The ancient Greeks had a word, idios, which denoted “one apathetic towards politics.” It is, of course, from whence we get the modern word “idiot,” which has gone on to adopt new meanings. However, if we were to revert the word “idiot” back to its original, etymological definition, then I would be the first to admit that I, as far as student politics go, am indeed an idiot.
My apathy for student government in St Andrews is exactly that: a sheer lack of interest stemming not from ignorance, but rather from the underlying yet omnipresent thought that it’s all an elaborate joke.
Don’t get me wrong: the Students’ Association serves a great purpose and I applaud all who help run it, or are currently striving to have a part. But it is by no means an integral part of the University. Of course, this is coming from someone whose sole use of the Union building is my weekly pilgrimage to Rector’s for the best wifi in town and a chai latte (also, arguably, the best in town). And yet, I’m not alone in thinking this: A poll conducted by The Saint this past week found that a majority (57%) of students answered “no” to the question “Is the Students’ Association a vital part of this university?”
If you’re like me, in that you don’t frequent the Union or partake to a serious extent in student societies, it can be hard to appreciate the efforts of the Students’ Association. That doesn’t mean — and I can’t really stress this enough — that it is unimportant. I realise the importance of a governing student body and particularly how essential student representation is. But that doesn’t make election week any less irritating.
These past few days have been something of a minefield. Walking to and from the library, I barely survive the bombardment of overly enthusiastic people in colourful t-shirts hurling a barrage of stickers, pins, and pamphlets in my direction. Some have brownies, which is nice, but not nice enough to make me care.
The suffocating atmosphere is not the only nauseating aspect of election season. For several candidates in certain races, their platforms are virtually the same as their opponents, or differentiated only by subtle nuances. This makes for very dull and lousy politics, which urges one to ask: How can I even decide who to vote for? Which brings me to my primary point, which everyone secretly knows but never admits: It’s all a popularity contest.
Of course, I don’t have hard empirical evidence to back up this claim. But I am very, very curious how many voters will actually read up on the candidates, consciously determine who in a given race has the better ideas (when they’re not identical), and will decide on that basis, rather than merely voting for their friend or their friend’s friend. Or the guy with the better hair.
It being a popularity contest helps to enforce the well-established idea behind the St Andrews Complex. The elections, which at any other uni would be of secondary importance (if important at all), have enveloped the entire town and all its inhabitants, all in the name of shameless self-promotion and the always-welcome opportunity to let loose our individual, ever-growing egos. Like everything in this town, it’s blown out of proportion. Whilst I applaud all those running to make a genuine difference and contribute to our university’s well being, there will always be, unfortunately, those who run solely to sate their incurable narcissism.
But I suppose that’s just politics anyway.