The unrest on this planet continued to grow yesterday as university students in London took to the streets in protest over tuition increases. Poor Prince Charles and Camilla were somehow trapped by a group of about 20 angry protesters who beat on their Rolls-Royce, broke windows, threw paint, and shouted, “Off with their heads!”
I’m sorry, but there is something humorous about this image. It’s always good to see a Prince taken down by the proletariats.
I naturally side with proletariats, I guess. Must be my genetic roots. England has a long history of proletariats, whereas America does not. Proletariats are traditionally defined as the lowest class of society, a class that has no wealth except for their children. The serfs and peasants were proletariats. In Marxist theory proletariats are the working class whose only wealth is the labor they sell. That kind of sounds like my family roots except we owned a bit of land.
Proletariats are naturally opposed to the bourgeoisie, which the Prince and Camilla did a fabulous job of representing that night as the mobs surrounded their carriage on the way to the theater. The whole things seems so historically amusing to me.
I would never go so far to say that the students who were attacking the Prince’s carriage are proletariats. On the contrary, they are fighting to keep out of that class. They know how important it is to get an education and they feel like they are being priced out of the market. Without education they fear their lives will begin a frightening slide into proletarianism, which none of them wants and rightly so.
Part of the student rebellion is about money and part of it is about being lied to. They are outraged that they will have to borrow three times as much money next year to pay for their education, and they are outraged that the people they helped get elected promised they would not let this happen. Kind of reminds me of what is going on over here.
It’s kind of like someone telling us that instead of costing $30,000 a year to send your kid to a good college it will now cost $100,000 a year. That’s won’t be a problem, will it? Damn right it’s a problem when prices go up 300%, whether you are in America or the UK.
In American dollars, it will now cost a student about $15,000 a year to attend a university in England. As far as I can tell, nobody pays for this out of their pocket as they go. Everyone seems to get student loans. The deal on these new tuition rates is that nobody has to start repaying their student loan until they start earning at least $30,000. If they can’t get a job after getting their education, the government is willing to defer the repayment. That’s kind of a good idea and I wish we would do that over here.
A lot of Americans are going to think this sounds like a pretty nice education system that the students are bitching about and it is, for some people. Up until recently it didn’t cost anything to attend higher education. Can you imagine that? England educated all those people for free. (You would think with all that education they could have out-performed the US, but that’s another story.) I envy them their free education, but there has always been a bias in their system that we wouldn’t tolerate over here.
I used to have a friend who grew up in England and he told me stories about how his education system worked. I was shocked at how much the class system ruled the education of England. Fairly early in every child’s educational career they were given tests to determine whether they should go to college or whether they should go to vocational school. If you didn’t pass the test, you weren’t going to college. No matter if later in life you pulled your act together and were worthy college material. Once you got assigned to a plebian role of a proletariat, that is where you stayed.
Over here in America I grew up believing something completely different. I grew up believing that no matter what class you were born into or resided in at one time or another, everyone is capable of moving freely between class lines. Nobody has to stay in the class they were born in while living in America. We are upwardly mobile, aren’t we? It is what draws people here from all across the world. The belief that anyone can be whatever they want to be without class boundaries is what brought my old friend here and I’ll bet he would admit that the US had been good to him.
Leaving England allowed my friend to leave the class he was born into. Who can blame him? Nobody wants to be a proletariat. Those students in London don’t want to be proletariats and that is what they are afraid of. I don’t want to be a proletariat, but that’s what I’ve become. I didn’t used to be one, but the economic crash has pretty much stripped my wealth away. I’ve still got a stash in the stock market, but I don’t trust it. I haven’t figured out a way to get my hands on it before they steal it, but I’m thinking hard. Since it is in an IRA I don’t get to choose how to use the money without giving a sizable chunk of it to the government. But if I’m not careful, I will wake up one day and the stockbroker will say, “Sorry, there was a market correction and your portfolio is worthless.” Bye, bye money.
So here’s a shout out to the students who are protesting. I’m not going to judge you poorly just because you are young and angry. I’m not going judge you poorly just because you don’t want to be a proletariat. I’m not going to judge you poorly just because you are the first generation to have to pay for the excesses of those who came before you and those who continue to seek a bloated lifestyle. I would be doing the same thing if I were over there. Hell, I might be doing it soon myself if the Princes of our government don’t stop taking away what I earn and spending it on themselves.