, Capitalism becomes a kind of trance. We see persons and nature only for their exchange value. It does not bother us that some are born into wealth and others into poverty. We now see human worth not as intrinsic but as just another commodity. We only move to save the earth or human lives if we can find a profit motive in it. Even the movie, “The Lorax” was used to sell SUV’s and a plastic action figures of the Lorax that will pollute the earth for which he supposedly advocates. In a capitalist trance, even an anti-capitalist message becomes a commodity to be bought and sold.
So Dr. Seuss calls us to plant Truffula seeds, and Jesus tells us to consider birds of the air. Both of which are calls back into nature. Jesus says to “seek first God’s kindom,” which I think means something like Albert Einstein’s admonition, “Our task must be to free ourselves… by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and it’s beauty.”