Protesting culture is lost
The student resistance movements that were once a given on university campuses have been withering away in the contemporary age of consumerism.
Being a student previously meant that one’s identity was associated with learning; this learning ignited resistance against the status quo.
These protests, which challenged dominant ideologies, are the iconic events of significant student history.
In the 1960s and ‘70s, the U.S. wars in Vietnam and Cambodia were met by mass movements of resistance by the student population; this identity of confrontation defined a generation.
These protests created fear within the U.S. government establishment – the defenders of the status quo. Due to the scale and scope of the student movements, the government feared a broader range of dissent would grow.
On May 4, 1970 at Kent State University, the National Guard was sent to confront protestors who were challenging the U.S. invasion of Cambodia.
This confrontation led to the murder of four students and the wounding of nine others at the hands of the National Guard.
The government feared the political movements of the student population to such a degree that they were willing to use deadly force to silent any dissent.
These examples are some of many. Students have been the pillars of resistance movements throughout history, with events such as the Paris uprisings in 1967-68, Tiananmen Square in 1989 and in Iran this past summer.
But in contemporary society, most students no longer identify with this culture of opposition; they instead pride themselves in their acceptance of the status quo.
The excesses of consumption and consumerism act as a pacifying force on the identity of student resistance.
Students today mostly associate with the notion of the self in the complacent acceptance of mainstream culture. Education for students has transformed from a tool of learning into a means of getting ahead.
In preparation for the “real world,” we have come to accept the ideology that our identity and our notion of the self is a reflection of what we physically possess.
Education has become a tool to perpetuate this cycle; it gives many youth the ability to increase their means of consumption through higher wages.
The traditional student identity of resistance would see these ideals of consumerism as an imposition onto the self and would therefore resist.
The irony of consumption and resistance today is that the idea of resistance itself has been commodified.
Around campus you will see the image of Che Guevara on T-shirts or the Palestinian keffiyeh wrapped around students’ necks.
Most wear these in ignorance of the political resistance that they are meant to represent. Today, many students flaunt these images of resistance as part of a consumption culture.
Students need to create space where they can form cultural identities through the independent dissemination of ideas.
Purchasing a Che Guevara T-shirt closes space from cultural dissent and influences the destruction of an authentic student identity.
The student identity is in need of resuscitation.
I am hoping that the protest of the Canadian-hosted G-20 meetings this June will be led by the student population.
Let this act be a call for all students who, from their education, have been made aware of oppression but have so far failed to act against it.
Resistance does not come with a T-shirt, it comes from independent thought and collective action against forces of oppression.
Let us make our resistance the definitive marker of our generation and prove that the status quo is not good enough.