Use it or lose it

The world is filled with contradictions.
Some plants are chewed by malnourished
hunters to stave off the pangs of hunger,
whilst the same plants are used
as an appetite suppressant by the cripplingly obese
in the Western world. People, more broadly, are
burdened with the relentless fear of anonymity in
death; the drive for posterity, whilst at the same
time immerse themselves in faceless collectives
–branding, nationalism, religion- so as to suppress
the equally vociferous fear of being without… whatever
that ‘without’ might constitute. Perhaps more
prosaically still, we go to clubs and bars –uniformly
detested ‘meat sales’ that they are- in order to have
a good time, where we are so repulsed by our environment
that we are compelled to throw back gallons of alcohol,
just to make it through the night.

There. A delightfully acerbic jumping board
for a topic that has done more to explode my
own collective identity –and quietly nurtured
aspersions- than my time in S0.21 managed to,
(anarchists, it transpires, are not crazed loons…
make a note of it.)

But I should elaborate. The Sunday immediately
following the SU election results was fairly hectic in
the Boar office. The workload had come down on
us like a ton of bricks. There were pages to be laid
up, and copy to be written. I dimly recall coughing
up some truly weak analysis of the election results,
statistics and whatnot. My usual wit-laden prose
was markedly absent, and consequently I was in a
foul mood. The straw that broke the camel’s back
was a sheet of demographics. The paper showed
the breakdown of how the votes were distributed;
how many people voted; in what races; what year
of study; department, etc. A statisticians dream, in
other words.

What threw me was the shockingly low
percentage of total votes accrued from my
own Politics and International Studies (PAIS)
department, especially in comparison with the
Business School, and Maths and Economics
departments, which all represented a
comparatively high section of the voting populace.

In a contradiction-free world those students who
have enough of a perverse interest in politics
to want to drop £20,000 just to study it would
represent a much larger chunk of those who voted,
surely?

Bringing us back to the first paragraph, though,
this is not a logical world, at least not where people
and culture are concerned. My assumption that
politics students would be on the ball enough to
claw themselves out of bed and stagger a couple
of metres to their laptops was shown to be grossly
ludicrous. Over sixty-six percent of us failed to do
even that. And let’s not forget, voting took place
over several days. If the necessary will power
needed to lie in bed and vote online could not
quite be amassed on the first day, then perhaps the
second? The third? Alas, as the 4.01 percent figure
of total votes attests, even this was asking too
much of our future world leaders. In a department
of roughly six hundred undergraduates, only 189
voted. That’s 31.5 percent.

At first it seemed obvious what was causing
the discrepancy between Business School voting
figures (584 voters, making up 12.39 percent of
the total), and those of PAIS. Surely the Business
School was just larger? More students logically
mean more voters. But even if you take into
account the extra seven hundred undergraduates
in the business school, they still managed to get
44.9 percent of their students to vote.

Ignoring the individual departments and
focusing instead on the faculties, there’s an even
more tragic correlation between how scientific –or
’real’- your degree is, and your propensity to vote.
The sciences accounted for forty percent of the
vote, Social Sciences were 36.6 percent, and the
arts accounted for just 22.1 percent.

Without dredging further through the
superlative in the ‘lies, damned lies…’ sequence
I think there exists a worrying trend in political
culture here at Warwick. It has long been my
opinion that economists, and by extension those
studying at the Business School, must have at
least a basic political education before they go on
to steer the capitalist machine. So many student
economists are unacquainted with even the ‘left,
right’ dichotomy that their apolitical culture of
learning needs addressing, so as to curb the worst
excrescences and violence of unbridled capitalism.
Nonetheless, if the statistics are to be taken at face
value, even though only a minority of Business
School students voted, they still represented
the most fiercely involved in this aspect of the
democratic process.

Why is this the case? Perhaps, with two
international candidates for president, and a
high proportion of internationals in the Business
School, students felt the closest affinity with said
candidates, voting along a cultural alignment,
rather than making policy driven decisions. Indeed,
Mitchell’s ‘one in a billion’ slogan unashamedly
appealed to those students who self-identify as
Chinese, even if the thrust of his policy was more
inclusive. Without taking a sledgehammer to the
closed ballot, however, this conjecture cannot be
substantiated.

My view of the average economist as being
inherently apolitical has taken a knock, thereby
removing lack of acquaintance with politics (and
an innate lack of comprehension for the human
consequences of economic decisions) from the
list of viable excuses as to why capitalism is so
venerated. Moreover, my own department has
been humiliated by its own apathy. It is of course
possible that a lack of publicity resulted in the
low turnout, or that an aversion to the Union’s
parochialism caused us to abstain in our droves,
but the higher vote from the Science faculties,
and RON’s subdued role in the proceedings would
seem to deny both theories respectively.

Perhaps we’ll never know the answer, but
I would suggest the kernel to take from these
aggrieved musings is that something is seriously
amiss in our political culture. Given that the Union
has an impact on all of us, too many seemed either
loath to participate, or don’t feel our opinions
are important or informed enough to voice. Both
conditions are concerning for different reasons,
though ultimately the distinction is irrelevant for
the growth of a healthy democratic society. When
it comes to your vote, it really is a matter of ‘use it
or lose it.’

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