A Modest Proposal
Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Absurdism
Student apathy is a problem. Indeed, for the forty percent of you that read beyond that first sentence, you are most likely well aware of the ennui that permeates the air. You’ll be well versed in the utter lack of discussion of student political affairs (beyond drunk engineers and The Daily), and it will come as no surprise to any of you that nobody seems to give a shit. Now, why is this? We look at our own school past and see generation after generation of heroes, scallywags and rebels (and Shatner), and are inspired by their proud demonstration of democracy. And yet, when we gaze at the political scene today, we are met with a population of over 20,000 students who care so very little about the internal affairs of the school that we literally lose quorum of our General Assembly because there was a class change and a small fraction of quorum (that’s about 2%, or 395 students in total, out of a possible 19750). This coincided with the failure of a motion regarding efficiency in our student building, but we will return to that later.
I’m not saying the student government hasn’t actually been politicking all the time and representing us well with the administration, but the victories and setbacks, the ups and downs, all exist within theStudent Politics Sphere. This is the place where Robert’s Rules run rampant, where the road to success is paved with red tape and a thousand out of office replies, and you have an intimate, possibly carnal relationship with your portfolios. It’s one where you are personally perturbed by a point of parliamentary procedure, last on the speakers list, and ready to vote on another vote to have a vote to return to the original vote to vote. I get it, I’m on that scene like boring, tedious flies to honey.
The thing is, that sphere isn’t very interesting to Normal People, that 98% of aforementioned people that I also, for some reason, care about. Sure, I’m an engineer; I accept that I’m a social outlier on this stage, but like, seriously, 98%? Us non-apathetic types are a tiny minority of students that are making all the decisions with very little involvement from The Normal People. This can’t be good for the operation of SSMU. Certainly, it’s no worse then our current token vote on virtually indistinguishable federal parties (is it just me, or is Stephen Harper somehow more likeable? Maybe those damn Conservatives aren’t so bad after all…) or even worse, the local election with a HUGE number of candidates. In fact, it’s probably much better in many ways, but nobody cares.
So, what the hell do we do, you may be asking. Let’s look to the last time students gave a shit. Yeah, it’s this Choose Life Fiasco, and before that, Israel-Palestine. Ok, that’s some heavy stuff, but the key factor in both is that they Piss People Off. As it turns out, lots of people! They had to turn people away from that really rowdy GA last year, it was so big. For weeks before and after, we were all having frank discussion about this controversy in papers and through clubs, and it was a beautiful, albeit tremendously chaotic example of the democratic process. Admittedly, that all died when we decided to immediately stop talking about it and be legally prohibited from ever ever bringing it up again. Despite the turmoil, it got people out! The GA may have been the ‘wrong place’ to discuss things, but convention hasn’t been working very well lately.
The American Republicans almost knew what they were doing. They, in a political masterstroke, introduced the Killa from Wasilla, most likely the least appropriate person for the VP office EVER! But every damn person in North America yapped incessantly about her lack of talking points. Brilliant! You might say we saw through it, or Americans are getting optimistic, or some other bullshit, but I just think the spectacle itself got the vote out to more people. The absurdity of this woefully unqualified beauty queen actually, possibly being a heartbeat away from The Nuclear Codes was enough to make the entire continent go on and on! But she lost and the good guys won and most of us stopped caring.
That spectacle got people out. Like it or not, in this super plugged-in world we have so many other things we care about more, so to compete with Lolcats and YouTube, we have to make this shitinteresting. We should make people want to talk about things in their government, and it has to compete with all the other shit. But, just as the general ‘don’t be an asshole’ rule that I try to live by, we shouldn’t do this by offending people. Screw that mudslinging 20th century bullshit, (wo)m(a)(y)n, get with the times. Why don’t we simply embrace the ridiculousness of the sphere itself and make reallystupid motions? For example, how about a motion to remove the letter “R” from the Shat, or a proposal to install an efficient space-improvement shelving system in our male, female, cis, trans, multi, undecided and robot facilities? Why not embrace the system and make tragically stupid and just colossally imbecilic moves throughout the sphere? Can we not accept how silly the whole process is in the first place? So we, as that 2 percent, become a public laughingstock. If we do our job right, we can get people interested in the spectacle itself, and maybe, just maybe, have people stay at the GA after they protect the right of vegans and vegetarians to continue the murder of defenceless carrots and beans by not banning all vegetable consumption on Campus, and We the People would be united, laughing at ourselves.
Reprinted from the Faucet, Volume 42, #2