Like lots of other people, I have been thinking a lot about riotous students.
I have three main thoughts.
Firstly, why is this such big news? I can’t help thinking that, frankly, today’s students are doing exactly what students are meant to do. Students should be expected to react like this: if you cannot protest when you’re a student, when can you? Indeed, it is their job to protest! They do it for the rest of us – and that challenge is vital. Youth need to hold us to account.
This is not to condone riotous behaviour – but really, they’re just doing their job.
I was a teenager in the 1970s. I remember watching young people rioting in London – protesting against the American war in Vietnam, protesting against racist political parties and the economic hardship brought about by unemployment.
The surprise is that students lost the habit of rioting in the late 1980s and 1990s. Maybe those students – parents of the people who have been taking to the streets recently – forgot how, too eager instead to enjoy economic prosperity.
The kind of prosperity which their riotous offspring are unlikely to enjoy.
Second, they are right to be angry. Their parents’ and parents’ parents’ generations have spent all the money, mismanaged the environment and generally had a great time leaving future generations – most obviously today’s students – to pick up the bill. And we’re not giving them a choice. David Cameron may be repeating “we’re in this together” until someone believes him, but we’re not. The middle aged and elderly will be long gone when today’s students are still paying off our bills. No one should be surprised that they are angry. They should be angrier.
Third, for decades politicians have been lamenting the political apathy displayed by young people. Well, be careful what you wish for. At last, the young are reacting to their situation and taking an interest.