Is it still possible to stir a national youth movement in America today? I don't think it is. I think apathy has won the day. Maybe the key is in localized fights. Change in the community:
Last December 98% of the New School faculty gave a vote of no confidence for the university's president Bob Kerrey. A week later 100 students barricaded themselves into a school cafeteria with hundreds more outside supporting them. After a 30 hour occupation the students left with their demands of his resignation unanswered. In April they staged another occupation of a New School building which was quickly distilled by police who arrested all the students involved as well as others on the street. Some students were injured by the police though the protest never escalated into violence. In May Bob Kerrey announced his planned resignation at the end of 2011. For all intensive purposes the protests succeeded in ousting their president whose conservative record runs counter to the school historical liberal roots.
At around the same time, just down the street at NYU, students also staged a cafeteria occupation. Around 70 students took control of one of cafeterias and demanded full budgetary disclosure from President John Sexton. Not stopping there, they also demanded annual scholarships for students in the Gaza Strip as well as gifts of surplus supplies to the Islamic University of Gaza. Not stopping there either, they demanded the right for graduate teaching assistants to unionize. After 18 or so hours no concessions were made and the students were issued suspensions.
These two cases are exemplary examples of the issues of protesting for political change in today's climate. In my opinion the New School students were completely justified in their use of occupational tactics. They had the support of the faculty and were giving voice to the mute majority who've been overlooked as Bob Kerrey extended administrative control over the school while ignoring student needs. On the other hand, the NYU students were just protesting to protest. They exemplify privileged students who forgo the cause just to fight. ( post
) Their demands were stupid, uninformed, and scattered. There was no justification for the occupation and it was a sacrifice for no gains because they were a small minority with no larger support.
If it weren't for the success of the New School operation I would readily say that the age of 1970 style sit-ins and protests was over. And to be truthful it has dwindled. As a youth today I feel completely removed from the efforts of the March on Washington and the movements to end the Vietnam war. Sure there were protests against Iraq, but nothing monumental enough to sway the entire public opinion. The protests were far and in between and didn't storm the country on a daily basis. The age of the protest singers are over. Artists no longer have their hands in the political tide of the people and America is run by apathy.
I wonder then if national dissent is even possible today as it used to be. Is it possible that an entire country could come together under one specific cause? The cynic in me says no cause could ever stir us from our ease and luxuries, but the efficacious in me stands by the New School students who rose up on a very local level. So perhaps if the cause were large enough we could shape change like our parents did in the 70s.
And then how would we do it? The same way they did in the 70s and the same way the new school students did it. We'd have to shut down the country. Stop the infrastructure and stop the flow of money. Protests then, don't change from decade to decade. They still require the masses to stop what they're doing and champion their own voices. But with so many different voices out there today, there is no one ring to rule them all, one cause to champion them all, one voice to move a nation.