IT’S a story the local fishwraps have ignored, but The Times of London has been reporting on the private papers that the celebrity traveller and Monty Python trouper Michael Palin has handed over to the British Library.
The files of “unused material” in the Palin archive, parts of which will go on exhibition on Tuesday, have been of particular interest, such as the script for an alternative ending to the Pythons’ film, The Life of Brian.
The film closes with crucified victims cheerfully singing, “If life seems jolly rotten/There’s something you’ve forgotten/And that’s to laugh and smile and dance and sing…”
Such was its cultural impact that the song, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, is now popular at British funerals.
However, in an early draft, the film’s protagonist Brian is cut down from his crucifix by two disciples, Norman and Ralph. Ignoring his pleas to leave him be, Norman tells him, “You’re not going to die, Brian. We’ve got great plans for you. We’re going to found a church.”
But it was another unused sketch from the film that got our attention.
In it, Lazarus suffers from “post-death depression”.
His doctor reveals that, although he has “nothing against him personally”, he is irritated at Christ’s healing practices. “I do sometimes wish that Jesus would stop and consider other people for a moment,” he says.
This week, Christ could have said much the same thing following an appearance in yet another moronic political speech, this time from the Economic Freedom Fighters’ Julius Malema.
Speaking at the party’s fifth birthday celebrations in East London last weekend, Malema said that the EFF’s entry into the political fray was akin to the Second Coming.
“There was an impression created that the ANC will never be removed,” he said, “that South Africa’s future has been predetermined, that the ANC will rule until Jesus comes back … Jesus has arrived five years ago. That Jesus is the EFF.”
Eastern Cape church leaders were not happy, and Methodist bishop Jacob Freemantle‚ speaking on their behalf‚ accused Malema of trying to “score political points” with the reference.
You may as well accuse a fish of swimming. But the clerics’ concerns were perhaps justifiable: Christ, bruised and reeling from the years of squalid bothering by Jacob Zuma, was in all likelihood praying to be left alone for a while.
Malema’s more religious side was however on display when he fired off several rounds from an allegedly toy assault rifle at the rally.
Aside from being against the law, irrespective of whether or not live ammunition or blanks were used, it was reckless and stupid. But then this is sort of thing that happens when one is in the throes of the revolutionary spirit and the family brain cell has been left at home.
Less giddy minds, meanwhile, reflected on the EFF’s achievements since 2013 and some have suggested the party may have little to celebrate at its tenth birthday.
Commentators gave guffed on about “robust” and “colourful” contributions to public life, but they’ve also pointed out the party owes its very existence to Accused Number One.
Malema’s dismissal as ANC Youth League president not only saw him thrown off the Limpopo gravy train but it also instilled in him a deep hatred for Zuma, the man he once swore he’d kill for.
And so, as it sought a foothold in national politics, Zuma became the fledgling party’s principal target, and an easy one at that. The bar was set very low with uBaba: he was “a gift,” as one report put it, “that kept on giving to the EFF.”
But now that their raison d’être has gone, can the party survive without Zuma? Some suggest not.
And what of the EFF’s lack of internal democracy and Malema’s megalomaniacal drift? Could he be the reason the party has an astonishingly high turnover of MPs?
In February this year, it was reported that 15 of 25 EFF MPs in the National Assembly had either resigned or been expelled since the 2014 elections. In the National Council of Provinces, four of the six EFF MPs had resigned or been expelled over the same period.
Their one remaining populist trick appears to be a call for land invasions. Whether this will ensure their survival remains to be seen.
Still, here at the Mahogany Ridge, we hope the day comes when we will be able to report, with apologies to the Pythons, that the party is not pining for the fjords, it has passed on, it has ceased to be, it has expired and gone to meet its maker, it’s a stiff, bereft of life…
This article first appeared in the Weekend Argus.