UPDATE: While ranting sure is fun, I've written a more substantive follow-up piece in defence of student protest that's probably more worth your time. Find it here, for Junkee.com.
Good news, fellow members of The Youth! All those tantrums you’ve been throwing about the looming cuts to tertiary education have finally caught the attention of someone important! In her recent column for Fairfax, Annabel Crabb took student protesters to task for the recent protest actions you might have read about, and finally raised the question the nation was burning for someone to ask: “How can it be, as even our phones get smarter, that protestors are somehow getting dumber?”
Oh, you silly kids! Trying to preserve the remnants of your future from being ripped away by rich old white men who got their education for free! Don’t worry, Aunty Annabel is here to hold your hand and tell you exactly where you’re going wrong. Since you’re too immature to unpick the finer nuances of Crabb’s argument, allow me to guide you through the special blend of loving condescension which we will for the moment call “Crabbsplaining”.
First, some background. Displaying a knowledge of the post-Cold War era that borders on the shamanistic, Crabb writes: “The advent of the internet has deluged us with a mighty, confusing, exhilarating torrent of information, bringing with it previously unimaginable ways for human beings to come together, to talk, argue, share knitting tips and to deliver to vast audiences a tiny but resonant truth about something happening in their own backyards”. This is a very important point to make, as it establishes for the reader that the internet is a thing that exists, that the internet has changed some aspects of society, and other insights originally made in a Powerpoint presentation to Fairfax executives in 1998.
She then rightly points out the methods used by student protesters in recent weeks, such as the National Day of Action and snap protests in response to the presence of government ministers on campus, are useless and positively counter-productive. That protest you had on Q&A? Boy, did you screw the pooch on that one. Crabb has some choice words for you about that:
“Are poster paint and your parents' third-best manchester really the best tools the modern environment offers? And has any strategic thought gone into this stuff?”
See how phrases like “poster paint” and references to your parents imply that you’re children who can’t be trusted to make your own decisions? That’s Crabb’s Big-Person Writing Skills at work, it’s alright if you don’t understand. The same way you’re too young to understand that when it comes to drawing attention to an issue, hijacking a live TV program with a huge social media footprint is a very un-strategic way to go about it. That’s why one of Australia’s most widely-read columnists went out of her way to tell you so, and why footage of the protest has a measly 190,000 views on YouTube.
Speaking of that Q&A protest, remember what host and Wise Old Man of Australian politics Tony Jones said at the time? “That is not what democracy is all about and those students should understand that,” Jones grumbled good-naturedly, ruffling your greasy mop of hair as you upset his Democracy Sanctum with your yelling. That’s absolutely right, kids; democracy isn’t about disrupting the status quo to bring about change! It’s about sitting quietly and waiting your turn while Christopher Pyne spins carefully-crafted lines of bullshit to distract from the fact he’s a clown in a suit cleverly disguised as an Education Minister.
Between them, Crabb and Jones prove that a couple of wealthy middle-aged men mocking a fifteen-year-old schoolgirl on the front page of a major newspaper aren’t the only ones looking out for you and your tiny, tiny minds. It’s something all the serious professionals in the mainstream media, no matter what their political leaning, keep in mind as they sadly shake their heads at the uniformly terrible decisions you make when trying to shape your own future.
That’s why they’ve spent the last few years calling you “slacktivists” for signing online petitions and sharing articles on Facebook instead of getting off your lasy arses and going protesting. And that’s why, now that you’ve gotten off your lazy arses and gone protesting, they’re telling you that you’re doing it wrong. It seems very confusing, I know, but once you’re over 40 and earning a certain amount it’ll all make perfect sense.
Instead of marching, Crabb suggests that we use our mad internet skillz to “paint a picture of what universities would look like if these changes get by the Senate. To explain what goes on in a young person's mind when deciding whether to go to university, and illustrate how the prospect of a commercial-grade debt might have a different effect on a poor student than on a wealthy one”.
What a wonderful idea! How did we forget about that big friendly roundtable where government and policymakers are just waiting to sit down with students and listen to their concerns with the attention and respect they deserve? Like former Education Minister Amanda Vanstone calling students “bullies and thugs” in the Herald today? I’m sure journalists at the country’s biggest newspapers and television stations will report on the findings, the same way I’m sure they’re beavering away to present well-researched and balanced articles on the reasons students are acting to safeguard their futures.
Or maybe a flashmob? We love flashmobs, am I right fellow 18-to-29 year-olds? Eh? Eh?
Honestly, I’m glad a grown-up finally came along and put us in our place. For a moment I was worried we were going to take the fight for an affordable education into our own hands and assume responsibility for continuing the defence of Australia’s social democratic consensus, warts and all. Now we can go back to our snarky Facebook posts and Change.org petitions, safe in the knowledge that even if we’re bowed under by crippling debt in the name of a perverse and morally bankrupt free-market ideology, we won’t be annoying our betters. Thank goodness the adults are back in charge.