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Iconoclasm

December 10, 2010

So, the teaching budget for Higher Education is to be slashed by 80%, a cost which will not be met by the increase in tuition fees. At the same time, social mobility will be reduced by the removal of EMA which, although something of a joke amongst the ‘middle classes’, has been absolutely crucial in the decisions of many young people from deprived backgrounds to remain in Post-16 education.

However, this is not the news. Instead, the news is that a ‘mob’ of ‘feral’ youths kicked a car and urinated on a statue. Standard behaviour for a Thursday night, anyone who’s ever been out drinking in a student town might think. But this was not just any car, nor just any statue. The targets which have been reported demonstrate the extent of discontent among those protesting: The heir to the throne, and a statue of a much-loved Prime Minister.

These targets touch very raw nerves amongst the ‘British Establishment’, and rightly, to an extent. However, the reaction to these events has demonstrated the extent of the disconnect between the political machine and the young people who will inherit it.

Brought up to be told that violence is never the answer, and demonised for their ‘political apathy’, this year the force of the student vote was harnessed by the Liberal Democrats. Young people were engaged like never before, huddled around televisions watching their potential future leaders debating, believing that there really could be a ‘New Politics’, based on honestly and social responsibility. They placed their faith in a political system which promised, finally, to respond to the input of the young, those who will soon provide the working and administrative heart of the country.

This faith was misplaced, and betrayed. The Liberal Democrats who voted with the government, or abstained, broke not only their manifesto pledges (understandable, after all, in a coalition), but also formal contracts with their constituents. For a whole generation, the basis of the democratic understanding, that you vote for someone to represent your views and interests in a national assembly, was shattered yesterday. Simultaneously, the notion that peaceful protest is legal and detention without charge illegal was being turned on its head only meters from where the vote was being conducted.

And there was violence. From both sides. Protesters had come armed with paint and golf balls in an attempt to avoid the horse charges used by police in previous weeks. Police put a young man in hospital with a brain injury. However, it is the symbolic desecration of symbols of Britain’s past which has caused so much fury in the press. Symbols of the Second World War, of ‘democracy’, of a previous age in which Britain was not ‘broken’, and students died for their country rather than threatening the future king. Symbols of an establishment whose benefits now seem alien to a youth totally disenfranchised in a political system in which no candidates represent their interests. Symbols of imperialism, of an outward looking Britain with international influence. Symbols of the power of the rich and powerful to send the young out to die.

This is not about the past. This is about the future, a future which looks decidedly uncertain for those protesting. It is clear that politicians can impose an agenda on their constituents without a mandate. It is clear that regardless of the quality of legislation, regardless of the democratic contract, what the government says, goes, and their justifications will be repeated by a media which has no interest in challenging an ideological consensus which favours their own interests. It is also clear, therefore, that the reduction of social mobility which will result from the policies of this government, will prevent those unable to afford it from having any kind of say in the direction of the country.

So yes, there was violence, and yes there was the ‘desecration’ of symbols of ‘Britishness’, but to dismiss these actions as merely ‘immature’ and suggest that they are those of animals rather than thinking humans (as David Cameron’s use of the word ‘feral’ does), is to miss the point. Those who committed acts of violence and vandalism were lashing out from a sense of impotence, and in self-defense. Their targets, although possibly co-incidental, are symbols of an establishment narrative which maintains this impotence, which sees police violence as ‘legitimate’ and public violence as animalistic. Britannia – rules the waves, won the war, leads the world. A narrative which leads us into expensive foreign wars, and huge foreign spending, as we attempt to punch above our international weight in order to maintain our own myth. We as sacrificing our future as we attempt to cling to our past – and our future is fighting back.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 11, 2010 3:53 am

    I can’t actually comment. I wrote a response last night, when I was angry and the editorialising hadn’t taken over yet. I’m so scared it’s going to take what it always takes, a death that’s recorded and demonstrates the brutality is tragic, to get the Intellectual Elite/Intellectual Left on side.

    (sorry, read two comments down on Laurie Penny’s article, about how the left under New Labour had the REAL betrayal, and she shouldn’t be using the word children as it was polemic, on an article that cited all the violence, including a physically fit, practical twenty year old having a stroke, and got really upset. Because it’s always polemic, however moderate, to speak about your own experiences, but it’s stirring and moving when the Vulnerable are spoken for

  2. January 21, 2012 2:25 pm

    teaching our children to doubt .
    why are they{them knows who they are]betraying the future?
    greed is the worst stupidity.
    12 lizards
    mind you i’d like a better phone myself.

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