Voting Frights by Trevor Plumbly

I reckon sitting on a committee is more fun than phoning Vodafone, but only just. I’m not really the collective type. I do get on pretty well with most folk, but I dislike the process of group decision. To me committees are the bastard offspring of the democratic system; they intermarry to reproduce untold social dross, and are a haven for people who can’t make up their own minds.

Even those trumpeting the cause of the individual get castrated by sheer tedium and end up agreeing to ‘joint compromise’. Genteel bullying at its democratic best – who needs to be an independent voice when you can be a cosy ‘team member’?

I don’t boast about it, but I have sat on such bodies to my regret, and as a charitable gesture, offer the following to anyone contemplating the real-life ‘rabbit hole’. I found committee make-up is much the same as a cast list for a soap opera, with stars, goodies, baddies and extras.

All those in flavour

The Chair, of course, shines ‘iron hand, velvet glove’, that sort of stuff, benign and expansively impartial, with a pre-cooked back room deal in his pocket, he can well afford both virtues. His deputy is supportive in all things, (see also, sycophant). The goodies always stay on-side, they’re nice enough folk who secretly want to be movers and shakers but don’t want to piss anyone off in the process. The villain adds the occasional bit of colour by opposing everything to maintain the image of a martyr to systematic oppression, punishing the poor sods round the table with buzzwords that almost reduce English to a second language, then votes with the Chair in the interest of ‘collective agreement’, thus joining the gang. Last up are the extras, like their TV counterparts, they’re pretty much background material, there to provide numerical credence to the proceedings rather than say much, thank God.

The ordure of business

Recollections from a meeting…

  • ‘Apologies for absence’. This one bothers me, if the bugger’s not present, he/she can’t speak or vote, so why bother to record their inability to do either?
  • ‘Previous minutes’. These got passed without comment. Senile decay is just one reason anyone would want them verbally regurgitated, the other could be stuff the Chair doesn’t want dragged back out of the closet.
  • ‘Matters Arising’. See above.
  • Item 1. ‘Constitution change’. This looked like being the world cup for the Chair, 99% of those round the table didn’t have a bloody clue about the rule book, much less care. It was committee work at its golden best, involving at least two lawyers and the paper value of several previously harmless trees. Only those with congenital brain-fade will attempt to read the thing, so the change is approved, and all seem quite excited by being party to it, or maybe it’s the novelty of achieving something tangible.
  • ‘General business’. The verbal viking rises, he has a ‘notice of motion’, with Shakespearean solemnity he intones, “That this committee approves absentee voting.” I oppose the motion, hell, being sick or dead’s got to have some advantages. Following a lukewarm discussion, the Chair, realising perhaps that out of boredom some might stray into independent thought, tabled the matter and closed the meeting.

Post-meeting drinks were an achingly polite affair, the warm gin and tonic didn’t offend me, shit, weed killer would’ve been okay at that stage! Committees are pastures for social sheep to gather in ineffective contentment, certainly no place for a grumpy old git to graze.


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