How long, O Lord, how long? Election days are here again and once more my lawns will be littered with greasy pimps looking for the feathered nest. Normally my instinct would be to accept this bi-annual nonsense as one of the necessary evils of fostering a vibrant and competitive democratic culture, that our best and brightest may walk tall and live free etc etc. Normally – but no longer. It’s my fourth time round and I’m tired of this shit.
Let’s dispense with my weak point: nothing changes. Yes, this is a gross simplification, but ask any fourth year if their student experience has markedly changed and they’ll struggle to come up with anything of substance save that there are more strikes, and Fisher is prettier and less space-efficient. Well then we need change, a new guard; an SRC by the students for the students! Oh yeah, what a rabble-rouser! Sounds like you’ve been reading a little tome called Every Flyer Ever Handed Out By Every Student Politician Ever (Random House). No one buys it, but there’s a new edition printed every year. Each election, we get the same mix of Young Libs, Laborites and out-and-out progressives, and the same blend of promises both maddeningly bland (working for you!) and unworkably specific (every lecture recorded!).
But that’s politics, my friend! Perhaps, but what we’ve got here is not politics. It’s more of a political recreation society. Any student of second year or higher will have noticed that the same faces seem to keep turning up on the Eastern Avenue beggar’s row for semester after semester. Wasn’t she running for USU board last year? Is that the ‘wham for Sam’ guy? The different camps skip their lectures to mingle and chat, and one cannot shake the suspicion that after the votes are all counted they will shake hands, swap shirts, and get to planning for the next election in a few months time. It’s all a bit of fun really, a great way for Arts students to meet Law students while really making a difference. Remember guys – drinks afterwards!
Indeed, intermingling is the name of the game, and it is this that proves most objectionable about the whole enterprise. Don’t get me wrong; despite my misanthropic bent and permanent scowl, I’m not averse to some good-old-fashioned interaction. But this – this is about contacts. Yes, you are right to recoil in horror at that most oily of nouns, but the sad fact is that except for a few wackos (read: idealists) these elections are about laying the groundwork and getting your name on the political scene. Look around our green lawns and sleepy lecture theatres – these are the birthing pools of the Hockeys and Abbotts, the spawning grounds of the Gillards and Albaneses (Albanesii?). Glance at a list of former SRC presidents and you’ll see that these are the stepping stones, the first rungs on the political ladder. If you can attach yourself to the right campaigns – on the grounds of ‘helping out a mate’, of course – or even get elected, then maybe one day your grizzled features will haunt the halls of power while student papers mock the utterances of your fresh faced former self.
The horror, the horror! Yes, it’s a grim scenario, but it’s also a chance for some bud-nipping, to stop the nonsense early. I’m not completely jaded. Things do indeed change on campus, not always through sexy decade-retrospective-style sit-ins but instead through painstaking ‘I-second-the-motion’-ism. My point is that if we tolerate buzzwords and rung-hopping in our future leaders, how can we expect different from the leaders they become?