Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The Duke: Mayday - What Happened To The Student Left?

You ready for another Guest Column by the Duke? I know I am...

The Duke resides at Mondo Irlando - "Fucking great" - Karl Marx

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Couple days ago a friend was telling me about a conversation overheard whilst queuing for the ATM machine in the local Student's Union.

"What the hell is Mayday, anyroad?" asked Student A.

"I dunno", replied Student B. "Probably something to do with some saint or somethin'."

We chuckled for a time. Then wept. Long and fucking hard.

Used to be, a fella would get up on Mayday morning, i. the hell e. International Workers Day, put on a nice suit and head downstairs for to stand to attention for a rendition of The Red Flag. This being the 29th century or whatever, I didn't need to go find myself a traveling socialist bard, just a couple clicks on the ol' Personal PC and a man's ears were tingling with the stirring lament.

Sod that "O Christmas Tree" version. One airing of the Billy Bragg rendition from off of The Internationale and a fella never looked back.

"The people's flag is deepest red,
It shrouded oft our Martyrs dead!"

Those thudding drums, that delirious tin whistle, Billy's rousing holler, it all made a fella feel safe in the knowledge that whatever the hell was going on, however sickening New Labour had turned out to be, at least us filthy reds had something wonderful for to dance to in the streets.

And there was plenty dancing in the streets. Students taking to Westminster, folks smashing the hell outta MacDonalds windows, other folks blocking the motorways in peaceful protest and getting kicked senseless by the filth. All that good stuff.

Not that The Duke was involved in the old "riots" and the like, but certainly from my subversive bunker in The Northern Irelands plenty tins were opened and discarded as these radical festivities unfolded in London.

The student types, they were all there. They'd read enough Marx, or at least carried about enough copies of Das Kapital in the hope of someone seeing them, to know a thing or two about revolution, and maybe even economics if they bothered cracking the thing open at all.

If they could be counted on for nothing else, and fuck knows they can't, at least the students could be counted on for to disrupt the establishment a tad on Mayday.

I gotta say, man, my guts dropped a little when I browsed the old News Sites this morning.

Oxford Students… began one headline, and after thinking how odd it might be that the most privileged sonsabitches in the country should be the ones making the headlines today, I scanned on through the article.

Turned out, the only student disruption to have made the news on Mayday 2005 was a buncha stupid drunken arseholes at Oxford getting plastered and jumping from a 25ft high bridge into 3ft of water. It's a "tradition" apparently.

I remember, man. I remember when a buncha similarly plastered arseholes were stood around the cenotaph, spray-painting the bejeesus outta Churchill's head on account of The Dissent. I remember staging a bout of the old Invisible Theater in protest of the imminent Iraq War, a bout of fisticuffs in the middle of the street, and all in the name of getting a couple issues raised.

What it was, was The Duke was "anti-war", making kafuffle with a couple "pro-war" types stood behind a table asking folks to sign a letter supporting Mr Blair in his decision. Staged, yet connecting, punches were flung. Folks gasped. What the fuck is this crazy voodoo bullshit, anyhow, they asked?

The police intervened, one of whom took me aside and said something along the lines of "Let's face it, there's gonna be no war. Those guys are kidding themselves. I don't think they'll get much support."

Shows how much the police know.

I had to give up the old political shindiggery around that time, though, had to leave The Socialist Party an' all sorts, on account of my skull was swimming in demented alcoholic pish and I couldn't convince myself to get out the fucking bed in the morning, never mind convince folks that term-time workers should be getting a fairer deal. "Meetings" I arranged descended into drunken farce.

And anyway, the left was in good hands. Look at all those student protests in Belfast, for Gods sakes.

I dunno that I got particularly apathetic with regards it all. I dunno that I could be bothered. But certainly I became less active, to a point where, really, a man shot in the guts and left dead and rotting in the Arizona sun would be engaging in more political daring-do than yours truly. Who the fuck has time for to debate The War For Oil when look here, The War Of The Buttons just got issued on DVD.

This year, though, it felt right for to engage in things a bit more. Maybe because the personal side of things was much steadier (despite the wretched, drawn-out, bitter dissolution of a five-year engagement. Fucking hell, The Duke, when are you gonna shut up about that anyhow? When I cack Lucas' lungs out my arsehole, most likely), or maybe just because it felt like things were truly reaching some sort of boiling point. Whatever the reason, a fella got to thinking and debating, even if that's as far as it ever went. Thinking and debating are important, I've concluded.

And the point to be made, is that The Duke wasn't the only one.

I mean look around you, man. Look at the number of political documentaries making the top ten lists. Look at the number of political books clogging up Waterstones displays. Look at the number of political records sitting atop the charts. Look at the Radio 1 playlist, for Gods sakes. Just last night I heard When The President Talks To God by Bright Eyes played on BBC Radio Ulster, complete with the "Does he ever smell his own bullshit!" line.

Look at the hoopla last year when everyone was convinced Monkey-Boy Bush was gonna get kicked the hell outta office, and made it known as best was possible, sometimes with a catchy chorus, that nothing less than his imminent removal would suffice. Listen to that sigh when those numbers came in.

But dig this also, would you ever;

This is an election year right here in the UK. This week, in fact, is election week. Mayday falls in the same week as a general election, and the streets are quiet. Instead of acting moronic on account of political beliefs, students are busy acting fucking moronic and jumping off of bridges into water as shallow as their reading lists.

I can only conclude something along the lines of something like this;

There is no Student Left in the UK anymore, or at least none that's gonna worry anyone.

Increase the price of a pint by a penny and they'll march from here to Tibet. Give them the opportunity of voting for one wretched motherfucker over another, and they get drunk and jump off bridges like lemmings in some ghastly John Belushi nightmare. If they were doing it outta despair maybe I'd at least commiserate.

So how come, then, after the initial disappointment, and surprise, when flicking through this mornings news, I came away smiling to myself?

Maybe on account of something along the lines of - So the fuck what? The world has changed a lot in the last five years, and for the better.

Examples? I shit 'em.

The latest fashion craze here in The Northern Ireland involves the wearing of multi-colored wrist-bands advocating various causes. Cider-soaked hoodlums are going about their business whilst showing solidarity, however fickle, with anything from Aids Awareness to Make Poverty History.

People are buying those political records, otherwise the radio wouldn't fucking touch them, at least no radio that doesn't feature buggery and Pot Noodle sex on a regular basis.

Folks are seeing these films, and reading these books, and yacking in pubs about "Yeah, that Moore knows the score" or "The score? He knows less than fuck, is what he knows. What does he know? He knows nothing." Whatever the stance, folks are talking about it.

So what if students are more concerned with a coke-laced fuck in a car-park? Who the hell cares? The politicized student of the 1980's was a myth then and a joke now. For sure, learn stuff, read stuff, read whatever the hell you want, I don't care. It's when the folks who aren't being told to discuss these things start discussing them that a fella gets to grin a tad.

There's a politicized tint to the air that makes a fella feel all the optimistic in the world, even when resenting like hell the fact that I have to go to a booth on Thursday and choose between reactionary prick A and reactionary prick B.

The reason there weren't no Whitechapel riots today was, I would suggest like all hell, because folks have moved a bit further on. Bar an entertaining night's news, what the hell did those MacDonalds smashing antics achieve? Who has time to do that now? We're too busy visiting those Fair Trade stores, too busy turning Fahrenheit 9/11 into Prime-Time Event T.V. Too busy singing along with Willy Mason. Too busy reading about The Corporation.

Who are you gonna listen to? Who you gonna take seriously? The person hollering drunkenly whilst flinging horseshit at Buckingham Palace (as Babyshambles frontman Pete Doherty and Martin Tomlinson from Selfish Cunt got up to a few months back, although, granted, they were aiming the shit at each other) or the person who's informed and knows what's going on, and wants to discuss it articulately?

Which I, I am aware, have spectacularly failed to do.

But no matter. The Times They Are A-Changing, somebody said one time. I think it was Donovan.

There's no need for empty sloganeering on the street. In the houses and the pubs and the cafes, there's political debate going on that means something.

However, as with any period of increased liberal thinking, there's gonna be a buncha right-wing fucking maniacs hollering that little bit louder. There's tension in plenty places, the British National Party and their army of swill-skulled barbarians are trying their best to gain a foothold anywhere impoverished and desperate enough to offer them a chance. The White National Party are recruiting kids here in the Northern Irelands through sectarianism and misinformation.

But they are the minority. And that right there gives a fella a reason to smile.

But it's just gone 4 a.m and I got some thinking to do regarding The Cat's Meow.

Thank you Kirsten.

Thanks folks.

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