Friday, 12 November 2010

50, 000 March on London

There are those who wonder why people of my generation are disillusioned with politics. I would remind them they ignored us when we protested the Iraq war, they blamed us for breaking Britain, saddled us with mind-boggling debt, then they said "There's no jobs for you" quickly adding "now get off benefits, you're a sponge". In April and May, Nick Clegg wooed us with talk of principled stands against cuts and investment in the future of Britain, only to submit sickeningly to an Etonian slug and his party of cannibalistic lizards in the aftermath of an election everybody lost.

I'd say we have good reason to be angry. The minor skirmish during the student fee protest, where a few anarchists smashed up Tory headquarters, could be seen as the first shots of frustration from an entire generation who have basically been sold a pup. In media everywhere it has been reported that way and I understand why.

After all, who doesn't want it to be the start of a cultural reawakening? At last! A reaction to corporatism and to corruption; to the everyday lies of dough-eyed administrators who preside over the neutering of ambition, whose lives consist of ticking boxes and drawing a wage; at last a generation awakens from the stupor brought on by poisoned platitudes and seizes the reins of power from the blind, stupid, complacent failures who run things.

It'd be great, wouldn't it?

However, I can't think of a single time in history when a population with full bellies, warm beds, free expression and secure borders has ever felt the need to forcibly remove its government (I await to be corrected). Things would need to get far worse for disenchantment to spill over into disgruntlement, and from there to outright anger. Beyond that, revolution is still a dozen and more flights of steps away.

So, what was the smashing of windows and throwing of fire extinguisher (note: singular) about? Well, I don't mean to belittle genuine anger, but it wasn't about anything. After all, the main focus of the march was to remind the Lib Dems that they promised not to raise tuition fees - it is the Lib Dems who are betraying the marchers, not the Tories. The Tory party are carrying out what we knew they would do; people voted for them knowing this to be a policy of theirs - they are duty bound to carry out their pledges. The Lib Dems are the focus of the legitimate anger at these measures - yet Tory HQ got trashed.

Why? Because the starry-eyed Lenins who broke the windows with scarves wrapped round their faces are the same who marched against the Iraq war, who protested Bush's visit and the G-20, who show up every May 1st in London to taunt police and disrupt the bus routes. They are the same guys who still hate Conservatives because of Thatcher - the rest of the crowd, who stood by in sympathetic surprise when the starry-eyed Lenins kicked at the glass and burned David Cameron in effigy, were genuinely there to register their anger at a policy.

The starry-eyed Lenin's were there because they are professional protesters who love a big crowd to legitimise their antics and distribute Socialist Worker. They attacked the Tories, not for the cause but because they are starry-eyed Lenins, and so they hate the Tories. No self-respecting student or lecturer would think of smashing windows and occupying the lobby of Tory HQ: it isn't effective, it doesn't help them win sympathy with the electorate and it makes them look like a childish mob of sponges.

I'm afraid that the column inches proclaiming the beginning of a generational shift are premature at best. However, I think they are right that there is more to come, as there will be more marches, many thousands of genuinely upset citizens will come to London for their disparate causes, bringing their placards and their righteous indignation, but the one's tearing up Starbucks and hammering RBS will be the same every time.

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