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ISSUE 119 VOL 17 PUBLISHED 4/21/2006

Eccentric reminds rich of absurdity

By April Wright
Variety Editor

Friday, April 21, 2006

In March, rich, eccentric Kiwi Laird McGillicuddy Graeme Cairns “cryogenically froze” himself to avoid filling out the New Zealand census. Cairns wasn'’t actually frozen. In years past, he’'s claimed to be possessed by an ancient ape being, and has hovered above the country in an air balloon to avoid being counted in.

Sound crazy?

It sounds great to me. Cairns is showing the kind of eccentricity that is so desperately needed in America.

Cairns doesn'’t just avoid censuses, he also is the founder of the now-defunct McGillicuddy Serious Party, which staged pacifist land battles, put up joke political candidates in most elections and advocated the replacement of money with delicious chocolate fish.

I am all for joke political parties and radically silly public statements. The humor in it is great, and the living satire is priceless. Thinking people already feel like they'’re living in a Monty Python skit when they go to vote, why not make the transition to absurdity complete by having candidates who aren'’t meant to be taken seriously?

Since presidential debates can'’t get any more ridiculous if we continue using real presidential hopefuls, we are clearly going to have to start dredging up the clowns, eccentrics and nut jobs of America’'s upper class. Cairns'’ critique on the candidates, the process and the public that so heavily buys into all the pageantry is harsh. In essence, he tells us that it’s OK to laugh.

His critique is one that everyone needs to see. The average politician needs to be told that he or she is ridiculous, and that his or her rhetoric is empty. And more importantly, both Washington and the public need to be told that it’s all right to acknowledge the ridiculousness of American politics.

This goes deeper than just politics. Cairns'’ protest is about the ability to be silly and weird in a very, very public way. It’'s about drawing attention to the ridiculous excesses of the upper classes.

Look at any member of the upper-upper-upper class in America. How would people feel if Bill Gates built an enormous fortress in Silicon Valley and declared himself “King of Computing?” How would people feel if Richard Parsons, CEO of Time Warner, announced that 10 percent of Time Warner profits would henceforth be used to build and maintain a catapult for every city in America?

People would feel badly about it. After all, the rich diverting funds away from public service and helping the poor is unheard of and immoral.

In the words of Ross Perot, wait just a gosh-darn minute. Maybe cryogenically freezing one'’s self is frivolous, maybe building towers and catapults is over the top, but isn'’t spending tens of thousands of dollars on diamond collars for guinea pig-sized dogs ridiculous, too?

Why, yes, it is. And that'’s the other part of the value in the service Cairns provides. He’'s a living parody on the rich, a parody that was, unfortunately, lost on most Kiwis.

Cairns tries to point out that the bizarre pageantry of modern life doesn’t just end in the Capitol; the upper classes live it out every day. America needs people like Cairns to serve as a reminder that maybe we aren'’t hovering above the country in a hot air balloon, but that through tacit acceptance of the excess of the rich, we all behave just as ridiculously.

Staff Writer April Wright is a sophomore from Eagan, Minn. She majors in biology and in English.

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