It shouldn’t surprise me that students can be selfish people, and yet, on Wednesday, I was amazed at how many students strolled right past the picket lines. Some of them even refused to acknowledge the staff members trying to hand them leaflets about the strike. I hate being handed literature too, but for god’s sake, these are your lecturers! These are the people who run the university every day – not Michael Farthing and his coven of mercenary business puppets – and yet, they’re treated as if they aren’t even human. Because they have the nerve to inconvenience a bunch of selfish, middle-class young people.
I’ve noticed for a while now a trend towards conservativism in people younger than me. I suspect this has a lot to do with having grown up in the relatively secure nineties, before the financial crisis and before the current cuts that threaten to destroy everything that’s good about this country. If you’ve never had to struggle, if you’ve never had to fight for anything, of course you can’t understand why people would put themselves on the line to fight for what’s right. If you’ve never had to work for a living, of course you don’t understand why people would fight to protect their jobs and the jobs of their colleagues.
I understand the impulse to hide from it. I understand that sometimes, thinking about how fucked-up the government is and how little they care for anyone who makes less than six figures a year is just too much. But never, ever will I take my frustration, rage, depression, and despair out on the people who are fighting against this sort of thing. The staff striking at Sussex are not to blame for this economic crisis. They are not to blame for Michael Farthing’s idiotic plans to turn Sussex into a business factory. These staff are not to blame for the disruption to your education.
If you want to complain to someone, if you want to be nasty to someone, you need to turn your rage on the people who are behind it: Michael Farthing, Lord Mandelson, Gordon Brown, David Cameron. These are the people who are destroying your future and mine. These are the people who gave billions to corrupt financiers and expect the rest of us to pay the tab. This is not just leftist propaganda; this is the truth of the situation we’re in. If you want to blame someone when your lectures get cancelled or your university is occupied, you can blame them.
But then, it’s a lot harder to fight the big people, isn’t it? It’s a lot easier to swipe at other students or at staff members who have the nerve to be angry that their jobs are in jeopardy than to stand up to the government or your insanely arrogant Vice-Chancellor. Why think about the real reasons for our financial problems when you can just mindlessly agree with what you’re told by rich white guys?
It’s typical human behaviour to pick on the people with the least power – after all, that’s what the aforementioned scavengers are doing. Why bother to care about the fact that your children won’t be able to go to university? Why stand up for people who are being kicked in the face by greedy, arrogant rich people? Why do the right thing when you can just go get drunk or take a nap or hurl abuse at people? Oh that’s right: because you’re a decent human being. If you don’t support strikes, at Sussex and elsewhere, you are not only wrong, you’re a rotten person. If you’d rather see over 100 staff get sacked than get off your ass and do something about it, you’re a rotten person.
And if being told that you’re a rotten person offends you or makes you feel bad, then maybe you should stop and consider who you support in all this. Do you support the people who teach your courses, who clean your toilets, who protect your campus, who give you advice, who supervise your dissertations, who pick up your trash, and who cook your food? Or do you support people who make several times what you can hope to make after you get your degree, people who have at every opportunity tried to destroy your education? Think about it, and think about what you’re going to do on the next strike date.