January 31, 2007

not-so-hypothetical scenario

Okay, here's a scenario that happened to me a few weeks ago. I didn't know what to do. What would you do?

You're on holidays in Broome, staying at a nice resort having a relaxing time. You go to the cafe/restaurant for an afternoon coffee and you're sitting there reading a really good book. Tourist season is long gone so it's quiet - actually, you're the only one there at that point in time - so it's extra relaxing. You're into your book and enjoying your coffee. Out of the corner of your eye you notice other people coming in, so you glance up and then go back to what you were reading. When you go back to you book, you realise you've just seen the Prime Minister and his wife. You look up again and they've gone behind you to the back to sit down and have some lunch while one of their minder sits quietly and the door to the restaurant. Understandably, you're in a bit of shock, feeling nervous/excited.... what do you do next????

And so what did I do? I texted an 'ohmygod' text to my friend wondering if I should do something. But I was too freaked by being that close to someone so powerful and it was much easier to just keep reading my book. And that's what I did!

Still makes a good story though doesn't it?


bulanjdjan said...

My advice flowed freely on that day, but I think the quandry is this:

When ever does the ordinary person get the opportunity to access a powerful person who well deserves a piece of their mind? (= go and give him a serve!)

But! The man is obviously on holidays and depending on one's point of view, private time and space ought to be respected (= leave him alone. Damn that Middle Class Politeness Criterion!)

Though, upon further reflection, I'm sure Johnny wouldn't mind being disturbed to be told what a wonderful job he's doing... so surely it'd be fair game to present an alternative point of view?

The clincher, I think, is that he's such a polished polticitian so convinced of his own world view that a) a piece of your mind would have no impact and b) you'd feel like shit for having been dismissed and your own holiday would be ruined.

Proper processes win out in the end, well, until Johnny corrupts our democratic process entirely...

bulbul said...

One lunch break a few years ago, me and a buddy of mine walk into our favorite Chinese place. It was packed and the only two free places were at a table for four where a couple was already sitting. The waitress approached them asking if it was ok to seat us at their table. They didn't mind, so me and my buddy we sat down, mumbled a thank you and ordered our lunch. As we sat there eating and talking about work, there was this tiny thought jumping up and down in my head trying to catch my attention. The rest of my brain - too busy enjoying the duck I always order at that place - only caught up when the couple got up to leave and the woman turned to us and said goodbye: she was the leader of the Nationalist party and a vice-speaker of the Parliament, he was her millionaire Russian husband. I'm half Hungarian and the Nationalists hate people like me with all their hearts and some of us return the favor. To top it, every time she appears in the media, she comes across as a total lunatic psycho, and he was one of those millionaire types who think they own the world. And yet, they did not mind the two vagrant-looking guys (that was the style back then) sharing their table. I was quite puzzled, to say the least. My view of the Nationalist party and especially its leadership would be pretty hard to change, but this sure made me more skeptical about media portrayal of celebrities and those in power.
Time: a few months ago. The place: my favorite pizzeria. A couple sits down at the table right next to mine. This time, I recognized the guy immediately: the Secretary of Justice, a Christian Democrat. I always thought he was one of the good guys in that crypto-fascist (literaly) old boys' club, so I concentrated on my pizza. Had it been his fellow C-Dem, the Secretary of the Interior, who is currently making a career out of writing vile ill-informed and ill-researched shit about "scum" (read: liberals, gays, muslims, journalists and other dangerous elements like that), I might have opened my mouth to say something. Or perhaps not. He is the boss of every cop and DA in the country, after all. Plus, he is a class A zealot and like bulanjdjan said, trying to talk to such people is a losing battle.

jangari said...

Alright, Anecdotal-blog time!

As you may or may not be aware, I live in an area of abnormally high socio-economic status, which pretty much means conservative voters; a safe Liberal seat. There was a function at a local, council-run art gallery that the Prime Minister was scheduled to speak at. Now, I was only there because I had council connections at the time and these connections managed to secure a ticket for myself and a few friends and we went for the complimentary wine. In other words, everyone else there was a well-to-do blah-blah. When the PM arrived everyone immediately formed a little tunnel from the door to the stage and waited mindlessly to shake his hand and, you know, fondle his scrotum a little bit. I was already a green at this stage, despite being too young to vote, and had grand plans of saying some snide, über-cool remark while shaking his hand, but when I saw the rush of everyone else to do so, lost interest.
His speech was quite typical for the audience - 'This area is the social and cultural jewel in the political crown that is the North Shore of Sydney' - and they lapped it up like famished canines. I couldn't ignore the frequent backchannelling hums of approval from the crowd. It was both interesting and disillusioning.

I'm sure the PM is sufficiently shielded from any dissenting points of view from normal people, unless they go through the regulated channels of the publicly owned media. I'm also sure, as Bulanjdjan pointed out, that he's seasoned enough to let any dissent, no matter how warranted, slide off like... pardon the clichéd phrase, water off a duck's back. Plus, his 'minder' at the door may have intervened as soon as you got too close. After all, you do look a bit like a dodgy character, Wamut!

Catalin said...

Okay, all the comments have just confirmed that one's chances of a brush with fame (or at least with the famous) are greatly enhanced by living somewhere with a small population. I think that greater access should translate into politicians with a better understanding of regular people, but alas, it doesn't seem to be the case.

Wamut, what would I have done? Probably exactly what you did (except without the texting since I don't have a cell phone). What would I wish I'd have done? Gone back and asked politely whether he'd like to have a conversation with one of his ordinary constituents. I'd have hoped that with a polite approach, maybe I could find out from him what he really thinks about things, because I'm always sort of baffled how people with plenty of experience of the world and plenty of education can still be conservative pricks. I'd imagine myself gently prying his real values out of him, making him examine them and find their faults, and then change his ways. That's what I'd imagine, while glued to my chair in the front of the cafe until he left!

bulanjdjan said...

Catalin, will you be my guru?! The world is a much better place with you in it!