Month: September 2002

We Shall Not Be Motivated

The NUS’s ‘Grants Not Loans’ rally: In the words of Channel 4’s Jon Snow, a “return to the days of political activism” for the nation’s student population. Or was it?

How many of the thousands of students who attended the march really gave a toss about free access to education? Fifty? Sixty? They were easy enough to spot: they were the ones with the megaphones and the ‘NUS Marshall’ t-shirts. And what about the other 15,840 – the ones who were just there for the craic, the chance to be on TV and the vain hope that they might not have to pay back their student loan? They were easy to spot too: they were the ones with the Diesel jeans, Ericsson T39s and nothing better to do.

Take for example the notoriously apathetic student body of my alma mata, The Nottingham Trent University.

The university’s Union of Students – already massively in debt due to students deserting their (subsidised) student bars in favour of Nottingham’s growing number of (very un-subsidised) theme-bars – was so desperate to encourage its punters to support the march that it published a full page advert in Platform, NTU’s campus newspaper, reminding readers of the benefits of marching on the capital.

And exactly what, according to the advert, are the main reasons to attend a march to highlight student poverty?

‘The march only lasts for a few hours so, after you’ve finished demonstrating your crazy student antics for the TV cameras, there’ll be plenty of time for shopping, shopping, and more shopping’.

So, a strong message from Nottingham Trent University then…

What do we want? More money in our pockets.

When do we want it? Before the shops shut.

Dumb Britain

This week’s ban on British beef by France caused something of a problem for our nation’s red-top tabloids.

The import restrictions, which are in direct breach of a European Court ruling – not to mention the fundamental principles of the common market – were met with predictable outrage from the Sun who fumed that “the French were threatening the EU’s legal credibility”. Zoze nazty froggiez.

But hang on a second. Isn’t this the same Sun who, only last month, questioned the legitimacy of the EC’s ruling on metric measures? The very same Sun who, with the backing of the vast majority of its readers, demanded that Britain should be allowed to make its own laws without Europe poking its nose in? Why, yes it is.

But we can’t have it both ways. Either we want free movement of goods – even if it does mean that old women will get muddled and greengrocers will have to use a tiny bit more chalk on their pricing boards – or we want to play by our own set of rules – in which case we can’t complain when the French do the same.

Of course, the root cause of all this hypocrisy is the immense pride we take in knowing fuck all about Europe. While school children in other member states are being taught about the economic implications of the euro, the pros and cons of a central European judicial system and the motives behind free movement of goods and people, our European learning stops at August 1945. And it’s not just kids – adults are even worse, whining as we do that Europe (or ‘Brussels’) will ‘undermine Britain’s national identity and sovereignty’.

Of course it will. Or at least it would if our foreign policy decisions weren’t already being made in Washington, our entertainment and culture wasn’t being piped in from Los Angeles and our high street coffee shops, clothing and computer software weren’t being pre-fabricated in Seattle. After all our national dish is curry (or possibly Chinese), our national costume is Gap, our national currency is the Visa card and our national inflection is Australian. what exactly do we have left to lose? Our national xenophobia?

At least that one’s solid.

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