The beach had been divided into equal parts like the segments of an orange. Groups of diverse creatures were milling between the invisible lines shouting slogans and carrying banners embellished with cartoonish representations of the various and voluminous participants. In the center of each segment was a citrus tree stump. These wooden stages were where the candidates vying for election chose to stand and caterwaul to the crowd, at each other and often the very world itself. Alice not being a member of any particular faction or indeed a registered voter in any parish or precinct of the community simply wandered to and fro stopping to listen, admire waistcoats and handkerchiefs and generally having a nosey sort of time.
The Vole who had first bought Alices attention to the event was jumping up and down in an overly excited manner in the hopes of seeing over the much taller creatures in front of her. Alice being a helpful kind of girl offered the poor thing a boost on her shoulder for a better viewpoint.
“Thank you, dear lady this is much better. My name is Mathilda.”
Mathilda’s voice was very faint and slightly squeaky and as it entered Alices ear it tickled terribly.
“Nice to meet you Mathilda. I am Alice.”
“Really? Your Alice? The Alice?”
“I seem to be the only one in Wonderland so yes I suppose I am.”
Alice again was very much surprised her fame or infamy had travelled ahead of her toes.
“This seems to be a very important election.”
“It most certainly is. Only the absolute best individuals are allowed to run for office.”
“Which office is that?”
“Well the opposition of course. The Red Queen is always the government.”
“That seems a very strange sort of election. If you win you automatically lose!”
“Exactly! What a wonderful system of rule we have, the establishment is ever in charge. Quite how it should be don’t you think?”
Alice was of course extremely comfortable with a democratic monarchist form of government having had the great privilege of living since birth under the auspices of that most omnipotent Queen and Empress Victoria the First, a piece of good fortune that the very loyal Alice was assertively proud to crow. The particular brand of government utilized in the very modern nineteenth century Great Britain, so far removed from earlier despotic days, included the decided favorable input through election of representatives voted upon by the general population of the citizenry, excepting of course those of the untrustworthy Roman Catholic religion, of the weak and less intelligent female sex and those common riff raffs not owning property.
“But don’t the opposition disagree with every decision the Red Queen makes?”
This seemed a very reasonable point to Alice but from the Voles reaction and that of the many eavesdroppers now homed in on their conversation a matter of great hilarity.
“Off with their heads!”
Every creature within earshot joined in the shout between giggles and guffaws.
“You mean she executes the opposition if they disagree?”
“Of course, dear girl, but only by beheading. Wouldn’t want a hung parliament!”
Poor Mathilda all but toppled from Alices shoulder such was the force of her laughter. Luckily, she was able to grasp one of the overly starched straps, a result of Alices nanny’s pressing exuberance that forever held the pristine white linen pinafore in place.
“Ladies and gentlemen your attention please. It is my great pleasure to introduce your next member of the opposition for the upper right section of the seashore, Mister Alfred Cruiser.”
The announcement was made by a large Electric Eel sporting a very well waxed walrus moustache and dressed in a loudly checked suit of dubious taste topped by a straw boater sporting a red and white ribbon fastened around the crown. Alice was reminded of the barker she has seen standing outside of Madame Tussaud waxworks in Baker Street bazaar during one of her many illuminating visits to the great metropolis in the company of her ever caring and attentive mentor.
The Eel, with what to Alice seemed an undue degree pomp and genuflection, bowed deeply in the direction of a large disturbance in the crowd.
The reason for such deep and obviously meaningful consideration became very apparent as the target of the adulation swept, nay swam into view, munching casually on several small voters he had picked up on his passage. Mister Alfred Cruiser was a Great White Shark of imperious dimension. Anyone witnessing the toothy grin of that dark predator of the great oceans would testify to his terrifyingly yet endless fascination. The grinning mouth that beguiled all to swim happily into his open jaws with promises of happier and more fruitful days lied with the practiced polish of, well of a proficient and successful politician. That the eyes were black and dead seemed of little consequence as with an almost papal benediction he exhorted any listener to succumb to his power-driven appetites.
Alice had the greatest inclination to tarry and listen to the Great Whites diatribe with avid attention. However, the moment his serrated teeth showed in flashing brilliance such a shiver of intense aversion took her that she was forced to turn away and leave. Mathilda waved a fond farewell to her new friend and rather recklessly moved forwards in the crowd to get a better and closer view. Caution might have warned our small furry friend that whilst it is decidedly unwise to look a gift horse in the mouth it is far more foolish to become entangled in a Great Whites smile.
The second apparently less juicy segment of the imaginary orange was occupied by a much smaller crowd. The applause rippling was polite if unenthusiastic, very much as that witnesses at the second or third performance of the same old song. The occupant of the stump was a tall thin Flounder, sad of face and seemingly slow of wit. Much of the words coming out of his mouth seemed to be garbled and obsolete although an elderly female Flounder standing close behind seemed to glow in admiration.
“Doesn’t he remind you of his father?”
The comment came from an older looking Armadillo that was seated on the edge of the crowd.
“I don’t know the gentleman of whom you speak I must admit.”
The Armadillo looked Alice up and down dismissively.
“Too young, far too young to know anything about politics or topiary.”
“I cannot help my age but am most happy to be instructed.”
“Father and brother have both been well presented. They are supporting him you know. That is his mother standing close behind.”
The whole of my upbringing was based upon the precept of entitlement, entitlement by class, wealth, status, entitlement by simply being British. It took me many years and many miles to erase the shadow of entitlement from my psyche, but all that distance and time have not removed the shadow of entitlement from my persona.
I never expect special treatment but am oft perceived as demanding it, I do not insist on being first, positioning myself last to avoid that perception, but out of good manners cannot deny the requests of those ahead whom wave me ever forward.
Interestingly, after a life spanning the decades of mankind I am inclined to think our abandonment of noble entitlement not advantageous. Promotion of equalization did not produce a level playing field, rather it produced a breed of wholly self-interested and self-absorbed individuals without the benefit of either good manners or breeding.
I find no objection in nodding to a friend, bowing to a sovereign, pressing the flesh of president or dignitary. I do however find it objectionable to endure the entitlement of the undeserving.
Quite possibly the worst example of the negative nature of entitlement is the assumption that permission to break a rule makes the rule somehow nonapplicable. I personally consider any such allowance an obvious symptom of corruption, exceptionalism and favoritism. Three tenets ever fully embraced by the entitled.