By Pat Korte
The United States is facing what is possibly the most serious crisis in national history. In the last four years, we have neglected international law, invaded two sovereign nations, murdered an excess of 650,000 Iraqis and according to Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, sent more than 3,000 American soldiers to die while massacring hundreds of innocent civilians from Haditha to Najaf. We’ve also tortured and detained innocent people indefinitely without giving them access to a lawyer or a fair trial and left thousands of poor people-mostly of color- to suffer or die in the streets of New Orleans.
State governments and campus officials have hiked tuition and continue to shortchange, re-segregate and corporatize higher education. Yet, college campuses have remained relatively quiet. The majority of the country is against the war, yet the Bush Administration is “surging” troops.
Why has the former “University in Exile” not had a banner drop, or a student strike?
During the Vietnam War, the draft forced students to address issues like these. Many students of the New Left also felt allied with the Viet Cong. Whereas in Iraq, the resistance to the occupation is divided into various factions according to national, political, and religious lines.
In addition to these basic features of the Iraq War, the lack of student resistance is a result of current youth culture. Though the Iraq War is an imperialist conflict of aggression, not to mention totally disrespectful of international law, the masses of students do not understand the dynamics of the war, nor the political, economic, and cultural dimensions of the U.S.’s hegemony. Most Lang students are probably unaware of the total death count of this immoral, bloody and illegitimate war. This apathy is deeply rooted in all major social institutions: in the family, in the church, in the school, and in the workplace. Universities in general, and The New School in particular, are no exception.
Consider the $6 million contract The New School signed with The Department of Defense for the Parsons Institute for Information Mapping (PIIM) to create a Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) graphic. BRAC is a system which “shows personnel movement for both military and civilian personnel.” Clearly the university has money and opportunistic politics on its agenda and the administration has no interest in preserving the radical legacy of The New School. The university's current agenda clearly does not foster the creation of a new generation of American revolutionaries. Luckily for campus administrators, the political poverty of New School students will prevent a seizure of control of their collective destiny.
My peers may take this as an attack on their personal character, but it is a call to action. It is a call to break away from the everyday routine of capitalist life. It is a call to rip the mask of legitimacy from the “liberal” university–an institution that provides just enough freedom so its subjects will not question its overall purpose and orientation. This is a call to revive the idea of student power–the idea of creating an institution dedicated to human liberation and freedom. This is a call to revive the culture of radical politics – a positive process which collectively creates an acceptable pattern of social relations that can serve to bring people out of their impoverished, isolated lives and into the greater community. This is a call to revive the most explosive idea of the last hundred years – Power to the people.
Pat Korte is a freshman at Lang and President of Students for a Democratic Society, a national student organization that focuses on participatory democracy and anti-imperialist issues.