OPINION

National donkey torn between election and Eurovision on May 18

What does the prime minister's choice of election day, May 18, have to do with Buridan's Ass, surely the third most famous donkey of all time?*

It is that Buridan's Ass comes into the election picture because in making election day the same day as the Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest the prime minister has created for millions of us an alarming election-night TV conflict-dilemma. Which drama, which extravaganza of unfolding results should we Velcro ourselves to our couch to be absorbed by? Decisions! Decisions! Buridan's Ass, a perplexed mule, was faced with just such a dilemma.

Portrait of singer-songwriter Kate Miller-Heidke who will be representing Australia at Eurovision. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer

Portrait of singer-songwriter Kate Miller-Heidke who will be representing Australia at Eurovision. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer

The influential 14th century philosopher Jean Buridan hypothesised (he was making a satirical point about the idea of free will) an experiment in which a very thirsty and very hungry donkey is led to a precise spot between a bucket of water and a bale of hay. The donkey, Buridan mused, will die of both thirst and hunger because, exercising free will, it will be unable to make up its tiny asinine mind about which to do, whether to eat or to do drink? Ever since then Buridan's and his muddle-headed mule have stood for those occasions in life when we are beset with chronic indecision because we have a powerful tug-of-war of choices.

On the night of May 18 what will our choice of which of these two contrasting extravaganzas to follow say about us? Will serious-minded politically-aware patriots, concerned for what is to become of our nation in coming years, instinctively tune to the election? Will only shallow flibbertigibbets instead choose to wallow in the glittering and tinselly froth and bubble bubblebath, the fleeting thrills of Eurovision?

Here, then, I own up to being a shallow flibbertigibbet, to being an irrational (but unashamed) Eurovision enthusiast. Eurovision brings out my inner shallow flibbertigibbet.

I even made a point, visiting Stockholm, of gambolling along to the Abba Museum because it is as well a Eurovision museum, thanks to ABBA's legendary Eurovision associations. The museum has a fabulous collection of mind-boggling, bling-encrusted costumes worn by Eurovision contestants ancient and modern.

And in truth the May 18 choice of either watching the election or watching Eurovision is not entirely an extreme choice. Our federal elections and the Eurovision contest have many, many things in common. And the greatest of these is the way in which both dress up so much mediocre mutton as delicious, lip-smacking lamb.

In our elections the mediocre candidates and the lacklustre and deceiving policy promises are dressed up and tarted up to make them seem something they're not. Eurovision does this with knobs (and fake jewellery) on.

So for example last year's Eurovision Grand Final featured 26 competing songs, all of them mutton, not one of which was in any way musically, melodically distinctive or memorable. Musically, each mutton-rubbish song went in one ear and out the other, so nondescript that it left one with nothing to hum or whistle. Musically and lyrically this Eurovision is going to be as banal as ever (in my Eurovision fixation I have already been online looking at and listening to the official videos of many of the entries in this year's finals) and as banal as what's said and done in our election campaign.

Kate Miller-Heidke who will be representing Australia at Eurovision. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer

Kate Miller-Heidke who will be representing Australia at Eurovision. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer

But of course the Eurovision Grand Final's advantage, its claim to global fame, is that it is such a spectacle! In the disguising of every mutton song as magical, magic-mushroom enhanced lamb the entrants show amazing theatrical, costume, choreographic ingenuity and operatic virtuosity so that the overall impact of a long, long night looking at the Eurovision finals is deliriously hallucinogenic. One has to be clinically dead not to be thrilled by it.

On the night of May 18 ABC TV (with its star psephologist Anthony Green and election-night panellists all drably dressed in responsible civvies) will not be able to compete for my frivolous affections.

To get a glimpse of just how out-glittered they will be on May 18 go online this very minute to see the official video of Australia's Eurovision entry in which our very own Kate Miller-Heidke (blessed with opera training that has helped give her the vocal range of a crazed kookaburra on performance-enhancing drugs) sparkles in an outfit of a galaxy of a zillion fake diamonds.

Yes, it will be a shame to miss out on some election night highlights, including, God-willing, perhaps the first, thrilling indications that Tony Abbott has lost Warringah, that the demonic Peter Dutton has been exorcised from Dickson, that the voters of Canberra have pruned Dutton disciple and crony Zed Seselja from the Senate.

But when one is a global citizen, on May 18 none of those parochial, local, Australian attractions will be able to compete, for this critically-acclaimed flibbertigibbet, with being part of an estimated global Eurovision TV audience of 190 million.

*The most famous donkey is the one on which Our Redeemer rode (in lowly pomp) into Jerusalem. The second most famous is Eeyore, the lugubrious neighbour of Pooh and Piglet, in the Winnie-the-Pooh stories of A.A. Milne. In those stories Eeyore is a character who, like the persistent Canberra opponents of light rail, has made an art form, a lifestyle, out of moaning and misery.