piggate and student societies


So I arrived at work this morning to “Gettin’ Piggy with it” and wondered what was going on in the UK. Advised to look at the #piggate hashtag on Twitter (not so much advised as told the tweets were amusing), I managed to find an actual serious article outlining simply what had happened and discussing the whys. Read the second paragraph to be updated on what happened.

This part is quoted just for interest since I honestly don’t know much about David Cameron:

The danger to Cameron is that PigGate makes him a laughing-stock — that his seriousness as a political leader will be forever deflated by the cat calls and innuendo that will, undoubtedly, follow him for the rest of his life. A leader who becomes a political liability for his party is not long for the job; [...] But how long can a leader be followed around by snorting noises and other pig-related heckling before his party decides that he’s no longer suited to be its public face?

The curious part for me, and what the article places quite a bit of focus on though is the power play that starts off in student societies from initiation and progresses to the present day.

The primary social function served by these rituals is to accelerate and deepen the bonds shared by members of the group, and the sense of loyalty to the group each person holds. By committing transgressive acts together, members develop a sense of sharing in a mutual secret, thus creating trust; by overcoming some humiliation or pain, new members deepen their commitment to the group.

Hey, ma! I found out why the anime club has a problem keeping up numbers - because we don’t have any initiation rituals or hazing! Who knew we’d been doing it wrong this whole time.

I’ve never experienced an initiation ritual at any institute in Australia, but I suppose they don’t have the prestige of schools like Oxford or Cambridge or Ivy League schools in the US. But honestly, I think if such a thing existed in any society or organisation I wanted to join, I would decline to be part of it in the first place. Continuing from the above:

Their internal logic reasons that if they are willing to endure such an ordeal, it must mean that the group is important and deserving of loyalty (otherwise, they would have made a terrible mistake and gone through all of that suffering for nothing).

Or not gone through it at all, I hope. Of course some people are trying to be a voice of reason and say you do stupid things when you’re young (“youthful indiscretion”), and that this kind of stuff shouldn’t be dug up later in life and used as a weapon against you. But I personally don’t understand why you would want to join a society that would require you to perhaps do something heinous and against your morals in order to fit in.

the limits of young men desperate to cement their inclusion in a desirable social group are often shockingly low, and lowered even further by alcohol and drugs

True, they’re ‘elite networks’ but I’m not sure I agree with the fact ‘moments of embarrassment or transgression shared with close friends are a basic building block of many of our relationships’, many a relationship I’ve built simply on the basis of commonalities of interests or thought, and not through idiotic acts under the influence of alcohol… I guess because this is apparently a ‘standard part’ of socialisation for young men.

Consider this scenario: at elite institutions, those earmarked — by wealth, title, connections — for future leadership roles are forced, as impressionable young people, to carry out humiliating acts in order to gain acceptance by an in-group. That same in-group will, over the course of their lives, help advance their career massively in ways both overt and covert; membership in that group essentially secures their success in life.

Oh well, I guess as someone who’s never been ambitious in the slightest (just a little competitive with her personal circle) it would be difficult for me to understand the leadership implications. No part of me says ‘elite’ especially not the part that falls asleep at work. The next half of the paragraph does say this though:

Because should they later act in a way contrary to the group’s interests or desires, their indiscretions can be brought back to destroy their careers or personal lives.

Doesn’t this mean that everyone who is a part of such a society has a dark and dirty secret that can be brought to light then? Is any of the others in these societies morally better that they (and we) can judge..? I don’t know, but what is clear though is that there is an issue of abuse of power of some sort here and that a political career has definitely been hugely impacted, not necessarily by the details themselves but obviously by the media spectacle and the social media feedback. So the UK might go the direction of Australia in the near future and a leader may be swapped out for another, I guess.

But I think the overarching problem here is not just the abuse of power, but the whole ‘elite society’ and fraternity model as a whole. But these kinds of societies have been around for a long time, like the social clubs for the upper class in Regency times. I just hope eventually one day these societies will catch up with the modern age, though inequality has always been pervasive.