School students were demonstrating yesterday; this doesn’t happen very often in the UK. It made me feel… old. I couldn’t think clearly about my political response to their uprising, when all that was going through my mind was… when did I last demonstrate as a school kid? In 1986? Shit I am old.
And I know this misses the point probably but the thing I liked best about hearing of them taking to the streets was the fact that they bunked off school to do it. I spent many a lunch-hour at school, sitting in my friend’s kitchen saying, ‘I know, we could just not go back!’ and then come one o’clock we’d be at the gates like good little pupils, turning up for afternoon classes despite the sunshine and our plans to drink cider in the park. School is a kind of police state isn’t it? Maybe it is a benign one on the whole but it is still the place we learn to be controlled, as citizens, as subjects. I loved learning and I liked my friends but I didn’t like ‘school’. I was a rebel who just never really got round to rebelling because she was worried she wouldn’t have time to start the revolution and finish her French homework.
I made up for my obedience later though.
Anyway I saw this great placard which a friend, who is a university student, made for yesterday’s demos. It read:
‘The unexamined life is kind of looking like the only option now, eh?’
It made me smile.
But it also made me think, which is quite an achievement for a placard. It made me think that is university really the place we learn to ‘examine’ life, ourselves, the world? I don’t know. But I do know some incredibly intelligent philosophical people who never went to university, and I do know I read some of my most difficult philosophy outside of university: hello Madness and Civilisation! I am glad to know you.
And then I read this in the Guardian and I loved those school students harder. What a load of condescending authoritatian anti-youth crap! It’s not even written by old people but by journalists who are young enough to feel they have left those silly schooldays behind and now are grown-ups in the big wide world, who have the authority to judge what young people do. I am sure they will grow out of that sense of superiority at some point. If they ‘examine’ themselves at all during their lives that is.
Is the unexamined life worth living? I think it is. But once we have some tendency and some tools to examine and analyse, which most people do, I think we should do so whilst still remembering what it is like to be young, and feeling constrained and overpowered by that confusing, seemingly monolithic, institutional, paradoxical ‘adult’ authority. It is only our youthful, rebellious, let’s just not go back to school and go drink cider in the park instead spirit that will see us through the dark, dreary days of adulthood.
Its 11 am. I think I have some cider in the fridge.