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Alexander's Slander

Resident social critic Alexander lays down his tomes and half-devoured pint of real ale to illuminate the shrouded crevices of the St Andrean bubble and beyond.

Students’ Faff and Shows


DONT WALK, a fashion show apparently named by the same doctor who counselled my father after he tore a knee ligament, claims to be “founded on the principle of not walking past problems in society”. This is odd, because if I wanted to raise awareness of problems in society, I wouldn’t move to a distant corner of north-east Fife and run a fashion show replete with some of the most privileged people in the world. I also, upon reflection, probably wouldn’t charge people exorbitant amounts of money for the ‘opportunity’ (in its least stringent sense) to do so. Perhaps that’s just me.


However, we should be thankful that there are multiple main fashion shows in this town, and that each of them is definitely, indubitably, and unflinchingly aligned with its own espoused values. Take FS as a second example. According to FS’ website, its journey began way back when, in 1992, as “a small collective of students looking to give back to their community”. On a brief and entirely unrelated tangent, one of the best and most fundamental incarnations of ‘giving back’ is that of a refund, which refers to the money given back to someone, typically a client of some sort, who is entitled thereto. In any case, refunds and tangents aside, I’m delighted to know that FS seeks to give back to its community.


“Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher; all is vanity”: albeit applicable to quite literally everything material – rollies, houses, technology, cars and the like – this biblical teaching inevitably springs to mind upon the mention of fashion shows. I understand: you may want to dress up nicely. I understand: you may want to invite your friends out, so they can see you dressed up nicely. I understand: you may even want said friends to photograph you such that your Instagram followers, most of whom you don’t know or care about, can see you dressed up nicely. If we forgive all this feel-good furore and proceed to assume that, ultimately, all fashion show participants – and this is a push – are genuinely doing it for charitable reasons, one questions remains. Why erect such a money-draining and inefficient means as a fashion show to act as the figurative middleman? To brand it as incoherent would be an understatement; it’s a bubble that’s burst!


Student Politics


It’s time to talk about student politics: not the nitty-gritty machinations of the Students’ Association, nor even the ground floor power struggles of the Main Library post-10am first-year IR lecture, but instead the evolution of ‘pretend’ politics in the St Andrews social milieu.


Pretend politics mimics, in so far as this is possible, the ‘serious’, true-to-life politics of the day. We thus have student renditions of the Conservative party, the Labour party, the Liberal Democrats (just about) and Students for Independence, which is quintessentially a façade of the Scottish National Party. When the Monster Raving Loony Party migrates north and establishes its own branch is anybody’s guess, but I’d assume the Pret queue at 3pm on a Monday afternoon is a good place to look for potential members.


Proportionally, St Andrews students’ attachment to and involvement with actual political parties used to be much, much higher. Perhaps by pure coincidence, as consumption of real ale and functional literacy have both declined, so too have people’s desire to become, in Teddy Roosevelt’s words “the man in the arena”. Vernon Bogdanor, in one of his Gresham College lectures, recounts a theatre scene, based in the fifties, which captures the veneration youngsters used to have for political groupings. A young man reveals to an adjacent nurse that that very morning he had decided he wanted to do something good with his day. He therefore narrowed his options down to joining the Young Conservatives a trendy organisation, at the time or giving blood; upon realising he couldn’t play table tennis and wasn’t looking for a wife, he decided that he was obliged to donate some of his crimson artery-filler. Here, the anachronism is made all the starker by the fact that today, for many young people, ‘doing good’ entails sharing Instagram stories detailing how much they hate the Conservative party (for which their parents continue to vote).


Consequently, St Andrews’ political societies have had to adapt. Shifting instead into convenient excuses for similarly-disposed people to head to the pub for some rigorous chat, each has established its primary trench in designated venues around the town. Take, for example, the Students for Independence; they organise their weekly gathering in, er… the Union. Sometimes: actions, louder, words.



Illustration: Sarah Knight


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