Saturday, 7 April 2012


So I gave paying attention the Oxford-Cambridge boat race a miss because at best I don't care about rowing but in my darker moments I actively resent it. This is because I was briefly persuaded to try rowing and actually persevered with about six outings before realising that not only was it giving me an achey back, it also wasn't about to start getting fun. Anyway, some guy decided to engage in a bit of civil disobedience via going for a swim and getting in the way so they had to stop the race. And then posted a rambly manifesto on the internet saying why he did it.
I have one question for him: how dare you? How dare you. There I am, minding my own business, assuming I am the uncrowned king of poorly structured paragraphs and occasional forays into SENTENCES WRITTEN ALL IN CAPITALS, and now I have a pretender to my throne. I intend to quash this rebellion. I shall smash him with an iron fist, use my iron crown as a sort of lethal metaphorical frisbee device and metaphorically behead him by writing the rambliest response ever. It will be so badly structured and incoherent that nobody will dare challenge me again. Am I being elitist? Yes. Take this rambly paragraph:
When hasn’t elitism lead to tyranny? When hasn’t the belief of being ‘more’ than another person led to tragedy? Who benefits from elitism? One won’t be surprised to learn the etymology of the word ‘elite’ derives from ‘the elected’ ... unfortunately not elected by democratic means, but rather, elected by god. Yup...‘elected’, ‘selected’, ‘chosen’ ... by god ... inherited. When has this understanding of oneself or by a group of people ever been a good thing? When has this understanding not resulted in tyranny? Is tyranny surely not the inevitable outcome? And in contrast, when hasn’t the pursuit of equality, not resulted in these long passages of tyranny being overcome, even if temporarily?  
So essentially he's using Oxbridge as the embodiment of everything wrong with this country. There are obviously serious problems with inequality in our society but it's a little bit simplistic to pin this all on our university system. When I applied to Oxford it wasn't intended as a political statement. I applied because I wanted to move out of my parent's house and spend four years getting drunk whilst occasionally applying myself towards learning to be an engineer. There are obviously other places I could have done this, but my decision to go here was an easy one. If you can push yourself to get into Oxford, why wouldn't you?

You're not automatically a smug cunt based on the fact you go to Oxford. Although I am sometimes guilty of that, and have been known to refer to it as the "best university IN THE WORLD!" But this is more to do with my relentlessly positive outlook on life and feeling the need to share the happiness with people. Example: "Hey [anonymous friend] I'm really sympathetic that you're on your period and really stressed and have loads of work to do but cheer up mate because you're at the best university IN THE WORLD! Turn that frown upside down and give me a high five!"

We're basically back in Samantha Brick land here - this guy resents Oxbridge for being 'elitist' and my counterargument is 'don't hate me for being Oxbridge'. I suppose my get-out clause is that me going to Oxford is pretty quantifiable (I'm not making this one up) as opposed to my perception of my own beauty. For the record, I would say I'm totally hot although wouldn't mind being a bit taller and more defined in the torso department. Hot with a few imperfections. I'm definitely an 8. On the offchance you, dearest reader, don't know me personally and am now looking at the picture of me on this site, it's a very flattering photo, and of course is relatively out of focus. The camera loves me.

In terms of an Oxford student's perception of themselves, I'd say most of us are well aware that we're lucky to be here. We got in through our performance at an interview, and for some of us there was literally only one interview deciding it. I personally know that I got in by a hair's breadth, and this is largely down to the fact that at my interview for Hertford (where I got in) they asked me a question that was very similar to one I'd had that morning when I was interviewed at Worcester (where I initially applied but didn't get in to). At my Worcester interview I had a question I got completely wrong and then a maths-based one that I managed to struggle through and eventually solved, but with quite some help. Hertford asked me almost the exact same maths question so I knew what to do, and then something about springs that I managed to make a decent go of.

I'm not under any illusions that I'm a million times more able than someone who didn't get in. I certainly wasn't chosen by God. There's a standard you need to reach in order to be considered but the rest is on-the-day luck and guesswork by the interviewers.

What started this ramble about the Oxford admissions process? Oh yeah. I take great offence to the way he's suggesting the University of Oxford and the conservative government are synonymous. We aint all tory scum. Yeah I'm surrounded by gorgeous old buildings but this is state education good and proper, just like any other university.

Regarding the stunt, I'm sort of impressed as it's the sort of civil disobedience I sometimes wish I had the balls to engage in myself, I'm just a little bit disappointed with the surrounding literature. I suppose in the interests of journalistic integrity, I should maybe point out that my view isn't shared by all of my peers. It's always lovely to see members of 'the elite' being as diplomatic with their facebook commentary as they were today. Here's a few quotes:
behead that little imbecile
They should have just carried on rowing over his fucking selfish head.
Apparently the oars could have cut his head off. I have no problem with this.
i hope he catches hepatitis from the dirty thames water  
This isn't a view that I share but I've never allowed myself to become too emotionally involved with watching people do a sport. I wouldn't say I've tried to make myself care, but I just find it hard to care. It is a specially structured contest that happens every year and will do so for years to come, and nothing will change because of it and it really shouldn't matter to anyone apart from the people in the race, their mums and their housemates. It's not like it's a war or something where the outcome will have any sort of quantifiable effect on anyone's life.

Saying that, I nearly was persuaded to actually go to London and watch a bit of the race, and I considered this (purely for social reasons). I might have been a bit annoyed when the race got stopped, but that would have been because stopping and restarting it would have meant I had to watch yet more boring sport.

It's hard to tell if we are dealing with a reasonably sensible activist who just isn't great at writing, or if we have a slightly unhinged guy who's repeating stock phrases . He compares himself to Emily Davison, which I suppose is a fair enough comparison based on today's stunt but somewhat ironically Emily herself was a student at St Hugh's College, Oxford, where she achieved first-class honours. She sounds a little bit like one of those 'elitists' to me.

The rambly manifesto concludes with suggestions of what normal people can do to engage in civil obedience - he suggests setting off fire alarms at work, bugging the homes of 'elitists' and setting off stink bombs at 'networking events'. Some of his suggestions verge on the ludicrous -

 If you work in audio-visuals for meetings/conferences could you put up the wrong slides, or turn the correct ones upside down and remove cables, rendering the equipment unusable?
I'm not sure how many people working in audio-visuals are going to read this and immediately think "Yes! I'll pretend to be incompetent at work! That will certainly bring down society."

He's achieved his aim of getting a moment in the spotlight and who knows - maybe we'll see a bit more of this sort of civil disobedience naughtiness. But he needs to step up his game. He's a ruggedly handsome sort of bloke and a naked protester is always going to be a bigger story than one in a wetsuit. Although actually I think the Thames is pretty cold this time of year, so it might have had the opposite effect ... if you get where I'm going with this.

I'm aware that in a few years it will probably be a criminal offence to incite peaceful protest, but for the time being when a newspaper is at least slightly distinguishable from a chapter of Nineteen Eighty-Four, let's all engage in some creative protests. Really minor ones, you know. If you work as a cleaner for an elistist, rearrange their cutlery draw. Apply for Tesco clubcards on behalf of elitists. Elitists who wouldn't even shop at Tesco. Use your imagination innit.

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