Powers in Politics
Two films currently showing are The Iron Lady and The Ides of March.
These are compelling watching. The first, because I can recall the time Margaret Thatcher dominated the European scene, along with Ronald Reagan (and our conservative politics here in Australia. Thatcher was one who declared there was no such thing as ‘society’. She prized the ‘free market’ to the extent that her politics set workers against police, prompted IRA bombings in England, and adventured into war with Argentina. I recall being in London streets and seeing miners begging.. It might be argued that she challenged set and defunct ways of running society (‘socialist’), and forced English society to open up. One need only look at the neighbouring continental countries which faced these same challenges in such a different way, to ask, ‘Was her politics necessary?’Eventually she, like John Howard, made the same mistake, believing that in our Westminster system the leader of the party is a presidential candidate, elected by the people. In fact, (even though our increasingly presidential style of politics seems to deny it) the party is elected, and then chooses the leader.Merryl Streep inhabits her wonderfully. The contrast between Thatcher’s quote of Francis of Assissi is painful: ‘Where there is discord let me bring harmony!’
The film takes us to another dimension – namely the personal and psychological experience of dementia. The woman who was ‘The Prime Minister’ and wielded such power is now at the mercy of her own failing mind. Is one a mirror for the other? The mirage of her now deceased husband intrudes a reality that she denied in her fist of iron. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yDiCFY2zsfc
The second, The Ides of March, is salutary. The title echoes Shakespeare’s take on politics in Julius Caesar, a politics that involves cunning and betrayal. It is compelling because we are currently in the days of a Republican search for a candidate to oppose Barak Obama, the Democratic President. In the film it is the Democrats who are searching out a suitable candidate – only to have it revealed (echoes of Clinton) that the Democrats’ hope had sex with an intern, now pregnant, and looking for support from the impregnator. And alongside this, the principled media manager whose principles shift to Machiavellian mode of political survival. Can there be any politics which loves the truth? The mock-up front page of Time MAgazine makes the acute observation that one reflects the other.
The two films do not give us much to have confidence in. They raise for us the question posed by Jesus who counters the power politics of his (and our) day: must the good man always die to redeem our polluted history?
Wes 9 January 2012