Grenfell Tower – it’s our fault

It doesn’t matter if you’re left or right-wing (although why we still only have two linear options to choose from in a world where even movies are 3 dimensional is beyond me), this roaring fire that devastated a community is an unwarranted tragedy, and one that could have been avoided. But I’m not just talking about the government report that was sat on for four years, and the failings of the refurbishment that did not update the tower’s fire safety; I’m not just talking about the government and its mistakes – I’m talking about our mistakes. Of the many things that happen that could have been avoided had we changed our attitudes earlier.

The government is not some evil, establishment run by robots. It is run by people who were born into this society and its beliefs systems; the government is not the problem, the government is a symptom of the problem that has taken roots in the homes of billions around the world. We get the government we deserve, and it’s time the liberal middle class stopped pretending to be so damned shocked by the acts of the government when it makes the same decisions every day.

I am from a middle-class background, I went to a private school, the door to a higher education was open to me and I took it gladly. As per most stories of education, I learnt through my peers more than my professors of literature about politics, social injustice and philosophy. I thought having this knowledge could help me change things, but I didn’t even think about my part in keeping ‘the system’ oiled. I didn’t want to.

All of us – especiallly the “highly-educated” are really fucking great at talking. Let’s take global warming, for example: How many liberals and conservatives are shocked by the fact people like Trump don’t think global warming exists? Fucking loads, mate. And yet, how many of them have read papers on the topic? And how many of them own cars and take planes? I’m guilty as sin of that, I take about 4 planes a year and I had a car so that I could get more jobs when I was a freelancer. Did I need the money? Well, no, clearly, because I had the funds to buy a car. But I whispered soothing words to myself about having more freedom and the good it would do me. Freedom? What do I know of freedom? Nothing, because I interchange the word ‘leisure’ with ‘freedom’ just to justify a selfish cause. I interchange the words leisure and pleasure and desire with ‘freedom’ because how could I truly know anything about a lack of freedom when I come from a background where all doors were opened to me and my social movement was not only expected, but entitled.

I am entitled – to the extent where I can swap in the words “I want” for “I need”. Most of my class are entitled, despite, perhaps, personal difficulties. This entitlement means I get the pick of opportunity and it means I get time to choose. It means my accent will never have me turned away from a job; it means I can categorise certain jobs as ‘beneath me’. The skin that I was born into entitles me to everything I need to advance. And yet, rather than using it to advance others, I want to save my own skin. It means I take from those who need it more in order to advance myself. That’s the real skin I was born into. The one many of us were born into.

How many of us hate that inflated property prices keep people from ever securing a place of their own and even dependent on council housing, and yet dream of being a landlord to have an ‘extra revenue’? How many of us vilify the government for cutting corners on Grenfell Tower’s refurbishment to save 1.4 million, and yet use chain brands and businesses at a discount rather than supporting local enterprise? How many of us think the government’s choice of spending that money to ‘prettify’, rather than secure, those homes is disgusting, and yet readily spend hundreds on our own image before giving a fiver to someone living on the streets? How many of us criticise the 369 million put aside for refurbishing Buckingham Palace compared to the 5 million fund for Greenfell residents, yet spend more money on gifts and treats for inner circles than donations?

How many of us hate the beast of capitalism yet fall to our knees before it?

The government’s not the fucking problem – we are the fucking problem: Us, society, the status quo that we maintain because the only way to find even a sliver of identity in this geo-palace of a world is in the eyes of someone else. The only way to find a glimpse of purpose when survival isn’t a stake is ideological babble. We are slaves to our fucking ideological opinions – so much so that we don’t even see our own individual hypocrisy. Hypocrisy that enslaves many more around us in far less safe positions – like 24 storey tower blocks that burn with a lust to rival even that of our own consumption.

Circling

The circle of a belly is where love first nourishes life. The point of the artist’s brush is but the smallest circle. The circling of sounds became language. On our curved horizon birds circle the air; the predator circles the prey, the mother her child. Dancers circle the floor and paradise circles above our heads. But the very nature of a circle is its completeness; the last action of a coffee mug is the stained ring it leaves on the wooden table. We engage in the completeness of the circle by being utterly incomplete and separate from the being at the centre. And the centre point of everything is that which cannot be touched lest the circle’s round fullness collapses in on itself, and becomes a broken mutation of its birth.

How can two things designed to be separate become one? How can that which is born as singular become conjoined without damaging some part of itself? A hole drilled in a block allows for additions, but even as the newly born table stands proud and ready, the sawdust of its interior scatters the floor and renders it incomplete. That which circles is whole, but once the attraction is consummated, death occurs and the birth of incompletion, of necessity, of the loss of oneself buried or accepted in the other – sparks fly in the very destruction of oneness – invites two things to be the centre of something much larger than themselves. Like the membrane of a bubble, it glimmers and undulates around them. Entrapment, perhaps. Its skin unbreakable, unless the now unicells wish to fall out and become whole once more. How much more difficult to remember one’s own completeness after sparks have penetrated the armour we call self.

And for those who do not heal, who were created to be solid and cornered and welded to their purpose, how can they risk entering another’s circle together and meeting in destruction when the devil’s tongue promises to lick them to ash in this life? How can they know ash is free to circle and become, and survive even the passion of Vesuvius, who drenched in fire all who circled it. Love an impossibility for self-defined dimensions that burn in the flame of that which was the centre of all beings long before we became gods and decreed ourselves complete without.

Fuck ‘politics’ – we must create our own

Our understanding of politics is the most nocuous of evils that allows corruption and malpractice to flourish. It is the compost keeping alive this knotted and broken tree of ‘democracy’, only for it to fall its leaves of disappointment each cycle, made up of decaying ideas that politics is only for a type of person, the soil the cotton of the handkerchiefs they tote in their top pockets. It is the dialogue of professional speakers – for what else are they, as I see no action, only consequence – that spits a lexicon few understand and even fewer want to. It is the gated fences and spiked walls protecting those who are meant to protect us from us and our ideas. It is the inheritance of power transferred through family name and friends’ bank accounts. So is our understanding of politics, but it is not the definition of politics.

What Collins Dictionary has to say about politics is this:
1) it is the practice of the art of forming, directing and administrating states
2) the complex or aggregate relationships of people in society

I see no mention there of The Left or The Right or cut-glass accents or millionaires or Oval Offices or Lords or parliaments or government. I see no mention there of rivalries or fights or concepts being made more important than the people who spouse them. I see there art, relationships, people. This is the true definition of politics, this is what politics must become for the first time. And this cannot happen unless our generation become engaged in the fight to deliver the truth of the art of politics as empowering the relationships of people in society.

Our generation is so broken, so defeated, so tired – and yet, still angry. We are angry with nowhere to put our anger, because we have no faith in what we see to be politics – politicians, parties, the linear scale of a moral code. We must take this anger, we must take this anger and disembowel the falsities of our system, disembowel the crippling belief that change is impossible, or could only make our world worse. If we produce a real politics, a politics of the people in the vision of art, then there is hope.

Fuck the ideas of what it means to be a politician, what education you should have pursued and what party you pledge your eternal alliegance to. These parties aren’t good enough for us; the politics created by past generations that currently wreacks havoc on the world isn’t good enough for us. However, our art, and our relationships are good enough, they are the one thing we hold on to that keeps us breathing in the morning when we wake up in the dystopic present – and so they are good enough for our future, they are good enough to create ideas. They are enough to empower us as individuals every day, so let them empower us together as a community and effect change rather than shoulder consequence.

Everyone seems to be waiting for our Revolutionary, for our leader. What makes a leader? Humility, justness, fearlessness, open-mindedness, strength, belief. So, why is it we ache under the leadership of those who have no such qualities? I see those qualities in my friends, my colleagues, my students. I see those qualities in those who are willing to voice “No” at what they have been told to accept. I see those qualities in the young who are not so foolish as to be set in their ways.

Answers are not easy to find today, but even less so if we work individually, and I see so many individuals hungry for a solution but disempowered by the belief fed to us that politics is not for them. It is our nations, our communities, our lives, so politics must be for us. And if the current politics is not that, then we will make it so by creating a new and better politics. No more will the culture be created by the politics, but the politics will respond to the culture.

Fuck that idiocy that deems you have to be in the system to change it – we do not want to be tainted or maybe even tempted by such a system. We meet it with our own, one borne from ideas and modernity and community, not sullied by years of scratching backs and pulling teeth on the campaign trail. Let us destroy the old and thrust forward the new. Who or what are we waiting for? The Left or The Right to reveal a glimmer of hope in their antiquities? There is no time to waste, there is no more waiting to be done – as we wait, that broken tree of false democracy faces its final winter and its shadows grow long and frightening on the ground beneath our feet. Let us rake up the mistakes of the past that mould as repetitions in our present and discard them in history books where they belong.

Fuck the respect for the old when it has no respect for our future. We must gather, we must talk and we must fight for the right to act.

We must fight for our relationships. We must fight for our art. We must fight for our own politics.

The void makes us human – and our nature is nothing to be feared

We all know the void, better than we each know ourselves, because that void in all of us screams to be recognised and rips apart our fragile performances as people. It is the void, our desperate anxiety of being human – our consciousness of being human – that incites fear in us all. The fear of our powerlessness, our mortality; the fear that something is bigger than our individual ego. Such fear has given birth to religions across the world, promising safety of the soul we so pleadingly cling to and pray for its continuation in some afterlife. The same fear turns some to compulsive behaviour, such as drug addiction, to fill it with otherness, an alien body, to stifle its screams. Because we are all terrified of admitting our sameness, admitting the fragility of our ego, admitting that our “I” is not the most important piece in life’s puzzle. And the void shows us for what we truly are – simply conscious.

We try to escape it rather than looking into the void and accepting it and asking what it needs for us to become authentic beings, simply beings. We do so because in acknowledging the void we admit that we are all the same, we are not special, and we all share this same void. It is what makes us human beings, and therefore refusing it is a preservation of the ego, and of our individual identity. That is why escape can be a form of filling over the entrance with material goods that reflect our perceived identity and are proof of the qualities we construct to form such identity (that we perceive as true), because the truth of its nothingness and our sameness is terrifying to a people given a name at birth and encouraged to “be yourself”. Our culture has proclaimed we each have something special to offer – even love is perceived as special in its individuality – when in actuality we, as beings, and therefore love, are universal. The void is our true nature, and it screams  in an attempt to catch our busied, intellectual minds and turn our gaze away from our reflection and into ourselves, and therefore out into the world.  It appeals to us to be human. But we run from it, scared that these thoughts and feelings we think we own, that make us people, may not be the most important pieces of the puzzle of this world we are determined to finish with our individual hands. We are scared that these eyes do not see all; we are scared of the unknown – accepting our time as an equal part of many, the same, mortal. 

The void seeks for me to accept my sameness and the presence of this in us all – this connection. But in fear of losing my ego and accepting my mortality and the presence of something bigger than “I” we inflate the “I” with anxious breaths, buy it a bigger presence, and repeat tales to other “I”s so as to steam up the air between us so that we may avoid seeing we are, in fact, the same – just conscious, loving beings who ought to help each other as neighbour – sibling – married by this void. Rather than a boiling whirlpool of anxiety, the void may look entirely different when we look at it without hiding being the gaze of “I”, without perceiving it with my thoughts.

It is something bigger than us that cannot be known by the “I”, cannot be quantified, and therefore we perceive it as an engulfing threat. But, really, we would not be losing ourselves. Rather, we would be losing our conception of “self” and instead discovering freedom from it. We will not be engulfed, which is hard to imagine as an individual who has only try to fill and be filled and dominate and submit and control and panic as a mode of Being. We cannot comprehend, because of this mode, that we will simply be, bare, with no need to fill or be filled, because that is not an expression of the void in and of itself; that is the expression of my understanding of the void as an individual. But the void is universal, and not a threat, simply a signpost for connection and acceptance of our mortality and need to love and be loved, and help and be helped. It is nothing to be afraid of. It is simply an unknown beyond what we cannot know as “I”.

Our ‘true’ purpose (and I use quotation marks to inspire the laughability of anything being true or false when still identifying as “I”) cannot be a path along a destiny towards a certain result, because if that were to ever be revealed we would not be human, and there would no joy beyond nihilism to relish in this gift of consciousness. Our purpose is to journey into our void and undo that notion of self, even of individual journey, in order to accept our nature and live our brief time as a part of this connected ecosystem of life as placed, loving, compassionate beings that have no need for “I” or notion of “society” within borders or religions. Beings that have accepted the unknown not as a threat but an opportunity to discover peace away from the notions and ideals and paths laid out in fear of simply being that perceive the loss of identity or ego as suffering. It is a chance to see “society” without the veil of flammable ideas and instead accept the real community of beings on this planet and live in harmony and love without that love being crippled by the fear of being forgotten. Our purpose is not to leave a legacy, or even the trace of memory, but to love and live life now, here, in this moment, as a human aware of and humbled by their humanity and this void that connects us to all other beings. We do not need to emboss our given name on legend to justify our time spent “living” – we can be being as consciousness, in the exact same way as the person next to us. Rather than hiding from such an unimaginable life in fear, it is possible we can gratefully accept our nature and explore its sameness in each other, and not categorise our differences.

Virginia gunman may have pulled the trigger – but the camera was the real killer

The death of two journalists in Virginia on Wednesday morning was not the first of its kind to be caught on live television – but this time there was a second camera capturing a second angle. 

Vester Lee Flanagan filmed the murder as it happened from his viewpoint and broadcast the footage on his social media accounts; and it was the act of filming that ensures we call the tragic deaths of Alison Parker and Adam Ward “the murder” and not “his murder”. This chilling firsthand documentation makes the deplorable killings unique not because it was shot to be released (the videos of the ISIS beheadings have become all too common an occurrence in the past year) but because it was shot by the man firing the shots, who was looking through the lens as it happened. Flanagan alienated himself from the act and became a witness to the murders by placing a camera between himself as the killer and his victims, at once taking the position of the camera, thus separate from the action. Flanagan prostrated himself as an innocuous bystander shucking responsibilities for the death and justifying his actions – because, as the cameraman, they were not his own.

There has been a heated debate in the past year as to whether people should watch the videos ISIS post online and whether or not that makes the viewer complicit in the murder. In this case, the killer made himself just another viewer and so removed himself from any involvement in the murderous act. He was the object of the internet’s subjectivity, of the thousands of anonymous usernames around the world who will watch his video, acting for them and not himself – otherwise why else would he have filmed it?

This detachment is not the cold, sterile work of a psychopath, but a possible state for the everyman. The camera became the killer because the camera decreed the act – the murder was for film, not for Flanagan, and so the film becomes the murderer and he its trigger-pulling object. He removed his agency from the situation by pressing record and instantaneously transforming the private sphere of murder into a public spectacle. Is that not how the hangman could tie the noose around the criminal’s neck without a twinge of remorse for the humanity he was about to destroy? Because of his audience who demanded death? Who desired a show? Could he not justify his act of murder in its own right as the deliverance of the mass’ demands? Looking through another’s eyes always leaves us with an objective view, a removed stance – Flanagan found a way to capture that objective spectatorship through the capturing of his murder on screen. He discovered a method that allowed him to pull the trigger and cause the death of two innocent people with no agency on his part. He found a way to kill without being a killer.

Often in horror films a character puts distance between theirself and the creature – the frightful other – by looking at its appearance through a video camera. They can only stomach the horror of the unknown by placing a camera between it and them, by creating the illusion it may not exist, that it is not in their reality. That deliberate alienation gives them the ability to face the monster because it is the camera that is now the subject, the focus, and they are simply witness to whatever action is imminent; they other themselves from the situation in order to participate in it. Filming is not merely a method of documentation, of creation, of storing, but it allows the camera to take the brunt of reality and the cameraman to become secondary in the reality, to become the objective tool of technology, complicit – but not active – once the record button is hit. And a film made for sharing, made with the public sphere in mind, instantly dilutes authority, forcing the spectator to take the same amount of responsibility for the tool’s actions. Flanagan created the same distance between himself and the murder through the lens as the viewer does between themselves and the crime through the screen.

This poses another serious truth concerning the viewer’s stance as an objective spectator. We can no longer ignore the fact that the consumption of a murderous recording is an act in itself, albeit not the act caught on camera. However, because Flanagan shared the footage so quickly on his social media accounts after the killings, must we not face the possibility that he murdered Parker and Ward for his audience’s consumption? And because the footage is shot from his perspective, it is not a far accusation that he captured their deaths not as a narcissistic spectacle in which he could see himself carry out the killings, but for the public spectacle in which he could take the same position as any other viewer. Therefore, considering our own trigger-fingers hovering over the mouse clicking play at anything the internet throws our way, are we not also guilty for allowing ourselves to be an audience Flanagan could shoot his film for, and thus justify the shooting of two innocent people?

Flanagan has dangerously given birth to a new form of murder; one in which no one is the agent of death, but everyone is the witness. The distortion of the act through the lens granted him the same separation, the same alienation, from the murder as his audience. The utmost violence here was not the shooting, but the thrusting of it from the private into the public sphere as it happened through the camera, ridding himself of any agency. He acted as the object, as the tool, of his grand subject – the camera. He gave this everyday piece of technology the power to kill and implicated all of us as its objective viewers just as he distanced himself from the inhumane violence. It is this distancing that enabled him to pull the trigger without being the killer.

The world and its people are fearful of the individual

Why is it our successes are entirely classified and boxed by society and its predetermined values when we celebrate individuality? Why are my success not be justified within mine own eyes and instead judged by the eyes of my peers?

If I was to disappear forever and write forever and be happy why, because my monetary status would be minimal, would I be classified a failure?

Our lives and community is created upon insecurity. The most insecure enslave those around them out of fear, and the community allows due to their own insecurities and desire for stability in the form of rules. Independence allows for too much responsibility for the self, too much retribution. We see this in politics, religion, economics. As a people we are so afraid to be held responsible for our actions but demand the right to act, demand to be enabled, and those with brilliant minds but weak hearts perceive opportunity, perceive the choice to be powerful over others when they are afraid of empowering themselves, and so indoctrinate and create rules all under the banner of freedom. We enslave in order to maintain one man’s freedom from the other – but that is not freedom. Man has the right to kill, rape and pillage if he so desires; we have the right to destroy, but we have the right to choose not to and to be held responsible for the destruction of others. It should be respect for others’ freedom that stops us from killing, not respect for our own borne out of the fear of being jailed and thus limited, defined.

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We pride individualism but contain it within parameters of a society that only values the first hand self. Maybe the Buddhists have it right to some extent – utmost respect for life no matter how small or other. Passivity and selfishness are two great dangers and our culture is cultivating – breeding – passive clones who are too selfish to see their mirroring of each other and instead pay homage to the desired visage of individuality.

The world is at war and the people of the West have no understanding of it. Why should it take hostages in Sydney for us to take notice? What about the hundreds of children being killed in the Middle East? Is it because their skin is darker than ours and their culture so far removed from ours that we can distance ourselves and view their fight as a problem unto them, and not a problem for all of humanity?

And what of the suicide bombers? These extremist acts are not borne out of causality, they are borne out of belief, and we are arrogant enough to sweep that belief aside simply because it is not ours, and engage in the war by labelling them “acts of terrorism” rather than acknowledging they are the acts of fellow human beings. These terrorists, these children, are “other” to us and so we bury them, just as we try to bury those within this Western compound from reaching out and being different. We are so afraid of the unknown we choose instead to repeat, exhaust and exploit the known rather than explore.

We seem to have forgotten “insanity is repeating the same act over and over again expecting different results”.

Pull the plug: We need to educate children they don’t have to login to exist

As a 22-year-old I am no stranger to the online world of social networking – I have been a victim of trolling (although it didn’t have a name back then), I have plastered my life across the internet and, perhaps strangest of all, I have followed with keen interest other’s lives – friends and strangers alike. The term my generation use for this is “stalking” but the act is so frequent, normal and, at times, satisfying, that it has become embedded into our colloquial language thus nullifying its true and very worrying definition.

The internet, and social networking in particular, is a curious place for a teenager – it alludes to temporality despite being the ultimate permanent storing space; it creates an arrogance and strength in anonymity whilst it weakens and destroys normal social constructs; it beckons dark, risky and attention seeking behaviour from the child sitting alone in his bedroom. It is a world of paradoxes and rules that do not become apparent until the user unwittingly breaks them. And then it becomes a world impossible to exit.

I was 13 or 14 when I first joined a social networking site that was barely used, but now children as young as ten or eleven are established on these websites – something that has to do with the normalcy of smartphones as standard mobiles given to children. Shockingly, friends talk of pictures of younger cousins and their friends aged 10 posing sexually and, at times, explicitly. There is little to no education surrounding acceptable behaviour on the internet and so these children are copying their idols, from older siblings to celebrities’ erotic selfies.  To them, the internet is a world of aliases, and personality upgrades, where it is acceptable to bully, hate and spread rumours. It is a place to play with your own identity and leave your true self sitting in reality, sitting at a screen. Unfortunately, something that is learnt all too late is that it is your true self that will have to deal with the repercussions of such behaviour.

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The unknown refractions of social networking and its unprecedented, meteoric rise into our lives, both online and offline, inspired my first novel, which I am currently redrafting. The subtitle written on my original plan stated simply: “The Dangers Of Social Networking”.

Social networking is an epidemic for children and teenagers alike, having been a teenager during its rise I know the extent of the damage it can do to families, relationships, friendships and mental health when not used carefully or monitored.

My plot is not autobiographical, but neither is it fictional – it is based on someone I knew whose use of social networking blurred the lines between reality and fiction to the extent that today, eight years later, she believes the events she created online genuinely happened to her. The online persona gained so much attention from extreme situations and victimisation that the girl began to crave the same attention in reality and so started to introduce fictional details to her real life – details that are still enforced and sobbed about to this day.

This virtual reality ran away with her when she was left unchecked and unmonitored by a generation of adults who are only just being presented with research about the negative effects social media and excessive use of the internet can have on children’s health.

In an age where selfies are now being linked to mental health conditions it’s time to open the discussion about how plugged in future generations will be to the virtual world and how that will affect their understanding of reality. We read about the dangers of excessive social media use every day before shutting our laptops and Instagramming a photo of our lunch. We need to take more responsibility for our disconnection from reality and plan educational programs for children who will grow up in a playground of online toys more dangerous minefields. If not, we run the risk of raising generations who do not understand an identity existing outwith an app. Yes, the example my book is based on is an extreme – but let us remember it is a true one.

Media: The tool between activism and apathy that isn’t being used

We’ve opted out of politics and into jagerbombs.

At the NUS Scotland conference a motion was passed that mandates their Full Time Officers to break the gagging law, which could potentially lead to some of NUS’s leaders spending time in prison.

An admirable stance by those Full Time Officers, no doubt, but the problem is that previous to this rather radical challenging, how many students were aware that the gagging law had passed two months previously and the effect it could have on their freedom of speech?

Not many. Political apathy is infectious and very difficult to combat, but I don’t believe political groups and active students are doing everything they can to do so. As the editor of a tabloid news site I can guarantee that the power of media is most certainly being overlooked in a time when every tool at their disposal needs to be utilized.

To many, “tabloid” is not what they want to associate their politics with. The thing is – what if the tabloid route is exactly what this country’s student movement needs? Thanks to social media we’re creating generations that thrive from gossip and instant gratification – online media and online news makes anything and everything instantly accessible and so can be picked up by national papers.

However, when they’re used to communicating in 140 chars, young people don’t want to read voluminous essays about what’s wrong with the world – they don’t want to have to digest and process (part of the problem), they want to be informed in an accessible, relatable manner that they can then present to their peers.

Gordon Maloney - NUS Scotland President
Gordon Maloney – ex-NUS Scotland President

Young people that are willing to make a change are already doing so and are willing to sift through blogs, articles, reports, and reach out to likeminded people. But they’re the minority, and not the audience that needs targeted. Politically apathetic students are those that need to be engaged because they are the majority, and until they are on board with political cause, then those who resist will only ever be labeled as “extremist minorities”.

It has always been far easier to side with a majority, and until political groups start communicating exactly what it is they want to achieve on a wider platform to a broader audience, they will always be battling against the ease of conformity that labels them as “radicals”.

But non-conformity can become normal again, and when the “extreme” tag is dropped from activists – and when “active” stops being a dirty word itself – then big changes can be implemented with a far stronger force behind it.

The government and universities and student unions are not communicating with us as students, as pupils of an education. We are marketed as consumers with education being a product. It is the easy way out for everyone involved – but many do not realize dissatisfaction is not the only option.

There are those that won’t want to get involved because ignorance is bliss and change “defamatory”. Activism is only something that has recently played a part in my own life, because I was unsure of how to challenge a system that I thought was failing me, and if it would be worth my time. As it turns out, there are, and always have been, hundreds of active ad dissatisfied students around me but we have no inkling how to reach out to one another and get involved with one another because causes and events are not being publicised or advertised.

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Communication is key. Activists must start utilizing every tool available to them in order to reach those they are trying to aid – including the media. I believe it’s time for activists to ask for help from those they may have previously mistrusted – including publications like The Tab. Media gives you access to platforms and audiences you may not have otherwise been able to communicate with. Having media on side also puts you on the same playing field as those you are challenging.

Manipulation of media by higher powers is something to be wary of. It takes a moment for the government to label those in disagreement “terrorists”, and from that moment your argument takes place under an extremist umbrella that society is not willing to be associated with.

But activists must not be afraid to combat it with exactly the same technique by expressing their side of the argument and promoting their fight. For example, considering how detrimental this gagging law could be to British democracy, why was the jump to mandate NUS leaders to break the law and potentially spend time in prison the first move made two months down the line? This extreme move would probably have more backing by the student body if the bill’s effect on freedom of speech had been initially presented to students, and the NUS had reached out for support from its members. Now, instead of the focus being on government creating dogmatic and extreme laws that threaten our freedom, students are more concerned with the fact their full time officers are going to break the law, because they have not been told why.

What this country needs is not a pressure group that includes a lot of their strongest leaders being flung in jail – it needs a wider platform to engage with the majority that aren’t willing to risk prison. Perhaps, instead of breaking the law, activists should inform their peers WHY they want to break the law, and ask their peers if they will help them NOT have to break the law.

Garnering a bigger student backing would achieve results, and also promote democracy, thus undermining the government’s stance in a far more potent way – by encouraging society to use its voice, which stands us in far greater stead for our future democratic state. Further, if the masses came on board, the act of breaking the law would no longer be decreed as “radical” or “extreme”, but instead asnecessary, and have a much greater impact on that which is being challenged.

We can be free, we must be free, and we must be progressive. However, to do so students must be informed why it affects them, and how they can help. Young people must be given options otherwise they will run in fear for their future in a time when government mandates fear to control futures.

Would I go to prison for freedom of speech? I would – but then again I’ve always been a drama queen. Would I ask my friends to? No, because I care about their welfare.

But would I ask them to protect free speech? Absolutely. Because that protection doesn’t have to be an outright attack – we have a right to defend our freedom and our education, and such a defense is a far wider and more accessible tool. It is also far easier to promote. There is a scale from petitions to jail time, and active groups need to detail exactly what that scale is to give students a choice on how to get involved – and to do so they should be using the media.

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Going to jail should not be the first step in getting people’s attention, but the final straw. I fear that the jump has been made too quickly and the NUS won’t have the masses on side because they have not informed Britain’s students as to why they will be doing so and what change they would like to see happen. There is no point in creating a martyr if society does not know what he/she is doing for them.

Student activists have jumped ahead of the crowd, as usual. But in a time of apathy this has not only left the masses in the dust, but also left them blind.

If fighting for education, student activists should put educating their fellow students – through whatever means necessary – at the top of their priorities. If we (yes, we) don’t communicate then we risk becoming that which we are desperately trying to affect.

Of course change needs to happen – the whole state of democracy in Britain needs to change – but it won’t happen successfully in the shadows.

We are all aware of the meaning behind the phrase “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” But in a post-modern society that is already free, is radicalism the most potent tool available to us, or is exactly that – our freedom to discuss, challenge and unite – perhaps a far stronger mode of engaging with our fight to remain free.

This article was originally published on The Tab Aberdeen.