ANU and Political Membership

I am quite possibly one of the most visibly identifiable members of a political party on campus. You can find my party membership status on various websites. My Facebook account tells a pretty comprehensive story, yet in my time at ANU I have faced constant accusations of deceit regarding my political affiliation.

Recently I was elected President of ANU Sport. The election was filled with drama as my current position as the Youth Representative of a political party became a central topic in the campaign. What ANU’s commentariat refused to mention was that I had been a council member of ANU Sport for longer than I had been ACT Young Labor President. It was seemingly impossible to explain to many within the ANU community that I had a different vision for ANU Sport service provision and that I wasn’t actually a part of a conspiracy straight from Bill Shorten’s campaign office.

I’ve always responded to attacks on my party membership with a simple “I joined the ALP because I care about the issues, I don’t care about issues because I joined ALP”. This retort has often been enough to blunt any attacks on my affiliation. Sadly however, I have seen a marked increase, both online and in person, in the number of personal attacks on a person’s character due to their political affiliation.

Being a member of a political party doesn’t grant you magical powers; it doesn’t suddenly give you friends in high places and it certainly isn’t the best of fun all the time.

Many on our campus ‘dehumanise’ others who can be identified as as a member of a political party. Vicious things are said about their motivations and character.

Yet just because someone joins a political party does not mean they do not experience the same feelings of distress and isolation when they bear witness to their own public cyber harassment. I myself have experienced the strange phenomena of knowing an individual ‘hates me’ and yet having pleasant conversations until they find out my full name.

It must be made clear that when someone picks up a membership card they do not stop being human and they most certainly do not stop holding passionate views.

I have great respect for people within the ANU community who seek to make change in our world. To have protested at a National Day of Action is admirable, to have given your name and email address to AYCC is perfectly normal and to speak of your time volunteering for a not-for-profit is worthy of awe. But for some reason to have made phone calls and knocked on doors in a marginal electorate to try stop a blumbering idiot from becoming Prime Minister is petty and self-interested.

Saul Alinksy once said “true revolutionaries do not flaunt their radicalism. They cut their hair, put on suits and infiltrate the system from within.”

I think Alinksy is right – flaunting your radicalism is self-serving. That’s why most people in political parties don’t brag about paying their $5 membership. Those in political parties, with steadfast dedication, go about making the changes they want to see happen in the world full of the knowledge that the best way to affect change has, and will always be, from the inside.


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