I read this. Of course, this post extends a bit from this. Read both, or neither, but I wish to discuss protesting.
This issue affects students as well as graduates and I write strictly from opinion, as an observer of the Bloomsbury sit-in at SOAS, the Sussex Uni protests and sit-ins in 2010 and the fees protests in November 2010. In each of these situations, people got hurt, laws may or may not have been broken and policy-makers didn’t change policy.
Hence, the million dollar question: what have you gained from protesting?
In the Sussex sit-in a couple of years ago, a group of protesters broke into an administrative building and may or may not have been responsible for the theft and leaking of financial documents online. Police were called to remove the protesters from the building and some of them were subsequently put on academic suspension and banned from campus. In conclusion? Half a dozen students suspended from university, administrative staff intruded upon and possibly attacked in their workplace, cops on campus, arrests made and little change to fees, university spending, or whatever else the protest was about.
The Bloomsbury protesters occupied a disused building in disputed ownership, attempted to transform it into a social space, but got forcefully evicted by bailiffs and university management. Again, people got hurt, the protesters were frightened, bailiffs were on university property and this hasn’t yet helped the ownership issue of the building.
The November 2010 protests against the rise in university fees attracted crowds of hundreds of thousands in central London. Some arrived and left in the same condition, others, for reasons unclear, were kettled, tasered, beat up, dispersed and suchlike. Result? People got hurt, the city was trashed with potential damage to local or small businesses, police resources were focussed on the area where they could have been used elsewhere and finally, the fees increased.
Let’s reiterate from the top: people got hurt in all three protests and policy-makers didn’t rewrite or edit policy. So what has been gained? If you’re going to sit-in somewhere or occupy a building, odds are the law isn’t on your side and you can’t honestly say you weren’t expecting to be evicted. Nor is it acceptable under any circumstances to acquire private documents and publish them online. Finally, it is becoming more evident that protesting has little to no effect on policy change.
If there’s one thing I do understand about protesting it is that it is lively and attracts attention, albeit at times for the wrong reasons. But still, where this may have changed something twenty or thirty years ago, it has little effect today. Even internet campaigns run by Amnesty International struggle to succeed. What has changed? I don’t know precisely, but I think policy-makers got bored of listening to protesters and are no longer threatened by them. Some might say that policy-makers need to listen to protesters no matter what, but it cannot be easy to do that when some protesting is idealistic noise.
Let’s expand on that too. How much of what protesters say is a) what they want, vs b) how to get what they want. They protest to ask/demand certain changes, but without offering tangible and measured solutions on how to get there, they might be disregarded simply because it’s hard to describe a path that fulfils their demands. Research is, always has been and always will be, the key to success in any matter.
We’re almost there. Is protesting productive? I struggle to see how. We have already observed that protesters get hurt and laws get broken and policy doesn’t change because no path to change gets offered up. It consumes civil resources in terms of police and security, gets people arrested and has an indirect impact of the lives of those not involved. Can the effort:productivity ratio be improved in different ways?
One last thing is the (ab)use of the word “solidarity”. Yes, it is being used in the correct contexts according to definition, but so much so it is almost tacky. And, commenting specifically on the writing of “Eviction” (up top), I couldn’t digest half of what you’re trying to say.
With this, I conclude simply by saying that the modern protest should not be loud, intrusive and disruptive, it doesn’t need to be. The modern protest should, in my ideal, represent a focussed group of people who work productively to achieve their goal. Instead of sitting in Bloomsbury, why not offer the same volunteer hours to SOAS to resolve the disputed ownership, or survey students for ideas on what the centre should be used for, or find ways to raise money to contribute to building plans that are actually needed. Instead of protesting to disturb and disrupt, mutual respect is needed among all students and management in order to even have the opportunity to discuss policy changes. Whatever the issue, here it regards fees, a genuinely balanced perspective is needed before people think of arguing back. Okay, so fees are £9000 – but loans are available to everyone to cover all fees, interest rates aren’t terrible and don’t get me started on what international or US students might have to face without the prospect of student loans.
This is my form of protest. Now, I’m going to go promote this online so I can push my Klout, write a business plan and eventually turn a profit big enough to pay off my student loan and employ other talented, productive graduates.
Edit: as mentioned in the disclaimer and in previous posts, this is strictly my opinion although it contains facts from other sources. I respect free speech.