And now… a political broadcast

Those of you who are Swiss or live in Switzerland already know what I’m going to say. Those of you who aren’t, or don’t, won’t get it. But it has to be said anyway.

Hooray!

Christoph Blocher is no longer in the Federal Council. Who is Christoph Blocher? He’s one of the big names of the SVP, the Swiss People’s Party. They’re part of the political system, but their right-wingedness has turned more and more into out-and-out racism, misogyny and political bullying. Their ads imply that foreigners, more often than not, are parasites, as are those receiving a pension for invalidity. Their implication has been that they are Switzerland and that they alone give voice to the Swiss people, cows, cheese’n’all. (No cuckoo clocks – that’s an invention of Harry Lime.)

Ding dong, the Christoph’s gone!

So, what happened? The Swiss parliament voted on the seven Federal Councillors, which Blocher was one of for the last four years. Since the SVP is successful with voters, they’ve been accorded two seats. But, oh no! The parliament voted two SVP members into the Council, but neither of them is CB. Instead – listen to this! – they voted for… a woman!

Putting it somewhat bluntly, the SVP is the sort of party that thinks proper women should be mothers and should be at home, looking after the kids, because otherwise you get broken families, youth violence, high school shootings and the like. And now an SVP woman is voted to one of the seven highest positions in the country. What a slap in the face for the old, white buggers… (Note for linguistically interested non-German speakers: her name is Widmer-Schlumpf, “Schlumpf” being the German word for “Smurf”.)

No Smurf she!

Irony of ironies, the demonstrators on the federal square in Bern, 99% of them on the political left, cheered when Widmer-Schlumpf, an SVP politician, accepted the election.

Now, what did the old fuddy-duddies do? They chucked both W-S and her other SVP colleague on the Federal Council from the party, so now there’s no one from the SVP on the Council. And then they went on to announce that “this was a black day for Swiss democracy” and that they’d been forced to go into opposition, because after all the rest of the kids didn’t want to play with them.

Okay, realistically speaking I don’t expect anything much to change. But still, it’s oh so satisfying to see the xenophobic old fogeys from the SVP end up with egg on their faces and stomping out of the sandpit because they think the others are being mean…

It’s a Mann’s world

Yesterday we watched The Insider, Michael Mann’s 1999 film about whistleblower Jeffrey Wigand, 60 Minutes and the evil machinations of big US tobbaco. I like Mann’s cool jazz style, the calm rhythm of his movies. Watching The Insider for the fourth or fifth time, though, I was struck at how much the director’s cinematic world is a male one.

Insiders inside a car (duh…)

Like in several of Mann’s movies, it’s not so much that there isn’t any sympathy for the women (in this case especially Wigand’s wife Liane, played by Diane Venora), but that the film’s focus always remains with the man, and as a result the women are seen in terms of whether they remain loyal to their men or not. It’s really weird – if I write it like that, it makes Mann sound like the worst misogynist ever. However, I don’t think that’s quite fair. Venora’s character in Heat (this time she’s together with the Pacino character) also decides to walk out on her man because his job is more important than his family. It’s not that he doesn’t love her, but he’s obsessed with what he does. Perhaps that’s why the films aren’t straightforward exercises in sexism – Mann’s men are obsessive-compulsive, they choose their duties like lonesome cowboys. There’s something glamorous and admirable to the male protagonists, but at the same time they’re stuck in adolescence and in the belief that they don’t need anyone else, except the other boys they play their lethal games with.

By comparison, the women live in the real world much more than the men. Things aren’t as clear cut for them. Venora’s Justine Hanna in Heat realises that she will always come second to her husband. Her Liane Wigand knows that Jeffrey (fantastically acted by Russell Crowe, by the way) will not give up his quixotic quest against big tobacco, not even for the sake of his family. She comes off worse, perhaps, than other women in Mann, because Jeffrey Wigand is so clearly doing the right thing. But there is understanding in the film for her plight.

In the hands of a lesser director and actress, Liane and Justine would simply be shrews who screw over their good-guy husbands. It’s difficult to completely shake the feeling that they are disloyal and selfish. But they have a strength and a dignity that makes us look and think twice.

But it doesn’t change that, at its heart, Michael Mann’s world is a man’s world indeed.

Tom and Jamie,/Sitting in a Car…