On Fighting for A Country Worth Dying For


Some commentators have tried to portray the student demonstrators of last week as demonstrating only in their own narrow self-interest. Some have even gone so far as to draw unfavorable parallels between the demonstrating students and the young men and women serving in our armed forces.

The first thing to say is that the students weren’t demonstrating because they will have to pay higher fees. The post Browne reforms won’t come in until the current crop of students have graduated. Everyone on the 10th November demonstration (and I was one of them), was demonstrating to protect the idea of a system of education for ALL the citizens of our democratic country – not just a wealthy, ruling elite.

An informed and educated electorate is central to any meaningful concept of democracy and a system of high quality free education for all, paid for through general taxation, is a progressive idea crucial for the maintenance of our democracy.And note I do not argue that an educated work-force is crucial for our economy; I do not regard the purpose of our education system as training workers to serve the wants and needs of the Capitalist class. No I regard the purpose of our education system to be the educating of citizens so that can become able and informed participants in our democracy. In other words we should be educating people to be free!

We have to remember that the idea of a universal education system, free at the point of delivery, is less than 100 years old. Even at the turn of the last century many politicians and commentators argued that educating women was an unnecessary expense and that educating the working class was dangerous as it it would only serve to unrealistically raise their expectations – better they be left in blissful ignorance.

The idea of a universal education system, free at the point of delivery, is an idea worth fighting for. The freemarketeers wish to marketise all human activity from education to our armed forces; is that what our heroic servicemen are dying for in Iraq and Afghanistan? So that the already wealthy can get even richer?

It was the generation who fought WWII who brought in the Welfare State because they thought a country worth fighting for was a country that actively pursued a concept of social justice and equal opportunities.  I myself went to a state Grammar school and there was no way my parents could have afforded to send me to Public school. I then went on to University, the first in my family to ever do so. Do we forget all this so soon?.

The “irony” some commentators identify between the motivations and actions of student protesters and those of our young servicemen is not ironic, there is no contradiction. Wanting to fight for a country worth dying for is not the exclusive prerogative of Conservatives. From Watt Tyler through to the Tolpuddle Martyrs through to the Suffragetes British men and women have fought, suffered and died to bring us the social, economic and political freedoms we now enjoy. I personally think they are still worth fighting for and that the students last week were fighting for exactly the same thing that our armed forces are fighting for around the world. And that is the irony if there is one; that our armed forces and our student protesters are fighting for the same thing – a country worth dying for.

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I Am Not A Number

Political and Philosophical Dispatches From An Individual Living In A Society

corporate democracy economics freedom left-wing libertarian managerialism moral philosophy politics radical socialist society

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