explosions in the sky – look up

March 2-5, 2011 – UC Berkeley, CA

The sporadic explosions of activism at UC Berkeley (as well as other CA campuses and other campuses around the US) in the past few days can be described best as consciously  genuine and definitively valid breaches towards a system that has far proved its futility as a university. Though it has been in the collective consciousness and spoken regard of recent Berkeley zeitgeist that there remains no persisting and solemn sentiment regarding the negative changes of the university from the students and staff, in the seven hours that Wheeler was steadily held as a place of pure embodiment of collective spirit, we all heard and saw that there is still a voice and a will for change. There exists a silent majority – and as it is now blatantly apparent, they are simply waiting for opportune moments to express their voices. And they did. So what? What point does that prove? A whole lot as it turn out.

The movement is very much alive. In fact, it has been alive all along. It was just the case that many of us had somehow forgotten. However, this should not come as too surprising. It is easy to forget that there exists a collective will for change, when the structure numbs the mind as the structure so regularly and easily does in the rather Orwellian setting such as the UC. The paradox here is actually quite humorous. The actual development of knowledge at a university such as the UC and its spiritual counterparts is more or less a vicarious statement. The university today remains less so an industry of knowledge as much as it thrives as an industry that fuels the supergiant neo-liberal economy which pervades into every available space it possibly can to maintain exploitation. This supergiant is struggling to stay alive. It fears for the decimation of its very existence. It is on the razor edge of its ultimate teleological demise. It is like the feral animal that has become tangled by vegetation, violently wielding its limbs to break the vines that has wrapped around its neck, but only to pull tighter and tighter until it asphyxiates and dies. The metaphor was clearly embodied by the two recent Wheeler occupations. The system so fears of questioning and evenhandedness that it viciously lashes out. The university prepared batons, biological warfare, and steel barricades against a peaceful crowd of demonstrators. They university needed to concoct yet another artificial reason for the student body to vouch for the dissolution of the protest – that the raw praxis is a health concern, echoing the Burawoy’s lecture on Foucault’s medical discipline. The display of the university’s bad faith here is appalling. The demands of the occupiers were more than concise and straightforward; they were laughingly undemanding relative to size, resources, and abilities of the UC system and the administrators’ wallets:

  1. That all student conduct charges against participants in previous demonstrators be dropped.
  2. That they be given a meeting with Berkeley’s chancellor.
  3. That two students, and one union worker, elected by a general assembly are added to the university’s “Operational Excellence” committee.
  4. That they themselves face no criminal or student conduct charges.

A decisive moment occurred at the end of March, the third. We won. Yes it is a puny victory, but a victory nonetheless. It is a measly crack in a reinforced dam – but in a structure rather anxiously aware of impending demise. What does this mean for the rest of us? It means that we need no longer hold back and wait for spares of change to occur. While it may be forever indeterminable whether we are completely free and away from determinism in this universe, this small much is relatively concrete and clear: that the movement towards affordable public and possibly even free education is feasibly within our means. And yes, our fears are legitimate, but understand that our fears are continually shared by a collective whole. Where our ship of solidarity may go is uncertain in the stormy white-capped seas of social and economic confusion. Who knows where we will arrive after the storm? Wherever and whenever the solutions may arise in the near future, it is vital now that we maintain an open and dynamic dialogue within student and staff activists and between the administration. And as we have now seen, it might just be the case that the dialogues will emerge from places such as the fourth floor balcony of lecture halls…

Best vibes and good hopes to the folks in Wisconsin. Wisconsin folks, if you are reading this, please write back your communique!

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