Monday, 15 November 2010

A Right to Be Heard

I was just reading Glitterbird's latest post about the recent student protest in Whitehall in regard to the Coalition announcing they are to triple university fees. There was so much media outrage about the fact the demonstration turned violent. A group of the protesting students broke into the Conservative headquarters and committed acts of vandalism. This ensured their issue front page news coverage in almost every paper.

I personally feel very strongly that they were perfectly right and entitled to do what they did. An enormous part of the student body voted the Liberal Democrats into the position they are now in. The Lib Dems made it one of their key policies during the campaign that they wanted to lower and aim to eradicate student fees. Now they are aiding a Tory government into tripling them. How on earth would you feel?

I left further education 8 years ago and am still nowhere near paying off my student debts, (despite working 3 jobs while I studied) should that have been tripled I would have strongly considered not going on with my education. It does appear to me that the Tories love re-establishing old fashioned class systems and the best way to do that is by making gaining higher education considerably harder then it is now.
The trebled fees are not to lead to more investment in higher education; they will only mitigate what would otherwise been a disaster. A good and sound principle is being compromised by the year zero nature of its introduction.
Students now face leaving university with £60,000 of debts but with no improvement and probably a deterioration in the quality of higher education being offered. Some are talking of studying in English language universities in Holland and Scandinavia, where tuition fees are only £6,000 over three years. Others of going to the US. Others of not going at all.
- Will Hutton, The Observer

A lot of press has commented on how this would have been a perfectly pleasant protest were in not for the small section who took it further.

 Elsewhere, the massive rally had passed off peacefully.
-BBC News

Forgive me if I misunderstood but to protest is to feel that your voice is not being considered in the normal channels therefore you take to the streets to shout about something which you feel enormously passionately about. It's not a recreational pleasure.

A protest expresses a strong reaction of events or situations. Protesters may organize a protest as a way of publicly and forcefully making their opinions heard in an attempt to influence public opinion or government policy, or may undertake direct action in an attempt to directly enact desired changes themselves.

Besides, despite the media hype about how anarchic the demonstration was, you can find reports  it really wasn't as life threatening as they like to make out.

As protesters surged, a succession of windows were smashed and then demonstrators flooded into the building entrance. Security guards scattered and the handful of police inside were completely overrun. A few yards away, in surreal calm, guests carried on eating in the adjacent Pizza Express. 
-BBC News Online

No one was seriously hurt although approximately 14 people were injured.

To put the protest into context -  an enormous amount of the people protesting and those that feel strongly exercised their right to protest for the first time by marching in the biggest anti war demonstration this country has ever seen in in February 2003, myself included. Despite the mass media coverage our voices were entirely disregarded, the decision was in no way affected by our peaceful protest. I personally found that to be a hugely dispiriting experience. We are often referred to as the generation of apathy. We're not we're just hugely disappointed in being raised to believe we have a voice only to be consistently dismissed.

There will be plenty more protests,  and if it takes some acts of vandalism in order to have an open debate about the many many proposed cuts then so be it. In general people don't feel the need to smash things if they feel they are being acknowledged and considered. I refuse to believe this was simply an act of hooliganism, instead I think this was a desperate attempt to be heard by a coalition government who has already utterly dismissed the very people who chose them to represent their voices.

I do feel that the unfortunate truth is your voice is weakened once you engage in violent means of protest but I'm not sure what huge array of alternative options are available in order to be heard.

The students are a warning of much worse protest to come. Mr Blair did not heed the protests over Iraq, nor Mrs Thatcher over the poll tax. Both paid with their careers. Democratic politicians should worry when people take to the streets in huge numbers. In two years, we have passed from a financial crisis provoked by bankers to a new and angrier world – of withdrawing housing benefit, of attacking the "workshy" and now a stonking three-fold increase in tuition fees. There is an enormous sense of one rule for Them and another for Us.
-Will Hutton, The Observer

“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”
-Elie Wiesel

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...