At a time when the 70s resurgence is in full swing, with unemployment, environmental doomsaying, industrial failure, Big Government ascendance, cultural rot, and speeches by the leader of the free world seeking accommodation with its sworn and implacable enemies, a little bit of the 70s dies at the same time. And thus today we learn of the passing of David Carradine, the zen master of eastern religious schlock, as represented by his tour de force performance as Kwai Chang Caine, a Chinese-American Shaolin monk loosed upon a mythological American west, a proto Mad Max, clad in homespun hemp instead of biker leathers, hobbled by a mumble mouth instead of a shotgunned bum knee, and driven by experiential revelation by sitting on his ass whenever possible as opposed to a gas fueled vigilante hatred for post-nuclear mutants.
Carradine played Caine - some might say became Caine in the end - as a man seeking only to be left in peace in the middle of the 110 degree desert, but he often found himself at the whip end of some malignant synthesis of modern America's ills, some white cracker sheriff or former Confederate racist or a Chicago carpetbagger with his leering eye on a handsome lady of the plains sitting on a fortune of gold. The white man was ill, we were told, then and now in the lost 70s, and he needed his ass kicked by a quiet, long haired monk seeking truth, justice and the Chinese-American Way. Every episode centered around some corrupted stereotype of Western decadence, each story a giant ostrich egg, like the ones they ate on that other multicultural trip through hell, The Land of the Lost, to be broken open, scrambled and reformed into a lecture on eastern jurisprudence.
For Sydney Brillo Duodenum, being raised a Catholic in the 70s, to once a week watch Caine open a door of philosophical madness with his hippy dippy Arizona heat induced flashbacks to his training among the Shaolin monks, principally the frighteningly blind Master Kan, as he searches for an excuse to unleash a wraith-thin sinuous ass kicking on foul disgusting inhabits of the western landscape, is perhaps one of the many reasons he walks outside the fold to this day. The whole Old West setting for a Shaolin monk did not compute alongside Saturday reviews of Clint Eastwood spaghetti hoedowns. It was a constant tug of war whether to emulate The High Plains Drifter or the High Plains hobo.
What American child's psyche could withstand an episode of Kung Fu with the following exchange:
Master Kan: Deal with evil through strength-but affirm the Good in man through trust. In this way we are prepared for evil, but we encourage Good.So, while David Carradine is partially responsible for the fall of western civilization for bringing Caine into the homes of millions of bell-bottom wearing, tube sock clad, bowl hair coiffed, malaise afflicted American children - children who would have been better served a steady diet of Eastwoods homicidal angel of death - we cannot be too harsh in our assessment of David Carradine, for as Caine's murdered Master Po said, "if a man dwells in the past, then he robs the present, but if a man ignores the past, he may rob the future. The seeds of our destiny are nurtured by the roots of our past."
Young Caine: And is Good our great reward for trusting?
Master Kan: In striving for an ideal, we do not seek rewards; yet trust does sometimes bring with it great reward-even greater than Good.
Young Caine: What is greater than Good?
Master Kan: Love.
Well, on second thought, fuck you David Caine Carradine. Fuck you to hell.