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Politics as a vocation

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Stating that Jisung hated Minho would certainly be a stretch. To call him his arch-enemy, as he sometimes dreamed of doing, especially when immersed in a spiral of self-indulgent fantasies of greatness, would be another exaggeration.

To anyone estranged from political life, it might be a surprise to find that two people belonging to the same political party could consider each other opposition. To anyone educated on the matter, however, it seemed pretty clear that in any other country Jisung and Minho would belong to different parties, their opinions on how to handle a State situated in the opposite ends of their party’s political spectrum. At the moment, both men were stuck in this country and didn’t have much choice but to bear with each other while keeping the opposite party from winning.

Fucking bipartisanship is what Minho would say. Jisung didn’t mind it so much, it worked in their favor from time to time.

What people sometimes called destiny could be better defined, in Jisung’s opinion, by circumstances in life being consequent. Of course he was destined to meet Minho, destined in the sense that they shared too many things, their paths were bound to cross at some point. They both had been active members of their party since their teen years, participating and volunteering for everything they could, they both swarmed around the musical scene from the town and they were majoring in disciplines that had a lot of subjects in common.

Five months ago any passerby would’ve been able to spot both of them distributing pamphlets side by side in different parts of their college, exchanging laughs and observations, sometimes hitting or hugging each other in a playful way that others would describe as flirting. Jisung may have consider it flirting too back then, but now the only thing he had to say about that is that it was a different,  happier time, when Minho and him could be united against a common enemy and leave aside the differences they may have. Nowadays, as the time to choose a presidential candidate inside their own party came closer, things were significantly different and not as friendly.

Back then, Minho was that cute, smart guy that would perhaps make Jisung’s heart beat faster at some specific moments, like when he laughed loudly at his own jokes, when he wore his hair parted in the middle or when he shouted insults at the supporters of the opposite party. Finding out that he would have a shared class with him that semester, knowing that he would have more time to get to know him had been exciting beyond what Jisung would ever admit.

Until…

‘Candidate A is a bootlicker that only defends the interests of the ruling class.’ Minho once argued in a particular lesson, sitting right next to Jisung, whose face had started to distort into a confused and alarmed look. ‘Anyone who votes for him is voting in favor of war, hunger, oppression and overall imperialism.’

It took a second for Jisung to digest what had been said. Interrupting the girl that had started speaking after Minho, he loudly asked.

 ‘What the fuck did you just say?’ He tried not to put as much spite as he desired in his voice. If he had failed, it wasn’t his fault, Minho had touched a very sensitive nerve in him.

‘That’s what his agenda is, Jisung.’ Minho argued, not taken aback by Jisung’s tone or choice of words. ‘He is not going to be much different from what others have been. He doesn’t desire to make any structural change, just making the masses a bit less miserable will be enough for him.’

‘Ok, no, hold on then.’ Jisung put both of his hands up as if trying to stop Minho, he then dropped his left hand and pointed at Minho with the right one. ‘Do you by chance want out current president to be reelected? That’s what’s going to happen if any other candidate goes against him, this is not the time for separatism, we need to know where we stand.’

‘Oh for fuck’s sake, the same pre-recorded speech over and over again, nothing will ever change if we keep voting billionaires under the premise that Billionaire 1 is better than Billionaire 2. We need a president that will stand for the rights of the oppressed, not a scum that benefit every time a child can’t get access to health or education.’

‘Please, please tell me that you are not thinking about supporting Candidate C.’ Jisung begged, knowing that the little crush he had been building was about to…well, crush.

‘Of course I support candidate C.’ Minho practically yelled. The reactions of the class were mixed, as some cheered, some booed and some asked to please return to the actual lesson and keep the debate for later. ‘He is the only candidate that represents my interests, the only one that won’t bend as easily to the big corporations.’

This newly found information worked as a key to put the pieces together, and now everything seemed to be obvious. While agreeing with Minho most of the time when talking about matters in an abstract way, his opinions had appeared rather radical at times. Like, sure Minho, we should eat the rich, but like in a figurative way, right? Ah, now he could see it. If he had to be honest with himself, he probably had overlooked it on purpose, not wanting to change the image he had made of Minho inside his mind.

Raising his eyebrows, Jisung found himself feeling angrier than what he thought. ‘I’m glad you decided to take this class, since obviously you have no idea how politics work.’

‘Lads, I think we should continue with the class. Maybe you could discuss this in your free time.’ The professor interrupted, realizing that her class was deviating more than she would’ve liked. ‘It is an interesting conversation but…’

‘I’m the one that doesn’t know? Ha! You should consider taking at least one class about social structure so you can see how your fucking candidate is treating you like a fool. He is probably laughing right now in one of his seven mansions, happy at how he managed to convince so many so-called ‘’progressives’’ to vote for him.’ Minho added before the teacher could finish, mirroring Jisung’s pointed finger and stabbing it in his classmate’s chest.

‘A big part of politics is making concessions, Minho.’ Jisung explained in a condescending voice, hoping to annoy the other one. ‘That’s how you make sure you can maintain power. The only other way to make sure of it is to overthrow the government and install a dictatorship, as you socialists seem to like so much.’

‘Fuck. You.’ Minho spitted, stabbing his finger in Jisung’s chest with every word. He then locked eyes with him, smirking like he always did when he thought he was right. ‘I hope you have fun killing children in the Middle East.’

Those were the words that finally made Jisung snap, how dare he imply that? If you are willing to say such words, then you should be ready to get shoved backwards, just as Jisung did with Minho. Really, who should be blamed for this? Minho, clearly. As the voices in the classroom raised, screaming at them to stop and trying to separate them, Minho’s smirk was kept fixed on his face, enraging Jisung and daring him to keep it coming.

That was the first time they were sent to the dean’s office. It wouldn’t be the last one.

With the constant, fiery debates they would hold in class since that day came more things than suspensions and scolding. In this case, and to Jisung’s friends misery, we are talking about a growing fixation he seemed to be having with his classmate, constantly repeating their debates to anyone willing to listen, trying to make sure that he had definitely won and eager to know what could be improved next time so Minho wouldn’t be able to answer at all.

Months went by and the semester was arriving to its end. As days got warmer, Jisung couldn’t help but feel frustrated. He had thought that for sure by this time of year Minho would’ve admitted that he was wrong all along and that the only rational answer was to support Candidate A. Jisung’s argumentation was clearly better and more focused on facts, in his head he was the obvious winner of every debate, so how come he still felt like he wasn´t winning? Why did Minho keep on smirking like he knew something no one else did?

On a Friday evening, Hyunjin entered his room to once again find Jisung lying on Seungmin’s bed, ranting about the last argument he held in his political sociology class.

‘Of course Candidate C should win if we speak abstractly, but this is real life and our politicians need to know how to administrate a State. You can’t feed people with promises.’ He was explaining to a very visibly irritated Seungmin, who was sitting on his desk and wasn’t even facing Jisung, apparently trying to concentrate in his own workload without any positive results. ‘Oh, I also told him that he has fallen for an audience democracy kind of representation, following an individual based in his personal attributes and his media presence and not the actual agenda he will pursue…’

‘Jinnie, I am begging you.’ Seungmin plead, actual desperation coming through his puppy eyes. ‘Please, find a way to make Jisung understand that I don’t give a single fuck about whatever he is talking about.’

Instead of answering to Seungmin’s begging, Hyunjin decided to make it even worse by engaging in the argument.

‘That’s just plain wrong, Jisung. He has voted for the same party since he was allowed to, he is part of it even since before that, he also knows his candidate’s agenda by heart, and every time he argues with you he’s clearly trying to change your mind. He still feels represented by a party’s democracy if you ask me, maybe you should check Manin’s book again.’

Jisung stared at him, quickly changing to a sitting position, with his mouth open and the eyes of a man who has just been betrayed. Why was he surprised? His friends were known traitors that would bend their loyalty in the name of facts and logic. ‘Wait, how do you know so much about Minho? ‘

‘Dude, have you talked about anything else in last couple of months? You rant about him all day long and I, unlike Seungminnie, am a good friend that listens.’

Accompanied by a furious blush, Jisung’s memories started to dance around him. Had he really talk about Minho that much? Maybe he should start making a dot in a paper every time he talked about him, and then he could perhaps calculate the average number of times he talked about Minho per day. Okay, that sounded insane, he was for once glad he hadn’t spoken out loud.

‘I should be allowed into the category of ‘’good friend’’ based on the fact that I haven’t murder him yet.’ Seungmin grunted, head buried in his hand, making Jisung focus on the real world once again. ‘It’s getting worse by the day, I swear.

‘He is kind of right, you are getting more annoying by the day, and that’s a lot considering we are talking about you.’ Hyunjin added, staring at Jisung with an analyzing look.

‘Well, I’m sorry for caring about the future of my country! You would understand if you weren’t such a pair of hippies.’ In the back of his mind, Jisung scolded himself for choosing to be surrounded with people that dedicated their lives to abstract problems, he should hang around with people concentrated in the actual problems of real life that would be able to understand his suffering. People like him, not fucking philosophy students.

‘Call me hippie again and this will go straight into your head. I’m not even kidding.’ Holding a heavy Derrida book over his head, Seungmin’s words seem all the more threatening, making Jisung decide to leave that argument for another day.

‘But why is it that you insist so much about your classmate lately? Is it because the semester is about to finish? I thought you would be happy to not have to see him again.’ Hyunjin asked in a calmed way as he took Seungmin’s book out of his hands, leaving it safely on the desk so no one would get hurt while ruffling his hair with the other hand.

‘Of course he’s not happy! He gets a rush out of debating with him, and he also loves complaining about him and making us miserable, he’s a sadic!’ Seungmin shouted, his rage not quite reaching this time since he was now bending into Hyunjin’s hand, wanting him to caress his head.

‘That’s not it!’ Jisung defended himself.

‘Then what is it?’ Hyunjin and Seungmin both asked at the same time, different levels of frustration in their voices.

‘It’s just that the semester is going to finish and then he won’t have anyone around to tell him how stupid he is acting. He might even think that he won.’ Jisung let out a dramatic strangled noise. ‘I can’t have that.’

Hyunjin caressed Seungmin’s head for moment before an enlightened idea seemed to come to his head. Grabbing a marker, he went to the board and erased whatever Seungmin had written there, earning another whine from him.

‘There’s a solution. What day is today?’

‘You don’t know what day it is?’ Seungmin asked, annoying as always.

‘Days of the week are just a social construct.’ Hyunjin shrugged, turning around to face his friends and waiting for an answer as he moved the marker between his index and middle finger.

‘You are right to call him a hippie.’ Standing up and going to sit next to Jisung, Seungmin seemed to be mildly interested in what was going to be said. ‘Today’s Friday, genius.’

‘Ok, when does this guy have party duty?’

With both of his friends staring at him, Jisung felt that hiding behind a pillow was a good idea. ‘Like I would know that.’

‘Jisung, we know you know, just tell us.’ Hyunjin demanded, hitting the board with the marker.

‘…Okay, maybe he has duty today.’ Jisung started, as the others waited for more information to be given. He sighted, self-respect long lost. ‘And I’m not saying he does, but perhaps he might be handing application forms for people to register as voters near here.’

‘Great, this is what you are going to do.’ Hyunjin declared as he started to write in the board with his messy handwriting.

  • Step 1: Find that cute guy from your political sociology class you’re always debating with.
  • Step 2: Confront him about why you think he is in the wrong here.
  • Step 3: Confess your undying love for him.

‘No, wait a second Hyunjin, why the fuck did you write that? I don’t even like him, I find him insufferable.’ Jisung complained.

  • Step 4: Marry him and stop annoying your friends by constantly talking about him.

‘Your plan sucks.’ Seungmin added. ‘You should’ve added at least one punch in it. From the guy to Jisung, of course.’

‘Minnie, love, remember what we talked about? Maybe you should try to give out suggestions in a more helpful way.’

‘I don’t want to help, I just want Jisung out of here.’

‘Don’t worry, I’m out of here.’ Jisung interrupted what seemed to be a conversation he didn’t have any interest in participating in, his actions true to his words as he got up to leave. ‘You are fucking insane, but you might be right about me having to confront him before the semester ends.’

Hyunjin tried to say something, but Seungmin quickly got up and put his hand over his boyfriend’s (not actually boyfriend but whatever postmodern bullshit they were in) mouth, not willing to risk the peace he was about to have. Sighting, Jisung got out of there, hearing a victory cheer coming from inside as soon as he closed the door.

 

It has been said that everyone is the protagonist of his own story, this was especially true in Jisung’s case. As he made his way to where he knew Minho would we (don’t judge him, they were in the same party after all), he fell into one of his heroic fantasies in which his service to his country would be reworded with a decoration. He imagined himself meeting Candidate A already being the president ‘’Ah, it wasn’t an easy task, Mr. President, but it was one that had to be done’’ he would say as he accepted a medal, everyone around him clapping and cheering for him.

Kicking the door open was an expected result of his fantasies overtaking Jisung, the dramatic entrance needed to make the kind of impact he wanted to make. As he entered the building, both Minho and the two girls he was with turned their heads in his direction, alarmed by the noise and the sudden intrusion. Jisung pointed at Minho, noticing that he was wearing a blue beret and forgetting what he was going to say for a moment.

‘Do you need something?’ Minho asked, one eyebrow raised and impatience noticeable in his voice.

‘You fucking bastard, I have something to tell you!’ Jisung screamed. Pinching the bridge of his nose, Minho appeared to be even more embarrassed than what he had anticipated; Jisung noticed there was a reason for this when he saw a man approaching.

‘Jisung, is that you?’ One of the senior members of the party asked as Jisung’s blood froze. He slowly turned around with an awkward smile, wondering how he was going to explain this. ‘What do you think you are doing entering like this and insulting Minho?’

Jisung opened his mouth and quickly closed it, he repeated the movement three times and yet there wasn’t anything coming to his head. The man was still waiting for an answer when Minho decided to act like a nice person for the first time in his life and get him out of the pickle he had gotten himself into.

‘He’s joking, you know how he is.’ Minho explained, pretending to laugh with crinkled eyes and everything. He then took his hand in an affectionate way and spoke directly to Jisung. ‘Do you want us to go talk for a moment? Would that be alright?’ He asked turning back his attention to the senior member.

‘Sure, go. But you can’t go around kicking doors and screaming Jisung, I thought we had talked about this already.’

Soon as they moved into a classroom, Minho made use of his opportunity to mock Jisung. ‘Did he say that you have talked about this already? I thought I was the only person you would kick doors for, now I don’t feel special.’

Jisung frowned but didn’t answer, too focused on the fact that they were still holding hands. He tried to set himself free, but Minho held his hand even tighter, smirking for a couple of seconds before he let Jisung go. ‘So? Are you going to tell me something? Because I have to go back, Candidate C is not going to win on his own.’ As Minho said this, Jisung dried the palm of his against his jeans.

‘You…’

‘I?’

What was it? What did he want to tell him? What words would set him free from the curse of constantly having to talk about Minho, of having to repeat the debates in his head to convince himself of having won? What was it about Minho’s arguments that always left him feeling angry and confused?

‘You have something that I… really admire.’ Jisung admitted, surprising himself by what he was saying, his words going faster that his thought process. ‘You know how Weber said that a politician should have both the ethic of responsibility and the ethic of moral conviction? I sometimes think that I might lack the latter. But you, every time I hear you speaking I can see that moral conviction in you, those unshakable beliefs that a true politician should hold on to. Sometimes, when I hear you I get excited, I want the world you describe, and I am glad that there are people that will always strive for a better future no matter what.’

Minho’s face mirrored Jisung’s own confusion at what he had said. Surprise was a new expression in his face, one that didn’t suit him as much as the ‘’I know it all’’ face did, but one that Jisung was glad to find he was capable of doing. Somehow, being honest felt relieving rather than embarrassing, mainly because he had been fooling himself for some time now, too afraid to examine the principles in which he held his ideology to be able to admit that there were new things to know, things to improve in his vision of the world.

‘That was unexpected, I thought you were here to punch me or confess to me.’ Minho joked, trying to compose himself after being caught feeling confused.

‘Weird, my friends thought the exact same thing.’

‘Maybe…maybe there’s something I admire in you too.’ Minho added, scratching his head and looking at the ceiling. ‘It is true that you know better when it comes to administrating a State. Since you brought Weber up, let’s say you have a strong ethic of responsibility, you know how important the day-to-day use of the means of the State is, and maybe you are right that I should learn something about that.’

Wait.

‘Did you…did you just admit that there’s something I know that you don’t?’

‘Don’t push it.’ Minho blinked lazily, looking scary as always.

‘I really must be a genius for you to admit it. Jisung the genius, it even sounds right.’

‘You said that you admire me, Jisung. I’m pretty sure that means I win.’

‘No, it doesn’t.’

Minho shrugged, smiling a little bit even if it seemed to be against his will. ‘I’m still voting for Candidate C, tho.’

‘And I’m still voting for candidate A.’ Jisung retorted quickly, even though he wasn’t that sure of it anymore. If he thought about it, maybe there was a slight chance that Candidate C would be able to beat the current president, maybe the equal world that this side of his party painted was a possibility worth trying. In any case he didn’t plan to tell Minho about it.

Another moment of silence passed before Minho cleared his voice.

‘I will miss debating with you in class, it was hot.’ Minho said nonchalantly, looking as his nails as if he hadn’t noticed that Jisung was rapidly turning into a scarlet mess. Fucking Hyunjin, could it be that he had been right?  No fucking way. ‘Maybe you could go out with me so we can keep on arguing after the semester ends.’

There was no way of winning this, if he said yes then Minho would win, but if he said no then he would still be losing because stupid Hyunjin might have been stupidly right and maybe he did like Minho a little bit.

‘Ok, but you are paying.’ Was the only thing he could think of saying to make things more even.

‘As if. If you have money for supporting Candidate A then you have the money to pay for dinner. Also, I just saved you of getting kicked out because of violent behavior, you owe me.’

It was decided, Jisung needed friends out of the philosophy and social sciences world, not only were they unbearable, not only did the speak in abstract terms all the time, but they also were broke and miserable, didn’t shower as often as they should and used too many drugs. All these complaints were left to die inside of Jisung’s head, since Minho took his hand once again and Jisung didn’t have anything to say for once.