Friday, 10 December 2010
Protesting too much?
Having shared public transport for a few hours with a group of "student protestors" on Thursday morning (I was heading for a different part of London) I couldn't help noticing how a-political they seemed, certainly compared to the fiercely ideological (that is, rabidly Marxist or Trotskyist) student demonstrators of my own youth. It's a great shame that these mostly decent young people have allowed themselves to be led astray both by violent extremists and perhaps even by their parents, nostalgic for their lost youth and fearing that they themselves may have "sold out," to the materialism of the age, and who now urge their offspring to take part in a bit of rowdy street theatre of their own.
I can't help thinking that the "glamour" of protest marches loses some of its gloss when the main motivation of those taking part seems not to be solidarity with the poor and disadvantaged but concern over their own future bank balances. Selfless idealism it aint!
But I haven't a huge amount of sympathy either for those politicians who, feeling fairly secure in their role as a perpetual party of opposition, made promises they thought would cost them nothing and who now find themselves faced with the harsh choices of government. The only result of that is a disastrous increase in the already disturbing level of public cynicism about the political process.
Yet the kind of protests we have seen don't help one bit in the necessary and urgent public debate as to how we are best able to fund higher education - and continue to make it available to the less well off - at a time of financial crisis and austerity and hugely increasing global economic competition.
But what is sure is that urinating on a statue of the twentieth century's greatest prime minister, or attacking the car of the heir to the throne is as silly and vacuous as some of the conversations I overheard early yesterday morning.