Author: Chian Kee | Date: 21 May 2014 | Please Comment!

where-is-the-green-sheep

Title: Where Is the Green Sheep?
Author: Mem Fox and Judy Horacek
Publisher: Penguin Group (Australia) 2006 (First published by Penguin Group (Australia), 2004)
ISBN: 978-0-14-350176-3

Spoiler warning.

Chilling juxtapositions and contrapuntal subtext abound in this ambitious manifesto of racial and socioeconomic apartheid.  Mem Fox, despite producing prose as monosyllabic as her name, dual-wields the insidious dagger of extrapolatory profiling and the bludgeon of inquisitorial interrogatories.  These weapons are trained not only on the characters of her book, but the readers themselves.

The book opens with a stanza that encapsulates the omniscience of governmental Orwellian impunity combined with the first hints of societal segregation, which are expanded upon as the tome unfolds.

Here is the blue sheep. And here is the red sheep. Here is the bath sheep. And here is the bed sheep.

But where is the green sheep?

Fox’s use of “sheep” as allegories for the unthinking, unsensing masses of modern Western liberalism (who are acquired, classified and undoubtedly herded to slaughter) is a well worn path.   However, this critique extends further, not only to the general social malaise of ultra-conformist communities but to the inevitable stratification that occurs where apathy leads to fear and rejection of the ‘other’.  How degrading for the “blue” and the “red” sheep, reduced to monikers that appear entirely derived from their colour, unrecognised for their achievements, athletic abilities, intellect, or personal characteristics.  Not so for all of the white-skinned sheep that dominate the pages of this book, whose racial privilege is normalised and hidden from view and who instead are called out for their distinctive personalities or preferred activities.

That is not to say that the white over-class in this ovine oligarchy escape scrutiny.  Who is to be spared from the watchful eye of anonymous surveillance when even the naked, bathing sheep and the unsuspecting ‘bed sheep’ are tracked and taxonomised within the false privacy of their own homes?

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Despite the degradation of the coloured sheep and the subtle oppression of the white sheep, a special disdain is reserved for the elusive ‘Green Sheep’, who has temporarily evaded the community’s watchful gaze sparking a kind of impromptu census/witch-hunt in an effort to restore total oversight of the entire herd.

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Fox and Horacek’s ‘sheep’ epitomise the reckless indifference and defeatist abdication with which most members of society treat their civil liberties and personal privacy. Even the ‘Moon Sheep’, which has freed itself from the gravitational pull of the Earth, is so bound up in its society’s surrender that it waves a white flag over its extraterrestrial conquest.  White, like the colour of its fellow ungulate overlords.

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Indeed so deeply does the depicted society’s racial divisions run that even though the ‘Train Sheep’ is willing to travel with other species of colour, the coloured sheep are in all cases quarantined from the white sheep and, in an Antoinette-esque move of decadent indifference, are left to eat cake amongst themselves.

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The Green Sheep, now even abandoned by his own coloured brethren, is found asleep under a bush. Fuelling the racial propaganda machine of the white sheep and reinforcing the stereotype of the lazy, unproductive ‘Greens’. The book ends on a cliffhanger and the reader is left to imagine the horrors and psychological reprogramming that awaits the Green Sheep now that he has been discovered. Perhaps it is a small mercy that the page was turned quietly, permitting our verdant anti-hero a precious few additional moments of ignorant slumber before being once more awoken into the tyranny of reality.

The Verdict?

A catchy and educational repetition and rhyme adventure.

4.5 stars out of 5

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