Partying ain’t fun
THE FIRST time I heard the word “caucus” was when our chair called the winners from our slate to a meeting before the college council’s committee deliberations. A comical predicament awkwardly struck me because I thought the word was just some colloquial, trendy expression used by millennials, emanating from quirky etymologies like “dehins” (for hindi). So I shyly googled “caucus” and found out it is a legitimate English word that means a meeting of members of a political party.
Our student council elections are based on a three-party system segmented by intense political fault lines. I proudly belong to one party, the one whose members once “angrily attacked” Butch Abad (the reason some parents don’t want their kids to get into UP), but to top that, this is also the party that dominated the recent elections. The collective effort of painting UP red once again was a fiery success, not only for the students but also for the larger sectors whose rights are adulterated by the oppressive society.
Our college council is reliably in the hands of this progressive party. The number of leftist members is even enough to attain a quorum—ergo, it’s possible to start a general meeting without the members of the other parties. But this kind of maltreatment isn’t likely to happen since the incoming council members are longtime acquaintances. Politically-motivated disputes shouldn’t be a problem. Because the elections are over, hypothetically, the council must weave the blue, yellow and red strands together to provide the students with sincere service.
The caucus proved the idea wrong.
During the caucus, we did what was necessary: We carefully planned and deployed the best person to each committee, polished all proposals, and made sure these encompass the students’ welfare. But our party’s advisers were also studying the proposals of our opponents (my council mates from the other party). We (the red council) meticulously listened to our advisers as they laid out our opponents’ weaknesses. These were our reserved lines for the committee deliberations since we intended to remove them from the committees to which they’ve applied. Because all decisions of the council would strive for consensus-building, imagine the body’s majority rhetorically conspiring just to attain the party’s wants.
I cringed even more when our advisers willfully assigned our opponents to their committees. Of course, they were put on secretariat, research and creative duties, where they’d be manning the council’s internals. On the other hand, our jobs would entail heading the council’s events and projects for the college, compelling us to immerse in the community. People would recognize us as the doers of the council’s efforts, compared to our opponents in laborious but invisible work. We’d function accordingly, and it’s we who would be placed in the limelight.
Our advisers explicitly said our opponents would be the nuisance come next elections, and we’d have problems if we highlight their work.
The caucus was meant to be secret—a clandestine event designed to crush the opponents’ proposals and to demolish their future political ventures.
The committee deliberations were like a theater production with all acts scripted. Our party’s bitter schemes worked like a spell, causing our opponents to submit to our ideas, falling in a spiral of silence. I was happy that arguments sparked occasionally and our opponents were able to sustain the fire, but they were no match for our well-rehearsed arguments. To think that our lines of reasoning were also terrible and, moreover, inconsistent. The feat was just the number of strongly concurring members. If the tedious minutes and voice recordings of the deliberations were scrutinized, the element of a premeditated discussion will surface.
I wanted to ask our advisers if this kind of repression is normal, if the dishonorable connivance was necessary to carry out the party’s motto, “Serve the people.” But I could not overcome my cowardice to critique the party’s—or every other political party’s—less-known tradition. I was scared to be tagged a traitor to the movement. Since the modern Left is always rebuked as having hypocrite members, I knew better than to witlessly prattle about how the caucus and its manifestations violated my authentic admiration for the party. Now I question how the reds let their strong fundamentals be bent easily by the evils of politics.
Here’s the irony: The party that fervently advocates national liberty is the one that becomes manipulative when holding the power. I once thought this party had the capability to change the system given its heavy resistance to the status quo. Funny that despite its calls for a genuine administration, its genuineness, like our committee assignments, is just for show.
Still, I’m a proud activist and I find politics disgusting.
I have every right to divulge this foul politicking and still call myself a leftist; after all, the Marxist perspective requires one to be self-critical. So what has been the mistake? Have we elected the wrong red leaders? Is the system too big to topple? The movement’s burning passion for change, even at the slimmest chance of hope, is worth utmost respect. But there’s just something in the looming shadows of politics that makes everybody crave power.
Now I’m not saying this brand of politics is limited to the reds. Believe me, the opposite side of the spectrum is much worse.
It’s true that UP is the microcosm of Philippine society. It showcases the nationalists, pseudo-progressives, selfish rich, selfless poor, and a hybrid of the four. The caucus proved that UP also produces the self-serving traditional politicians who impede national development, if there’s such a thing. Terrifying that the premier university breeds the sickening kind of student leaders who are likely to replace the crocs or martyrs in this fallen country.
Is this the drawback of being part of a political party? Freedom of expression is abridged since you fear to betray the party’s commandments. In the committee deliberations, we are limited to say only what our advisers told us. We should follow the standard if we want to be called an excellent council member. Also, you tend to be blindly loyal, considering the party’s huge role in your victory (or loss) in the elections. Being part of a party is seeing your world with a whole new lens, thus living it in a well-directed manner. Scary how politics lets you eat your principles in one easy gulp.
Now I somehow realize how it feels to be the elite oligarch that comprises the few who control the administration. This is what our caucus and mockery of the truth made us. My blood curdles at how policymaking gets politicized. At least at the university level, this devilry serves the interest of the political party. At the national level, it’s more personalized, more childish.
Politics entraps people with the illusion that they get to choose the lesser evil. But most tend to forget that the lesser one is still evil. If you really want to change society, you should get loud in the streets, influence your workmates, continue to read, learn and criticize. Politics is hopeless.
Sad to say, politics is forever equivalent to power, not service. But hey, this is democracy and people shouldn’t be afraid of their government. The government should be afraid of its people.
Mar Antonio, 19, is an incoming third year sociology major at the University of the Philippines Diliman.
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