Rainbow Fish

Don't Be Like the Rainbow Fish by Matt Welch

Libertarians won't last long in this world taking easy umbrage at the statist culture around them. And as the unwilling recipient of more political children's books than my mind has been able to successfully scrub, I can testify that kiddie propaganda in the other direction can be gruesome, too. But Pfister's blockbuster—which was spun off into an animated TV series, plus several sequels—is toxic enough that I took the rare step of expelling it from my home.

Why? Start with the protagonist. He starts as "the most beautiful fish in the entire ocean," but he refuses to talk or play with the other guppies, preferring instead to "glide past, proud and silent, letting his scales shimmer." I mean, we've all known arrogant people, but don't they usually try to leverage their inherited gifts into some kind of (advantageous-to-them) social interaction?

Instead, he whines about not having any friends. A quest ensues to meet the wise and scary octopus, who advises: "Give a glittering scale to each of the other fish. You will no longer be the most beautiful fish in the sea, but you will discover how to be happy."

This, it turns out, is a counsel to pay ransom—because on previous pages we learned that his fellow fish shun Rainbow not because he won't play with them but because he refused a request from one of them to "give me one of your shiny scales. They are so wonderful, and you have so many." Sure, the colorful fella's a jerk, but he only gets truly ostracized because he won't hand over his body parts on demand, in the name of equality.

After Rainbow Fish dutifully relinquishes a shiny scale to a grateful swimmer, the other fish mob him to insist on their fair share. "His most prized possessions had been given away, yet he was very happy," Pfister concludes after the giveaway. Only then do the other fish invite him back to play.

There is exactly one good moral to be gleaned from these shimmery blue pages: Don't be imperious about your inherited advantages. The rest is the kind of thuggishly naive utopianism that not even John Lennon believed anymore a few months after releasing "Imagine."

Author: Khürt Williams

Hello, I'm Khürt, a Gen X-er residing near Princeton University in Montgomery Township, New Jersey, with a passion for aquariums, terrariums, and photography, capturing moments with digital and 35mm film cameras. I find solace in the woods through hiking, and my eclectic musical tastes span soca, Afrobeat, calypso, 1990s rap, grunge rock, and alternative genres. My tech interests are towards open-source software, Linux, UNIX, and Apple products, particularly macOS.

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