â€¦Look, it isn't that I don't want to have an opinion, heaven forbid. It's just that, on the whole, it seems much easier not to have one. You don't follow? Okay, I'll try to explain. Where can I start? I know, with my old fall-back position.
"I don't know what you are talking about." Rather weak, to be quite honest, now that I've lived here for a while. Even I have to acknowledge that. To claim rank ignorance of the subject matter and the issues at stake is, frankly, pathetic. Everyone knows the topic: Everyone has an opinion. So I move on to the next wriggle-out-of-saying-something-substantive clause.
"I don't understand the subject." This, at least, is a bit more plausible. Ultimately, I suspect that no one really understands. But this doesn't stop all and sundry - those with a vested interest as much as those without - from voicing their opinions, often with a violent passion that seems to be in inverse proportion to any actual knowledge about the topic. How does that old saying go? Empty drums make the loudest noise. Still, citing a lack of knowledge, oddly enough, doesn't seem to satisfy most.
"I don't understand the selection process." Yeah, right. No one falls for that, sadly. I was in the country the last time the whole sorry business came around, not quite a year ago. I had a ringside seat, so to speak, even though I didn't actively participate at the time. And at the end of the day, it is really quite simple; you decide who you wish to vote for, and then go ahead and cast your vote. It's not exactly rocket science; modern technology actually makes the process ludicrously simple. But then, there is a wee problem associated with thisâ€¦
"I don't like any of the participants." This excuse has the benefit of being, more or less, the truth. I'm sure that at home, the participants are all nice decent people, pillars of their communities and all that. The problem is that once they gather collectively onto the national stage, they undergo something of a transformation. One would be hard put to find elsewhere such an aggregation of vainglorious, self-serving individuals, without any further ambition beyond self-perpetuation. It makes sense, of course: the name of the game is to be the last one standing. Still, the mind boggles at the lengths of obnoxious, outright unpleasant behavior that some choose to embrace in order to come out tops.
Okay, I'll be fair. Occasionally, an upright, upstanding citizen somehow slips through the initial selection processes - designed, as far as I can tell, to sort the wheat from the chaff and then to retain the chaff - and has the opportunity to present themselves to the nation. But they never last. If they aren't buried beneath the weight of expectation, they are swiftly crushed collectively by their co-competitors and are dismissed by the public as popinjays and lightweights. No one likes a do-gooder, after all.
"I don't understand what the participants are saying." This is correct. Still, it remains incumbent upon me to improve my faltering Hebrew. In any case, the beauty contest in question is covered pretty comprehensively in the English-language press, domestic and foreign. The foreign press, in particular, get quite excited when there is a promising minority participant. But then, who'd trust a journalist? I don't (we'll ignore the fact that I occasionally masquerade as one).
Journalists have this really bad habit of reporting what they want to hear, rather than what they actually hear. Unreliable sources of information, at best. More to the point, I rather suspect that even if my Hebrew were perfect, I still wouldn't understand what the participants were on about most of the time. Ignorance, I suspect, can be bliss.
"I still can't find anyone to vote for." Not good enough, I've been told forcefully: It's the same everywhere else. Fair enough. The contestants elsewhere presented just as convincingly as sociopaths. But somehow, it seemed easier when I lived abroad to just hold my nose and plump for the least offensive option. Here, I seem faced with an intractable dilemma: How does one set precedence between a louse and a flea?
So, all my carefully constructed disclaimers disregarded and discarded, I dared to dip my toes in the water. I made the mistake of voicing an opinion in publicâ€¦
"Rubbish! You don't know what you are talking about. How can you understand the issues? You're not Israeli, you haven't lived here long enough. This isn't Europe or America, you know? Things work differently here. In any case, you haven't grasped the historical antecedents. The context. Everything must been seen in context, don't you get it? These tensions didn't start yesterday, you know. In fact, you actually don't have a clue, do you? Best you remain silent and allow others wiser than you to voice their opinionsâ€¦"
Fine. So I will be silent. I will keep my opinions to myself. In fact, I'll go one step further and ensure that I can't have an opinion. No more newspapers, no rolling news networks, no internet, no radio. It won't last forever. At some point, the whole sorry business will be over and I'll be able to go back to speaking my mind in public. Big Brother only lasts so long, after allâ€¦
Yes, Big Brother. You do know that I've been talking about Reality Television, don't you? No, what did you think? Politics? Politicians? Oh. I see. What on earth led you to that conclusion?