London looks a little ropey today. A little forlorn and rough around the edges. Its benches sit blackened atop one another. Its vast white stone walls sport newly daubed tattoes of paint and offensive slogans. Metal crash barriers lie on the streets and pavements, twisted out of shape. Lawns have been trampled by kettled students, muddy and littered with discarded placards; some of which display mispelt slogans which demonstrate just why their bearers are so desperately in need of higher education. On the day that the government decreed that universities could change fees of up to £9000 per year, thousands of students took to the streets of London, and left their ugly mark.
These student (and I use that term loosely given the blatant hijacking of these protests by destructive vandals, acting in the name of anarchy) protests have got me angry. Both as a student and as a Londoner. Yes, it's expensive to go to university, because it is a privilege, not a right. The precious skills we learn at university should stand us in good stead for a solid, financially secure future. Why should we be given this gift for free? It is an investment. We are buying the skills and instructive words of academics and tutors, the access to world-class libraries and learning resources, accomodation and food. Even with the new increased costs the UK remains one of the most financially competitive places to study. Students in the US can expect to pay in a single year more than we could pay for a three year degree course. I am fortunate that I can afford my own fees, which are not inconsiderable, but in order to do so I have to work a full-time job. And it's tough. Very tough. (My social life has taken a colossal hit, and the least said about my sleep patterns the better!)
I would hate for anyone to feel they could not pursue a dream simply due to financial restraints, but there are always methods to achieve one's deepest desires. And they should not resort to the desecration of a city and violence against those who have no control over the protest issue. Setting fire to a Christmas tree and defiling a monument to those who fought and died to allow us to live in peace, are protests against freedom and happiness, and an attack on a city desperately trying to fnd something to celebrate amidst the doom and gloom of the media, and our new-found Arctic weather. What on earth will be achieved in graffiti-ing a statue of a former government leader, now long gone, and with absolutely no control over his political successors?
It saddens me, and other Londoners, to see our city violated in such a manner. What harm has London ever done to students? It has given them homes, and locations for learning. Its inhabitants have given them lecturers and admin staff and fellow students. Pity our local policemen and their poor bewildered horses (and yes ok, I know they were armed, and it got a bit six of one, half a dozen of the other regarding violent behaviour) who are also dealing with the effects of the government's cuts. When the protesters and anarchists are safely back home a new army will be mobilised, to clean up the mess they made. This army will set to work scrubbing stonework and sweeping rubbish and righting toppled street furniture. And within weeks the city will look much as it did before the events of yesterday. The vote has passed, fees will rise - what was really achieved yesterday?