“These protesters are not defying the will of the British people; they are expressing it. Look at their two great causes: opposing £27,000-a-degree fees for university students, and making the super-rich pay the £120bn they currently avoid in tax. Opponents of top-up fees outnumber supporters by 10 percent, while 77 percent of us support a massive crackdown on the people who live here but do not pay taxes here. This isn’t an attack on democracy, it’s a demand for it. It’s a refusal to be part of the silent majority any more. When politicians are defying the will of the people – and breaking the “solemn pledges” on which they took our votes – protest is necessary.”
On top of being a somewhat vocal atheist, my other focus is politics. Why? Because it affects everything. If we simply sit back and ignore the super rich Tory-boys who now seek not only to run our lives, but seem not to be trying their damnedest to ruin the lives of over half a million people, then we do deserve everything we get. If, however, we wake up to our social responsibilities as citizens of the UK and maintain the pressure on the government to stick to promises and policies they made during the General Election in May. Those promises were made to win votes and they did especially in the case of the Liberal Democrats who at the choice seemed a reasonable alternative to Labour. Those hopes have been dashed and Clegg (not just because he’s currently my favourite whipping boy) has not only destroyed is own credibility but has probably sealed all elections results for the liberals for the next several generations. I know that I will never vote for his party for as long as Clegg is an active member.
This is now available on iTunes for £0.79p. I have already downloaded mine (we also need this to beat whatever corporate overly processed crap that the x-factor produce to be the Christmas no. 1.
This government is a farce and a poor one at that but this is not what this post is about. Johann Hari of The Independent is of the belief that public spirit has been quietly eroded over the last decades by protest planning behaviour and by harrowing reports of heavy-handed policing. There was certainly no need to drag a disabled student out of his chair and drag him across a road (let alone twice) and I sincerely hope that those responsible for that disgusting display of brutality are severely disciplined. So what if he was mouthing off. Did that seriously pose a threat to officers or the public? I think not. This is not the beginning of the slow deconstruction of the right to peaceful protest as it has been going on for some time. Even New Labour would claim that the youth of the country were apathetic and disengaged with society but this was truly due to the lack of complaints but had it not crossed their minds that it was because they had nothing to complain about or maybe even that the atmosphere of self-interested ‘individualism’ was so well propagated in their parents’ generation that it has not quite worked its way out of the social attitude? Now the is something to justly protest against they are again on the receiving end of unfair criticism. It is being implemented through a blanket of police and political intimidation launched against all who dare to exercise their right to peaceful protest.
“Of course, it is never justified in a democracy to launch violent attacks on people. Anybody who throws a fire extinguisher off a roof, or throws fire crackers and snooker balls at police officers, should be arrested and charged. It’s morally wrong, and tactically idiotic: it puts people off the protesters’ just cause. That’s why whenever it has happened, the protesters themselves have immediately turned on the violent fringe and made them stop. Yet the government is claiming that to deal with this tiny number of people – a few dozen – it’s necessary to restrict the basic rights to free assembly that have been won over centuries.” Johann Hari
Hundreds were held on Westminster Bridge for hours in the freezing cold with no toilet and nothing to drink. It did not matter whether people were involved or not and one cannot help the suspicion that this tactic was used to stir ill-feeling among non-protesters who were caught up in the ‘kettle’. It is all very well that protests must be planned so they do not cause unnecessary disruption to those not involved. When some students failed to stick to an agreed route they were ALL rounded up. It is wrong to pressurise or frighten people out of using their right to protest, unconscionable that the police who are also being cut back to the bone are using their power against unarmed and rightly disgruntled students, and despicable that the coalition government are trying to push this country back to a point where further education was only available to the very rich when many of those in parliament received their education for free. Free education to all didn’t seem to bother them when they were studying to be nameless back-benchers.
“In reality, these tactics are provoking more violent protest than they prevent. It’s enraging to turn up to peacefully express your views outside parliament and find yourself suddenly imprisoned by police officers who won’t even let you go to the toilet. It doesn’t cool people down, it makes them burn up. There is an obvious alternative to kettling, and it was the norm in Britain until the Mayday protests of 2001 when the tactic was born. It’s simple: arrest anyone who commits an act of violence, instead of imposing mass imprisonment on everyone present. It’s called good policing.” Johann Hari
Separating the masses from a right to further education (by making it prohibitively expensive, it is essentially being revoked) is crass and ultimately very damaging to society as a whole. At this rate we’ll have ten-year olds stitching footballs in order to pay for their maths lessons. But it’s not just the police that seem to be suffering from acute-uptake-deficiency disorder, but also those who lean to the right and are of the ‘everyone should be on their own persuasion‘. What this means is everyone out for themselves in a bite-or-be-bitten society. It is a kin to ‘social Darwinism‘ which oddly enough is often grossly misunderstood and then adopted by both the religious-right and the Libertarian ‘Objectivist’ fringe in the US in order to (weakly) defend their ridiculous ideals. We pay taxes in order to maintain public services so when our services are cut we SHOULD demand a rebate. The coalition have conspicuously been grabbing back and slashing public spending with their machete-like callousness while conveniently ignoring the loopholes in tax laws which allow them and their ilk to avoid paying the £120 billion shortfall which would close the gap overnight.
“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face forever.” – George Orwell, 1984
No violence is justified in these matters from either side. This is regardless of whether or not we’re in a democracy. It has no place and we must not give into the bullying of those who have placed themselves in positions of authority over us. Though they rely on our votes to keep them in power they forget the plain facts that they were elected to represent the interests of those who voted for them; we are not here to protect theirs. They win votes by making promises and should be held to those principles and if they do not they MUST be called up on it publicly and relentlessly. Students are not the only people to suffer in the wave of savagery against those who are worst off. The Independent Living Allowance allow hundreds of disabled people to stay in their own homes rather than be institutionalised.
The Sunday Telegraph quotes a government insider admitting “it is quite possible there will be cases of suicide” as a result. But after seeing how the police threw an obvious fragile and immobilized disabled man onto the street, they are too scared to protest outside Downing Street. They are forced to watch, helpless, while their support is taken away to pay for – as a Financial Times headline put it recently – Cameron and Osborne’s new “tax boost for wealthy heirs.” – Johann Hari
All of us have benefited from a long line of protests and rallies. Every woman has the right to a vote, a bank account and a living of her own despite her marital status thanks to the brave souls who fought tooth and nail against shocking injustice. Every worker has the right to paid holiday, a minimum hourly rate of pay, a maximum number of working hours, paid maternity and paternity leave,and a host of other employment rights. For these rights we have the social movements and protests to thank. Without that bravery, where would we be now? Women would still be the chattel of their fathers and husbands, no right to a job or her own money. There would be no health service and no pensions for the elderly. We would still be at the mercy of the wealthy minority and be subject to the whims of the rich who still dominate government.
“Disobedience, in the eyes of anyone who has read history, is man’s original virtue. It is through disobedience that progress has been made, through disobedience and through rebellion.” – Oscar Wilde
We are not given to an excess of civil disobedience in Britain. In fact, we are guilty of quite the opposite: unthinking acquiescence. Rather than take action, we are inclined to merely whinge amongst ourselves and do nothing, leaving our political voices in the ballot box when we have a right to both complain and get involved in order to make those changes. I have joined my local party and aim to start making a difference to social awareness as soon as I am able. For now I will leave you with a simple thought: From anger and mass disobedience comes progress; from silence comes stagnation.