Rallies against the Vietnam War. One of the most symbolic photographs of a flower being put into the barrel of the gun.
If not us, then who? Moving onward from the ‘Rainbow Revolution’.
Only today, Britain’s National Union of Students has voted to align itself in a Palestine led boycott of Israel in a 19-4 vote with one abstention. This marked a dynamic shift in student politics that will hopefully trickle into other Universities and indeed countries. In America, young people and students have led several movements in the last thirty years with the ‘Occupy’ movement definitely being the most significant. Occupy has inspired ‘Blockupy’, an anti-austerity young people’s initiative. In Ireland, the ‘Yes Equality’ campaign which was being planned for two years involved what seemed like every young person in Ireland and that too was a remarkable and unique development..
The problem, in Ireland is that the demographics for young people’s participation are low, especially when compared to an older generation. I say this after taking note of demonstrations and protests that I have attended.
What I saw was an older generation of people leading the charge against the injustices inflicted on people and while I wholeheartedly commend, respect and congratulate these people I also wonder. The main question was whether there would anybody to protest in twenty years now. If young people aren’t going out now then why are they going to bother in twenty years? Of course the same can be said for the people out now –were they out twenty years ago?
The people I have met in the Independent Workers Union or the Communist Party of Ireland were. They began their activism at a student age through a variety of campaigns of importance at the time and their involvement helped them develop not only a consciousness for activism but also for class struggle.
In Ireland, the ‘Yes Equality’ campaign which was a great vehicle for change also contained extremely right wing people and this; I think dampened the possibility of developing of further struggles. After all, for some people ‘equality’ is limited to what is trendy and something they won’t get into conflict with anybody else about.
But there is a lot more left to fight for, there’s equality for women to obtain the legal right to have an abortion in Ireland, there’s equality for immigrants who kept locked up in what are basically horrible privatized detention facilities called ‘processing centres’. There’s equality for the traveller community which is constantly shafted, mistreated and looked down upon and I think most importantly there’s equality missing on the most fundamental level. With this of course I refer to our ‘democratic’ institutions that possess legislative and executive power.
Those who passionately engaged in the ‘Yes Equality’ campaign need to look forward and embrace the struggle for a fairer world that encompasses all of society and brings equality to all on the basis of their need.
‘If not us, then who?’ should be the question every young person has on their mind when looking at protests, demonstrations and uprisings. Soon, enough time will pass where those who passionately defend our rights today are not there to do so tomorrow and if we collectively as young people cannot organize now then we will not do so tomorrow. Society already is already deteriorating, Oxfam earlier this year reported on increasing wealth inequality, Western states continue to act with impunity whenever and wherever
If we don’t rise up and rally against the injustices conducted at the whim of a ruling minority then we will truly bestow freedom upon the exploiters. Like the spray painted red square that calls for free tuition in Europe or the ‘Occupy’ movement which implies mass action, or again the local ‘Yes Equality’ campaign. In Germany, a campaign that actively participated in a protest against the ECB in Frankfurt earlier called ‘Blockupy’ has also arisen and it has strong anti-capitalist connotations.
The important point to note is that each movement has exploded with great support from young people and each movement has slowly but surely identified the root of many societal problems: Capitalism.
If this can be achieved in Ireland then I firmly believe the next generation of both unskilled and skilled workers will shape Ireland in a positive, progressive and just way. Otherwise the gangsters that dominate society now will triumph and the only loser will be the generations to come. I feel corny invoking a historically inaccurate film but Mel Gibson portraying William Wallace had it right.
Do we want to defend our rights and ourselves right now or regret it fifty years later?
If not us, then who?
Just on an important note, I don’t endorse nationalism or feudalism but the underlying message and point is that if we do nothing now we will regret it later.