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Monty Schwarzeneggar
Nowadays any farce pales in comparison to the garish spectacle that passes as public life

October 22, 2003
The Iranian

Now that dust has settled on California's recall phantasmagoria and the last of porn stars and failed child actors and a plethora of other "colourful" candidates have left the stage to that "man of the people", the muscles from Vienna, is there anything left to say about the formerly hottest news item in the land and now forgotten affair? 

What can be said when reality is already so farcical and over the top as to leave imagination aghast and impotent? Few years ago at an event at the Banf Film and Television festival, an interviewer asked the British comic genius John Cleese why he had stopped writing comedy. 

Back in the fifties and sixties, began the calm and poised creative force behind the anarchy of imagination that was Monty Python, the world was perceived as essentially sane with pockets of insanity. By exaggerating the insane aspects of life, Python-like farce was an attempt at a sort of mass psychotherapy, to cure the ills of the collective psyche through laughter so to speak. 

Nowadays though, the world is essentially insane and any farce pales in comparison to the garish spectacle that passes as public life.
Three ring circus or not, it could be argued that the recall election was a triumph of democracy, a chance for any citizen to compete for the highest office in the biggest state in the Union. 

Regardless of what lays behind the forces that started the recall steamroller in the first place - the millionaire senators, the out of state political strategists - this was grass root power at work, certainly superior to a system where a group of old fogies sit in a shadowy chamber and "whet" a list of "suitable" candidates. 

Still, like many things in American life, the recall demonstrated a gap between the rhetoric and the reality. The rhetoric states that the representatives of the people must serve the interests of the public and if they go astray, the people as the final arbiter must have the right to take away their power. Also that it's the right of every citizen to participate in the political life and to seek office if he or she so desires. 

And yet, when closely observed, the machination behind the recall was the same old game of money and power and at crunch time, at election night, the choice narrowed down to Republican vs. Democrat, the laisse fair anti tax rhetoric vs. populist policies (imagine Noah Cross from "Chinatown" orchestrating the whole affair in hope of getting his man in Sacramento). 

Did anybody really believe for a minute that the porn actress with the generous cleavage or the physically stunted former TV star had a chance? Yes, I agree and neither did they. There's bound to a have been a rush to rent tapes of Mary Carey by droves of politically engaged men and Gary Coleman may land a spot in yet another upcoming cheesy reality show. 

Nothing wrong with that; earning a buck so long as you don't get caught is as American as apple pie. Darryl Issa and friends pouring millions of dollars in the recall machine had no illusion about grand democratic ideas. They wanted Gray Davies out and their man in. It was a power grab, plain and simple, regardless of track record of the soon to be former governor of California. 

Buried underneath the snickering and one liners and all those wacky California jokes was a serious discussion of California's ills and its causes, say for instance Enron's role in the energy crisis that cost Californians dearly; or an honest airing of California's dirty laundry vise-a-vie alien workers, that hardly any menial work is done in the golden state which doesn't involve a pair of illegal alien hands. 

At the end there was certainly an illusion of the democratic process in action but I'm afraid the reality failed to match the highbrow rhetoric. Nobody seemed to care though. Everyone seemed to be in on the joke, from the media to the politicians to the ordinary citizens. A good time was had by all and the stage was set for the Terminator to blast into the governor's mansion and say "hasta la vista" to all of California's problems.     

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