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Pants Article 2

Pants Article 2

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Published by Tony Wilson

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Published by: Tony Wilson on Apr 15, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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If it’s not bad enough that Atlanta stole Melbourne’s Olympic Games, now it’s stolenmy allegory.It’s a pants allegory. I don’t mean ‘pants’ in the British sense of not very good. Myallegory, before it was stolen, could have been anything. Indeed, it was showingenormous promise, cantering around the training yard with all the other yearlingallegories, preparing for a big Spring Carnival.But now my picture book 
 Harry Highpants
has been pinched by the Americans andturned into real life, so that one day soon it’ll read like yesterday’s newspaper. The plot is simple. Harry Highpants wears his pants high. The skater kids in town and Carlthe Builder wear theirs low. Into this pants milieu strides Roy Bland, running for mayor on a public decency platform, and vowing that all pants must be worn at‘normal height’. The Bland campaign polarises the community, with the free pantersand the normal panters eventually facing off at a Free Pants Convention. With thesituation at flashpoint, Harry Highpants, wearing his highest pants ever, steps to thelectern and wins the crowd with a speech about the true meaning of freedom.I had high hopes for the book, hopes pinned to the lofty belt loops of Harry’s trousers.I figured the kids would love Tom Jellett’s bright illustrations and Carl The Builder’scoin slot, and that first year philosophy students would demand it be on the readinglist alongside Thomas Paine’s
‘The Rights of Man’ 
and John Stuart Mill’s
‘On Liberty’ 
I told the publishers that it would do for liberalism what Dr Seuss’s ‘The Butter BattleBook’ did for the arms race and the Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) doctrine.In that story, the Yooks and the Zooks are in a hostile standoff over whether breadshould be eaten butter side up, or butter side down. ‘The boys in the back room’develop ever-increasingly sophisticated weapons, until the respective leaders of bothYooks and Zooks are leaning across their dividing wall, each ready to drop the small but deadly "Bitsy Big-Boy Boomeroo" on the other.How would the great Doctor have felt if he released his book, and then the Cold War really had taken a turn over condiment practices? Think of how how his parablewould have been diminished had Ronald Raegan rounded out his Evil Empire speechwith earnest mutterings about margarine, and a commitment to develop a new weaponcalled the Kick-a-Poo Kid. From Seuss’s perspective, it would have been a disaster.His allegory would have been destroyed. Snuffed out. Reduced to a rhyming rubble of shoddy reportage.That’s basically what has happeend to me.. On August 1
, Omnibus Books released
 Harry Highpants
. Three weeks later, it’s reported that an Atlanta council member called CT Martin, the deputy chairman of the Public Safety and Legal AdministrationCommittee, has proposed an ordinance to ban lowpanting, with penalties ranging fromhefty fines, to jail time. Atlanta’s youth has revolted, labelling this a racist lawdesigned to give police another excuse to hassle African-Americans. There has been aFree Pants Convetion. They actually didn’t call it a Free Pants Convention, preferringto go with the sligthly greyer ‘City Council meeting’ but a Free Pants Convention it2
was. The old people booed the young people. The young people booed the old people.There were even underwear flashers, like 19 year old James Fancy, who dackedhimself for pants freedom. He carried a placard - ‘Clothes are not a crime’.In the centrespread of ‘Harry Highpants’, the placards at my Free Pants Convetionread: ‘I wear pants and I vote’and ‘Make pants not war’ and ‘Choose Pants’ and ‘FreePants Now!’The Fancy pants stunt was the last straw. It was all just too similar. I consulted anintellecutal property lawyer, inquiring as to whether I could claim copyright in a pantscrusade, and was told in no uncertain terms that I could not. Apparently the problem isthat
 Harry Highpants
is fiction, and it is perfectly legal for people to act out the thingsset out in fiction without having to ask the permission of the author, unless it is a public performance for profit. This has been established legal principle since the caseof 
Schmo v Sendak 
(1974), where a 43 year old man dressed in a wolf suit, sailedaround the world, danced wildly, returned to his bedroom, and then claimedsensationally on his return that his supper was still hot (the court was not asked todecide whether it had been reheated).It remains to be seen how the pants laws play out in Atlanta. At this stage, it appearsthose opposing need a pants champion, ideally a highpanter such as Harry, to emergeout of the ruckus and stand side by side with with the likes of James Fancy. I’m a longway away in Australia, but I’d suggest that prominent highpanter and former star of 
Mischa Barton would be perfect for the role.3

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