Saturday, 27 November 2010

I watched the news today, oh boy...

...and I saw a lot of nonsense about how two streets in London have been closed to traffic the better to facilitate the annual orgy of rampant consumerism with which we traditionally celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. All this on Buy Nothing Day too. Who says the arse-licking corporate media don't have a sense of irony?

Curious by its absence from the media, however, has been news of the ongoing student occupations of many major universities in protest at the coalition's assault on the right to higher education and their wider cuts agenda. The suppression of free speech can take many forms - one of them is ignorance and concentration on the trivial.

So against the silence of the media - who, as we've seen elsewhere on this blog, can be bothered to take an interest in the affairs of marginalised people when it suits them - I figured I might use this blog to link to all the occupations currently going on. Universities currently occupied are:


The University of West England, Bristol

Manchester Metropolitan University

The School of Oriental and African Studies

Edinburgh University

Sheffield University

Many other universities have been occupied, but students have either been evicted by riot police or forced out using siege tactics like denying them access to toilet facilities. A good list of all places where occupations have been in effect is the Solidaritree graphic on the Occupied Oxford site, and there's also a good list down the side of the Newcastle blog. And the UCL occupation, which is in many ways the flagship occupation now, goes from strength to strength, attracting messages and gestures of support from figures like Billy Bragg, Richard Herring and the mighty Noam Chomsky.

All these protests are peaceful, all these protests are ongoing and all are being carried out not by mobs but by students concerned about a government that is actively trying to destroy their future and that of their relatives. They are protesting against a society where corporations like Vodafone can get away with having their tax bills declared null and void, where the bankers who caused the crisis carry on paying each other massive bonuses with no reprisals from the government, where the young are invoked as a reason why 'we need to tackle the deficit now' - and are then made to pay for the deficit anyway as the government removes their right to education.

But because no-one has smashed a window, dropped a fire extinguisher or attacked a suspiciously-positioned police van, the media have refused to cover these ongoing gestures of resistance to kyriarchy. The revolution may well not be televised. But with Twitter, Facebook and the blogosphere, it almost doesn't matter. The mainstream media refusing to cover a story isn't the kiss of death anymore. In a variation of the Streisand Effect, even suppression by ignorance doesn't make the story go away. All it does is make it more transparent whose interests the media really serves, hastening the media and the kyriarchal regime's decline into irrelevance.

The truth will out, always. And truth will be spoken to power, no matter how much those in power hate it. Power may try to suppress; power may try to ignore; power may try to punish, with riot police and other kinds of sanction: it doesn't matter. As I put it in my poem Class? War?, published in the Emergency Verse anthology - and which I used to finish my recent, well-received set at the inaugural WordJazz event - 'what we deserve, we will demand; you won't deny us.'

I finished that gig on Thursday by saying 'fight the power', which sounded a little odd in my girly little voice (I'm not exactly Zack de la Rocha, after all), but seemed like the only suitable way to finish in these turbulent times. A strange, jarring way for a poet who looks like a Primark Antony Hegarty , and identifies most strongly as a writer with an ancient Amherst poetess with one of history's most famous cases of the vapours, to end a set, but then, I suppose, these are strange times.

So...y'know, fight the power, yeah?

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