Friday, December 10, 2010

Books not bombs

I came out of a meeting at Mallet Street and behold, there was a large demonstration. I remember demonstrations from the 1970s, gradually dissipating the energy of the 1960s. This was like, and unlike, anything I had seen before. There were many similarities. There was the ‘Socialist Workers Party’ out in force. This is one of a few relics of organisations that survive from the old days. Oddly titled: what is this idea of ‘workers’? They were handing out hundreds of flags stapled onto sticks, no doubt assembled in some third world sweatshop. There were young people with stuff painted on their faces: a hippy custom that survived in the backwaters of Glastonbury and has always been there, really, without us realising what it really was in its essential nature. There were people lecturing the crowd in that odd Sid James/Ben Elton old-fashioned ‘workers’ accent that no young Londoner actually speaks . And lots of banging on drums and stuff. All this was familiar from the 1970s

But the scale and energy of it was beyond anything I had experienced. I stayed for ten minutes to listen to the speeches. Short, compressed angry sentences, followed by swelling angry noises from the crowds. Grandiose sentiments (one of them calling for an immediate general strike). Although I was only there for a short time, at the beginning of the march, it was clear it was going to be very big (as indeed it was). And though I am too old to be a victim of naïve sentiment, I succumbed to naïve sentiment. The rise in tuition fees takes the expense of education to impossible levels. Education will suffer. In particular, the classics, medieval studies, all the stuff that is not obviously ‘vocational’ will suffer. So, books are good. Bombs are bad. Support books.

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