Saturday, 22 October 2011

A little clarification for claudified minds

Well, well, well. Another day, another dollar. As if trying to learn how to cannulate people wasn’t enough, yesterday led to naughty attacks on me from left, lefter and leftist. What fun. Well, here are a few pointers to try to correct the decent folks as to my thought processes; and to generally irritate the sociopaths.

Where do I start? Such nonsense has been bandied around, and such vitriol, that even Stalin himself would probably have crept into a corner and cried. And he was a mass murderer…

Which I’m not, incidentally. And let me just take one of the more offensive moments of the day first and foremost. Don’t you dare call me disablist; who the hell do you think you are? As someone who is a medical student, desperate to make a difference to the lives of sick and dying people; as someone who has watched and helped care for his own father as he became steadily more disabled and deeply unwell, and eventually died; as someone who has used that experience to fire up in myself and others a desire to help people enjoy their lives, limited or otherwise. If you really believe a revolution is coming, comrades, then in my opinion, you sound as though you have some kind of borderline delusional disorder, at the least. There’s nothing disablist about making a potential diagnosis. If you don’t like it, then persuade people otherwise, using debate and ideas. But don’t be cheap and personal; because that really is pathetic, low, and ultimately demeans you.

So let’s take some of the more moronic comments now – not offensive, but equally ludicrous.

You extremists really hate that term, don’t you. I think it’s really impressive that you miss the blaringly obvious signs that people really don’t think along the same lines that you do. And you don’t even seem interested in trying to argue that they should; instead you just get indignant and look down on us idiots who can’t understand your logic. Debate, persuade, excite – please. Your ideas, at the moment, look great in a text book from the Victorian era – but they don’t really make sense in today’s world. Academic posturing at the expense of real people’s lives is a bit pathetic – and if you lot prevent another Labour government being elected because of your extremism, you have the poverty of a generation on your hands.

The thing is, I suppose that in Cambridge you self-confessed radicals (not that radical, with the ideology being quite a few years old) really do have a bit of a voice; especially amongst the non-tax-paying, ivory-towered and vulnerable students which we have here. However, I thought you would probably realise that you are, at best, a joke in the real world? The problem is, it’s not a joke when you wreck Labour’s chances. Remember that.

Anyway, that’s the extremist point.

Another major point was that a bunch of non-students decided to proselytise to us about the point of our students’ union. Well, thank you, most helpful. The problem is, I don’t think you’ve really understood the point of a students’ union. As students, we have the right to expect our union to represent our interests, and get the most out of the university we can. I suppose the major problem is quite how damn good our JCRs are, and how little this leaves to CUSU. Then we elect a CUSU President, and indeed Sabbs team, and spend most of the year emasculating them by voting on total nonsense at CUSU Council. In fact, it barely gives them the chance to act out their manifesto. And incidentally, not everyone takes the President election seriously; many people, in fact, vote because they think it would be funny if someone were to be elected.

Now let me just pause for a moment here, and remind you what the article was about. It was categorically not about the protest on 30th. It was about CUSU – and our role, as students, in interacting with it. I was a bit amused to read a complaint about my article, saying I should focus on getting people involved, rather than complaining about the extremists. Well, that is what my article is saying. We need to get involved, and get a real debate going, and get our genuine views heard, rather than just let politically overactive people get the better of us. CUSU Council is one of the most useless and least representative bodies that could ever have been conceived of. I’m not saying that it should bury its head in the sand; what I’m saying is that we should start watching what our representatives (so called) are doing, and bring them to account if we don’t like it.

I still very much hold to my point that Cambridge is mostly full of dull politicos – and ones that just love making cheap or personal political points whilst not bothering to instigate interesting conversation. I don’t hate every Tory voter, or indeed every Tory politician; in fact, I try to not hate everyone, and try to understand their point of view. I suppose part of that is dealing with homophobes; but I let it spill over into my political life too. We don’t win elections by hating other people; we win by listening to them, and then by debating with them, trying to persuade them over to our point of view. For the extremists, winning elections doesn’t matter, of course; but for the rest of us, going on and on about some off the cuff remark a politician (student or otherwise) makes, or having a go about their faith, or finding cheap ways to attack people, just turns people off. The more personal politics has become, the more bored people get of it; and the Westminster-village syndrome seems to have come to Cambridge. Get over yourselves, stop being ‘outraged’ by some cheap political (and generally unfair) point – and convince people to vote for your side. It’s been a total embarrassment seeing the centre left at Cambridge consistently refuse to take a stand against the more ridiculous things that the extremists come out with; you will lose the centre left votes, and that is a damning of public life for a generation.

It’s been interesting to see how many people are totally rude in their responses to me; I’m actually quite a nice and fair minded kind of fellow, who would more than happily sit down and discuss these things with you. And calling me far right is extraordinarily odd; don’t be silly. Ten minutes in my company can quite easily convince you otherwise. And please, please, try to read my articles correctly, rather than making your own conclusions and then shaping my words around them.

Now before I deal with the walk out question, I would like to draw your attention to the Veolia issue. I am somewhat interested that few people mentioned it; and I do hope the vote doesn’t come to quorum. However, it is worth noting that the organisation that is generally behind these votes is one that wants to smash apart the state of Israel. Now the problems in that area are manifold, and of course cannot be considered here, especially by someone as ignorant as me. However, finding a sensitive and sensible solution probably doesn’t involve rubbish, breaking UK law, creating tension and continuing the state of misery.

Right, now to the walkout. My views on the walkout are different to my views on what I think that CUSU should do. Do I, and will I, support the day of action in some circumstances? Yes. But that’s because I’m a member of the BMA, and they do. The UCU, incidentally, are still in negotiations. Some are striking over pensions; some over cuts. Even the Labour leadership says that a solution can still be found. So it’s not all obvious just yet. However, if, as seems the case, working people are being messed about, where factually they need not be to the same extent (and here I am looking at the pragmatics of a situation where we are in trouble financially, for a whole variety of reasons, but where pensions deals and pay changes are being done behind closed doors and will little listening to interested parties), then I fully, fully support their right to take action. As a student doctor, I cannot strike; and I believe that is fair, and wouldn’t ever dream of doing so. However, for those who legally can, and morally feel they should, then I give them my 100% support.

The odd part, though, is CUSU’s demanding (please don’t see it as simple support – they are demanding this) a walkout of lectures that day. Now, it’s pretty close to the end of term, so there probably won’t be many lecturers. Oh, and on that point, how is walking out of a lecture (i.e. one where the lecturer has turned up) showing solidarity to that lecturer? It’s all a bit strange. not a lawyer, but I’m unsure as to its legality (considering secondary picketing etc.). But the point is: should CUSU be demanding it?

Well let’s take the second point first. It’s very clear to me that we didn’t elect an executive that ever expressed this view on demanding students not learn for a day. So the people putting this view forward are some dullards who rock up to CUSU Council to either get out of there as quickly as possible, or to put forward their extremist views. There aren’t many people that take it terribly seriously, and hence why we get this nonsense passed, so people can get to the Cow asap.

CUSU represents a huge body of student opinion, and should reflect the complexities of a situation like that on 30th November. CUSU should be a facilitator in matters of politics, protecting students and making sure they can express their views; and it should be a great actor in matters of university policy and student welfare. Demanding that students walk out alienates a huge number, and as it’s not even in support of UCU, let alone the whole body of university lecturers (very few of whom have asked us to walk out; and if they did, I imagine a large number of students would agree to do so, on an individual basis). CUSU should not be meddling in things like this; it’s not a union in the sense that Unite is, and it should be something that represents all, not just a few, students. That’s not to say people shouldn’t walk out, or show some form of solidarity; but it is to say that CUSU shouldn’t be demanding it.

Will I be walking out on 30th? As I’ve already stated, in the spirit of the law, I feel I cannot walk out, but I will certainly be showing my support.

As BMA Cambridge Med Students Chair, will I be urging BMA students to show solidarity in some form? Yes. And why? Because we are a trade union, and it is our belief that our members are being messed about by a government that refuses to negotiate. Do I believe that the pension age shouldn’t rise? No – we are living longer, and factually it is impossible for it not to do so, economically. It’s good news we’re healthier and living longer – but of course a staged transition is important, particularly in the case of women, who currently retire earlier than men (and live longer!). Should we increase our contributions? Probably, but in a staged and affordable manner. Do we need some cuts to save some government money? Yes, but they needn’t be so hard, fast and unpleasant as the current plans are.

As a student, will I be showing support to lecturers who ask for it, if they convince me that they are being taken for a ride by a government that won’t listen and refuses to negotiate? Yes. Is that my choice? Yes. Should CUSU be facilitating this? Yes. Should they be demanding that I do so, even though the facts aren’t all out yet, and UCU hasn’t even decided to strike? Absolutely not. CUSU – give us the facts, and let us decide for ourselves, in such a complex situation. Even suggest that you think we should, given your reading of the facts, at the time (not over a month before). But don’t demand it, because you will alienate far too many of your members. And waste far too much time and money on political posturing than improving the welfare and day to day life of students.

So don’t all start jumping to conclusions because you don’t read an article correctly. Get your facts straight.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Loony left and the destruction of CUSU

Politics is rather boring.
Or at least the people who practice it usually are. Add the pseudo-intellectual arrogance of a Cambridge student into the mix, and you are stuck with a rather silly, ideologically driven and evidentially sparse set of ideas, propagated by a bunch of self-styled political students, mouthing off at whoever (or often, whatever) will listen to them. No wonder no-one really cares – even at the last general election, a large number of students didn’t bother to turn out; not that electing a Liberal Democrat has made much difference.  And as for CUSU – quite rightly it is considered a bit of a dullard’s game.
You only have to turn up to a ‘meeting’ of the fortnightly CUSU Council to see what happens when a bunch of self-important, self-interested and extraordinarily boring people get together to slam their own, usually totally ridiculous, policies on an executive – and I use the term very lightly. Our CUSU executive has to implement all the nonsense that gets thrown their way every other Monday – and having watched this pantomime for a couple of years, something fairly worrying is happening – and something that nobody seems to know about.
Now all student unions have been plagued for years by people who think that their role is to launch an armada against Mugabe or send the tanks into Milton Keynes – and who think that anyone outside of the room they are in will actually care what they have to say - but there’s a whole new phenomenon taking place in Cambridge. It’s something that has been slowly creeping up on us since the rather moronic raising of tuition fees, and the smash and burn culture of the last year or so – where the best way to show anger is apparently to break into expensive shops and steal plasma TVs. Very few people thought that the tuition fee increase was a good idea. But a group that has really benefitted from this are beginning to wreak their own particular brand of havoc on the university.
I’m talking about the far left extremists. The bad gang of alleged Marxists/Communists (all with iPad and MacBook Pro in hand) out to save Cambridge from the excesses of the bourgeoisie.  To be honest with you, I’m not too sure who is in the latter category, but so far as I can tell, it’s anyone who’s not them. I, for one, am apparently one of the first up against the wall (rather invitingly put, I feel), when the revolution comes. I’m not sure if they are actually so unwell as to believe that it will come – but they seem pretty convinced.
Well, this lot have decided that it’s time they made their move; and their ingenious plan is to start becoming members of CUSU Council – mostly unelected, if they can (why break the habit of a lifetime), and mostly in the MCRs (how they have the time or inclination to complete a degree, I simply can’t understand; how is the world going to fundamentally shift on its axis without their help?). I don’t think their entire reason is to become a member of a politburo, although I imagine their sitting around with a bunch of the ‘saved’ is probably helping massage their egos; they’re there because they’ve realised they can cause a lot of trouble – and that nobody seems to care.
Well, I think we should. CUSU is now demanding a walk out of all lectures on 30th November, because our representatives asked them to. There is also to be a referendum on who clears our bins, which probably won’t (and shouldn’t) get to quorum, but will waste a whole bunch of money. And this is just the start of the ideology seeping out of their diseased political udders. Last year, they were in a decisive minority, and any calls, on our behalf, for strikes, walkouts, occupations (the most silly and pointless of all protests), pickets, condemnation of the university, hatred of Israel, fury at preventing genocide in Libya, etc, were ignored. If they try it this year, they might just win.
This is our council, and they are our representatives. It’s time we took them in hand. Most of us are pretty much centre left here. And most of us are here to learn, to debate, and to discuss; not to walk out, smash up or make sweeping political statements. CUSU is our students union, and should be dealing with students’ issues. Let’s get them out, vote them out, debate them out of town; and the body of student opinion can wrench their attempted iron curtain out like a massive magnet, and drop it back in the political doldrums, where it belongs, and where their ideas can continue to fester and bore others.