Fees Must Fall makes me sad, but not for the reason you think


There have been a lot of opinions doing the round on the topic of FMF. A lot of debate, passionate arguments, and a lot of feelings being caught. After having viewed the whole situation from afar, and always being in two minds about the matter (sometimes more to one side, and other times the other, but never completely on one side), the feelings train finally came by my house. And the feeling is simply this: sadness.

Why sad, you may ask. Perhaps because of the way the students are being treated by a state that is supposed to protect and serve them? Or is it because of the violence and destruction of property perpetrated by those who claim to fight for freedom? The two sides of my own mind, very much like the two sides of the debate, both vying for supremacy. But it isn’t really either of those. It isn’t one side or the other, really, it’s something more human. It’s sadness that such a strong will for change is being wasted. Oh damn, did I just choose a side? Nope, not quite, read on and see.

It’s clear the system is broken, or if not broken, at least severely crippled. I’m not just speaking of our own little dysfunctional home on the Southern tip of Africa. No, I am speaking much more widely. Across the globe we see the same problems. Costs skyrocketing, not just of education but of everything. The breadline moves ever higher and even the middle class is starting to panic. We’re not sure what, but it’s clear something’s gotta give. We might be young, but we have eyes. This course is not sustainable on any level, and so you’d be hard pressed to find a young person today without a passion for change.

So, why then does FMF make me sad? Don’t they stand for exactly what we all are looking for? Yes they do, which is exactly why they make me sad. If they didn’t stand for these things I myself yearn for, then I wouldn’t give a crap about what they did, and I certainly wouldn’t have caught feelings. They are standing up against that faceless might that is pressing down on all of us. They are brave, and they are taking a stand. So why am I not happy? I’m not happy because they are wasting our drive for change. Quite a heavy statement hey? But let me explain. This desire that we as the youth have for change is a mighty force indeed. It has the power to change the world. But as with all energy, it is not limitless. We must spend it wisely, lest apathy set in. As with every wave of change-seeking youth, we have one big push in us, and then most will be spent. Look at the hippies, hell, even look at the Arab spring. Enough energy for one burst, and then nothing more. So why is our burst being wasted by vandals and vagabonds? I am not saying that this is what FMF is at all, I am making specific reference to those elements in the movement that do not seem to be aiming for any political goal, but rather seem to be aiming for chaos. Every day the FMF movement is haemorrhaging support. Increasingly online chatter is turning against them in all but a few places, even amongst fellow youth looking for change. Increasingly those who were on the side of change are joining the side of the status quo, because they don’t want to side with destruction. Increasingly that energy for change is being wasted. There is a war of opinion going on, and FMF, as the only public voice speaking for change, is losing the war so badly it almost seems intentional. Where are those working for real change? Those protesting government rather than universities? You are spoiling the youth’s desire for change by making it look like something dark, FMF. You are framing the desire for change as something destructive and violent, FMF, and in so doing you are chasing away all those who would have stood by your side. All those who wanted change, but not to destroy that which is not at fault. You are eroding your own support base with your tactics that come from a previous age.

I’m not telling you to believe that only peaceful protest can change the world, I’m imploring you to realise that this war isn’t fought on the ground, it is fought on the airwaves. It’s not about the clash, it’s about the opinions that are shaped about it afterwards in the media and online. If you lose the war of opinion, then you will be crushed by the power of the state and no-one will come to save you. In the 21st century, public opinion is everything, and you make me sad because you are so very bad at playing this game. You are being baited into a course of action that those who you are fighting know will result in you losing, and you are falling for it hook, line and sinker. You are being led by the nose, because you are not using your head together with your heart, and I tell you both are sorely needed. In a country where ridiculous amounts of money are lost through corruption, why are we protesting universities? Does no-one realise that they don’t have the power to become free? How will they pay their staff? Did you know that the government has been cutting university funding every year? You are being manipulated, FMF. Your focus is being drawn to all the wrong fights, to all the wrong pressure points. You are quarrelling with all the wrong people, while those who are at fault sit peacefully at home.

You carry all our hopes with you FMF, don’t let us down. Get a grip. Get strategic. Identify pressure points and push them. Disrupt the lives of those who are steering your country into oblivion. Disrupt those who can actually affect the change we are all looking for. Please, please, please. We have one chance, don’t spoil it.

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