Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Baudrillardian Hell

Here's an article I wrote for the student newspaper of my uni. It will be surely cut down to a meaningless article, because that's what all our world has come down to nowadays : more and more information and less and less meaning. It is a clear Baudrillardian study of students elections, but it's adaptable to every elections. I've also been asked what I mean by Baudrillardian. Well Jean Baudrillard is a thinker who wrote about how hyperreal our world is becoming. To understand how our world is imploding, I'll advise anyone who can think critically to read " Simulacra and Simulation" by the same author.

Even the least engaging student would have noted the elections going around. Though I don't know to what extent I can call it an election. Of course I can, students are voting for a representative, I can assume the countdown won't be tricked and there is more than one candidate: all the ingredients for a fair election. But there are a few problems in sight. And they are not petty.

Well, the first thing to notice is that, probably like last year, the lack of interest of the students undermine the legitimacy of this election. Last year, only 10% of the students voted for a student representative. In some countries, it's not considered a valid election if it represent only a small proportion of those concerned. Coming from a country where voting is compulsory ( Belgium), I'll confess that I like to practice whenever I can my right not to vote. But I do need a reason not to vote, other than better things to do. I'm not saying that all the non-voting students share this position, I'm only saying that there is maybe a reason why the students aren't interested.

That's when the ridicule elements of these elections sank in me. I Make most of my observations at st. matts because that's where I study. But being a small campus, it might have been easier for me to approach some candidates and observe the different flyers - sorry, I meant “manifesto”- given around and the impressive amount of propaganda posters ( ask the candidates and they will all tell you they want a greener uni). I didn't find a poster that spoke to me. Most of the posters where common orders to vote for someone I didn't know. Some insulted me for not voting for someone I didn't know: I took this one as definite proof of the partisanship of political freedom.

The pictures on the posters were also interesting. They destroyed all sense of seriousness about this election. I've seen some posters with American Presidents on it. Was it aimed at the small American community of UWE, or did it signify that they thought like American Leaders. If I was on that road, I would have been more presumptuous and associate myself with Gandhi, or Stalin. Aren't these as much to the point as any other leader? I've also seen posters showing American flags, I'm assuming they're strong patriots in the wrong country, or poster that would show the mascot of the candidates. This last one is also an intriguing trend: a person needing a mascot. It's like Ronald being invented before McDonald's.

But I am being a bit superficial here. My problem is that there is not much to say about the content of this election. All the candidates in contention for the Student Representative President position formulate the same program, as they did last year : a more representative student union, better transport infrastructures, fighting for student rights ( god forbid actually stating said rights) against uni and “ more stuff to do” ... Some did add little things, but like a candidate said “if I say too much, I'll give promises I can't keep”. The candidates have only mentioned the problems most students have. Their solution is a promise to sort it out.

I don't know much about the power of the Student Union. I can only estimate that it doesn't give out much, except for the pecuniary compensation for the heavy duties, since no one wants to fight for it in the name of some real believes or values. What these students represent are the consensus. Our choice is to vote for the one we estimate would do the best job, as a technician, as Student Representative President, not the one who stands for our values. I couldn't see anyone expressing different values, anyone being exaggerated, there's no commie, no anarchist, no tory, no crazy, no labour, no one admitting they don't care, no religious fanatic, no sexual pervert, no snob, no intellectual elitist, no one different. I don't know, maybe I'm exaggerating, I hope I am, otherwise I'm just witnessing the slow death of democracy here at UWE.
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