Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Rise and Fall of Bunny Racing: An Allegory

The Rise and Fall of Bunny Racing

My love affair with the automobile began when I was about six. My little brother and I discovered we could give our stuffed animals mobility by putting them in Kleenex boxes and shoving them across the floor, quickly turning the entire house into a raceway. There were generally around eight or ten drivers – stuffed bunnies, teddy bears, a couple of stuffed doggies and a mama and baby Koala. It was a simple game, like golf except instead of hitting balls we were pushing around stuffed animals. Each racer got one push at a time, with performance depending largely on weight and center-of-gravity differences along with the skill of the shot. In the early days of animal racing, it was all about the race: devising various courses around the house and customizing shoe and Kleenex boxes to accommodate each of the various animals and maximize their performance.

There were crashes, of course: devastating pile-ups where bunnies would go smashing into parked dogs or teddy bears and be hurled from the impact. Given that we were about six and four years old respectively, it’s safe to say that many of these crashes were not entirely accidental. All the competition remained strictly between the animals: neither my brother nor I played favorites or were too interested in who won, it was just a fun thing to do. As the courses grew longer and more complex, it seemed fair that the winner should get something for their efforts, which at first was usually a new car. A lot of effort was going into making the pole positions as well though, and we decided to give cash awards of monopoly money to the second and third place winners. We had no way of knowing it at the time, but the addition of the monopoly money proved to be the downfall of our stuffed animal racing utopia. The money, after all, was worthless unless you could spend it on something, so from that point on things like Kleenex box customizing, which had once been free, now came with a price. Technically speaking, my brother and I were doing all the work, but pretended it was being done by the animals, each of whom now needed jobs.

Before, the animals had all lived communally in a large wicker basket, but with the addition of private property they started needing separate residences just to keep their accounts straight. Predictably things began to fall apart from there. Once all the animals had jobs, generally in the field of automotive customization and design, it became necessary for them to actually do them, and the once purely functional racecars gradually became overloaded with unnecessary accessories for no other reason than to keep the economy going. The animals housing too became more elaborate, once we’d decided that the teddy bears were now homebuilders.

It took about a day or two for our stuffed animal kingdom to degenerate into a capitalist hell: nothing but animals buying and selling cars, houses and services. My brother and I seemed to tacitly understand that things had gotten out of control, and that the various details of managing an entire economy had effectively drained the game of all its fun. Once though, it had all been about the racing.


Free-in-Phoenix said...

Watership Down meets Collapse by Jared M. Diamond.

Anonymous said...

she's sooooo cute!