Winston Churchill who got so many things wrong but who had a sterling gift for rising to the occasion certainly got it right when he said ‘Democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others that have been tried.’ In general people vote the same way they choose a film to see – it is not an intellectual process but rather an emotional one that can also be driven by an often unattractive but nevertheless significant herd instinct. A thrilling version of this phenomenon was the Barack Obama victory in 2008. A somewhat more disheartening example was yesterday’s massive win by candidates belonging to Spain’s Partido Popular.
Without studying the history and evolution of what is now the current economic crisis in Spain (and in most other countries, all of them tied together like a nervous mountain climbing team) the voters found it more convenient and satisfying to blame those who had the bad luck of being there when it happened. This happens in many countries and though emotionally understandable it does not speak well for the intelligence quotient of the average voter. But so it goes. The tasty Mediterranean element in Spain’s elections yesterday was the huge victory by many candidates under indictment for corruption. The Camps fellow in Valencia with the odd and rather kinky rear-end requirements when ordering trousers could have been played deliciously by Alberto Sordi in the good old days.
On a more positive note Terrence Malick’s ‘The Tree of Life’ won the Palme d’Or in Cannes on the very same day. Perhaps the best filmmaker alive today who still paints on a broad canvas, who has not yet succumbed to the paired-down, indie digital world other artisan directors are forced to work in. The man just forges ahead, and though this film will not be a big moneymaker commercially, it will probably turn a modest profit and, most importantly, there it is, made, about to be distributed, a glorious and intimate addition to the man’s extraordinary oeuvre. For those of us living in the Western world, inured from the privations besetting so many areas in the rest of the world, all of us part of a world that none of us asked to be born into – these are the things to celebrate and to keep one’s mind focused on. Elections and politicians come and go, ars longa, vita brevis.