Photo: Charlie Brown

Political Activism (or Lack Thereof) in St Andrews

A town full of slacktivists?

It seems that there’s plenty to protest about, nowadays. My Facebook feed is filled with pictures of friends attending Women’s Marches, organising meetings about student rent prices rising in London, sharing articles about the morals of punching Nazis, and so on. Every day, young people I know are making their voices heard, and not shying away from difficult political conversations. They’re letting Trump know that they’re not okay with him, they’re telling their universities to pay the cleaners more, and they’re announcing to the world what they think of FGM (female genital mutilation). What’s more, they’re achieving things, too, through their activism. Protest does actually work.

So why is it that here in St Andrews, a town populated by over 8,000 students, there is a distinct political apathy? Yes, people “checked in” to the Dakota Pipeline, and some students went to the Edinburgh Women’s March, and we complain to one another about the ridiculous rent prices. But we very rarely do anything about it. There is just no apparent desire anywhere amongst the student body to positively affect change in our environment.

Remember FemSoc and Saints LGBT’s Reclaim the Night last semester? How it was attacked and defended in various articles in our very own Stand? That was possibly one of the only vaguely-socially-minded “protest” events that happened in St Andrews last semester. And look at the backlash it got, because people didn’t think it was needed, because people are lazy and don’t see any of the rampant inequality or the point of protesting. Because people don’t care. How many people even showed up to that march? Twenty? Thirty? It should have been 8,000.

One of the things I was most looking forward to about coming to university was becoming more politically aware and engaged. To learn more about the world we live in, and its issues, and then learn how to fix these. So far, I’ve been disappointed. Those around me just seem completely uninterested.

Yeah, you go to FemSoc. Good for you. You’re talking about feminism to people who already agree with you. You’re eating cupcakes, you’re going to Bibi’s, all these events I’m endlessly invited to on Facebook, but you’re not changing anyone’s minds or campaigning for anything worthwhile. Let’s be real – has anyone ever showed up to FemSoc who was anti-feminist? Or actually didn’t know what feminism is? That’s what I thought.

Yes, I’m aware of the irony of this article – complaining anonymously in an online publication, rather than going out to do something.  But just as protests are about making people’s voices heard, perhaps this article will spark conversations, and those conversations will spark action. I’m not trying to put down people who go to FemSoc, or any other society with a moral purpose. Perhaps you actually are doing things, just not publicising them; maybe I’m just spending time around the wrong people… I don’t know.

But maybe in the future we could try to work towards losing some of the pervasive apathy that is beginning to really worry me. If we’re the next generation, the ones who will live and work and reproduce under the likes of Trump, Le Pen, and May, then we need to be getting ready to stand up for ourselves. Should we just roll over and let them do whatever they want to minorities, to the oppressed, to the young? Of course not. So why don’t we start here, where our voices matter?

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