Monthly Archives: April 2009

G20 protest- Gee, what a showing, but will they take notice?

First published at http://www.pluto-online.com/?p=1765

What a decade! As New Labour staggers to its timely death, this could be the most telling week we, the people, have had since the demonstrations against the Iraq War. Hopefully this one will actually make a difference.

The emergency G20 summit is due to open today- yes, April Fool’s Day could not have been any more fitting- and people are pissed off!


Activists and even usual apathetics are coming together, putting their differences aside and sticking it straight to the man in what the Guardian termed a ‘rainbow alliance’.


Whether they’re campaigning against globalization, capitalism, or war, for measures to combat climate change or for justice, a band of somewhat unlikely bed fellows has taken shape.


Everyone from trade unions, student groups like People and Planet, our old friends the CND (campaign for nuclear disarmament) and so-called ‘radical academics’ are taking to the streets.


So apt that the summit, and therefore the protests, are taking place in London where we have seen the mighty, gluttonous financial system’s vital organs burst.


Workers in the capital, including those at MTV were told to “dress down” so they would not be mistaken for disbanded City workers and targeted by the angry mob. The Met said before Saturday, the first day of demonstrations, that they expected it to be ‘very violent’ but goaded that they were ‘up for it, and up to it’.


Would these threats encourage violence so the protesters would undermine their cause? Or were they a warning made to discourage peaceful campaigners from joining the national picket line? Either way, the threat didn’t work and the violence didn’t materialize.


Because we aren’t the criminals here.


People’s disdain for the once lauded bankers manifested itself in an attack on Sir (I use the term very loosely) Fred Goodwin’s swanky villa. Criminality isn’t the answer of course. But the government should be asking itself why people feel they have to resort to such tactics in what should be a representative democracy.


Responsibility was taken by the group ‘Bank bosses are criminals‘ and whilst police action hasn’t been taken against any bankers in this country, they are said to be pursuing the perpetrators of what is probably best described as a petty crime.


UKFI, the body created to handle the government’s stakes in nationalised banks, is ‘considering’ using its (our) 70% stake to vote against a motion justifying Fred the Shreds hefty pension package. Finally! Why are they not getting the picture?


A video emerged last week of Tory MEP (why did he have to be a Tory?) Daniel Hannan giving Gordon Brown a royal roasting. The camera flicked to a typically defiant Brown who appeared to snigger and then continue with his game of noughts and crosses.


But many of you will still be asking, of all the different avenues of showing our disgust is anyone really going to take any notice?


After all, until now, and even now, there appears to be an unspoken conspiracy.

Everyone knows that quantative easing, printing money, won’t really work. It will devalue our currency. Everyone knows that some, many, maybe even all of our politicians, across party lines, have been taking advantage of an imperfect system that could not prepare itself for crafty lawyers and their legal loopholes.


So maybe that’s why no one can wear the white suite of Martin Bell and come out against corruption. The government, the business leaders and the media.


But Barack Obama is a fresh face at the conference. Could the public outrage and peaceful protest, coupled with this brilliant man, be the key to a future full of truthful politicians, free from greed in a world with a clear view to tackling climate change, poverty and war?


Is this too much to ask? As always in the politics of the day, only time can tell.


Anyway, the next important date for your diary? If a vote of no confidence isn’t taken against Brown any sooner, it will be the next General Election in May 2010. Ten years into the millennium that promised so much.


Here, again, the people will have their say, and as Mr Hannan finished on last week, the voters: “can see what the markets have already seen; that you are the devalued Prime Minister of a devalued Government.”

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Students as consumers- the great university debate

First published at http://www.pluto-online.com/?p=1768

The debate is rumbling on about where we go on funding for university.

The NUS has been protesting in London against removing the cap on top-up fees. But what is really at issue here?

In these hard economic times, we need, and need to be world-class graduates that can compete in the global markets and excel in our given fields.

China, India, Brazil and Russia, the growing economies, have seen their chance to shine here, and are understandably grasping it with both hands.

A lecturer comments on an article on the Independent Online that many UK students (I’d have preferred it if he’d made it clear that it wasn’t all) are wasting their degrees:

“Because they are constantly told that they are ‘customers’, students increasingly assume that getting a degree is simply about being spoon-fed, and taught to the test, in return for paying their 3,000.

“There is alarmingly little appreciation that learning/studying is an interactive, two-way process.

“The same mindset also means that a growing number of students are choosing whether or not to turn up for (compulsory) classes, on the grounds that ‘If I don’t attend lectures or seminars, it’s my money I’m wasting, so why should you care? Besides, you can’t afford to kick me off the course, because you need my fees!’”

He continued: “Many students today have an alarming inability or unwillingness to think independently or engage intellectually. They expect everything to be done for them (consumer ‘rights’, naturally), and many of them seem far more interested in spending their days and nights text-messaging or playing on their Facebook sites than reading books.”

Can you say it doesn’t sound a little familiar? We’re a pretty despondent group by all accounts. Many are scraping through, blowing their loans and not ending up in a career worth the money.

However they decide to solve the funding issue- they might consider removing the cap and allow better universities to charge more, a progressive tax or a sort of tax after education- are universities producing the high-quality graduates necessary for the future, to improve on a knowledge-based economy?

In January this year, the BBC wrote that intake to UK universities is at “an all-time high. It [the government] wants more than half of young people to go on to higher education.

However, they went on to say that: “The number of UK students at UK universities fell from 1.97 million in 2007 to 1.96 million last year.” The drop is more than likely a funding issue than a realization that university might be a waste of time. Plus, what are the other options?

Oxbridge and the Russell Group universities still out-perform, as always. And these graduates are apparently getting twice as much contact time for their money. But would allowing these institutions to charge more yet again price some out of education?

Universities are depending upon international students for their income, some charging almost seven times what the natives are asked for, is this really fair? And it seems part-time students are getting a raw deal. But is doing a degree on that basis more or less useful? It is obviously necessary for some learners but is six years too long to get something that might ultimately not bag you your ideal career?

Current undergrads have been perpetual guinea pigs of New Labour. Third years will have been half way through primary school when Tony and his cronies got their optimistic but misguided mitts on our futures. Coming to the end of its natural life, we might have been able to breathe a sigh of relief- the end of meddling and patching-up. But no, the mess could take years to clear up. Because what is the answer?

And what of the tutor’s comments? Is many student’s treatment of their degrees another example of ‘rights without responsibility’? Everyone has the right to go, but what responsibility comes with it?

University was at one time only for the privileged, why are we all not more grateful of the privilege we have been given?