VERSA | Student activism? Doesn’t that imply actually doing something?

After the General Election, almost a month ago now, there were quite a lot of people who were not very happy. Some might say angry or even vitriolic. People boldly posted extensive Facebook statuses about just how terrible the election result was. And a lot has been written about this. Then there were those, in typical #meta internet fashion, lashing back against the backlash; “You lost, get over it”, “Grow up”, “Have some dignity”, etc.

But then another group emerged, led by our lord and saviour, Owen Jones (side note: I’m yet to work out if there is actually anything more to him than being a personification of ‘Peak Guardian’), who thought that a good idea might be to actually, you know, do something about it? Rather than just throwing your toys out of the pram. And so was born The Oxford Fight Back. And, in spite of my political beliefs, dare I say that this was genuinely refreshing? (Yes. Yes, I do.) It made a nice change from the vicious attacks on anyone daring to differ from the accepted radical left status quo, and it was a good reminder that, contrary to popular opinion, the political process does actually take place more than once every five years. If that wasn’t enough, there was even a cute cartoon on the event page and everything!

Or alternatively make a brief attempt at organising and then just give up!

And ‘Planning the Oxford Fight Back’ was well attended. According to Facebook, 376 people attended the meeting on the 13th of May. Which is a lot of people – especially for a venue that can only cater for 60 people (VERSA can only express concern at the flagrant disregard for health and safety and hope that no tragedies occurred as result). And they got a lot done. There are minutes and everything (this sounds a bit corporate and bourgeois to yours truly. A meeting. With minutes. But hey, Wadham). They even got a (what was admittedly emphasised as “*very* quick and dirty”) website up. Very impressive. Quick and dirty it may have been, but content was promised: vlogs, articles, a directory of Oxford activist groups.

So after more than three weeks since the meeting, how many posts do you suppose there are there now? 10? 15? Nope, you’re wrong. Since the day after the meeting, Oxford rs21 (the event’s creators) have produced absolutely nothing in the way of content. Nada. Nil. Zilch. Etc. And one of the two posts was simply the minutes from the meeting. Given the chat thrown our way by the OxStu earlier this term about our supposed ‘lack of content’, we dread to think how they’d judge Oxford’s left. What’s more, the minutes promised follow up meetings, but the number of those seems – based on a Facebook search and the gossip such a name as myself hears around Oxford – to mirror the amount of content on the website.

I wish I could say I was surprised but I’m just really not. This ‘Fight Back’ was just another in a long line of self-aggrandizing, ‘look-at-me’, social media campaigns that look very nice pinned onto your Facebook, popping up on your Twitter, that will score you a lot of Oxford Left points (thus leaving you more equal than your callous, Tory-voting friends, or something), but that in reality achieve next to nothing . Just earlier this term, Wadham (of course, Wadham) fresher Peter Morgan decided to fill some of the free time afforded him by his decision to study History (#sorrynotsorry) by single-handedly taking down the remaining vestiges of British imperialism. Hope he’s been to all the Rhodes Must Fall events.

It’s not something that’s just unique to Oxford, either. Even in the awful, awful world of Twitter, amid the scramble to jump onto the next Social Justice Bandwagon, no one seems to have thought to ask how Joseph Kony’s doing (apparently kinda ill, but hanging out on the Sudan-South Sudan border, if you’re wondering). Or whether #OurGirls have been brought back yet (hint: they haven’t). And fair enough, social justice can be tough when you’re a student. You’ve got essay deadlines, and Trinity term’s always a tough one unless you’re a second year. But what if, say, you were married to arguably the most powerful person on the planet?

Our prayers are with the missing Nigerian girls and their families. It’s time to #BringBackOurGirls. -mo

— The First Lady (@FLOTUS) May 7, 2014

Despite that, I’ve barely heard a peep from Twitter about the Rohingya Muslims fleeing Myanmar (spoiler: it’s not a great situation). Nor the current conflict in Yemen (spoiler: it’s not- oh, you know where this is going…). And people seem to be thoroughly bored of ISIS now. And that’s leaving aside the dozens of horrendous things going on around the globe that even someone as worldly and aware as myself has not heard of.

Now obviously, I’m not seriously suggesting that you should be keeping up with literally (literally literally) every ill on the planet. Nor that you can’t care about something simply because you don’t make a point about something else. Both of those would be absurd. But please, for the love of God, stop making a competition out of how much you condemn something, or of how utterly appalled you are, either by a child-soldier recruiting warlord halfway across the globe or a bloke in a blue tie winning an election at home. In fact, turning it into a competition is a fairly good indication that you don’t really care, and whilst it’s very easy to ‘raise awareness’ from the comfort of your desk, the excuses for empty words get a little flimsier, and just a little more transparent in your own city. Just stop all of this faux-outrage; not only is it duplicitous (and kinda fucking annoying), the use of very real human problems to try to prove that you are more activist than others has a very dark and sinister undertone to it.

If you’re genuinely outraged about something, go out and fucking do something about it. Otherwise sit down, shut up, and stop thinking you’re better than everyone else. (Spoiler: you’re probably not).