Thursday 9 December 2010

"The Mask of Anarchy" by Michael Meranze

The first lines from Shelley's The Mask of Anarchy
As we look forward to a mass march in London today, one taking place to demonstrate to MPs, voting this afternoon on the coalition government's proposed tuition fee rises, the strength of the arguments and the feeling against this policy, let us seek some more inspiration from Percy Bysshe Shelley, and his poetic statement of the principle of nonviolent resistance.

DEFEND the ARTS and HUMANITIES brings you an excerpt from Michael Meranze's stirring two part essay about higher education policy in the UK and the US, named after Shelley's political poem.
The Mask of Anarchy (Part I)  by Michael Meranze

I met Murder on the Way—
He had a mask Like Castlereagh
Very smooth he looked, yet grim;
Seven bloodhounds followed him:

All were fat; and well they might
Be in admirable plight,
For one by one, and two by two,
He tossed them human hearts to chew
Which from his wide cloak he drew.

Shelley, The Mask of Anarchy

The dapper Cameron has replaced the corpulent Castlereagh; England does not lead but follows the austerity bloodhounds; and the police kettle rather than kill protesters. But the English state is once more threatening to eat its common folk in the interest of the authority of capital. Despite large and growing protests including massive displays on November 10th and 24th and numerous campus occupations, the Tory-little Tory coalition plans to bring the bill to allow universities to raise student fees to a vote in Parliament on December 9th. With this vote, Cameron and Clegg accelerate their effort to end the public university in England and throw students and potential students into debt for decades. At the same time, as Iain Pears has argued, the state will game the system against the humanities and social sciences by holding the costs of certain science and priority courses unnaturally low while pushing universities to emphasize education for business instead of the business of education.

But the attack on the public university and the nature of education is only part of an effort to shift the costs of society onto the poor, the working-class, the elderly, and the young. As Ross McKibbon has pointed out  there is no true economic necessity or rationale for the Coalition budget and its cuts to services across the spectrum. It only makes sense politically: as an effort to protect the banks (for whom there always seems to be enough money) and to attack the entire notion of welfare or, as it might be better termed, “shared responsibility.” The Department for Work and Pensions apparently ignored a report that suggested its cuts to housing support would affect nearly a million poor people. As in the United States the Coalition is asking the English to believe that a crisis caused by the machination of the finance sector must be solved by cutting support from the poor, the young, and the elderly. The new Conservative-Liberal Democratic government seeks to push through what Thatcher and new Labour never could: the liberation of the wealthy from any obligation to the society that they inhabit.

Neither the students nor labor nor local officials are sitting quietly. The students have planned another massive demonstration—this time at the House of Parliament itself—for December 9th. This protest is only the end of a series of events planned throughout the week. [READ MORE]

Now, read The Mask of Anarchy (Part II) by Meranze which takes up parallel circumstances in the US.

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