Those violent protests?

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”.

3 thoughts on “Those violent protests?

  1. I’m not entirely sure that I get how ‘violence’ is being used here, and it’s definitely not used consistently in this passage: physical force/infliction of injury/damage/harm/disadvantage/pain/all government funding cuts. I suppose it’s just not obvious to me that people sleeping rough in winter suffer violence unless, of course, violence just means anything bad…

  2. I’d like to see such protests happening in the US–where things have always been much, much worse. It isn’t only or primarily that students get out of college saddled with debt but that they’re expected to work while going to college. There is a fetish about “working your way through college.”

  3. Faulty Reasoning, if you don’t understand how sleeping rough amounts to violence, you could try it for a week or 2. Toronto’s supposed to be the safest metropolis in the world, but for somebody without adequate shelter, dealing with crazy people and self serving bureaucrats who forget that the so-called ‘freeloaders’ paid into the system too, often for years or decades, is pretty traumatic.

    Have you seen Pursuit Of Happyness starring Will Smith? Stuff like that happens to honest people all the time. The character in the movie was a large man, and lucky enough to have smarts and good weather on his side. Imagine how that story would play out if the character were a small woman, disabled, battered, punch drunk, or a vet of either gender suffering from PTSD. I see it all the time. Autistics, bipolar people, etc. with limited social skills get beat down, sometimes burned alive for being ‘freeloaders’ or ‘freaks’.

    The year our provincial gvt. axed the welfare system, 1995-96, dozens of people died of hypothermia. I slept in my storage locker just the other day, For 8 HOURS past the time I was supposed to wake up. The experience was unnerving. That’s exactly how hypothermia happens. Apparently malnutrition, which I’m also experiencing to a minor degree, throws off the body’s immune and thermostat functions, putting people at greater risk of dying from the elements.

    From what I understand, the risk of violence to the homeless is even greater in the UK. And sleeping rough in the US? Don’t even get me started on the crazy racist that pulled a gun on me for accepting help from a young black boy. I think the only thing that kept me in one piece through some of those experiences was the fact that I flaunted my age. I was 16 at the time.

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