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Sunday, July 5, 2020

The Life of Monty Python ...



So for the past few days, we have been watching the series "Monty Python:  The Almost Truth (Lawyer's Cut)" - and what should pop up in my news feed but Eric Idle weighing in on the COVID state of things, including denouncing advice from the Monty Python's official Twitter page.










Amen - LOL!


For the life of me, I cannot understand why anyone would listen to politicians for their medical advice, whether it's the actual threat of COVID itself or whatever latest drug they're touting as a possible cure.

In fact, when I hear politicians touting drugs that haven't been properly researched/tested, my first thought is NOT - - "Wow. I should go get some! The chosen one has spoken"

Instead, I think --  "Hm - they must hold hedge-fund shares in that pharmaceutical company lol  ;)



For goodness sakes, most of this is just good common sense - I mean, really, this isn't that complicated. 

And if you don't trust political press, but still want to ask  professional input, then just ask your own personal doctor, whom you trust?

Why would you trust a politician for medical advice, or some person on Twitter you don't even know, who has no medical training whatsoever, and even if they say they're a doctor, you don't know that they are?!?

Regardless, for those of you unfamiliar with which member of Monty Python Eric Idle is, Eric was the one all us girls referred to as "the cute one" - the angel-faced Davy Jones of Monty Python's Monkees lol.








Until watching this show, I'd forgotten how much of a ruckus The Life of Brian caused when it was released - actually banned in conservative states and areas within the U.K.







Thus, I've determined to watch it again, not only because it's been years, but because we've seen a resurgence of this sort of mentality, and for personal reasons, I can't stand it when religion addicts/zealots try to literally ban me from simply viewing something and deciding for myself -  especially material they've never actually viewed themselves, just blindly following along like sheep. 

In doing so, they negate the greatest gift besides grace/forgiveness that God has ever given to us - the gift of free will.

They behave as whatever it is we're viewing is somehow capable of having the power to magically and spiritually take over minds and bodies, without our consent, influencing us in ways we didn't expect, as if we're all that feeble-minded and have no critical thinking skills at all, and thus will lose all control of our bodily functions or something, if we view it lol. 

Seriously, WTH?

(As IF one even can lose control of their own mind and body without their free-will consent, barring they're brains haven't fully developed, they're children, they're on some mind-altering substance, or they carry some variation of either severe cognitive dysfunction or mental illness lol). 

In fact, when people throughout my previous evangelical upbringing -  which I have since evaluated and promptly discarded as mostly subjective crap they stamp Christ's name on - have banned something or burned something or told me not to read or watch something - not only did I always just view it later, but I began to realize they were the ones who were so easily influenced/manipulated by what they viewed and things other people say.

It's projection - they are easily susceptible to believing/being influenced by everything they view and hear, and thus, they assume you are too lol. 

I remember in 1989, when Martin Scorsese's "The Last Temptation of Christ" came out, my mom tried to get me to sign a petition to ban it.




To which, of course, I asked, "Have you ever seen it?"

Of course not. 

"Well, my church said ..." 

I said, "What? How can you possibly want to ban something you haven't even seen yourself? What are you so afraid of? Is your faith THAT shaky that you can't handle viewing something and critically evaluating it? If your church told you to jump off a bridge, God told them so, would you do it?  No - I do not sign petitions to ban things I haven't viewed myself, sorry. "

I later saw it and came away thinking, "Eh, not Scorsese's best as a film, but it poses some interesting questions."

The truth is, the film does NOT show Christ having sex - it shows Christ being affectionate with Mary Magdalene, as his wife, while standing in front of a bed - period. 

And really, who cares if Christ was married or ever had sex?  

Does that change his overarching and bigger-picture message?

If we found irrefutable evidence that Christ was married and had sex, is your faith so flimsy you would stop following him and that would negate everything he said? 

Is the foundation of your faith that flimsy, that it's entirely predicated on Christ's sexual status? 

In fact, the fact that we want to believe Christ wasn't married kind of counters the religious obsession with needing everyone to be married, doesn't it? 

Our obsession with gender and sex is just that - our obsession - one that Christ didn't even touch, focusing on what he felt were more pressing issues.

Christ's marital/sexual life does not change Christ's message, which was bigger than your gender, it was bigger than sex. 


Later, my Mom gave me a huge lecture about how Harry Potter was "glorifying witchcraft," and how dare I be reading that to my daughter.







I said, "Clearly, you haven't read even one of them.  There are actually a lot of Christian-influenced themes in it, just like there were in Lord of the Rings, or even Star Wars."

"It's about using whatever personal power and gifts you've been naturally given, or have developed, either for good or for selfishness or evil, which is a choice we all have to make at some point. "

"However, nobody ever says "burn the witchcraft" about Lord of the Rings or Star Wars, though, isn't that interesting?  And do you know why?  Because men wrote them."

"A woman wrote this one - therefore, she must be a witch and burned at the stake.  Thank you for helping perpetuate centuries of institutionalized misogyny yourself, with this nonsense."


Of course, this only caused further accusations of my being a witch or demon-influenced myself.

Sigh.

Of course it wasn't true,  never was, and though it hurt, at the time, I now take it as a compliment. 

Because when an evangelical or religiously-addicted person calls you a witch or a heretic for challenging their belief system, it's actually a compliment - you've just challenged their fragile belief system with likely truth they can't handle, which is really what they should be evaluating, and demonizing you as a result.


In fact -  as a childhood-evangelical-turned-atheist-turned Episcopal Christian/Theraveda Buddhist - I'd like to go back and thank all of the people who challenged my belief system, growing up.

Because there are none so strong in our belief systems as those of us who have been challenged in it, examined it or even dismantled it, started from scratch and rebuilt it, now on a solid foundation, which actually includes allowance for the possibility that I'm wrong ;)



Now -  having said that -  there are certain things that I will never read, like Mein Kampf or Charles Manson's writings, but at least I still have that choice. 

NOT because I'm afraid it will take over my mind without my consent, but because I have no interest in reading about the inner workings of proven evil, cult-leading, homicidal lunatics. 

And there's a difference between dark and evil.

Quentin Tarrantino, David Lynch, Ozark?

Dark.

Hitler, Charles Manson --  insert any psychopathic narcissist completely lacking in empathy here, whom people worship in cult-like following, despite very clear socially irresponsible and dangerous rantings?

Evil. 

Though I typically don't think things should be banned entirely,  I DO think that there are SOME extreme examples where it's appropriate to place limits or warnings on what we allow (and encourage) on a public platform, especially for children to view easily.

And by "extreme," I mean things like -- non-age-appropriate sexual content, drug-promoting material, violence/hate/fear-promoting propaganda, like the kind the KKK, American Nazi Party, and Russian/Ukrainian dysinformation campaigns produces.

Even certain things Trump says on Twitter.  Love him or hate him, you have to admit, at this point, certain things he says on social media are not only extremely inappropriate things for the POTUS to ever say, but are especially inappropriate/confusing for children.  



As an extreme example, let's use the Mein Kampf example again.

Do I think we should ban Hitler's book? 

No -  but I also don't think it's appropriate to place it on a high school reading list, or even place it in the school library, while young brains are still developing. 



Do I think we should ban Trump on Twitter?

No - but I do think we should limit Trump's public-platform access and place warning labels, because of the socially irresponsible/dangerous falsehoods things that he says. 


Back to The Life of Brian, it's been a long time, but what I remember about the Life of Brian is the humor was NOT mocking Christ - it's mocking people's misunderstandings and interpretations of Christ - which IS hilarious .... i.e. 

"Did he say blessed are the cheesemakers?"

"I think he's talking about collecting shoes."

???? LOL

If anything, it's actually a compliment for Christ's superhuman ability to forgive and have patience with us, because Brian, who is often mistaken for Christ, regularly loses his patience and temper with those who wrongfully believe him to be the Messiah. 

I remember watching "Monty Python's Flying Circus" and "And Now For Something Completely Different" a few times on PBS with my grandparents, who pronounced it the silliest thing they'd ever seen and walked away.

This from the same people who watched "Hee Haw" religiously.







Sigh.

My grandfather was a brilliant man, so I couldn't understand what he found so funny - because my IQ dropped 10 points just watching it once lol.

However, there were many who said that about Monty Python -  because they didn't get it - the absurdity was the point. 

Monty Python actually had a method to their madness, it was cultural-observation comedy, pointing out to us how absurd we all are  - far from the mindless absurdity of shows like Hee Haw, which seemed to promote cultural absurdity. 

Instead, these were 6 brilliant, mostly Oxford and Cambridge educated men, doing observational comedy about institutions and cultural trends, stretching them out to the point of the absurd, so that you could clearly see how absurd these things we do really are. 







Watching this documentary series, I was struck by a couple of things - mostly the differences between Eric Idle and John Cleese. 

Though their comedy was pointed at both right and left political extremists, they are self-proclaimed liberals - but differed vastly on what that actually means.

It was an interesting clash that actually worked in sketching, and hearing their personal histories, you could see what shaped the ideological differences both men had, causing a rift at times between them. 





In fact, though I love Cleese, and he's always funny, I also know that he can be a bit of an elitist steroetypical British snob, at times, allowing his residual conservatism and class snobbery/hypocrisy to creep in. 

In fact, he's often like the Jerry Seinfeld of Britain.  

He means well, and is trying hard to be "woke," but without having the slightest idea of what that really means lol.  

Cleese, of course, came from upper-middle class privilege, and despite being a liberal,  he has never shed completely elitist/class ideals, though he, himself, opposed them ideologically.




This is a common problem that I see even in some self-purported fellow "liberals," including some even in my own family.

They mean well, but because they're still ingrained with old broken-system values, they still don't get how they're often the biggest ones fueling the fires of the same things they claim to abhor.

And the fact is,  until you know true struggle, true poverty, and/or true oppression, and what it truly means to be in survival mode in this broken system, you may never truly "get it"  and be "woke" - you'll still be a white-privileged, judgmental, unkind, elitist snob - just wearing a liberal party hat for posterity sake.

Now, no one is asking such fellow liberals to make themselves live in poverty or among oppressed people - but what we should do, if we call ourselves liberals and claim to understand/support these things -  is self-examine for ways in which we continue to enable the same things we proclaim to abhor, ways in which we continue to enable this broken system - every single day. 

This is to ensure that we shed all of those false white-privileged ideals and biases that we have ingrained in ourselves that are still enabling a broken system, consciously or not - daily - until they're all gone - not just assume the position and presume yourself to be "woke." 


Now, Eric Idle, on the other hand, lost his father at a young age, and was thus sent to a charitable boarding school for children of single mothers, in which he, and his "brothers" at school, described as "physically and emotionally abusive," yet nevertheless constantly reminded of how grateful he should be; thus, they identified with civil rights and other changes going on, in the 60s. 





Nevertheless, he won a place at Cambridge University, and the rest is history :)

Thus, you can see these differences and causes of clash between Idle, who has lived struggle -and Cleese, who has experienced disappointment, but not actual struggle - in their liberal ideology. 

Now, what they DID agree upon was that comedy does not have to be cruel to be funny - actual cruelty and bullying of others is off limits.

What they did NOT agree on was what should be off limits - what was sacred and what wasn't.  

Idle thought that other than cruelty, nothing should be sacred - everything is fair game for comedy, including making fun of themselves.

Cleese, on the other hand, by his own admission on this documentary - thought some things should still be sacred -  to include making fun of themselves, perhaps?

This came to a head with the now infamous "wee wee" sketch of 1971, in "Monty Python's Flying Circus."





(I couldn't find a pic or clip of this sketch after quick search.)

For those who don't know, Eric Idle is also a well-known wine connoisseur, and he decided to write a sketch, making fun of himself and other wine tasters and the snobbery of competitions.

Though at the time, the show featured gratuitous boobs/topless women that passed British censorship, this particular sketch sounded the alarm of more censorship and thus was cut from airing - over use of the word "wee wee."

(No, I'm not kidding.) 

Idle wrote the sketch, in which he, the great wine taster, rambles on about being able to determine that the grapes for the wine he's tasting must have been grown on north side of a particular hill - when he is informed that it's actually "wee wee." LOL

Cleese was not behind it, apparently disgusted and finding it "too silly" and "bathroom humor," which he states on the documentary.

I thought, "Erm - have you ever watched your own show, Minister of Silly Walks?  And it's full of bathroom humor. And what about the gratuitous boobs all over your show? LOL"






However, the sketch was revived, after the now infamous 1976 "Judgment of Paris" wine competition, in which California wines were believed to be inferior, a joke, but in fact, actually won several categories in a blind taste-tasting lol. 

Cleese says that at this point, he was thinking along the lines that Python should "grow up" a little, whereas Idle felt they should stick with what people expect and still found funny, and just find new topics, because there's always a plethora of cultural things to mock in parody - which they ultimately ended up doing, resulting in The Holy Grail, The Life of Brian, and The Meaning of Life - now comedy film classics :)

PS - I do have to add, here, that as annoying as Cleese's old class hypocrisy/snobbery occasionally creeping in can be, I still think he mostly means well and of course, he's hilarious - and I think he was characterized a bit unfairly when it came to his opinions on Brexit. 





What we Americans have to remember is that the Brexit issue was initially not about race or religion or immigrants or even necessarily borders - it was about the EU's restrictions in general, lack of accountability issues/lack of oversight bureaucracy, and concerns about economic impact from those things.

However, it was hijacked -  largely by the political far right, into heavy emphasis on white nationalism and borders issues.

Cleese's actual initial opinion was that the UK didn't need to actually abandon the EU altogether, but the EU did need reform.  

However, he says, when it became clear to him that it was all or nothing, he voted with Brexit.

Since then, however, he has stated that he became disgusted with the abject lies from the far right grabbing hold of the issue, the fear-mongering and propaganda they were using, making it about race and borders and nationalism, and thus said he was moving to the Caribbean because both sides were pissing him off lol.  (I'm not sure if he has or not).

I know that those who are Brexit supporters are considered "white nationalists" and that this is now largely true; however, apparently, this was not initially the case, from what I understand - but like I said, and like John Cleese has said, the issue became hijacked by white nationalists, in the end. 

For us Americans, though a weak comparison, this is probably the closest comparison analogy we Americans could find ...

Imagine that we Americans found ourselves in an either/or situation on welfare - either you have it or you don't.

No possibility of welfare reform - you have to choose to either get rid of it entirely or keep it as is.

Though there are many problems with welfare, on which we can all agree, most people who criticize welfare have no idea how it works or what they're talking about, and consider most on welfare are poor, and there is a large percent of black Americans who are poor.

Thus it becomes a racial issue, with white people unfortunately victim-blaming black people for their poverty and the problems associated with welfare, instead of viewing at welfare itself as evidence of a broken socioeconomic system. 

Now - let's say Jerry Seinfeld voted to abolish welfare. 

See what I mean? 

Do you know what would happen to him?  

He'd be lumped in with all the white nationalists who agree with abolishing welfare, though there are different reasons.

I know that's a horrible comparison, but that's essentially what happened with John Cleese and Brexit.

He had concerns about accountability problems and the bureaucracy within the EU, and when faced with the either/or decision, he chose to leave the EU; and of course, though a liberal, unfortunately still got lumped in with all the other legitimate racists/white nationalists who hijacked Brexit. 

Now, if the issue actually were either/or on welfare, no chance for reform, either keep it not - I personally would vote to keep it rather than nothing at all.

If it's Brexit, I'm not sure what I would do - I don't live there and know the culture, and know virtually nothing about the EU.

However, I suspect that having nothing at all - with no replacement plan - would cause more problems than it solves  - just the same as abolishing welfare entirely would, with no backup plan,  here in America.

And again, we are talking about John Cleese, who though a brilliant man and though a self-proclaimed liberal - often has no clue of what being a liberal means - what we refer to as a "white privileged/elitist liberal" - and cannot seem to shed those ideals ingrained in him, that he, himself, claims to abhor. (Like I said, this is a common problem among white liberals - i.e., my sisters ;)

Regardless, again, throwing him in the racist box over Brexit, when his issues with Brexit was economic and concerns about accountability, is just more proof of our society being polarized and trying to make people fit into either/or boxes across the board, when sometimes, issues are too complex for that. 

But again, this is conservatives' own fault - because when they DO make excellent points about too much government bureaucracy, control, and/or waste, they always end up allowing racists and other deplorables to hijack that point - and they allow them to, for nothing else than increased votes and support for themselves - and thus, any good points end up being lost behind the hate/fear idiots, so that they end up losing all credibility with everyone else - and in this way, conservatives become their own worst enemy.

Like Monty Python itself, you never accept it at face value - there's a method to the madness, like it or not :) 























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