Student politics undermines itself with pointless grandstanding
When there is so much that can be done that will have a real and tangible effect on the issues they care about, why do students continue to opt instead for pointless grandstanding?
When I was a bit younger, I used to really enjoy playing video games. They were an escape from reality and an absolutely 21st century way to socialise without having to really do much more than tolerate dial up internet (it was like the cassette version of 4G).
Political rallies weren’t my thing, nor were they that of my friends – not necessarily because we weren’t interested in politics (in fact, quite the contrary) but because we were much too cynical to believe our presence in Leicester Square would change anything at all.
We reserved our political involvement to that of sometimes drunken, quintessentially British discussion, watching question time and developing what we saw as really apolitical anecdotal opinions on issues that directly affected us.
For us, I suppose, the plight of national and international politics was interesting but ultimately irrelevant, something we had no capacity to affect in any real way and as such a misplaced (though valiant) expenditure of energy.
Oh how times have changed. The youth of today love a good rally, a good international and even sometimes globalist political cause (here’s looking at all you “the old bastards stole our future” remainers). From capitalism to guns, there truly is no end to their new found political clout. Whether or not they ever successfully change anything meaningful is another matter. I mean, Islamic countries still literally execute gays, but hey, down with the capitalist patriarchy and all that…
What truly fascinates me, however, about the seemingly endless political crusades of the modern, millennial and post millennial activist, isn’t the uselessness of all these endeavours of virtue, or even the glaring hypocrisy (here’s looking at you filming the anti capitalist protest on your iPhone, uploading it to Facebook whilst wearing £300 worth of clothing in a country where your next meal isn’t a choice between grandma and your dog). No, what really bothers me is the ignorance.
I mean, we can really all have a laugh at the “socialists” condemning capitalism from the luxury of being in a modern, capitalist, western society (otherwise known as the single best place to be at the single best time to exist in all of human history hitherto by literally every measure), and we can laugh at people protesting the patriarchy in western society, otherwise much more broadly known as the most equal place in terms of opportunity ever in human existence, and all the rest.
But then, something like what happened on Friday the 15th of February 2019. Students all summoned the courage to bunk off school to protest Britain’s “lack of action” on climate change. What a banal, ignorant assertion to make.
Aside from the fact Britain has been at the forefront of climate change agenda’s, from the Paris agreement to the domestically binding but far more ambitious Climate Change Act 2008, protesting Theresa May and Britain’s record, with its plastic carrier bag charge, plastic straw elimination and diesel car asphyxiation in the wake of the Chinese “coal power tsunami” or the most polluted nation in the world that is India, is a display of little more than the lacking capacity of this general population to think laterally and critically; really, of nothing more than ignorance in its purest sense.
It is also dangerous. Whilst activism and political involvement is shrouded in a thin veil of universal desirability and encouragement, uninformed, it serves to do little more than radicalise impressionable minds. This fetish young people have to be heard isn’t new or even unwelcome. What is, is the dogmatic tribalism with which they approach the issues they claim to feel so strongly about, with an arrogance they have no basis to hold.
Now, don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying climate change doesn’t exist (I’m sat in 20oC heat in February in England), nor am I saying students or anyone, really, shouldn’t believe in causes or stand up for them. I am also fully aware, for the “totalitarian Britain” conspiracists amongst us that there are an extremely limited number of ways in which we, as the general, prole population, can achieve audible volume in the cacophony of political noise that is the geography of British politics.
But of all the things we can abide in modern politics, ignorance ought not to be one of them. And students, as a faction, are ignorant.
Ignorant to the stupidity of chanting “Fuck Theresa May”, in true, ignorant, tribal fashion, whilst faithfully chanting “Ohhh Jeremy Corbyn” as if ignorance is precluded by enough repetition, in a damning ode to Orwell. Ignorant to the notion that eight in ten university lecturers is left wing, and that education as a sector is completely dominated by left wing bias in teaching. Even the mandatory “British values” being forced into the hidden and embedded curriculum are drowning in liberal wetness and produce of a distinctly liberal leaning society. Yes, the Tories might be right of centre economically but their attitudes towards society are remarkably liberal.
I suppose that is the crux of politics in the age of democracy. Everyone claims to have rights, and entitlements, and the want for proper representation and all the usual sound-bites, but in this pursuit of perceived justice they forgo any critique of their dogmatically prescribed position. Shuffling a deck of cards with reasons as to why Theresa May is literally Hitler and protesting or marching accordingly might be a top laugh in the age of meme politics, but it is useless, pointless and ultimately wasteful, especially when boycotting, for example, massive brands like Nike or Apple, or Chinese products would serve to make a much more tangible impact.
There are many reasons to protest Theresa Mays handling of climate change. For example, the new Tory solution of taxing everything with any remotely polluting scope out of general affordability (how very conservative of her) or the fact she has a cabinet full of damp rags who will inevitably pollute our gorgeous Thames river when they are soon cast aside.
But argument for argument sake, driven by the likes of the insufferable Independent Group, informed by broad brush statements referencing seriously complex political issues void of any critique and evaluation, is horrifically damaging to politics as a discipline.
It also serves to undermine the potency and value of student opinion. The problem isn’t necessarily that they keep doing menial pseudo activism like this; the problem, it seems, is that the cynicism has sadly died with this reinvigorated revolutionary lust. Oh how I miss it.