The Politics of Election
A story of how an introverted girl became the President of the School’s Student Association.
If you clicked on the title because you were hoping for a taste on the current flavor du jour which is Indonesian regional election then you might want to click away because it has nothing to do with that and I applaud my content writing skill which could attract such minds. However, if you have a couple of minutes to kill instead of scrolling through countless of online stores putting things into your trolley but ended up not buying a thing then you might want to stay and read, I promise you that this will be super light weighted. No political jargon beyond of the general ones, pinky promise.
When I was younger I have not always been distant and cold, if you met me in college, then you would raise your eyebrows. It’s not surprising that I have received several comments on my upbringing which included aloof, buzzkill, stick in the mud, and other things which my closest friends would deny because 1. I am actually pretty crazy, just yesterday I danced in the middle of the street and did a salutation to the sun, no reason why and 2. I like to keep my circle of friendship very small, as it is easier to maintain. But there was a time in my life when I got a certain craving for power. I suppose it was couple months after I hit puberty, no idea if it related to each other but puberty was madness.
I was in the 6th grade, approximately 12 years old when I raised my hand when the homeroom teacher asked us regarding who wanted to fill in the class president position. I was not aware of the job desk really, the former presidents were always goody-goody two shoes, rather bossy, and they somewhat feel superior from the rest of us, plebs. I thought hey, perhaps the school would like something fresh for a chance, this particular rascal who every now and then broke the rules. That was the first lesson which I attained from running for the presidential candidate.
- Your likability
Sure, I was not the sweetest kid in town. In the world of 11–13 years old I was this rouge who did not like to play by the rule, refused to conform to traditional gender roles, on constant probation, and I had enjoyed the monthly visit to the headmaster’s office or school’s psychologist accompanied by my mother who loves me dearly and did not think that anything went wrong with her daughter (kudos, mom). Obviously, I did not win the election. I was not the 6th Volley Class President, losing to another typical grade A student who was beloved by many.
I was not likable, I noticed that and to create a last minute first-impressions among others who had witnessed my not-so-beautiful rap sheet in the last 3 years were not easy. Obviously making a speech on my missions and the kind of vision that I had for the class was piece of cake, I was rather confident of my speech making capability and public speaking. However, despite of the incredible performance and lots of applause cues which I put on my speech(definitely was huge deal for the crowd), the 18 people in that class were not as impressed as I was not at all a likable person to begin with. Some teachers did tell me that I should be a politician when I grow up, clueless as I was I started to learn more on the notion of leadership and political maneuvers. Like, any other normal 12 years old would do, duh.
I like learning by doing, so to heal my losing wound I put myself as an authoritative figure by being in charge for various school projects later on, assuring that I would lead my team to the winning pedestal. I learned how becoming a leader meant that we have to be creative, the one who has all the idea to mobilize everyone within your group. Through series of winning as I led my team, starting from cookies selling, lemonade selling, home-eco, cooking competition I thought I got the hang of what true leadership was, to grab on competitions by the neck, you might not be the most likable person in the school, yet you are destined to lead, or so I thought. And I was ready for Middle School.
Suddenly, Middle School, when I could attend a brand new school. Many of the students were from my old school but there were also plenty of new students. I thought, if I were to run again somehow, I am going to re-brand myself, and I did. I re-branded myself, I would use the words such as hardworking, smart, active and charming to describe my 7th grade persona. Always up for question and answer sessions in class and enjoy lots and lots of public speaking as if they were my personal talk-show, I was the volunteer for literally everything.
In Middle School the stake was rather high, there was something known as the Student Association. Instead of becoming the President of one class, you’d get to be the president of all the classes. And for as long as my leadership observation in the last 2 years, I got this in the back of my hand. It all started with forming a party, start a campaign, electoral debate, board of teachers decided who would be the main 2 candidates. And that’s when I learned another lesson regarding election
2. Observe and choose your people right
I know that I won’t do well if I hang on the whole idea of likability. As the other 3 candidates were male, I was ready to make an all-female-party and to give these males the right spank in the butt for their populist approach I would be inclusive and egalitarian. I would include every voice of the misfits, the outcasts, the nerds, the geeks, and the ones who were not part of the 7th grades political elites who dominate the canteen. As I lured in my female friends with my charismatic game, I started to sit with the rest of others who sat alone, said hi, listen to their stories and well, uh, befriend them.
I also befriend the social science teacher as well, showing great integrity in his classes, as I knew he would be on the board of teachers who would make the final decision. I was opinionated, I learned my subject before I entered the class, and I showed my ability to manage group projects (and more importantly I made sure he saw it).
The awaited day finally come, candidates debate. Oh, I forgot to introduce my oppositions and fellow candidates. There was a guy, who particularly liked to shout and create tension to gain attention. Another guy, who had his minions and sole followers who are brainless to my knowledge but always up for some fun, like they were clueless as hell, enjoy laughing out loud publicly, using the bro-code to gain votes, and extremely populist. Lastly, my brother, yes my actual sibling, whom I saw as the only worthy opponent on the debate. His followers were loyal and smart, critical and thorough, he was the only candidate whom I was afraid of, my brother was far more likable than I ever was. It is truly proven as the bond that he had with his party was real.
And so, I sat on that chair among the other 3 candidates, sitting in front of me my all-female + slightly breakfast club-ish party, I know it’s rather plenty but I would have a slim chance if I had to go against the populist candidate. The debate went on, series of questions were delivered by the board of teachers, as usual the populist candidate barked in a macho manner and it was responded rather well by his minions. I smirked and stare at my brother, giving him a code that it was sickening and we were committed to bring this moron down. The populist man has zero eloquence, just bunch of fun and popular words and to shut them off the debate my brother and I cut him off with conceptual questions which rebutted his whole stance.
During the board’s deliberation, I had a personal meeting with my brother and we complained on the lack of substance that particular candidate give yet he was always the teacher’s favorite, due to his likability. I told him, if I won the round and proceed to the election, I would grant my brother and his followers a place on my parliament as trusted advisers. We shook hand and proceed to the room of deliberation, as the teachers announced the name of the candidates who proceed to the next round. I made it to the next round and following my name there was the populist guy. I saw my brother’s party were on despair and I signaled him to go out of the room to have a secret rendezvous regarding the future of our coalition. I assured him that the ideology and vision which he brought will be used to complement the one I was fighting, through the common hatred towards the populist guy he nodded, as he told me that the student association would thrive under my leadership.
And as the voting time started, I saw my brother were organizing his party, and gave me that meaningful nod which meant his group reached a consensus to vote for me. Thus, resulting me, my party and my brother’s party that would back me up. I was confident of the result.
When the counting begun, I knew that I got it. I won, I was the president of the student’s association. Afterwards, we celebrated it. However that defining moment got me learning another electoral lesson:
3. 7th graders don’t care about the debate
Whether my populist friends said that he would create the greatest events or my campaign promise of creating an accepting environment for everyone, 7th graders will only vote for the ones whom they know (or at least, out of comradely they would choose, but they did not need any sorts of last minute convincing). I fulfilled my dearest promise to assign my brother’s former party members as important people within my own board of representatives. And, that’s it, that was it.
I ran as the president, was rather ambitious, in the same year I also became the basketball team captain. That was a whole other level of crazy, thinking about the extent that I would do which include hours of physical drills which I think is the reason why I am lacking of estrogen during my puberty resulting in a substandard size of breasts now.
Until one day I asked my dad for advice, advice on how to be a good leader. I remembered he told me that “actual leaders were not hungry for the throne,”. A critique towards my authoritarian style of leading which put me on the highest pedestal in every existing room for leadership. As he continued “they serve, they care about their people more than themselves, they were thinking day and night about their people not themselves, as they got nothing to lose.” A new leadership purpose popped into my head
4. If you had to bend over backward to become a leader, perhaps you are not the leader you thought you were
I understood that my reason was not sincere, the power-driven self who wanted to prove to anyone that I could do better than any other goody-two-shoe was my main motivation. It was nothing but gimmicks and symbolism of power which I crave for, instead of fulfilling my inclusive platform during my campaign I yearned for an exclusive position which would justify my own behavior. I was not a political genius, I was a monster. I reigned for 2 years with no re-election while on the inside I could not even make the sense of this position. Well, nobody cares, they just walked pass you and silently criticize your regime. I let myself loose on my second term, being tardy, running away from events, unreliable, because I was sure that everything will be working just fine under my command. The truth is, my conscience was screaming, it was uncomfortable.
5. Perhaps, you should not run in the first place?
Is an excellent question for everyone who was running for anything to ask for themselves. Trapped in a traditional sense of leadership I was blinded by hubris, while the true leaders were the ones who actually cared about the people but for me they were merely pawns to move around, votes, and political game.
Ever since then, I have never ran for anything anymore. My life ambition should be my life ambition, stored within (at least for now), nevertheless, it should not be used to toy on anyone else’s hopes. Perhaps, that was something which I learned in middle school. That self realization is something which scarred me from politics for life, also one of the reasons why I have never shown interest to dive in the government or any kind of organization. That and the thick of political corruption, which I could easily be dragged into for my naive and two-dimensional thinking. How easy it really is to lose ourselves and live a concealed life, superficial and unreal. As Aristotle said it, humans are political animals, as I was in touch with my animal yet I was not impressed.
Likewise, I started to distinguish my responsibilities as a leader, I did surprisingly well as a basketball captain (aside from my post-game temper tantrum, hey, I tried). But for all I know, being a leader was a difficult job, I was not even sure that I lead myself right.
I became more reserved as I grow up, that ‘big’ personality which leaders supposedly have is not exactly my cup of tea. I would prefer living a life where I could freely dance on the street and give salutation to the sun whenever I want to, at least that one felt real.
By the end of this post, I kept my promise as this post has nothing to do with hard-ass politics and it will not cause any sorts of political fragmentation for whichever candidates that you endorse. Just a story of me, when I was running for office when I was 13.
*the part of me consolidating my brother was actually CIA-level of confidential information, I cross my heart, as the only people who know it was my brother and I (and homeland security). I decided to open up, thinking that perhaps this could inspire fellow 13 years old when they are facing deadlock political condition.