There was a time when student protests meant something. Student activists were against war, against government corruption, against corporations. They saw areas in society that were unfair and unjust and they demonstrated to create public awareness; long before society was inundated with public awareness campaigns. These young adults weren’t just against things, though. They were in favour of some things, too: peace, love and equality, for example. They didn’t always demonstrate it with their actions, but these were their stated goals. Such is not the case with student protests in our time.
When Quebec students were engaged in angry, sometimes even violent, destructive demonstrations, in Montreal last week, they weren’t protesting for the plight of Syrian villagers or for relief from oppression in some other war-torn country. They weren’t interested in peace or love or equality at all. Quite the contrary, they were protesting for themselves. Through excessive force, they were rallying against reasonable tuition increases that still would leave them being, by far, the least expensive in the country. Compared to Ontario, even after the hikes take effect, the tuition paid by the average Quebecois will be half that of their Ontario counterpart. These student hooligans aren’t demanding equality; they are demanding they continue receive the preferential treatment to which they had become accustomed.
This is indicative of a generation of young people who have a feeling of entitlement like no other. There are many exceptions, of course; we all know teenagers and “twenty-somethings” who are bright, motivated, responsible and understand the concept of a hard day at work. Still the stereotype of the politically apathetic, work-ethic challenged, actively disinterested in the rest of society youth persists because of how many examples we can all draw from in our own lives. Oil patch staffing companies often complain it is much harder to get laborers now because many young people have told them directly even more than the fear of drug testing, they can’t bear to be away from their “smart-phone” connection.
Even the “Occupy Movement” isn’t as altruistic as they would have us believe. In a number of cases, these occupiers aren’t interested in the “1%” sharing what they have with the other 99%. These protestors are mad they don’t get to be part of the 1%. Of course, they don’t want to work to get there like those that earned their way to “one percenthood” had to. It would be a good bet most of those in Occupy Camps around the world, not to mention their supporters and detractors alike, would not be willing to put the time into the job of CEO that it takes to get there.
For the most part, these rich fat cats that are so popular to loathe nowadays, have chosen to work insane hours and eviscerate their family lives in order to compete for every higher rung on the corporate ladder they attained. It’s no wonder they look down on those who choose more family, more fun, more diversity of life than they did. They feel they had to sacrifice to get to where they are and, understandably, don’t wish to share with those not willing to make the same sacrifice. On the other end of the spectrum are those who choose to put in whatever hours are required to pay the bills and sacrifice extra money for that family-time/free-time choice they obviously must value more highly. Both the 99% and the 1% need to accept that each are making choices that involve sacrifices to live the lifestyle they are most comfortable with. Certainly not in every case but in most cases, the social class you’re in is the one you’ve actively chosen through your critical decisions along the way. Speaking generally, although the lower-middle class guy looking up at Mr. Moneybags lighting his Cuban cigars with a twenty dollar bill and wishing for that lifestyle, would feel no more comfortable than the aristocratic wealthy at a beer fest down at Legion on a Saturday night.
It seems quite apparent; the young don’t understand this trade-off. They want it all and they want it now. Growing up when their parents did, a lot of families didn’t have televisions, especially colour televisions as a matter of course. Today’s young person struggling on their own starting out, feel they “need” an enormous flat screen TV, a tablet, a computer, and a phone plan that costs more than their car payment. They aren’t willing to go with cinderblock living-room furniture until they could afford stuff at the Second Glance. Our generation has taught them, rather than earning what you get and paying for what you’ve earned, you get what you want and pay… sometime.
The students protesting tuition increases in Montreal will likely stop their immature rampage sooner rather than later. Polls show they do not enjoy the support of the majority of taxpayers who fund the enormous gap between what a university charges its students and what it costs to run. The main reason, however, is that these vocal, destructive students will find out they are mostly self-destructive. They will discover that a student strike isn’t nearly as powerful as job action by a labour union. At least unionists get a meager dole of “strike pay”. Students do not get “strike grades”. When a student withdraws his services, the only result is a failing score in the program they, or more likely their parents have paid for.
It seems these places of higher education are teaching the wrong lessons. That’s only fair; it seems, so did these students’ parents.
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