The Word Rabbit

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This article was written on 02 Mar 2016, and is filled under Uncategorised.

The NUS is a massive tidal wave of old shit

‘Applause can be triggering. Today, we’ll show our appreciation with jazz hands.’

Someone needs to sedate me, and quickly. The above phrase hasn’t been adjusted for comic effect, it’s taken from a recent-ish NUS conference in which someone apparently decided that clapping may cause members of the audience to spontaneously combust and so outlawed it. The only possible way of surviving this onslaught of asininity is to be asleep or beyond all human care. It is not, though, an isolated incident. It’s part of a giant, unorchestrated campaign of witlessness.

I say ‘unorchestrated,’ which, as far as I’m aware is a neologism, because the people who think jazz hands is a solution to anything but the answer to a question which may sound a lot like ‘what can we do to make us look like out of touch wankers’ couldn’t organise a wine-tasting in a vineyard, but someone, somewhere, has decided that every student in the country needs to sound like Rik Mayall from The Young Ones, minus the coruscating sense of irony. The result is that they’re all trying to outdo each other in muddle-headed fatuousness.

Germaine Greer and Julie Bindel have said some things that I don’t agree with and some things that I do agree with, but can’t be arsed to court public controversy by naming. The NUS have an answer to this, which is to no platform them. That’s right. Universities, which when I was there were supposed to be places where people didn’t crap themselves if someone said something that they happened not to agree with, are suddenly going to be safe spaces for everyone. Well, everyone who isn’t offended when someone comes out with some witless old cock and hopes it passes for a hefty piece of intellectual argument.

And what I’m not doing is decrying the idea of safe spaces. They are needed. They are needed mainly because we, and that’s men, tend to do the figurative equivalent of moving into them, smearing shit on the walls and talking about ourselves for several years, appending the feeble hashtag #notallmen if we can be arsed, or if we feel like someone is daring to infringe our God-given right to bang on and on about ourselves. Trans people need safe spaces, women need safe spaces and, speaking as someone who has light to moderate depression, there are times when I need a safe space, as well.

This isn’t, though, the point. The whole student’s union doesn’t need to be a safe space, because that involves a ridiculous amount of compromise being made. Can women talk about periods and abortion? No, because that’s transphobic. Can, say, an atheist, speak up against Islam? No, because that’s Islamophobic. The list goes on. I wouldn’t go to a group called All Depressives Are Wankers And We Hate Them because I’d probably hear things I don’t really need in my life and I really can’t be arsed with any more hate than I hear on a weekly basis on Twitter. It follows, then, that if you think you’re going to be triggered, as I probably would be in that situation, you take yourself off somewhere else and access something that may be more directly supportive.

Kate Smurthwaite, whom I agree with on some things and not others – she’s an atheist and I’m not – was told by some idiots at the Goldsmiths College comedy society that she wasn’t welcome because they support decriminalisation of prostitution. I don’t, as it happens, and am faintly surprised to hear that everyone on the comedy society does, because that seems like a striking unanimity of opinion. Still, maybe the people that do support the Nordic model keep quiet because they support the aims of the comedy society in general, and like a quiet life. Or maybe the comedy society are such a bunch of insane reactionaries that people think it’s best avoided. Perhaps the sound of laughter is triggering. Who knows.

What we have here is a sort of reverse McCarthyism that is no less intolerant or distant from the shores of reason. In the same way that you wouldn’t suggest at one of those hearings that communism was a wholly valid opinion, one of a number that a person could hold, you wouldn’t suggest in this climate that maybe Smurthwaite should perform or maybe Greer should be heard. That’d be like taking a saw to your friendship group and sawing off large chunks of it, because, in no time, you’d be a pariah. However much people agree in private and support what you say, this is very different from agreeing in public, because you’ll draw fire. The NUS, when I was at university, was a place that campaigned on things like student poverty and hardship. Campaigning was just a bolt-on. It certainly wasn’t the latter day equivalent of the SS, stamping around and showing everyone just how much power it had.

This is not to say that some students aren’t vile. There are Tory students who aren’t openly ashamed, which seems incredible, and people, generally men, it has to be said, who seem to view women as being a perk of being a student. These people should be in prison, if any of their foul ideas translate into action, or ideally chucked out of the university so they can have a nice, angry wank by themselves and not bother anyone else. Still more are wholly apolitical, which is fine, but to be surrounded by so much debt which you may never pay off and not blame the government seems insane. The university rugby society was, I seem to remember, home to that sort of student, and having seen them performing for each other in the bar, I think the world might have been a better place if they’d just stuck their cocks up each other’s arses and not in someone else’s piss weak lager, but that’s probably just me.

Society is clattering, full steam ahead, to a place where saying that you were or are a student is effectively saying that you’re some species of twat (sexist, probably transphobic) whose elected lords and masters (sexist again, also transphobic) would struggle to tie their shoelaces because it was oppressing them and they hadn’t been consulted. We don’t need this. We need politically engaged people who can think and articulate ideas and who will campaign on issues, like student debt, that actually matter to people. I don’t care about what you think about all the other stuff, because your high, piping voice is irrelevant and your brain is mush. Here, though, you actually have something to say. So say it.

If I was at university now, I’d want no part of this. I’d go to the lectures, seminars and tutorials and chuck myself into the life of the community I’d been imposed on for three years. Supporting the homeless, getting involved with local arts groups and doing other things that are useful and relevant are actual life skills that benefit people. Blowing smoke up each other’s arses because you want to have the most radical shouty politics so that someone you fancy will want to touch your genitals is a waste of everyone’s time. Should this continue, the NUS will be fit only for being bulldozed and then grassed over, because even a field is more useful than the stupid sods are now.

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