As I write this, my first year at university is entering its end game.
So as the twilight draws in, and I attempt to gather together my scattered possessions and embark upon my journey back to the parental nest, having narrowly avoided bankruptcy and contracting scurvy, I decided to look back on the year’s biggest controversies, debates, tiffs and all other assorted metaphorical storms in a series of metaphorical tea cups.
On arrival at university, it’s oh so easy to find yourself diving straight into the cut and thrust of campus debate. You don’t choose to study a subject like mine, Politics, without a lot of strange notions about being at the forefront of the generational zeitgeist, invoking and informing the debate between the leaders of tomorrow through frank discussion and open philosophizing.
What a horrendous load of tripe that all turned out to be!
Shortly after the first few bust ups had taken off, I realized that partaking in squabbles between the offspring of Britain’s pampered middle-classes was perhaps not the most suitable pastime for me. I slowly fell into the age old ideology of jaded apathy, to the point where the mere mention of politics at a social event led me to issue an exasperated plea of “Please, don’t! Just drink your Carlsberg, there’s a good chap”.
How strange it was to discover that the most heated debates were not, as I had previously expected, about socioeconomic issues or any other worthy matter one might find plastered across the front page of a national newspaper.
Instead, amongst other things, York students have argued about what newspapers our shop should sell, the fleeting visit of a handful of travelers, the name of a cocktail, establishing if my colleague Ben Smith was or was not, all things considered, the next Benito Mussolini, deciding whether or not we should ask our student union to use its vast lobbying power and influence in Whitehall to legalize “smoking doobies”, saving a café no one ever went to and most recently, answering the ever burning question of whether the university establishment is on par with the Hitler administration in terms of institutionalized racism.
Some campus factions (naming no names here) received a lot of stick for this alleged rabble rousing, and whilst tribes of some political persuasions are certainly a lot more active and exuberant in their campaigning and social media presence, it is perhaps unfair to think certain ideological movements are at the root of the endless squabbling.
What I am trying to say is, if you outlawed Feminism and Billy Bragg, the comment sections of this newspaper and indeed, “that other one” would have simply been full of drivel from chirpy know-it-alls with empty opinions on US politics (Yes Mitt Romney was Satan, as you know all too well from your time as a citizen of Massachusetts in the mid noughties).
The simple fact is that we all attend an institution full of well-educated young people who tend to be either; A: Activists, and extremely optimistic ones at that; or B: People who are just more up for a fight than the population at large. And for those reasons, we are always going to be beset by the occasional spate of molehill to mountain conversions.
Much like Whitehall, universities are stocked with a disproportionate number of people who genuinely care about the world’s problems, or at least they like pretending to. The end result is that campus politicos will have a good old fashioned argument over just about anything, and did, as we saw. They seem to enjoy it, the way I used to, and whilst I no longer have the mental fortitude to join them, it’s more or less fine.
I guess that ultimately, university debate can get a bit silly and at times, it become’s a parody of itself. Nonetheless, I suppose there is a strange charm to it, despite the often odd subject choices.