Dude, This is Just Like the '60s
Make Your Own MovementKatie discusses what bothers her about some campus personalities in their eagerness to use UC Berkeley students.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Category: Opinion > Columns
I was walking across Sproul Plaza when I heard the following proclamation: "I don't actually go here. I just came to Berkeley to fuel the revolution."
On any given day, walking to class includes the gauntlet that is Sproul Plaza. Flyering, tables, self-proclaimed prophets--if it at all fazed me the first week of college, this sensory overload is now quite routine. I wake up, run out of the door and am accosted by various students trying to engage me in different causes. Professional Fraternities. Religious and ethnic groups. Social justice organizations. The ones that ask "Interested in saving a life?" to which I respond, sorry, too much homework. Oh the heartlessness that is the over-stressed Berkeley student.
But among these many worthy (and unworthy) causes, I am struck by a particular group hanging around campus. Groups that, often standing right over the campus boundary, are not composed of Berkeley students.
Now, I know that non-students on campus are nothing new. There have been numerous people over the years who, though having never officially gone here, more or less consider UC Berkeley their home. The Happy Happy Man. The polka dot guy. The Hari Krishnas singing the same song they've been singing since my parents were here. In fact, I'm pretty sure it's the same three white guys.
And I have nothing against these people. So long as they're not hurting anyone, they're an integral part of our campus culture. They're what makes Berkeley Berkeley and not, say, Westwood.
But they are not my concern. I'm not talking about the dude in front of Dwinelle who has the Bible memorized cover-to-cover. No, I'm talking about people that, for our purposes, I'll call professional protesters. Wannabe revolutionaries works quite well too.
And unlike the first two groups, they strike a certain nerve.
Take the socialists constantly handing out flyers and yelling into bullhorns. They put posters everywhere. They chalked up the campus, though it was hosed down before most students ever saw it. They come into my classes and hand out absurdly biased surveys--the kind where you know the anticipated answer before even reading the question.
Or the Impeach Obama man trying to steal the March 4 protest's thunder by dancing around in front of the picket lines.
And don't get me started on the Greenpeace guys. Every one of them calls me "baby" or "sweetie," as if their environmentalist sex appeal will draw me straight into their smelly arms while I simultaneously write a check to save the gay baby whales. I don't think so. Better luck next time bud.
So why do I take such issue with them? I mean, aside from the fact that they misconstrue facts, try to hand me fliers I don't want and waste my valuable class time?
The fact that they're trying to use me.
Now, I wouldn't mind so much if they were actually students. Then their actions would constitute legitimate campus activity, fulfill that "you learn as much from your peers as you do in class" promise you heard on every college tour.
But they're not. In fact, I'd bet a week's worth of meal points that they A) are not from Berkeley, B) have never gone to Cal and C) know this is the only place they can get away with this.
And while they may think they are unique and invidiual, they are simply joining the wave of activists, egomaniacs and general misfits that have, since the Free Speech Movement, tried to become the next Mario Savio. Or just engage in general acts of sticking it to the man.
To which you may say, shouldn't we take this as a compliment? Be proud of Berkeley's seemingly magnetic quality in attracting social movements? After all, this outsider presence is simply a testament to the Berkeley student's desire to change the world. Right?
Think again. Whether we realize it or not, Berkeley is not the hub of liberal progressiveness that most people envision. Go to some Save the University-esque meetings. It's the same 20 people who show up every time. And rather than taking this as a compliment, what I see is a blatant attempt to use students: to turn us into the massive crowds behind their rousing speeches, a means to bring coveted media coverage that we get for being Berkeley.
And from the perspective of some misunderstood bohemian freezing their buns off in Wisconsin, the idea of 35,000 students ready to "put their bodies on the gears" is inspiration enough to hop on the next plane speeding west toward sunny California.
So to every aspiring Che Guevara, this is what I say to you: Berkeley students are not the vehicles for your cause. We are independent, critically thinking individuals who do not just blindly jump onto the fad bandwagons. Committed to countless different causes both within and outside of the university, we know what we are doing, and how we want to change the world.
Get your own revolution.
Take Katie on for a chance to win meal points at [email protected]
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