Protests are sweet. A protest, like the upcoming protest next Thursday, is a chance for the people to be seen and counted, and it does change things. Without the labor protests at the end of the 19th century there would be no middle class and without protests at the beginning of the 21st century, this class will disappear once again into the depths. Protests exercise your First Amendment rights. They’re like crunches for the constitution.
Exercising the constitution is exercising an America that is simultaneously malnourished and overweight. The same administration that feels the need to curtail the Bill of Rights because of the dangers of made-up threats like WMD’s and terrorist networks doesn’t feel that Americans necessarily need to know about what the government does. Every press secretary the White House regurgitates from the bowels of Hell is well versed in a doublespeak that has allowed the Bush White House to lie and mislead the American people. It’s important to remain active in an America and a world where free market capitalism seems to be slowly slipping into a form of neo-feudalism. The middle class is disappearing, wages are slipping, and most people who graduate from a UC school want to be rich. Looking at the current trends, it is evident that this won’t happen unless we step up and demand that we as a people have a voice.
What I know about the protest I know only from fliers, but I support it because I feel like this is an important protest especially because it combines two ideas that seem more separated than they really are: high tuition and the war in Iraq. Though these two ideas seem disparate they are actually two symptoms of the same disease: That of a republic that is becoming increasingly unrepresentative of its people. I’m talking about the corporatization of America and the effect it will have on the average American if it is allowed to continue.
The same trends that have led our congress away from its constituents and towards the almighty dollar have also led our universities astray. Our universities were never completely about giving power to the people. Fifty years ago our universities balanced its educational and economic responsibilities evenly, creating well-informed and critical undergraduates while, at the same time, creating a skilled, workforce of automatons for employers. While there is still a little of the first, corporate universities like UCSB have become increasingly concerned with the second. Corporate universities work to have larger classes to cut costs. Classes that don’t attract crowds are cut, no matter how educational their subject matter may be. At the same time tuition is jumping up the quality of education the students receive is falling. UCSB is especially corporate among American universities, with most of our patents getting bought by the military industrial complex and dark deals with the federal government to manage our nation’s nuclear and advanced weapons laboratories. If the university helps find you a job before you leave here, there is a good chance that job will take place in a small cubicle in a large corporation and 90 percent of the rest of your life will involve pretending you aren’t a tool for the man.
At the same time, America is fighting several wars that the American people were essentially duped into fighting, and the middle class is paying for it while the corporations are making mad cash money. The middle class will be paying off the $8.3 trillion deficit at the rate of $28,423 per person. That’s a whole lot of Ramen noodles. Minimum wages laws aren’t enough. As wages rise, so do the prices of commodities. What is necessary for the middle classes of America is to pull out of Iraq. We may have shocked and awed, but she just isn’t going to come.
Still, the U.S. government won’t pull out and the university will continue to assume that we want to be tools until we stand up. Iraq and tuition are the problems for everyone in the middle class of America and we have a clear interest in expressing ourselves. If we don’t stand now, we stand to lose even that liberty.