You’ve probably heard about the violent student protests in London last week. Some of us were there, and we can assure that most of the protesters were v. good-natured, and the violence was v. isolated (we saw nothing of it). But I also think there’s something to be said for this take on it:
Focusing on damage to buildings usefully distracts attention from the much more far-reaching and systematic violence now being visited upon our education system and society more widely. It is as if we are being asked to believe that reparable damage to windows matters more than the lasting decimation of the nation’s public property – schools, universities, public transport and hospitals; or that young people in search of social justice will undermine the fabric of Britain more viciously than those who would systematically degrade this country’s welfare system, employment prospects, wages and pensions.
The wilful infliction of injury on human beings is violent and must not be condoned. Hurling a fire extinguisher into a crowd is clearly wrong, but the broken glass and bonfires of Wednesday were more visually spectacular than actually harmful. It is the coalition’s policies that are going to generate bloody mayhem. Cancer patients endure violence as they wait longer for fewer tests. Those sleeping rough in the winter cold suffer violence. As for real destruction and vandalism, let us begin with our libraries, recreation services, public transport and school buildings. As some lecturers at Goldsmiths college in London have pointed out, the “real violence in this situation relates to the destructive impact of the cuts”.