In protest of passivity
(December 16, 1999, Gazette)
By Kelley Power
I overheard a conversation the other day between two people who were discussing the upcoming new millennium ... and promptly ran away, my head between my hands, screaming.
I tell you this to let you know that, like many, I am millenniumed-out. Im not worried about a breakdown in civilization or the onset of Armageddon on Dec. 31; the boredom of hearing it talked about incessantly is going to kill me long before then.
So, rest assured that I wont be dedicating this, the last Gazette Student View of the century, to apocalyptic prediction.
However, in spite of my obvious aversion to Y2K fever, I cant help but recognize at least one good thing that has come from it: reflection. The media have latched on to the concept, running articles and airing programs that detail the important events and people of the past year, decade, century and millennium.
This climate of recollection and meditation got me to thinking about my position in society as a student. I wondered about the role students, as a group, have had in societal change over the past few decades.
What immediately came to mind was the student movement of the 1960s. For about a decade, students on campuses all over North America began rebelling against the status quo, staging demonstrations on everything from free speech to racism. Bras were burned and buildings were barricaded.
In one incident, a number of students at Sir George Williams (now Concordia) occupied the computer centre of the university. The actions of the students were in protest of what they considered unjust findings in an investigation of charges of racism by six black students against a faculty member.
From Simon Fraser to the University of Toronto, Canadian students demonstrated under the banner of social justice, often at the expense of being labelled communist sympathisers.
Many times, though, dissatisfaction with university administration was behind student activism. Seeking a larger role in decisions that affected the organization and curriculum of their institutions, students protested what was perceived to be the undemocratic structure of postsecondary schools.
I feel their
dissent must have had some effect, as today we are able to enjoy
the benefits of organized student representation. At Memorial
we have the MUNSU and GSU, while at the provincial and federal
levels, respectively, the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation
of Students and the Canadian Federation of Students look out
for our interests.
Well, looking back on some of the changes that my fellow tuition-payers were so involved in bringing about in past decades, I began to feel a bit guilty. It seems as though I, along with many other students, have slipped into a state of complacency.
Sure, we occasionally get our backs up about student debt and proposed government cuts to post-secondary education funding.
But I didnt draw up a placard and protest at Confederation Building when the tax payer-funded, Coast Guard-hosted, lobster tail dinner fiasco came to light. Although, when reading the story in the Telegram, all I found myself wondering, How much more money is being spent in that fashion while Im looking at a $20,000 debt come April?
And, not that I dont appreciate the need to commemorate Memorials upcoming multiple anniversaries, but I have a wristwatch I dont need a clock tower so that I can tell the time from anywhere on campus. What I, and many others, do need is cheaper tuition.
But again, Im only an armchair activist. I dont protest and I dont petition. My greatest act of civil disobedience is sticking out my tongue at the campus enforcement people when I find them writing me a ticket just as Im getting back to my car.
Where does this complacency come from?
Perhaps the need for most students to work while attending university leaves little time for them to become dedicated to a cause.
Maybe now that our society has reached a state of gender and racial equality or at least we like to believe it has we feel that the important issues have been addressed.
In truth, I dont really believe that our complacency has so innocent a basis. As ashamed as I am to say it, I think that its probably selfishness which keeps us from voicing any discontent with the status quo.
Who cares if we have a little student debt problem? And its really not such a big deal that young people cant seem to find work in their fields in this province. Me, I know that if worse came to worse I could depend on my family for help with my loan and I have no responsibilities tying me to Newfoundland; I can leave for greener pastures whenever I like.
about people who dont have the financial safety net that
some of us have? Many students declare bankruptcy within a few
years of graduating. And not everyone can simply move to another
province for work; familial and financial responsibilities can
Its one thing to gripe about the deplorable condition of the world from the living room couch; picking up a sign and standing in the road to protest human rights violations is another. Although, lately it seems that all youll get for your trouble is a shot of pepper spray.
So whats the cure for this societal selfishness? It seems to me a bit of moral self-evaluation is in order. Evolution might promote survival of the fittest and thats fine for two dogs fighting over table scraps but inherited privilege and circumstance are not excuses for ignoring the difficulties of others.
me I should take my own advise and get my head out of the sand.
The students in decades before me engineered a small revolution
despite all the sex, drugs and rock n roll; Im sure
I can manage something.