From Oz to Zo: I’m living Dorothy’s journey — but inverted and in reverse

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© Carrie Osgood | CLO Communications

When I look around at my life and the state of society in 2018, I feel like Dorothy Gale and her journey through Oz — only the complete antithesis in every possible way.

Beginning with historical context, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz book was published in 1900 in response to the Industrial Revolution, and The Wizard of Oz film was released in 1939, a decade into the Great Depression. As a parallel, my 2018 Land of Zo comes 10 years after the official beginning of the Great Recession, and decades into the Digital Revolution.

The Wizard of Oz reflected a period before the United States rose to being the world’s most dominant global power, when American society grappled with a general lack of confidence. The entire journey of Dorothy, the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion was to help people realize they had the power within themselves to achieve their goals.

Today it’s the contrary. We now live in a hyper-individualistic society where too many embody an inflated sense of self. Where Oz reflects its period’s communal inferiority complex, Zo suffers from an overabundance of competing superiority complexes.

While Dorothy lived in black and white before the storm transported her to technicolor, I feel as though my surroundings have transformed in the opposite direction. This is especially true when I consider how we as a society communicate with one another other.

I remember living in a time when people of all backgrounds and perspectives could engage in healthy debate, respectfully agreeing to disagree when recognizing the common virtue of our shared humanity. Regardless of ideology, the universal golden rule still prevailed. Treat others as you would like to be treated — with respect, dignity and common human decency.

Now I feel as though I have been transported to a bizarro land of extreme black-and-white thinking — where we have lost the ability to listen and appreciate our commonalities.

We have relegated to polarizing battles between enemies. Us versus Them. Red versus Blue. I’m right. You’re wrong. Full stop.

My journey into Zo begins at Oz’s end which would be Emerald City — but its opposite. While emeralds and rubies were treasures back when Dorothy first met the Wizard, now we live at a time when technology reigns. So instead of being named after a beautiful jewel, I feel the all-powerful tech-savvy shrine would be named after a line of computer code. The hexadecimal (hex) code for Green’s complementary color of Red is FF0000.

Frankly, “F** City” (with its multiple meanings) feels appropriate for this day and age.

Both F** City and Emerald City are the central hubs of yesterday and today that exist to manipulate, discredit and control the masses. This is the world behind the curtain and where the sausage gets made.

Growing up, I was fascinated with wanting to learn about life behind the curtain. I wanted to discover how to make magical connections and feel as though I could contribute to making big things happen.

I began my career working in Hollywood and professional theater, then spent years in the national news media followed by the United Nations. I’ve been invited to elite rooftop parties in New York City and have mingled with famous celebrities. I’ve seen behind the scenes of pop-culture defining award shows, closed sets on film lots and a Disneyland theme park — shattering my illusion of how the “Happiest Place on Earth” is manufactured. I have even worked with, dated and lived with assorted individuals whose faces appear on international advertisements, who personally know presidents, whose lives have become top international news stories, and who have sat in the camera-ready front rows of the Oscars.

I’ve lived in the world behind the curtain. I know how the sausage gets made.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s an exciting confidence boost to feel welcomed into so many exclusive worlds. Feeling important can feel invigorating, and it’s a tremendous privilege to have a voice in public discourse.

However, the reality of those who inhabit F** City makes the experience both a blessing and a curse. I have crossed paths with some of the most caring, creatively inspiring people who work in this world because of our shared passion for storytelling and desire to create positive impact. But unfortunately, we too often find ourselves as comrades in the trenches continually ducking cover from the fabricated chaotic crossfire that can envelope us.

The power-hungry F**ers who permeate the dream machine reek from a suffocating repugnant stench, making it excruciating for the rest of us to breathe and maintain our sanity whenever they come too close.

No Courage + No Heart + No Brain

Those who have had the most damaging impact on my journey through Zo share the opposite characteristics of the Lion, Tin Man and Scarecrow. Each character description below is a composite of numerous real individuals who have harshly inflicted pain and suffering throughout my personal and professional life.

I’ll begin with the Cowardly Lion. Instead of craving courage, his opposite would be someone so reckless that his behavior is destructive. He continually puts himself and the people around him at risk, deflecting responsibility for the consequences of his actions.

He feeds off of his own ego, surrounding himself with those he feels are innately less than, so that he can always feel a cut above — and invincible. He must feel as though he’s the best looking, smartest and most talented man in the room at all times. He shamelessly compliments, manipulates and exploits others to harness control, calculatingly cultivating his self image of grandeur. He embodies toxic masculinity and believes his own hype. He brags about his endless supply of women, talks his way out of sexual assault convictions and carelessly juggles so many lovers at once that one woman will find another woman’s pair of underwear in his sheets after spending the night with him.

These man-boys, who live to feel lionized, lack the maturity and sensitivity to recognize that mutual respect, reliability and sincere compassion reflect genuine strength. Instead, they continuously dismiss commitment so they can skydive off and away at any time — leaving a stream of casualties in their wake.

Next up would be the Tin Man. Instead of wanting more heart to feel less like a machine, his opposite would be a fiery diva prima donna whose passionate heart can overwhelm her to such a degree that her caustic volatility frequently consumes her. She either idolizes or vilifies. She can only love (mostly herself or anything that helps put her on a pedestal) or hate (anyone who doesn’t react according to her desires).

As the epicenter of her universe, she feeds off the power of feeling everyone around her continuously react and orbit around her existence. If she isn’t feeling worshiped and blindly adored, then she will torture innocent victims in order to feel her dominance and perceived superiority over others. She alternates between faint praise and lashing out. By screaming the loudest, she almost always gets what she wants — which makes her meteoric rise all the more disheartening.

As for the Scarecrow, instead of feeling as though he lacks a brain, he has convinced himself that he is all-knowing — a tone-deaf maestro virtuoso with a god complex to boot. Everyone around him suffers from his self-absorbed ignorance, ineptness and blind elitism. The ultimate fraud, he has convinced himself that he’s a jack of all trades. But in reality, he’s the most incompetent master of none. A hollow shell, he constantly spews his lies masked as truth, repeatedly declaring shallow statements of nothingness.

However, he still rises to power because his single skill is to appear to be brilliant in front of people who have no idea what he is talking about. He survives — and thrives — by manipulating the system. He’s a slippery superficial salesman who is all talk and refuses to ever listen. He surrounds himself with loyal idiotic minions and shuns all competent critical thinkers and problem solvers. A jellyfish with teeth, a fluffy quack and a whirling dervish of unnecessary chaos, he continually throws poisonous daggers at everyone around him to maintain dominance while also fabricating diversions away from his innate ineptitude.

Looking around in 2018, it’s demoralizing to recognize that these same character traits describe too many of those who have risen to power in all facets of society. These abusive individuals succeed at living life exclusively on their own terms. They carelessly inflict harm on those who surround them, instigating a disconcerting ripple effect that contaminates far and wide.

In The Wizard of Oz, the Tin Man represented industry and the Scarecrow symbolized agriculture. So in today’s Land of Zo, let’s reframe to instead represent urban and rural.

The Fiery Diva and the Slick Fraud rule over their respective opposing world views. Due to their hyper-sensitive antagonistic natures, they command their underlings to become increasingly polarized to the extremes. One side are combative obstructers and the other are insensitive elitists. One side is fueled by passion and the other is anchored in ignorance. They have become embroiled in an escalating violent conflict fueled by closed hearts and minds.

The dividing line between these two sparing worlds has become a Polarizing Partition (what has become of the torn up Yellow Brick Road). It consists of two giant impenetrable walls, with a buffer zone in between that’s the opposite shade of yellow. This Purple Path has become the only way to travel through this dangerous region of Zo. While it once was spacious and fluid, it has become increasingly tense and claustrophobic.

There was one positive survival skill from the Great Depression that those of us who suffered through the Great Recession lacked — and we still lack. In the 1930s, people came together to help one another through shared adversity. So many amazing things were created in the United States during the Depression, all stemming from the collective benefit of joining forces to achieve common goals.

However, during the Recession “help thy neighbor” seemingly evaporated. It was replaced with “fend for thyself,” “survival of the fittest” and “don’t come too close as I refuse to sink with your ship.” That competitive insecurity and traumatizing lack of trust has evolved into the pervading hostility that permeates our society today.

I would like to think that there is an opposite of Glenda in Zo — without her becoming wicked. However, we no longer have good witches and fairy godmothers coming to our rescue in times of loneliness, confusion, overwhelm and isolation. Supporting one another without judgment has become a rare commodity, instead of the required surplus we need for human survival.

For the Glendas that may exist today, she tends to be all-consumed with the challenges of surviving her daily life without adequate support. She has very little time or energy to care for or genuinely connect with anyone beyond her immediate line of sight. If she does have the support she needs, she’s hesitant to reach out too far as the slightest pull could topple her over and drag her down an abyss.

On the flip side, the Green Witch absolutely lives in the Land of Zo. However, she no longer represents the wickedness of greed and envy. Instead, she now epitomizes the green of nature’s grace and goodness. She’s a Green Goddess, compassionate and caring. Her great challenge comes from society tending to overlook and ostracize her for being different due to the color of her skin and her inability to conform.

In my Land of Zo, the Green Witch has become my closest friend and most reliable companion.

Not to forget Toto… Since I’m someone who prefers flexible schedules, Toto doesn’t exist in my Land of Zo. However, several of my best friends have beloved canine companions who provide them with invaluable love and support in these unsettling times.

The Yellow Brick Road defines the bright linear path that’s guaranteed to provide clear direction toward a specific goal. We follow this road believing it will lead to our happy ending.

However, in my turbulent Land of Zo, there is no clear course to follow. There are no guarantees of a singular approach toward desired action and rewarding success. Happy endings are fleeting.

While roads still exist that continue on to Munchkinland and beyond, they can’t always help us navigate around the enraging storms. So we must work together to regain confidence and create opportunity in order to circumvent discord and bushwhack toward harmony. Our inner compass and instinctual GPS exist to help us navigate the path that is best for each of us — while also considering all of us.

The Wizard confirmed that magnificent Emerald City was primarily an illusion of smoke and mirrors. So while the F** Cities of today may wield tremendous power, they cannot be the sole solutions. So I wonder what options might we have away from the F** Cities and Polarizing Partitions, where we can come together to strengthen and rebuild from the bottom up, that which continues to be threatened from the top down.

My definition of home isn’t a place, it’s a feeling. Home is community, support, genuine comfort and trust. It’s a place where we can feel free to be ourselves without harsh judgment and condescension. It’s where I know I can always depend and rely on others to be there for me just as much as I am there for them. Home is nostalgia for the places where I grew up feeling loved.

Home is where people value people. There’s no place like living in a world full of kindness, compassion, appreciation, acceptance and hope.

It feels fleeting.

I want to escape this world governed by institutionalized greed that continues to reward Slick Frauds, Fiery Divas and Reckless Fools — those who keep cultivating conflict and tossing humanity aside for individual gain.

With supportive friends and family by my side, I aspire to return to the colorful world of my past that was governed by the golden rule. I yearn to return to a welcoming, caring community of people who value people.

Can we come together, close our eyes and tap our heels three times?

There’s no place like home.

Copyright © Carrie Osgood | CLO Communications. All rights reserved.

creating connections that educate & inspire | consults via | visual + verbal storyteller | pulitzer-nominated journalist

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