If an Inanimate Carbon Rod should win the NUS presidency, the leadership will be just as animate as it has been since Liam Burns got there. Do you see what I did there? I made a joke about the current NUS President doing absolutely nothing to act in the interest of students, and made it topical with a reference to the only candidate that anybody cares about. You probably didn’t find it funny – because it was a god-awful joke – but you probably agreed with its sentiment. Now why is that? Is it because you have a real interest in what the NUS does, and in doing so have reached an informed decision? I doubt it. I have met the five people who care about the NUS and they wouldn’t be reading Nouse; it isn’t left-wing enough for them, if you can believe that.
But here we are. Making jokes at the expense of the NUS. That’s how the campaign for Rod started off, after all, as a joke. The NUS are so awful, an inanimate carbon rod could probably win. The NUS are so full of empty promises, it might be better if an inanimate carbon rod did win. The NUS are so irrelevant to me, I’d rather have a Simpsons reference dealing with my future. Surprisingly and somewhat disappointingly, however, I’m yet to see a joke about how inanimate Liam Burns’ own carbon rod is.
Now, as I say, the percentage of the people making these jokes who actually know enough about the NUS or its president to even know whether they’re fair is pretty low. How much do you actually know about the NUS? (“Didn’t they do that riot thing?” Doesn’t count.) The only thing I could think of was that appalling list of chants that Vicki Baars sent out to student unions across the country.
So perhaps I should argue that we don’t have the right to make these jokes. Perhaps I should argue that we’re all jumping on the bandwagon because it’s so much easier to be negative than suggest how things could be improved; that there are much better Simpsons references.
Almost all of those things are true. The people liking the Facebook page for Rod’s campaign (myself included) are jumping on the bandwagon. We saw it, chuckled, and all of a sudden felt vehemently that this is a righteous cause. And it is much easier to lampoon the NUS than to suggest how they could improve.
But I cannot help but that feel that, actually, the very fact that we don’t know enough about the NUS to make jokes about it is exactly what gives us the right to make jokes about it. The NUS don’t do enough to make students care. They don’t do enough to even let us know that it exists. I don’t believe for a minute that staging a protest and sending out a list of dodgy chants for said protest are the only two things that they’ve done in the past 12 months, but I’ll be damned if I can think of anything else.
So why isn’t the NUS getting us interested? Why aren’t they letting us know what they’re doing for us? Those weren’t rhetorical questions. I can’t offer anything other than “because they’re stupid” as an answer, and I don’t think that would be in keeping with the hitherto sophisticated tone of this piece. All I can say is that they aren’t going out of their way to interest us in what they do, or even just to let us know that they are, in fact, doing things.
Until they do, we’re going to have no reason to believe that they’re any more animate than Rod and I’m going to have no reason not to make awful jokes like that.