What took you so long?
Alright, so it’s not the fault of the existing generation; the blame should be laid at the feet of those that truly were the ‘children of Thatcher’. There have been a few raised voices over various issues since the maintenance grant, made compulsory in 1962, was formally undermined by the creation of the Student Loans Company in 1990. The problem with the protests of the last twenty years is that they have generally only been vocal enough to feature in the media when it is over issues of student finance. Even though these current protests relate directly again to the personal financial interests of the students there does seem to be a general change in the zeitgeist. The issue of education funding seems to be a convenient hanger for a deeper ideological malaise.
There has been a gradual increase in protesting student numbers as the anti-war movement grew, but they were always on the fringe. Now it seems they’re back. The noisy, angry, idealistic, unreasonable student. Thank god – if we can’t rely on the spirit of youth to have the energy to demand political change who else is there?
I listened to a BBC programme this morning attempting to pass itself off as a ‘debate’. The starting point being whether the students should even be allowed to protest or not. Apparently rather than popping into town of an evening and feeling some sort of solace through the expression of comradeship with a like-minded community they should be too busy studying towards making themselves correctly functioning production and/or consumption units in our broken neo-liberal economy.
The same people that celebrate the protests of the aggrieved elsewhere in the world see no contradiction in demanding their children and friends get off the streets. The same generation that to a greater degree have benefitted from post-war social policy giving them near full employment with employment rights, more secure housing entitlement, some degree of pension provision with a period at the end of their lives to use it and, ironically, free education.
So hats off to the students. Be reasonable – demand the impossible.
“The sound of free speech” 2010