Once upon a time in an expansive northern kingdom, a kingdom very rich in jewels and many precious assets, that there was a large family meeting to decide whether or not to re-new the contract of the reigning monarch, a monarch who had sat on the throne for a decade. This monarch, everyone knew, certainly had many flaws, and those who sought to earn the new contract were like two suitors pursuing a young maiden’s hand in marriage.
There was the suitor who promised fairy dust, including a life without all of the problems previously ignored or denigrated by the current monarch. Unrestrained was this suitor’s petition by the mundane rigors of balancing the books, and burnished in charisma was his presentation in his every public appearance, having been reared in wealth, culture, worldly travel, and the kind of blue-blood aristocracy that provides the best food, the best clothes and the best contacts with all the important people in the kingdom. Young, dashing, energetic and highly sophisticated, this suitor brought a kind of innocence and naivte that positioned him as an ideal target for the projections of the younger female segment of the population. With every encounter, expectations were raised, beginning with his first boxing match with a public figure, designed to demonstrate that he was more than a pretty face, with a famous name. His performance in each of the public debates rose beyond such limited expectations that almost anyone could and would have exceeded them. Nevertheless, his seasoned advisers knew that his appeal to the kingdom would and does require monies spread like fairy dust in all regions of the kingdom, based on the historic pattern of his predecessors to endear the kingdom through patronage, including bridges, roads, and office buildings filled with workers paid for by the public purse. Using the people’s money to endear the people living in the kingdom was a treasured and almost sacred path to power, for all of those whose shoulders provided the public ‘golden road’ this suitor walked, or really skipped and danced. His demeanor evoked images of Nureyev in tights on a stage, both before and after his defection from a prominent theatre, once known as the O’Keefe Centre, named for a then prominent and now vanished beer company, in the business capital of the kingdom.
As preparation for this campaign to his anointing to the chair once occupied by his father, this suitor studied among the thespians, knowing that his father’s appeal to the kingdom came as much from his “style” as from his decisions on public policy, perhaps even more so. As the French never shy away from reminding the world, ‘le style, c’est l’homme’. And having found itself beside arguably the largest and most profitable factory of style, for its own sake, this northern kingdom was deeply committed to competing with the “factory” for a position of recognition on the larger world stage. Some would and even do argue that this competition to be just like the factory to the south, especially in terms of fashion, being in vogue, being contemporary and even being equal to or perhaps even better, was so dominant in the northern kingdom, that many of the head offices of the companies that operated here were south of the border where the taxes were lower, the services reduced and the fashion led the world. Some people in the part of the kingdom where this suitor was raised, the part where his father was born, even prefer attempting to attract the approval and friendship of the ‘factory’ to reaching agreement and accommodation with the other parts of the kingdom.
Nevertheless, this suitor has numerous attributes that make a pleasant and even charismatic image on television, notwithstanding the fairy dust of promises embedded in his heavily funded, and thus promising the inevitable short-fall in the budget for years to come. The argument that his advisors have implanted in his head to justify these expenditures (fairy dust) is that the current monarch has neglected so many things that need repair that the money must be spent.
And then there was another suitor, very different from the first. The second of eight children, in a humble working class family, a long-time legal public servant who brags about his 35 years of serving the kingdom, including his service during a time when the country threatened to split apart when he worked to preserve the nation. A father and grandfather, this suitor is older, more seasoned and more careful with both his public persona and his political promises, dependent as they are on both funding by the people and the credibility that can only come from a newcomer to the cusp of the throne of the kingdom. His predecessors, while often permitted to hold the reigns of power in smaller sections of the kingdom, have never been considered ready, capable or even credible enough to sit on the kingdom’s throne. Ironic this, given the history of those who actually reigned in the outback where they consistently kept their promises, balanced their budgets and delivered some of the most progressive and compassionate laws in the history of the kingdom. In fact, so attractive were the ideas and laws of these predecessors that previous monarchs brought them to the national capital, and embedded them both in the national laws and in the consciousness of the kingdom. Caring for one another, as a respectable goal of the kingdom, has become so deeply impregnated in the consciousness of the kingdom that many wonder why it has been so deliberately abandoned by the current monarch, in favour of laws that not to secretly shove much of the wealth of the kingdom to those who least need it, but whose voice is loudest in the halls of the palace where the current king reigns. It is the strength of those rich and powerful voices that this suitor seeks to replace with more modest and more numerous voices of ordinary people should he and his party win the approval of the people in the kingdom.
He has made some limited promises that have less fairy dust than his free-spending opponent, and less magnetic appeal given the scepticism of the people that they can be implemented. His opponent has also cast doubt on the timing of delivery, bringing a classic ‘instant gratification’ aspect to his presentation, consistent with the demonstrated culture of the kingdom. This second suitor is more demure, at least unless and until provoked, which the monarch has succeeded in doing several times when the kingdom’s court was in session, and the results were significantly damaging to the monarch that his trustworthiness came into question. The people who had originally supported his elevation to the throne began to think out loud about not granting the privilege this time. A middle-aged man, of some girth, a full if trimmed beard, and a too-ready smile, as if his handlers were pushing a button so that he would remember not to frown, scowl or grow impatient with the rigors of this seemingly perpetual blind date with the people.
And then, there was the monarch himself, he who so revered the throne that he reinstated the moniker “Royal” onto the kingdom’s military forces, although their equipment had become so obsolete and out of repair that the monarch had signed contracts to build many ships and attempted to secure a contract for a new fighter jet. Claiming an education in economics, the monarch persists in blowing the trumpet to remind the people that he is the best person to guide the economy through the unchartered and predictably turbulent waters that lie ahead, although his performance through what is considered the worst economic storm in a century has not secured many accolades from the public. A stodgy and somewhat pompous mand, with grey hair neatly coiffed and moused into shape, like a stainless steel saucepan, so as never to be disturbed by the winds that gallop over the streets and highways whenever he appears in public. Known abroad for being excessively controlling, muzzling both his acolytes and his scientists, in order to avoid any potential public controversy, the monarch has, however, suffered the ignominy of watching many of his more prominent appointments to his inner court and the upper chamber stray from their narrow ethical path, embarrassing the monarch and siphering considerable public support from the royal family and supporting cast. Searching and finding several divisive wedge issues on which he is confident he has the upper hand, in public support, the monarch has sought to deflect public attention away from his soiled appointments, his non-entity treasurer’s bumbling public performances and confused policies, (having lost his first and most honourable to death), keeping the media farther away than “arms distance”, screening all attendees to his public appearances, and warding off most public shouts for opening the doors of the kingdom to poor and threatened refugees fleeing from wars in Syria and Iraq and Afghanistan. The monarch’s principal argument against opening the gates of the kingdom is that some of these people may be terrorists who threaten the kingdom, and yet, we already have hundreds of radicalized young men within the kingdom some of whom have been tried and convicted for their actions, while others await their judicial fate. The monarch is quick to commit the planes and personnel of the kingdom to a far-away fight against a new breed of terrorists who espouse a radical interpretation of the Koran, the holy book of their Muslim religion.
The existence of and the threats posed by these terrorists both inside the kingdom and far away has opened the minds of the government to seek new powers of surveillance and detention under the guise of “protecting” the kingdom from danger. However, as in other places, especially the neighbour to the south, much money and concentration of good minds and considerable time have been spent building a multi-faceted fortress to guard against the unpredictable violence which is some threat, but not necessarily as large as the monarch would attest, or would like the people to believe.
The young and dashing and charismatic suitor, father of three very young children, is trying to establish the picture in the mind/heart of the public that he is the best choice to replace the monarch and move into the residence of the kingdom reserved for the monarch, the same home in which he was raised. The second suitor, not as young and dashing, but still bearing his age and experience gracefully, and demonstrating a quick and alert intellect, ready to adapt to whatever exigency arrives, is a little more the senior navigator among the trio. His party are starved for the opportunity, the first in the kingdom’s history, to sit on the throne. However, his party often seems to get entangled in the finer points of principle, thereby risking a loss of attention from the saturated public, and the glaze in their faces, from the subtleties of those views. While the devil is in the details on all files, nevertheless the campaign rhetoric seems to preclude all but the headline-grabbing “goodies” that attempt blatantly to seduce the people to marking their ballot for the most Santa Claus-like candidate.
According to reports from the kingdom reaching the outback, some 75% of all the people want to replace the monarch. However, with both suitors currently locked in what looks like a tie at approximately 30% of the popular opinion, the danger for those in the 75% is that each suitor will get enough votes to permit the monarch to stay sitting on the throne. Many people regret and some even resent the fact that the two suitors cannot or will not see the folly of their pursuit, in the potential for keeping the monarch on the throne. So, some people are shifting their thinking from voting for their preferred choice between the two suitors and contemplating a strategic vote, that sends a member of the other suitor’s party to the kingdom’s court, in the hope that the monarch will not be permitted to stay on the throne.
From this desk, we see a simplified picture of the voter’s choice: to return an ogre to the throne, one obsessed with power and control for himself and the court, or to choose a young fairy-dust salesman who blatantly promises to seduce the people with their own money, or to choose a more seasoned, more moderate more nuanced and more long-term vision that is focussed on the best interests of the kingdom and its people, in which the court are really the servants of the people. The vote is not merely an expression of the character/policies/image of the suitor; it is also, and more importantly, an expression of the maturity and the courage and the vision of the people marking their ballots.
And from this corner of the kingdom, only the last choice can and will provide some substantial relief and hope given the two other options. Real issues of income inequality, joblessness, health care including pharmacare, and the environment will be openly and comprehensively detailed, discussed and solutions and options offered. The fear and the critical parenting of the last decade can be terminated, best with the third option.
The kingdom awaits….the answer in two weeks.