Thursday, November 11, 2010

Marches, riots, and Remembrance

I went on the NUS/UCU march yesterday. I could only appear in my lunch hour, so I missed the end where people 'rioted' across London. Well, across one street in London. Well, actually in one building in one street in London. As riots go, this is not really up there with the likes of Brixton, Notting Hill or the Bogside.

I do not, for a moment, condone the violence. But if you make people angry, and then make clear that you've no intention of listening to their grievances, then people will get violent. And students are angry. And not just selfishly - a lot of the people on yesterday's demonstration will have graduated by the time increased fees come in. But they care about education for all. They will not be the last to get angry, as the government introduces new methods of treating the unemployed as workshy. I doubt they will be the last to riot.

Tory MP's aide Simon Renwick apparently twittered that students should "Remember what tomorrow is and put it in context!" All right, I will. People fought and died in the First and Second World War for a lot of reasons, but a very prevalent one was that the world after the war should be a better one. This came up at my grandmother's funeral on Monday, how proud she and her husband were of here children going to University, and how keen they were that the children should take advantage of opportunities they never had. The Coalition government is set on a course that will reduce those opportunities. They are working on an assumption that money cut from teaching budgets is bound to be made up through fees. This assumption is naive. Debt-averse students will not apply for places. I am not convinced that the government will put enough money into the Student Loans Company to support the increased fees - after all, if all they are doing is moving money from teaching grants to the Student Loans Company, where will the short-term savings to government come from? Students will find that courses they want to do get marginalised out of existence by market forces, because that's what market forces do. Institutions will find they cannot survive, and other institutions will not be able to take up the additional burden.

So, I find that there is no contradiction in going on yesterday's march, and going to a Remembrance service today. Yesterday, I marched to defend a better world. Today I honoured those who fought for it.