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Confusion in the ranks

December 12, 2010

Student protest in Westminster, December 2010

PROTEST. DEMO. VIOLENCE. STUDENTS. These words have dominated the press for the last few weeks and will probably do so for many weeks to come. Following Thursday’s demonstration, it appears that everyone has taken the opportunity to voice their upset and outrage at the events of the supposedly peaceful protest. The police have scattered, fences have been removed, graffiti has been cleared and students, police, politicians and royals have had their say in the national press.

What they have had to say, however, has had very little to do with the key issue – regardless of the demonstrations, the excuses, the promises, the future of education in this country has been altered and nobody quite knows what the knock-on effects are going to be. Yet, because of the actions of a group of unruly and unthoughtful wannabe anarchists, the nation has been diverted away from the potential damage and devastation that may be caused by this government legislation and focused on the futile vandalism of a few immature troublemakers.

Newspaper coverage of the student protests

We must, sadly, face up to the truth of an uncertain future, for we are living in an age of uncertainty. Economic safety and security are things of the past, faith in politicians seems to have evaporated entirely and we are left wondering whether we should be rushing to stock up on riot shields and steel fences to prepare for what may be around the corner.

Surely the inexplicable vulgarity and violence of the student protests acts as clear evidence that young people in this country need to be given direction and guidance. Instead they are left with looming debt and unemployment, hardly a positive outlook for anyone, especially those who are, and forgive the cliche here, in the prime of their lives.

Whilst I empathise with those who felt outrage, anger and upset at the actions of those few violent demonstrators, I urge everyone to focus on what might come, rather than what has been. Things are going to change; the dynamic of this already weakened country will be altered and it is vital that we learn from these early mistakes. It is highly likely that we are all going to want to lash out over the coming months, punish the government for their seemingly cavalier decisions and perhaps even graffiti a building in an attempt to make our voices heard. Who knows, perhaps in a few months the police will be the ones at the forefront of the demonstrations, waving their batons at Westminster in defiance as police funding is cut.

What we need to do is see past the anger and the violence and focus, instead, on the potential solutions. Forgive me for saying so (here, my student side emerges) but I have a lack of faith in the government to come up with any real optimistic improvements until they have completed their mission to push through every unimaginable piece of legislation they can. It is up to us then, to offer support to the groups of people hardest hit by the various cuts and, at this point in time, it is students throughout Britain who need this most. Do not blame the majority for the actions of so small a group and understand the uncertainty and the negativity that is dominating their future plans.

See past the media upset and the national outrage and understand that the decision made on Thursday is only the beginning of something much bigger. Until we face up to the reality of political change we can only expect more anarchy and upset to dominate our streets and our papers.

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