However, they certainly didn't make it easier on themselves by launching their incursion concurrent to China's "60th birthday" bash and the G20 clusterfuck in Pittsburgh. Doubtlessly, this coincidence was intended to highlight the shortcomings of the post-globalised economic model, but being 2600 miles away from the action in a town often derided as a patchouli-soaked corral for space cadets & pinkos is not the best strategy for scoring headlines, let alone sympathy.
Lest someone think I'm not on the students' side, let me be clear: education is a fundamental right, not a privilege, and the keystone to any society that can even pretend to be free. Distended tuition costs, the erosion of available scholarships, and funding diverted like water from Noah Cross' Los Angeles pose as great (if not a greater) threat than any nebulous group of extremists broadcasting ill-defined grievances from caves.
That being said, a well-funded & equitably accessible secondary education doesn't do shit for a country without a functioning primary education system. Speaking of too many students chasing too few dollars, the only state with a high school graduation rate above 80% that is also among the 20 most populous states is New Jersey, and 26 of the 50 largest school districts see fewer than 60% of their students complete high school. The most dreadful failures are the cities:
- Chicago (52.2%)
- Los Angeles (44.2%)
- New York City (38.9%)
- Baltimore (38.5%)
- Detroit (21.7%)
Another, more manageable problem facing the UCSC protesters is how they're presenting themselves & their agenda. They're flush with the same spurious romanticism as every placard-waving pseud & bumper-sticker doctrinaire from the past forty years, but because I'm sympathetic to their ends I'd like to offer them a little advice. I first thought it best to address them in their own language - that is, in a needlessly declarative, excessively florid manifesto that's as impalpable & impractical as a Japanese anti-smoking ad. But in the interest of avoiding doublespeak, I've decided to employ the more direct method of a concise list.
- "Occupation" isn't a term that rings progressive - quite the opposite. It smacks of subjugation & imperialism; just ask any Palestinian or Iraqi. May I suggest "engagement" or "reclamation"?
- If grad students are going to take anything over, they'd perhaps want to infiltrate an environment that isn't, according to this UCSC spokesman, paid for, operated by, and "used by graduate students for everything from studying to a lounge area." That's like a second-amendment rights rally "occupying" a NASCAR track. City hall, the state legislature, or even the university administrative offices might make for more effectively sensitive targets.
- For god's sake, don't blast weak-ass reggae over the PA. You'll turn yourself into a South Park stereotype.
- Do not make dangerously contradictory statements for sake of rousing the rabble. Do not proclaim that "older strategies of political action and involvement have proven themselves entirely incapable of enacting change" while employing tactics as dog-eared & assimilated as sit-ins, especially on neutral terrain. All this proves is that your revolt is but one of the squeaky wheels on the apparatus that does, on occasion, start shrieking for a little oil. Sounding the death knell of capitalism while accepting that crisis is inherent to the system itself demands concrete directions towards an exit off this hellish roundabout, not some garnished eulogy.
- Speaking of concrete directions, how about making some explicit directives? Its laughable petulance aside, "WE WANT EVERYTHING" is as meaningless a demand as "WE WANT NOTHING" in that it points to nothing as a goal. If what "we" want isn't yet clear, we should at least be able to express what we don't want and issue demands in the negative. Even to demand the impossible is more effective than demanding "everything": again, the impossible at least offers some imaginable (albeit amoebic) ends towards which to work.
- If you want to be taken seriously, don't cull your slogans from cloying cocaine-nosebleed disco or self-involved emo "anthems"; do not ironically appropriate Bonnie Tyler lyrics; don't make presumptive statements about "the working class" or "proletarian" anyone unless you're damn certain you can count them amongst your ranks; and for crying out loud, don't declare that "we are power hungry." That makes you sound like a bunch of authoritarian thugs.
Below are some tunes dedicated to those fighting to get their learn on; click on the mix title to download.
The Revolutionary Gesture
1. The Birthday Party - "Mutiny In Heaven"
2. Metallica - "For Whom The Bell Tolls"
3. Harvey Milk - "War"
4. Nation Of Ulysses - "Target: U.S.A."
5. GZA - "I Gotcha Back"
6. The Clash - "The Guns of Brixton"
7. Erykah Badu - "Soldier"
8. Hoyt Ming and His Pep Steppers - "Indian War Whoop"
9. Spacemen 3 - "Revolution"
10. Michael Yonkers - "Kill the Enemy"
11. Lungfish - "Black Helicopters"
12. Pelt - "Hippy War Machine"
13. The Stranglers - "No More Heroes"
Updated (Oct. 4): Ads Without Products makes an invaluable expansion upon my last point, regarding the "adolescent insanity" of "toussled-haired hipsters, laptopped and bespectacled," fancying themselves urban guerrillas.