The coverage may have been slow to begin with, but by now it is likely that most people will have seen reports on the Free Education demonstration three weeks ago. As one of the many thousands in attendance, I have been bemused by what most of the articles said. Where was all this violence and chaos? Where was I, as police and protesters rushed into combat? Was I even at the right event? From what I can gather, the front few rows of people pulled down fences surrounding Parliament Square. By the time the other 98% of protesters arrived, we found nothing more than a throng of students stood about playing some drums, being filmed from a distance by a group of (it would be fair to say) pretty indifferent-looking police officers. All this, whilst one of the event chaperones tried half-heartedly to alert us all to the fact that the main event was taking place down by the Houses of Parliament. Hardly organised crime.
Of course it’s not a surprise to see the British media electing to inject a bit of ‘colour’ into its coverage. Nothing written could have shocked me though, after the uncompromisingly narrow minded rant excreted by Richard Littlejohn for the Daily Mail in November (Not that I expect much better from either party). Littlejohn denounces the ‘selfish anarchists’ bringing ‘chaos to the heart of the capital’ as opposed to the ‘magnificent millions paying silent tribute at the Tower of London’, claiming that the student demonstrations reveal a dichotomy of life in Britain.
Surely, though, this period of remembrance is as good a time as any to both celebrate our freedom, and question the reasoning behind those freedoms that are at present not afforded to us? There’s a danger when it comes to honoring the sacrifices made in the World Wars that we feel an obligation towards an all-encompassing thankfulness. “Hush now” Littlejohn might seem to say, “Be thankful for what you have”. Yes, the victories of the World Wars were triumphs in many regards, but this world did not automatically elevate to a perfect form with the defeat of the European fascist movements of mid-20th century. We must always retain constant vigilance against all forms of fascism, racism, inequality, alienation, scapegoating, and, really, all around dickish philosophies. Although this isn’t a time of war—in the Eurocentric sense—it is still a time in which the rights of all citizens need to be vigorously asserted and defended.
What struck many of us in attendance most at this most recent march was the sense of community. All around us, different denominations of political movements with varying political goals and ideologies, had come together, uniting in the face of a government that is fostering, once again, a philosophy of individualism, rather than the collectivism that we were all lobbying for. ‘Thatcher is dead’, read one placard, ‘Now lets kill Thatcherism’. These people were not there for themselves, as Richard Littlejohn’s accusation of selfishness might indicate, but rather for one another, for all of us, and for future generations.
Reading through the comments on articles about polemical issues such as this is never a great experience, I was yet again disappointed and frustrated by what I found. “That’s the problem with this generation”, to paraphrase several commentators, “everyone feels they are entitled to something”. Well, yes, absolutely we do. Can you blame us, living in a society where entitlement and privilege is held as sacrament? We believe entitlement should not be reserved for the few. The very fact we live in a community should demand that everyone be entitled to something. Society should never exist to meet the needs of the few—everyone is owed at least the opportunity of education, so that we stand an equal chance of succeeding in our lives.