I’ve been getting emails from my more conventional friends regarding a small inanimate object that has been upsetting them for the last few years. It’s fascinating to me that they are so distraught over what I consider to be a touch of creative genius that has generated millions of dollars, no tens of millions of dollars, maybe even hundreds of millions of dollars for its creators.
Their contempt feels like it is against all good things relating to capitalism. You know, every child dreams of growing up, getting that one good idea that has never been commercialized before, and retiring to Fort Lauderdale at the age of 39 to just play around on their 120-foot yacht with that helicopter on board for short shopping trips.
When you take the guided inter-costal waterway tour, guides will point out some $30 million mansion and say, “This is the house that’s owned by the guy who invented the scratch off lottery ticket.” and “That next 75 million dollar house on your right was built by the guy that came up with Post-it Notes.” It’s the American dream: The Pet Rock, the Chia Pet, Rubik’s Cube, the Hula Hoop, and the Slinky. No one ever seems to be upset over these items.
Of course they say that Pet Rocks are stupid, but what they mostly say is, “Gosh, I wish I had invented that.” Remember the Mood Ring, those rubber band bracelets, the Barbie doll? Like I said, it’s the American dream!
You come up with something that’s simple, can be mass produced, is a catchy idea, can easily be manufactured in China, and is within the price range of every American, and you’ve got it made for the rest of your life.
Okay, so the problem is when you cross old beliefs with new attitudes to get similar results. For example, you break the law and instead of being incarcerated, you get to wear an ankle bracelet and only are permitted to leave your home for church and funerals. What’s wrong with good ole prisons? (Especially a good old for-profit prison owned by Uncle Bill.)
How about this one, you go to school, you act out, and instead of going to the assistant principal’s office to be paddled, you are given a week’s detention. Remember The Breakfast Club?
I’m sure by now that most of you have figured out that I’m talking about that vigilant, 1984-ish character that lurks around the home from November until Christmas Eve, the enforcer, the seer and know it all, Columbo, the little one who will bust small children for missbehaving during this very tense time of the year, The Elf on the Shelf.
One of the protestor’s favorite sayings is that they never needed an Elf on the Shelf to behave because they always had a belt on the shelf, and that belt was available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for 365 days a year. If you didn’t obey the rules, that belt would keep you in line. It was the old beat-you-into-submission rule of child raising that they embrace.
Truthfully my dad hit me with his belt once when I was six or seven years old, and he used his hand on my backside a few times. But once I got past age seven, I grew up in a generally peaceful environment. I do remember my Italian grandmother constantly telling me that “Goda is watching you, and if you don’t takea the garbage out for you momma, you will burn ina hell.” That was a really good motivator.
So I say that the little creative genius that hangs off the cupboard door, the fireplace, or wherever you want to put him or her is amazing. When the kids are bad just say, “The elf is watching you.”