What makes Seuss’ The Lorax a favorite? Something more than the environmentally concerned message. It’s how the main characters defend their positions.
Both are protagonists. Both have integrity. One is oblivious to something important, something the other can’t shut up about.
The Once-ler: he’s ingenious, resourceful, entrepreneurial, successful, and meets a basic consumer need. He easily disproves rash generalizations.1 He listens to opposition and dismisses it politely, confident in his own rightness.2 Even when forceful3 he remains lucid. Finally succumbing to anger at the story’s climax, the Once-ler’s first and only comeback4 would have held up nicely had not the Lorax’s case been made immediately thereafter by the felling of the last Truffula tree without another word.
The Lorax: he’s reactive, strident, incessant, opinionated, and insulting.5 He’s emotional from the start.6 His blunt words lack appeal.7 His message repeats verbatim, ad nauseam.8 He calls attention to the escalating, concrete fallout of the Once-ler's industrial expediency.
The Once-ler prevails. He gets his way. He wins, yet both lose. The Lorax knows the loss immediately, for he's been watching it unfold all along. The Once-ler understands the loss only gradually,9 over time, for time is all that remains. Time … and regret.10 It was about the issues for both of them. It was never just about winning the argument.
Let’s assume that we don’t know who’s right in the above. Who’s more credible? Whom would you believe? Be honest. And be wrong.
Because we discredit people like the Lorax reflexively. They fly off the handle, and their credibility flies out the window. Why? Why do we esteem the dispassionate ones? Because an absence of emotion facilitates discernment. Emotion, theirs and ours, confuses us, and we turn off. We are inept at dealing with emotion but not surprisingly, the less we permit it, the worse we handle it. We mustn't forget that the delivery of the message has no bearing on its truthfulness. Something about not judging a book by its cover.
More than that, we discount people entirely who are wrong on a single point. We short-circuit, bypassing everything from them, not just the point of error. This also simplifies discernment and comes from being intellectually lazy. We never allow, “You are right on this but wrong on that.” Rather, their brain is completely misfiring. A blog with a few typos drives me on. Why should I listen to an illiterate? And yet, who's 100% correct on everything? In this way, we aren’t bound to listen to anyone but ourselves because, well, we are always correct.
Chesterton from Orthodoxy: "it is not the right method to tell him to stop doubting. It is rather the right method to tell him to go on doubting, to doubt a little more, to doubt every day newer and wilder things in the universe, until at last, by some strange enlightenment, he may begin to doubt himself."
- “There is no one on earth who would buy that fool Thneed!” But the very next minute I proved he was wrong.
- “I am doing no harm. I’m being quite useful.”
- “Shut up, if you please.”
- “I have my rights, sir …”
- “You dirty old Once-ler man, you!”
- “I’m asking you, sir, at the top of my lungs …”
- “You are crazy with greed.”
- “I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees.”
- “Whatever that meant, well, I just couldn’t guess. … But now, now that you’re here, the word of the Lorax seems perfectly clear.”
- “each day since that day I’ve sat here and worried and worried away. Through the years, while my buildings have fallen apart, I’ve worried about it with all of my heart.”