This has been one of the hardest posts I have ever had to write. My head is feels like it is about to explode with the pressure of trying to get the multitude of thoughts into coherent, logical order. Just as I was about to admit defeat, I saw this (above) on my walk home from work and realised that this wasn't something I could give up on. As much as I would like to catch up with Lady Gaga and One Direction and maybe even a bit of Kitty 'cringface' Brucknell from last night's X Factor, there are more pressing concerns at hand.
"Police have been authorised to use rubber bullets."
It's not often that the first sentence you read on a Monday morning resonates with such intensity that it clangs around in your brain for the next seven days, but that one did. The amount of emotions that get stirred up by such a provocative statement is hard to articulate, but the primary feeling, aside from anger and shock, is disbelief. How did it come to this? (Mike Skinner moment of the day, check.) In all seriousness, it is incomprehensible that the police force think it is OK to plan the same defence strategy against a peaceful student protest as they would a potential re-run of the August riots (100 days ago today, not a night any of us will forget any time soon).
It is obvious to all concerned that the issuing of that statement was a simple preemptive ploy to dissuade potential protesters from leaving their massively overpriced and under-maintained student accommodation last Wednesday, and by the looks of things, it may have worked. Not that it would have made much difference if a couple of extra thousand undergraduates had showed up; it appeared that every police officer within a five mile radius of the City of London was on duty to ensure last week's protest was about as riotous as a kid's birthday party.
'High vis is the only thing to be seen in, don'tcha know.'
Police or no police, I digress. My point is this: ever since last year's student protest, the public reaction has been the same. "What does it matter? What difference will it make?" and, even more infuriatingly, "They don't even understand what they are fighting for, they have got it all wrong."
I'm not saying that I have got everything right. I know I will most certainly have got things wrong. As someone who has only been able to vote in the last two elections and who has grown up amongst peers for whom politics passed us by, it has been a short, sharp learning curve with a long way left to go until we do know exactly what we are talking about (which seems to be the same for most of this country's politicians *ahem* Nick Clegg *ahem*)
But I know enough to say that I for one am in full support of last week's anti cuts and anti privatisation demo, and hope that they continue to happen, on a more regular basis. With action scheduled for the 23rd and 30th of this month, it seems protest is becoming a part of normal London life, and bring it the hell on. Occupy LSX too, for that matter. I die a little bit inside every time I read another patronising article referring to the 'crusties' and 'layabouts' who have set up camp outside St Pauls; there has even been talk of disciplinary measures against a policeman who drunkenly fell asleep in one of the donated tents after a boozing session (he was celebrating passing a firearms training unit: rest peacefully, London dwellers, these are the folks that have your safety in hand).
Occupy LSX and it's international counterparts are the most exciting, innovative and encouraging things to have happened to the political landscape since Wikileaks, and the work these camps are doing is going to change our future. The protesting students, the occupiers; they are doing the one thing that is essential to saving our country from being ground into the dirt: they are showing everyone that there is a different way. The occupiers are proving that we don't have to sit around and wait for the powers that be to dictate how we will be allowed to live our lives, and the students are showing that they won't stand by and see their futures suppressed by debt and a void of prospects.
To all those who harp on about students missing the bigger picture that although fees are high, the loans won't have to be paid back until you are earning over a certain amount: have you looked at the job market recently? It now appears that graduates are being discriminated against for being over qualified, and so many of them are finding themselves in a worse position once finishing their degree than their friends who didn't go to university. Even if the loans don't impact directly on graduate's immediate finances, who wants to go into their independent adult life with the shadow of an average £24,000 weighing over them? I fully agree that not every single person should go to university, we should be offering 18 year olds various options, but those who do want to go shouldn't be weighed down with that level of debt. If other countries can offer all stages of HE for nothing then why can't we?
Having just watched the first half of Scorsese's George Harrison documentary, in which the 'quiet Beatle' cheerfully goes off to India to expand his mind and understand the crazy world he lived in, I believe more than ever that the minute we just accept our lot, we are done for. We have to keep striving. Education and self improvement will surely make the country better as a whole. Which is why students need to keep fighting, and non-students also need to support the cause. Even if Cameron and Clegg look the other way while people march through the streets of London, it shows that we haven't given up. We won't be quiet, we won't accept the way things are, and we won't let the future of this generation be taken away from us.
Images: graffiti from Brighton and Brick Lane, photos from Getty and friends