socialising

The Great Campaign

As should probably be unsurprising, I’ve never liked school that much. So, in high school, whenever a school-sanctioned opportunity arose, I’d leave the Concentration Campus.

One day, a teacher came to my class during a free period and said that he needed members of the student council for something. At this time, my friend Alex and I were on the council. Both of our positions were completely pointless. I mean, it was worse than the Russian Duma between 1905 and 1917, and that much pointlessness takes skill. Let me briefly digress to explain how we got them:

One day, the faculty decided it would be nice if there were a Student Council so they could get points for Representing The People. To this end, they selected two students from the fifth form (final year) as the candidates for President of the Student Council and announced in the assembly (kind of like homeroom) at the beginning of the day that everyone would be expected to vote for one of them.

During the day they went to each class to collect votes for the Student Council President while also asking each class to nominate and vote for a Class President. When they reached my class, they asked for someone to volunteer to run for CP. I put up my hand but no one else did. The teacher shrugged and said “Alison is your new Class President. See ya later.”

After all the votes came in and were considered by the staff, they declared the winner of the Student Council’s Presidential election to be… My friend Alex in form 3 who was never on the ballot. Because logic.

Anyway, I was pretty surprised they actually wanted us for something. It was almost as if we were important! So, Alex and I followed the teacher to the staff-room where we were briefed on the Super Special Mission of Specialness. Basically, we needed to send a few representatives to a conference the Ministry of Education was holding where they were going to lecture us on Leadership and Responsibility and Dying For Your Führer or some shit. So, slightly less boring than normal school. I was in.

That is, until a girl we thought was sick turned out to be not-sick and actually in school. She was the Secretary and the other people present were the Treasurer, the School President, and a Class President. At this point the teacher decided to mention that he was only allowed to bring three people: the President, Treasurer, and Secretary; with alternates only being accepted when the others were unavailable. Crap.

So, I turned to him, steadied myself, and cranked the charm up to eleven. I made some argument about being a full member of the council too and needing to learn about The Glorious Führer or something like that. I don’t recall because I was too busy thinking don’t send me back don’t send me back please don’t send me back while radiating deadly amounts of Charisma. Evidently, the C-Rays must have fried his brain because he finally relented and let me come with them.

[Comedic travel montage in which we manage to get lost in a town of 6000 people while looking for a well-known landmark, but I forget the details.]

When we arrived at the place, I noticed the Fatal Flaw to my plan. Since we were late due to errors of shipping & handling, everyone else was already there. In my country, all the secondary schools have uniforms, so I could see that everyone was in clusters of three students per school. We very obviously had four. I didn’t know who or where or why or how but someone was going to ask Questions and then I was going to Die.

Luckily, due to some combination of bystander apathy and me rolling into an exceptionally uninteresting ball, the wolves passed without harming me. I was able to sit there and listen to the speech about the Führer…

…Wait, you thought I was kidding, didn’t you? No, no. I never kid. This is what the lecturer said:

“So, how many of you would describe Adolf Hitler as a good leader?” He looked over the crowd and decided to pick on the most uninteresting ball he could find.

“You, at the back!” He called, pointing at me.

“Uh,” I began eloquently. “I would say that the question has multiple interpretations with different answers. He was certainly good at leading, but if the job of a leader is to steer you in the right direction, then no, he wasn’t.”

“Brilliantly stated!” He lied. “Well done! What about the boy next to you with his hand up?”

I turned to look at Alex, who proudly declared “I think Hitler was a great leader! Sure, Germany may have had its ups and downs, but Hitler did nothing wrong! In fact, he should have done more!” Alex turned and looked me in the eye. “If Hitler had been more successful, I might have fewer classmates today. Y’know what they say about small class sizes, right?”

I couldn’t take it. I laughed first, losing the game to him.

The lecturer on the stage before us was watching Alex with an expression that my (occasionally buggy) Facial Expression Recognition Software (GPLv3) flagged as a mixture of confusion, curiosity, and indigestion. I wondered what he’d eaten.

“So, uh, that’s, ah, one way of looking at it.” He said, sounding like he’d just seen a perfectly ordinary witch transform into a cat.

He then went on to explain why Hitler was a bad leader because being a good leader requires following Jesus and leading behind his leadership; which definitely doesn’t include doing bad things to Jews, but maybe to Muslims on alternating Tuesdays. I wasn’t really paying close attention.

However, he soon started describing an election – and this I did pay attention to. He told us that the Ministry of Education had decided that there was going to be a National Student Council to represent all the students in the country. Hooray! I thought. Another Duma!

He told us there would be such New and Exciting positions as President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, Executioner, Head of The Inquisition, and Ass Kisser++ With Extra Lipstick. OK, I may not have been paying very close attention here either. In my defence, the conversation with Alex was far more interesting.

“You should run for Treasurer!” Alex told me excitedly.

“Did you completely forget the part about me being smuggled goods?” I asked incredulously. “I’m lucky they haven’t tossed me in the harbour yet!”

“Details.” Alex said, waving the problem away. “Come on! No one could be more qualified!”

“I suck at accounts.” I understated.

“That isn’t what makes you a good treasurer. This,” he pointed to my nose, “is what makes you a good treasurer.”

“You can’t literally sniff out corruption,” I informed him. “You do know that, right?”

“No, you idiot!” He shook his head. “You’re a Jew! You have powers mere mortals have only dreamed of!”

“Pass.” I replied. “I like not being in the harbour.”

“Come on!” He complained. “You can’t pass up your destiny! You were born to guard a massive pile of gold and roar at the foolish adventurers who come to slay you.”

“Firstly,” I began patiently. “I think you may have confused Jews and dragons. Secondly, even if being Jewish were a sane reason for taking a job, there’s no reason I couldn’t be the President or the Secretary.”

“Your handwriting is shit, and Jews can’t be president.” Alex informed me, sounding like he’d settled the matter.

“What?” I asked. “That’s not true! Look at Benjamin Disraeli.”

“Prime Ministers aren’t Presidents!” Alex announced gleefully. “You lose a turn!”

He turned back to the stage, satisfied with his victory.

The lecturer was now instructing all those who wished to run for a position to put up their hand so he could call on them to introduce themselves and announce which position they were running for. I decided to throw caution to the wind and put up my hand. They hadn’t found me yet and if I was going out, then I was going out in style. I’d decided that running for President wouldn’t be a good idea since that’d be the position with the greatest competition and, as anyone with hereditary business savvy knows, the best way to succeed is to use politics to avoid competition. Likewise, I wouldn’t run for Vice President because I didn’t want to have to assassinate the other guy. I’d promised my mother not to be that evil before my eighteenth birthday.

The lecturer was apparently calling on people in a systematic order. I was somewhat surprised to see this much organisation from someone who worked for the government and wondered how long it would take him to get fired. When he finally reached my side of the amphitheatre, his face changed from disinterest to trepidation. He pointed to Alex the way a sentry might point to the barbarians approaching the city walls as they chanted “doom doom doom, doom doom-doom doom doom-doom…

Alex stood, introduced himself, and announced his candidacy for president. He flashed the room a dazzling smile which, statistically speaking, must have made at least three girls faint. Impressive, I thought. A dumb choice of position; but still impressive. It is a common misconception that presidents are the most important people in an organisation. Not so. The most important person is the one holding the president’s balls – which happen to be permanent residents of the organisational purse.

Next it was me. I too introduced myself, and announced that I’d be running for treasurer. I decided not to attempt the smile since it was clearly an Advanced Technique and Alex was still the acknowledged master in the Art of Charisma. I decided to bide my time…

…For 3 seconds. The moment I sat, Alex turned to me and said, “Good job! I’ll vote for you.” I then turned to the person on the other side of me and offered my outstretched hand. “Vote for me.” I said with a smile that was slightly less catastrophic-systems-failure-inducing than Alex’s, but still quite potent at close range. Clearly my attack roll was a Critical because the guy shook my hand and said “Of course, dude.” Success! Oh, the poor bastard.

I repeated the routine with all the people near me. I only rolled a one once. That time, my target looked at me with a little scepticism and asked “why should I?”

Shit. I’d forgotten that, once in a while, someone votes for a politician for a reason instead of just failing a Will save. I wracked my brain, immediately rejecting Alex’s justification of Jews and dragons.

“I’m studying accounting,” the idiot that was in control of my vocal cords said. All systems were flashing ‘abort mission!’ and ‘you stupid piece of…’ and similarly justified alerts. I cranked my pokerface up to the max and waited for him to inevitably ask me what my grades were in accounting.

Then, a miracle I dared not hope for: a twenty.

“OK,” He said, fooled into accepting my stupendous bluff. “What’s 73 times 9?”

“657,” I answered, almost automatically. The boy nodded, apparently satisfied.

“You’ve got my vote,” he said. All systems were now flashing ‘hooray!’ and ‘you’re still a stupid piece of…’

By this time it was lunch, so we retired to the courtyard after giving the lecturer our names so he could make ballots. I made sure to work the crowd, pulling my handshake routine on each of them. This time I had to turn the charisma past eleven. I set it to ALL, making sure to have each of them feel special and loved – like they mattered – before moving on to the next one and leaving them with the metaphorical baby. I never stuck around to find out how the guys handled their metaphorical pregnancies, but I heard from second-hand sources that it wasn’t pretty.

Unfortunately, a few wanted to be married before they’d agree. This is a deep and complex political concept which can only properly be encapsulated by, “I’ll vote for you if you vote for me.” Most of them literally said that.

Of course, I couldn’t simply say “sure”! I was an individual of class, dignity, refinement, and racist humour. As such, I questioned them. I asked them what they’d do if they were president and smiled at them when they answered; as if they’d told me just what I needed to hear. I asked them about world politics, and congratulated them on their shrewdness when they located Australia in Europe. I asked them what they thought of a quote by a famous person, and praised their intelligence when they told me it was, like, soooo deep. In the end, I assured them that they, without a doubt, were the most qualified person for the job. They had my vote.

I told sixteen people this. I have never claimed to be a good person.

Eventually, I was finished and went to get my lunch. I brought it over to the table Alex had already commandeered. There were also two girls from schools I didn’t recognise sitting at this table on the opposite side from Alex. I sat next to my friend and began telling him of my exploits without any details of how exploitative it was. After all, there were potential voters right there. Alex, on the other hand, informed me that he was doing no campaigning, and that I shouldn’t vote for him because he’d just been joking.

After I’d finished describing the way I’d secured promises from everyone – including the two girls sitting across from us before they’d arrived here – one of the girls turned to me and commented on how successful I seemed to be. We stared into each other’s eyes for what I realise, in retrospect, was longer than Standard Eye-Contact Time. I didn’t know because I’ve never read the manual. We engaged in some witty banter which I no longer recall. What I do know now, though only in retrospect, was that this was me flirting – for the first time. I was not set on fire even once throughout the whole experience, so I count it as an unqualified success.

After lunch, we all returned to the amphitheatre for the actual voting process. The lecturer handed each of us seven printed ballots – one for each available position – with a list of all the candidates for that position, with check-boxes next to their names. Very well done. This guy’s days were numbered.

After we’d all filled out our ballots, another ministry official went around and collected them in a box. She then brought it back to the lecturer so the votes could be tallied and entered into a laptop. After about fifteen minutes of waiting, he began to speak.

“And the President of the National Student Council is,” he said, and a name was displayed on the wall behind him with the number of votes received next to it. Below that name were the names of the runners-up with their vote numbers. Alex had gotten three votes – most likely the fainters. The person who had been selected walked down the steps and approached the stage. There were a few scattered claps. The lecturer repeated the process for every position, with each winner getting a plurality of the votes and a couple claps here and there. Treasurer was the last.

“And the Treasurer of the National Student Council is…” Click. The scene on the wall changed and the name displayed at the top of the list was mine. Next to it: 54 out of 73 votes. The crowd went wild. The applause was loud and excited. I stood and swept a bow to one side, increasing the volume. I bowed to the other side and the roar became deafening. I proceeded to approach the stage. Halfway down, Alex started chanting “Alison! Alison! Alison!” The rest of the crowd adopted the cry as well. “Alison! Alison! Alison!”

When I finally arrived on stage I turned back to the audience, flashed a smile that undoubtedly caused four people to faint, and gave one last bow before sitting in a chair which had been provided. The lecturer had to order everyone to quiet down, calm down, and sit down. Of course, there was no ‘down’ for me. I was on top of the world.