Posted by Dave Faulkner
I promised a post about our trip last week to Disneyland Paris. In order to be a man of my word, here it is. Three different rambles follow below.
Any increase in British visitors will be matched by a reported increase in the number of mortgage applications. Make no mistake, it is every bit as expensive as you are warned it will be. More so, actually. It makes motorway service stations look like charity shops. How much should a lunch-time cheeseburger, fries and bottle of water cost you? Did I hear someone suggest ten of our finest British pounds? Why, you would be right, sir.
And the other costs are equally appalling, be it food, drink, ice cream, gifts or small necessities. The place is capitalism red in tooth and claw. With a captive audience (like the motorway service stations), they pick a number out and charge it. This is not a complete rant against capitalism, but marks what unrestrained sin can do. Not that laws can make people good, but if there is no competition present to rein things in, sometimes there need to be other constraints. Of course, there won’t be any restrictions on the Mickey Mouse Empire while it rakes in so many Euros for France. And yes, this is small fry compared with far more pressing needs in the world. It’s just one example of what happens when greed runs rampant. No jokes about bankers, please.
I also found the behaviour of the French interesting. Like any culture, the dominant characteristics were both good and bad. The hôtel staff couldn’t have been more obliging. On the other hand, many of the punters flouted the smoking bans and shoved anyone out of the way, children included, to get on a bus. I know it’s said that queuing is a peculiarly British thing, but to me it enshrines a value about fairness and equality. I know too you could make similar credit and debit remarks about we Brits, and that none of these statements should be taken as blanket criticisms, as if one could stereotype everyone. However, it remains curious to me that certain positive and negative traits exhibit themselves within a culture. Maybe Pam BG could shed some Girardian light on this?
In one park there is a statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse holding hands. Beneath it is a plaque with some words from Michael D Eisner, who was Chief Executive of Disney when the Paris operation was opened in 1992. Eisner says that the company wanted to set up a park in Europe, because it was European folk tales that had originally inspired Walt. It was therefore a ‘coming home’ of sorts.
That is at least to some extent true – think Pinocchio or Peter Pan, for example. I’m not sure how they justified their expansion to Japan, mind you!
However, one thing you inevitably can’t escape in Disneyland is the notion of story and narrative. In the Frontierland section, you realise how Disney used to tell a story of the Wild West that wasn’t sensitive to Native Americans. But it’s OK, because then they discovered Pocahontas. On the ride called ‘It’s A Small, Small World’, you travel on a boat past models of children from all around the world in their different costumes and cultures, all singing the song after which the ride is named. It becomes a narrative: everywhere, around the world, however different we are, we are really all the same underneath. (To which the Christian wants to answer both ‘yes’ and ‘no’, I think.)
It reminded me of the importance of story. So many live by a big story, be it the ones told by capitalism, communism, Islam or Christianity. Others – fearing the postmodern suspicion that these stories are power-plays to include the privileged and exclude others – choose instead to populate their lives with little segments from here and there. But the privilege of the Christian witness or preacher is to help locate people in the story of God – the story of God’s redeeming, sacrificial love, which because it is sacrificial is not a power-play. God finds each one of us and places us in his dramatic, epic story of love. We then become facilitators, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to do the same. What a privilege.