Inspection- Ruling Class Days, Prot Movie Moments

By Ken Carman

Inspection One of the great things about being in the Adirondacks is in either of our homes here we DON’T have Direct TV. TV is the great sucking machine: combining all the power and features of a Dyson, a wet vac, a Shark and an Electrolux. 99% of programming empties the mind. Fills it with unreal reality TV, absurd soap situations and game show; carnival barker-like, distractions.
 You may not be rich, but just hold still! If lighting strikes a million times, and you’re entertaining maybe even mostly mindless, you might get mildly rich… though nothing compared to billionaires. Certainly not as rich as those who get there via somewhat legal business scams. Unlike those of us who were in business who made enough to show a little profit as we brainstormed how to do even more for our customers, and hopefully society at the same time.
 Cable is available in one of our places but, to save money, we just watch old movies: DVDs, VHS. Currently I’m re-watching K-Pax. A person is institutionalized after being discovered in a very public place claiming he’s from the planet K-PAX.
 I will be using “Prot” and “Prote.” Both spellings are used in the captions.
 Prot ends up baffling scientists, medical personnel and ordinary people by his strange ways and knowledge which is far beyond most mortals hobbled by lack of access to Hubble, don’t talk to dogs, or find water as dangerous as an active shooter in a dark theater.
 Part of the magic of P-PAX is you’re never quite sure if Prote IS an alien, or a severely damaged man who lost his family to a horrific act of violence and then tried to drown himself.
 I was struck by how remarkably, sweetly, sadly naïve’, the movie seems these days. My how times have changed.
 2020 has had its moments: mostly bad, but we could all be more like Prot, and more like how most people reacted to Prote. Mostly they are gentle, understanding, discouraging those whose emotions seem to require violent reactions when confronted by those who are different, who disagree. An orderly tells psychiatrist Dr. Mark Powell, “He’s as gentle as a lamb.” These days Prot probably might not live long; a violent nature might be assumed.
 Prote had this ability to help everyone, including dogs, other patients, nurses, even psychiatrist Dr. Mark Powell, played by Jeff Bridges. Just talking to him they become better, more informed, wiser.
 When Prot is interviewed in the hospital by Doctor Powell he says, “Don’t worry, I’m not going to leap out of your chest,” a not so vague reference to two other movie moments. I have yet to figure out if 2020 is more like Alien or Spaceballs. Maybe both? All the danger Ripley faced when the unexpected, un-planned for, the ignored, becomes all too real. But 2020 has also offered plenty of mirth; like any British black comedy.
 No, 2020 is more like Ruling Class.
 This is a movie most people don’t know about. I first saw in film critique class. All three of them. I took it as part of heading towards my English Education degree, audited it with my soon to be wife: Millie, just for fun. Then when I switched departments; my second college, I had to take the version of it taught for Communications/Mass Media majors.
 2020 is like the dance routines in Ruling Class. There are days I expect a troupe of murder hornets to do a dance like in Joe’s Apartment before they return to stinging us all.
 In Ruling Class Jack Gurney (Peter O’Toole) becomes the 14th Earl of Gurney. He is expected to rule once he matures. Problem is he’s not expected to mature. He thinks he’s Jesus Christ; the 60s light heart-ed hippie version: kind of a musical song singing, dance routine, Jesus… pre-Godspell. Written by Stephen Schwartz, who also wrote Wicked.
 Of course the uppity schnook and schnuck class can’t have this. They bring in a patient who thinks he’s God from the Old Testament. Jack is ‘cured.’ He gets married. Becomes a highly respected member of Parliament (Yes, it’s a British flick and, no, they don’t all have bad teeth. Though that would have been funny.) Problem is he isn’t cured. Now he thinks he’s Jack the Ripper.
 Hope I didn’t spoil it for you, but not as easy to find if you wish to check it out.
 Like Jack we live in a time that revels in severe delusion. Vast, complicated, conspiracies that might make William of Ockham (Occam’s Razor) do a dance routine in his grave. I imagine his utter mirth at the current insanity might tickle a rotted funny bone, or two. Especially after being persecuted and the dying on the eve of the plague. We tend to think ourselves so much more civilized. Maybe we haven’t become as civilized as we think we have.
 The simplest answer doth seem more likely.
 A whole lot of people think they absolutely know what’s wrong with society, wrong with blacks, wrong with whites, wrong with protesters, wrong with the police, and are all too quick to demand solutions to problems which almost always make things worse.
 Out of control police!
 Out of control protesters!
 Suppress more!
 Raise more hell!
 Deaths from mask-less, tightly packed rallies, protests? Must be we need more. More head bashing, literally… as our solutions amount to figurative head bashing into reality’s rock hard wall. I don’t know, maybe Ockham would be mad instead: simple solutions do have the tendency to make things worse.
 Yet Prot, through the film, offers askew, off-kilter, solutions and observations that improved lives.
 No, we’re more immersed: over our heads, in Ripper days. We are refusing, to listen, to learn, to respect, to be civil. If a protest isn’t violent enough let’s do something to create more madness. Moving from shock, to horror, nightly, daily, 24/7. The media’s response is as if cameras followed Jack’s carnage, showing all the gruesome details to gain more viewers, readers, ignoring the insane laughter of he who did it, hoping more will follow. Why do anything that might stop what gains more clicks, more viewers?
 Prote’s asylum was filled with sanity, in comparison.
 This has been a long time coming. From Ruby Ridge, to Waco, to militarizing police, to talk radio fomenting hate and division. TV advocacy programs posing as ‘news.’ Commentary posing as information. Opinions that amount to little more than Jimmy Jones, cult-like, theology. Those who dare disagree are the enemy. Taking them out by whatever means acceptable: for they were really less than human to begin with, right?
 We are unable to find, incapable of finding, the worth in our Protes.
 I am not the wisest man; never have claimed to be such, but there are things I know. I know there’s great beauty in the mountains, in the shore, in many of the people I meet: even if we deeply disagree. I also know that there are no perfect ‘solutions.’ Every solution has a down side, but real solutions; overall, make the situation better. One of our major failures as a species is honestly, continually, asking, “Is this ‘solution’ making it better?” Instead it’s, “What ‘solution’ appeals to my base no matter how much worse it makes things.”
 We will never kill our way out of our problems with each other. Those we disagree aren’t going to sit down and shut up, aren’t going away: nor should they have to. For every person taken out; by whatever means, there’s at least one to replace them. Usually 2, or 3, or…
 We can’t re-engineer people on demand, and who of any sane


mind would want to live in a society of intellectual clones? The fact we, as a species, keep insisting on that instead of learning from our differences is the insanity inherent to Ruling Class.
 There are ALWAYS unexpected consequences. But we can listen. We can learn. Use what we can to escape being lorded over ruling class-like misbehavior.
 We can learn from our Prots.
 We can BE more like Prote.

Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 40 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under the rocks and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.
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Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
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