I wrote this article with three or four things in mind: be fair, be constructive and be analytical (and occasionally funny if it doesn’t defy literary propriety too much). As I hope all of AIT is aware, START-KAISA released an open letter entitled “Defending the Yellow Brick Road” to AIT Community, published last Wednesday, February 15th.
Come on. You saw this article coming.
Before I go on to a serious analysis of what the letter meant as I understood it, and how it made me say the words “Shit just got real”, let me first deviate from my usual conceit and opinions and give a brief report of how people reacted to the letter. All news-like, yeah? *British*
The political party and organization’s letter was received with differences in opinion, with many calling it poorly written and others commenting otherwise, calling the statement “dignified” and professional. Outlying comments included those by two artists in the music industry, namely Taylor Swift and the Grammy Winner Adele (she won so many in one night she thought they were Emmys. But who cares, she set fire to rain.).
So what does the Philopino have to say about this? The differences in opinion is predictable enough. To say the least, a pro and anti-Student Council feel felt like the developing scheme. Even those who actually did like the SC thought that the letter was poorly written, though peppered with validity. Some were simply annoyed with the “arrogance” and apparent “trapo-ness” of the whole piece. But let me be the first to say that barely a dozen comments wouldn’t be a fair gauge of what everybody in AIT thinks. But here’s what I think.
If you ask me, I don’t really care too much for a pro-SC and anti-SC drama because the student council is inherently for the students and hating each other would just simply be daft. We need each other. In fact, the student council shouldn’t even feel separate from us run-in-the-mill-yet-special-in-our-own-way AIT students. But whatever is happening, well, people are free to think what they want to think anyway and given that the comment function is an avenue to actually share these thoughts, then why not? The limit is simply accountability and conscience. You talk like that but can you back it up?
So was I impressed with the open letter? With the audacity, the gutsy-ness? Yes. With the content? Not really. The defensiveness? Uncanny. Grammatical errors, poor word-choice and organization, let’s throw them out of the window for now; the technical aspects are too circumstantial. I must say that what I found peculiar were the strangely concluded assumptions, the inconsistency, and the general yet poorly executed demagoguery of the whole thing.
Let’s go with the first myth, that they are a monopoly, which they deny. The history doesn’t matter, that they had official opponents in the past and that the fact that they remained means that the “AIT Community” trusts the party unquestionably. The fact that they’re the only legitimate party in AIT does make them currently a monopoly. There’s no point in defending that because it really isn’t their fault and it’s not as if they abuse people to stop them from running against them. On an off note though, the section about their lack of complacency doesn’t make sense at all, the paragraph being weirdly inconsistent.
Though it is possible that they remained the only party for six years is rooted with trust from the majority of the AIT community, the general apathy might be the cause to that too. Students might not really care, but they simply vote for the sake of having a council. Furthermore, if they are so “trusted” and successful for years, then why are many still either unimpressed or indifferent?
In line with this thought on apathy, I personally found it strange that they partially debunked this AIT myth by implying that students aren’t apathetic because abstentions are few and that the students still vote for them. If that’s the case then it’s a conceited council; as if only through voting for them could we express how much we care for the institute and as if those who abstained couldn’t care less.
Apathy is not measured by the number of abstentions but is better measured by the overall voter turn-out, at least if we want a quantifiable gauge. Voting abstain does not necessarily make you apathetic because you still technically exercise your right to vote.
There are many reasons, personal or otherwise, as to why a person would want to abstain – from principles they don’t really share with a candidate to a certain judgment of character that they do not like. If we do not consider abstaining at as an option at all, then they will inevitably win, whether or not their visions or principles really matter to us. Abstention is actually more democratic than what the campaign projects, in my own assessment, because, though a failed election has its own costs, at least we didn’t end up people we didn’t want in the council.
Simply put, I’d say that I’m not apathetic because at least I went through the trouble of clicking abstain instead of not voting at all.
Another thing that bothered me is the open declaration of what they “delivered” to AIT. Fine, I concede that the council had projects. But it shouldn’t just end there. What was the impact or effect of these projects? Does their standard of what is “successful” or “delivered” truly in line with what the rest of the institute thinks? Let me be petulant. Where was the consultation? In my opinion, they were not in the position to declare these things – we were. The same way that we get to say if we think they’re a clique even if they think they’re not.
The last inconsistency that I observed was the character of being “inclusive” and that they appreciated criticism but with the majority of the letter, failed to really take them in consideration and simply and openly denied them instead. It was as if we are free to criticize but then again we don’t have the ascendancy to do so because, after all, “they delivered”.
In conclusion, let me just state the obvious that I’m criticizing the article, not necessarily how the council performed in their term – an editorial will be released soon regarding this. I simply did not like the letter. It doesn’t mean that I don’t like the council. I am not pushing for people to abstain this coming elections but simply to treat the candidates with the scrutiny that they deserve. Panindigan na lang ‘to ng boto. Vote based on principles, candidate potential or whatever standard, panindigan mo lang.
What I ultimately agree with in their letter is the engagement between the council and the rest of the students; that we do this, whatever it is, together – this notion being the most obvious facet of self-governance that was maybe too obvious that we took it for granted and forgot.