Election – Behind the Lines

November 7, 2012 9:23 pm

It’s just coming up to 6 PM and you’re waiting impatiently to play ping-pong with the nation’s favour. You sit bored, as with any routine situation, but take comfort in the familiarity of it all, the façade that begins to form. A hive of hired hands scurries around, painting you to the edge of perfection, just as they will the other candidate (complete perfection is to be avoided, hinting, as it does, at superiority and elitism). Not one stray hair to be plucked up by an eagle-eyed journalist and picked apart in the nest.

 

“Scruffy.”

 

You clear your throat of panic’s rising bile. You need to stay calm, well, not stay…seem. Hair slicked back to a solid sheen and skin pampered with products a shade or two different to your counterpart, but unmistakably the same. Cool, calm and instantly collected by a hundred hungry lenses, splitting you into pixels the world over. You don’t have to worry. It’s all taken care of.

 

Relaxing, you flick through a few trained expressions to stretch your skin to sincerity, lingering on your big winner: Stern Resolution.

 

‘Determined.’

 

You catch yourself slipping into a cocksure smile and jolt your features back to indifference. Another trusty winner, for example, if your campaign manager’s secretary happened to cross reservations with you at a summit in Brussels. Perfect for lightening the mood in what may, had this incident occurred (which you deny with reproachful contempt), have been a sparsely furnished Belgian hotel room (with, for argument’s sake, marble en suite). However, not tonight.

 

Tonight you will focus on your resolve and empathy. It’s what 84.3% of the people want to see from you in this debate: a grafter, the family man. You know this because it’s written down in front of you. It’s all taken care of.

 

The phrases string together in fluid form now as you glance over the pages. Your assertion that ‘the country’s credibility rests on a foreign affairs policy which spreads democracy’ becomes ‘a statement of fact that the grey area of citizenship supports a network of undocumented labour’ at the flick of a learned tongue. You’ve mastered this like a magician switching upturned cups around before your audience until they lose all track of the ball of meaning you’ve hidden underneath them. Each plastic beaker lined with a dusting of truth (Iran could access the sea through Syria theoretically, it’s just that Iraq’s in the way), well aware of the venomous population of distrustful cynics you’re devoting your life to supporting. Just enough fact to cover the fiction. The words are all here for you though. It’s all taken care of.

 

Standing up, you extend your exercises to the supplementary joints and limbs of the performance. You think you hear him doing the same in the next room and he probably is. A glance to the mirror reveals a bulging vessel only just anchored down by the new tailored suit you’ll discard in the morning. You wonder if perhaps you should start finishing those jogs timetabled twice a week through the most visible route of the local park.

 

‘Active.’

 

It’s not easy though. You, the hapless honoured party leader, can’t delegate exercise out to the swarm of faceless desk-dwellers that take care of the economy and (your trusted old friend) the military. Domestic affairs of the state pale in comparison to the maintenance of those for the individual. Making your children smile off camera and your wife laugh away from a microphone. Managing a family who can’t be swayed by the right anecdote. Playing with the prospects of people whose futures you’ll actually be a part of. Of course, these things obviously happen, because you can run the country. You’re in control. It’s all taken care of.

 

A knock at the door nudges you out of your reverie and guides you down the corridor until you reach your podium. Immediately, you spot the opposing tie and exchange the surface pleasantries before a sea of expectant flashing lights. One of you takes a, “Good evening” the other “Good luck.”

 

‘Polite.’

 

Blinded, you scan the waves of faces until you find the ones that match your family photos. You begin to split your face into a smile of recognition until your peripherals check the gesture; the Loving Father salute extends in the same direction from the opposite podium. Not yours. Your eyes immediately dart to a safe perusal of your notes.

 

‘Focused.’

 

A lucky escape. No ground lost. That is, apart from the coin toss, but this doesn’t bother you. It allows you to slip into a retrospective ridicule of the past term. Sure, he’s devoting time to the EU crisis, but he hasn’t done anything about those nuclear weapons which don’t exist in Iran. Play the blame game. Draw the battle lines: us vs. them. Of course we’re all in it together; united under one flag, but you need to give the people something to rally against. Things are broken and you can fix them. It’s all taken care of.

 

The room steadies itself. He opens his mouth. You speak.

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  • Emily

    Incredibly interesting piece, very clever and insightful.

  • Emily

    Incredibly interesting piece. Very clever and insightful.

  • Alec

    A fantastic satirical dig at present day politics!

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