What is the hard-to-explain allure that independent candidates seem to be having for Australians at this election time? Does it have something do with the subconscious buzz that the I-word, independent, triggers in our bosoms?
How is it that I, apparently like so many Canberrans, feel favourably disposed towards David Pocock the independent Senate candidate?
There can be nothing rational about it (not that I am opposed to irrationality in any areas of life, rather the opposite) since while he seems quite personable he is a man of mystery. He has few stated policies and opinions on anything. His distinguished career in the gladiatorial realm of football tells one nothing about his fitness to be an elected mover and shaker of our nation.
Surely there is a small, wriggly little germ of truth in Treasurer Josh Frydenberg's midweek accusation that independents are "just a slogan, a billboard, a vibe".
And so there is a vibe, an allure. As I fumble and fossick for an explanation of it I notice that David Pocock's visually unavoidable and promiscuously sprinkled corflutes (on Wednesday I saw them even out in the pioneering suburban wilds of Molonglo Valley where there are more echidnas than voters) feature the word independent in big, big letters.
There is something about the notion of someone being independent that has appeal. To describe someone as independent is somehow to give him or her credit for something.
The label is suggestive of freedom of thought and action. An independent is a free spirit. He soars like a bird. She goes (like Wordsworth in his beloved and daffodil-bedecked Lake District) for long and carefree rambles in the great outdoors.
It is silly of me, I know, but for me the word independent when I see it on a corflute (and before reason asserts itself) instantly reminds me of infectiously unforgettable songs about independent free spirits skipping across vast panoramas and warbling about the joy in their independent hearts.
I'm not sure if David Pocock and his campaign disciples have contrived it on purpose but I can never see a David Pocock corflute with the word independent on it without in my mind seeing and hearing the famous video of the young Julie Andrews. There she is gambolling independently in the great alpine outdoors (she is wearing no watch so seems independent of any time restraints) as she rejoices that the hills are alive with the sound of music.
This, the way the word independent conjures up admiring thoughts (and in some of us even conjures up attractive music videos of the 1960s) is quite irrational. In my rational moments I find myself acknowledging this and realising that independence may simply mean, as "freedom" does in Janis Joplin's Me and Bobby McGee, "nothin' left to lose".
Some forms of dependence (the mutual dependence of successful marriages leaps to mind) are essential to the civilised life.
Anyone who lives a life independent from the arts, never knowing an exhilarating dependence on the thrills of the plays of Shakespeare or of the symphonies of Beethoven is surely an impoverished being.
Whenever the rational Ian (I am dependent on him 49 per cent of the time) sees the word "independent" on a candidate's corflute he wonders what it is the candidate is independent of, is independent from.
Why is Julie Andrews' character, Maria, gambolling alone in the mountains? Why hasn't she at least taken a dog with her to give it a treat? She is a governess and has seven children she should be looking after. Is she temporarily independent of any sense of obligation to the world beyond her selfishly all-singing, all-gambolling self? Is she, perhaps, just a vibe?
Then again, still trying to understand the mystery of the allure that so-called independence gives a candidate, one wonders if independents have a special kind of mystique.
We know who and what candidates labelled Liberal or Labor are (and what they are not, and never can be). Independents, though, offer some of the mystery and mystique that made the shy, reclusive Greta Garbo so irresistible. A new book about her marvels at how "unknowable and mysterious" she was. Perhaps in the same way knowing nothing of independent candidates' policies and characters gives them a kind of silent-film film-star lustre the familiar old lacklustre Labor and Liberal party robots lack.
Meanwhile I wonder if one has to be (as your columnist is) a passionate gardener to properly appreciate the charm and excitement of corflutes.
The way in which they suddenly pop up and display the flower of a face is so very like the way in which, giving a true gardener a jolt of joy, flowers pop up in a garden.
Driving along Hindmarsh Drive last Sunday I saw, suddenly popped up, corflutes of Labor's Alicia Payne that had not been there two days earlier.
What's more the Payne disciples who had planted them had arranged them in clusters, five Alicia Paynes side-by-side here, four Alicia Paynes cheek-by-jowl over there, very much in the carefree and unrehearsed way in which in wild gardens daffodils suddenly assert themselves.
Perhaps one day when Canberra has a city poet he or she will see in the pop-up magic of the thousands of merry corflutes some of the magic William Wordsworth saw in all those just-popped-up daffodils. "Ten thousand saw I at a glance" he rejoices in his beloved poem I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud. Poetry is a Broad Church and one poet's daffodils are another poet's corflutes.
Ian Warden is a Canberra Times columnist
Ian Warden is a Canberra Times columnist
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.