Like many of you 'I was there' at the last Anti Tuition Fee/Pro Palestine protest in the Capital, Demo 2012. I like many others capitalized on a subsidized bus ticket to London with absolutely no intention of going to the protest. In the end, I watched from a far as police blocked the entry into Westminster of two thousand soaked students giggling to themselves at how naughty they were.
The march looked uncertain, confused and slightly embarrassed. Students from Thatcher years looked on from murky offices, despairing at our lack of enthusiasm and creativity, remembering the radical, ballsy activism that pervaded their student lives. I cringed in the biblical downpour as I saw one protester holding one sign against tuition fees and another criticizing Israeli policies. It seemed to me the most absurd example of laziness and apathy to merge such respectively important and inconsistent issues together.
Ponytailed post grads screamed triumphantly at their 'followers' who couldn't hear them or care about what they had to say. I realized then, this was a protest for the sake of it, a waddle through London with mates, an excuse to get out of Manchester, Oxford Brookes or Southampton and have a night out in Camden. This was not an 'I was there' moment. No one cared. Our dissent is limited and our actions tame, even in a world where unimaginable horrors from Syria and Sudan are on every screen and newspaper.
So what happened to us as we evolved from shaggy haired Cold War rioters to studious devotees to our laptops? We know more, we appear to be more independent politically as seen in the diverse reaction to Thatcher's death, surely we should be more politically active? However, crucially we are now more anaesthetized against injustice especially abroad, we have more on our minds, and we are governed by political parties, which have collectively the radicalism and charisma of a Ready Salted crisp. These changes have extinguished the fire that once raged in our bellies and made our blood boil.
We are the children of 9/11. We all saw the most horrific tragedy of this century live on television. We witnessed at an early age people jumping out of the World Trade Centre to their loud, messy ends. We saw sinister videos of Saddam Hussein's execution on grainy miniscule Nokia screens and we gaze ever numbingly at a Syrian rebel eating the heart of a government soldier on video. This is not because of some insatiable need for gore porn; it is epiphenomenal. Technological advances and globalization mean that in the honorable quest for information we have inadvertently neutered the poignancy of terror. To us, what does it matter whether today's car bomb was in Pakistan or Libya?
Education and the omnipresent, lingering worry that is exams also take our minds of world events. Unfortunately grades do appear to determine our fate almost entirely and accordingly students take them seriously. Whilst a Desmond '2:2' at a decent university got our predecessors a decent job, excellence has now become the perceived expectation of good employers; the hurdle has got higher. And so as versatile as we are, we adapted, we study, hard. Students don't have time for a demonstration when there's coursework in next Monday. A quick glance at the BBC News or the newspaper seems to suffice in making our personal bubble less outwardly opaque but that's all we can fit in. Further research and activity hardly ever exceeds a retweet or a short, forgettable rant on Facebook.
Extroverted activism is best facilitated by activism concerning local and national issues. If people are interested in domestic politics they will likely look elsewhere, compare and formulate ideas and act on them. However the only interest in politics amongst the general student population at the moment is conjured as a reaction to Tory elitism and cuts. This is negative and narrowly focused. We're effectively just retaliating like a lethargic lion being prodded at a circus. We'll growl on the internet and maybe break a few windows at the Conservative Party HQ but we don't offer support for alternatives or ideas as there's no-one with enough charisma in British politics to incentivize us. If as a result we don't have a positive interest in politics at home we definitely won't have an active interest in what goes on abroad.
In London I was disappointed to see what student activism is in Britain, and even more disappointed in myself gawping idly from another bridge. Yet our inertia is to be expected. Whilst tempted to put blue paint on my face and make a horribly high pitched rallying cry in my worst Scottish accent whilst my wig falls off and my kilt falls down, I think we can all agree something else is needed. Whatever it is I hope it comes soon as people all over the world are sighing and suffering for our lack of action. For now I'll stick to blogging and wait for the Revolution as I've got laundry to do.