A half-decade ago, Bill Wasik, then writing for the Massachusetts humor magazine the Weekly Week, reported on a phenomenon in which teens and adults wore "W.W.J.D." bracelets to remind themselves about "a good rule of thumb for leading a good and holy life." Though the What Would Jesus Do trend has subsided, the need in California for a spiritual exemplar and companion has not.
After months of seeming success, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has become entangled in the morass of partisan infighting that gridlocked the state before his heroic arrival on the scene. Until now, Arnold had turned to his own movie parts for spiritual guidance. He prophesied, "I will terminate him." "I will terminate it." "I will terminate them." But clearly his own cinematic experience is not enough. To succeed -- individually, and for California -- he must now step outside himself. He must turn to a higher power.
As Jürgen Prochnow said so very long ago in a German magazine interview, "When you play ... a role, you naturally recall all the painful moments in life. Depression. Helplessness. The question: How do you go on?"
If Gov. Schwarzenegger is to bridge the troubled waters he and we face, he must ask himself: What Would Jürgen Do?
Situation 1: Schwarzenegger entered office after promising to take care of Sacramento special interests once and for all, to make government efficient again, and to get California back on its feet by attracting jobs. Somehow he faltered. To his California Performance Review Commission, created to carry out his "efficiency" promise, he appointed Lehman Brothers Inc. Managing Director Peter Taylor. To his new jobs-creating commission, he appointed former Lehman Brothers President Warren Hellman. To get California back on its feet, Lehman Brothers was somehow hired as lead underwriter to sell a $15 billion deficit bond generating $75 million in bankers' fees.
Frustratingly, California government seems to have reverted to the favor-swapping, treasury-raiding septic pool it always was.
This is a classic tale of a governor struggling through the mire of temptation. If Schwarzenegger is to prevail, he must ask himself: Could Jürgen, who began 49 years ago in a German amateur theater company before his stunning 1981 breakout role as the captain in Das Boot, understand? Does Jürgen perceive our struggle?
Betrayal. Jürgen, in fact, does understand. He has faced the pain of temptation. As in the case of our governor, corporate fat cats dangled money in Jürgen's face, hoping to lure him into betraying his early promise. And Jürgen obliged, to the benefit of all.
Originally considered to have the potential of becoming one of cinema's great character actors, Jürgen followed his Boot performance with a boatload of howlers, including last year's House of the Dead, created to promote a video game in which players get to shoot zombies. Jürgen plays a boat captain who chaperones hot zombie-shooting teens.
Plunging the state into interminable debt to generate millions of dollars for your adviser-pals might seem like enough yielding to temptation for a lifetime. House of the Dead, likewise. This, however, is not the first time Jürgen sold out, playing a gangster in Beverly Hills Cop II (1987) and a pimp in the trashy action movie Hurricane Smith (1992), along with numerous roles in other D-grade films. As Jürgen has done, so must Schwarzenegger. He must do more to sell out to his corporate pals.
Schwarzenegger shouldn't stop at $15 billion in deficit bonds and $75 million in banking fees. He should float a giant tax cut and issue $100 billion more in debt, thus theoretically churning an additional $500 million in debt-related fees for private-sector pals.
Devotional Meditation: To everything, there is a season. It's sellout season.
Situation 2: When he announced a series of special-interest side deals that were supposed to make quick work of budget negotiations, Schwarzenegger was hailed as an out-of-the-box doer. He's in a box, now. The deals -- in which cities and counties were to forgo $2.6 billion in revenue over the next two years in exchange for support of a constitutional amendment that would prevent future local tax raiding -- were rebuffed by legislative Democrats.
Californians began scrutinizing the deals, and found they would lock in the most pernicious aspects of Proposition 13, whose built-in tax incentives urge the construction of sprawling office and commercial parks and push housing construction into the next county. Schwarzenegger's plan would reward the winners in the game of creating a California landscape hideous with auto and outlet malls. The most foresighted of his advisers have urged Schwarzenegger to take this opportunity to reorganize government as he said he would and overhaul the state's counterproductive tax system into one that's more rational and produces greater revenues.
Instead, Schwarzenegger tours desert towns such as Stockton, Fresno, Long Beach, and Dixon, telling crowds "special interests" are hampering his version of progress.
What Would Jürgen Do?
Wickedness. Its power is great. Even spiritual leaders must sometimes go to the desert and consort with evil forces.
Jürgen knows this.
In the action-snoozer The Replacement Killers (1998), he plays a Chinese gang henchman who menaces Mira Sorvino with murderous taunts. In The English Patient (1996), Jürgen is a sadistic Nazi officer. In A Dry White Season (1989), Jürgen plays a South African torturer/murderer.
But once the dark work is done, Jürgen shows us, it's possible to return to the good life. After Season, Jürgen starred in Kill Cruise (1990) as a boat captain who spends 70 minutes of screen time at sea with two British strippers, one played by Elizabeth Hurley. Three times, she flashes a breast.
Devotional Meditation: When we have salvation, all of our sins are washed away with the spiritual water of Jürgen. When we recognize Jürgen as Lord and Savior, we receive the free gift of salvation. By accepting Jürgen into our lives we can be born again. Schwarzenegger needn't fear being permanently cast as a bureaucratic evildoer, simply because he's selling California down the river. For inspiration, he can turn to Hollywood, where other roles, and role models, always await.